We Don't Use Software That Costs Money Here

Whenever the regular expression topic comes up, I unashamedly recommend the best tool on the market for parsing and building regular expressions -- RegexBuddy. But there's one tiny problem.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/04/we-dont-use-software-that-costs-money-here.html

Free! “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” I urge you to listen to these talks:


We the Open Source community were never pirates. In fact a good many of the members of the community look to Free Software to avoid piracy. There are two separate groups here. The people creating and using Free Software and the people illegally downloading commercial software. Free Software as it’s defined by the GPL doesn’t even occlude commercial software and plenty of people pay money for Free Software. (if this sounds funny to you please search the web for ‘free as in free speech not as it free beer’) The Open Source and Free Software communities did not evolve from the pirate community as you seem to be implying and you should equate the two groups.


The “we need someone to sue” line has always troubled me. As a former law student, I know the vast degree of weight that exists behind established case law by those who practise it - it engenders a great deal of conservatism in legal advice; nobody wants to be the front runner. Nobody wants to set an adverse precedent.

And suing your software company and losing would create a disastrous precedent. Which is presumably why nobody has done it. There simply isn’t any legal support, as far as I’m aware, for the idea that someone could sue a software company for their shoddy software and prevail… and that’s even before the almost-certainly-unenforceable-at-least-that-is-until-some-court-decides-to-rely-on-them EULAs slapped all over it saying “we don’t even guarantee that it’ll load, and in any case it isn’t yours, we only let you use it”.

So in fact, this standard excuse isn’t just wrong - it’s worse than that; it’s actively damaging businesses by leading them into a false sense of security - and by encouraging them, because of that, to abandon the control they can have (the ability to get someone in to fix something as soon as it goes wrong, without further obligation) in favour of an illusory security predicated on the wholesale abandonment of control.

I cannot fathom what collective depth of stupidity would cause a business - any business, even a one-man operation - to embrace a policy so guaranteed to end in complete disaster…

“It’s tempting to ascribe this to the “cult of no-pay”, programmers and users who simply won’t pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be. These people used to be called pirates. Now they’re open source enthusiasts.”

Thanks jeff, I support IP, I don’t steal music, movies, books or software, but every piece of software possible (excluding BIOS and CPU Microcode) on my computer is free software. Some of it really sucks, some of it is great, but it is free more than in price, it is free in freedom. If I really need to I can pay people to maintain this software, add features to it, etc. I have the freedom. I can’t pay ANYONE to improve microsoft windows. This isn’t piracy, this is freedom.

I respect the law, don’t slander me.

I came here to voice my objection to your statment:

These people used to be called pirates. Now they’re open source enthusiasts.

I’m not surprised to see I’m not alone. I think I understand what you meant, and have no objection to it, but what you actually said is just completely wrong.

Pirates are still pirates. Many open source enthusiast became so because they refused to be pirates. Given the choice between buying software, stealing software, and using open source software, I prefer to use open source. In very rare cases, I’ll buy software. That’s so rare I don’t rember the last time I made a purchase. I pay to use TurboTax online, once a year, perhaps that counts. But I never pirate software.

Open source enthusiasts aren’t opposed to spending money, we just spend it differently. I’ve got a copy of “Mastering Regular Expressions” by Jeffery Friedl (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/regex3/) on my bookshelf and don’t regret the expense at all. I can’t see myself buying RegExBuddy, though.


Good article buddy. Talking about free software, here’s a list that I found on the web lately that may keep some developers busy for weeks…


Looks like a lot of people misunderstood what you were trying to say there, about the pirates. Obviously open source users aren’t pirates.

Anyhow, I think the future of software is service, not products.


open source !== piracy

“These people used to be called pirates. Now they’re open source enthusiasts.”

Thank you for insulting single handedly Open source developers, users and contributors. Grow up and count me out as reader here.

The only software worth purchasing comes from Microsoft or Adobe. They could answer that question without even thinking about it. In my opinion, it boils down to user-experience testing. Most OSS solutions are pretty well-written and structured. They typically have the developer talent required to compete with the market share. But, do they have the monkeys sitting in a cubicle running the final product through it’s tedious paces, making notes on every tiny detail that could make it more user-friendly? Doubtfully.

I think that is the evolution of software pricetags.

“Anyhow, I think the future of software is service, not products.”

That’s a really good point. Companies involved in sponsoring OSS don’t do so because they think it’s the best way to directly extract revenue from the effort involved. I think it really amounts to a way to lower the cost of some grander goal by sharing effort where it’s not specifically valuable to what you, specifically, are trying to achieve. A student might contribute to an OSS project to gain experience and a resume line item that will get them a job. A consulting firm might contribute to or create an OSS product to sell consulting services. A hardware vendor might contribute to OSS to defray the costs of developing common components (kernel,etc.). In none of these cases is the OSS itself the ultimate goal.

The interesting thing about this are the reactions of closed-source vendors to open source competition. Microsoft moved downmarket with Windows XP in response to Linux on the OLPC. They’re now faced to deal with a competitive threat that is very difficult to manage, which is opposite from their history, when they were the difficult threat.

Please, let’s not associate software freedom with the act of attacking ships.

The goals of the free software movement are to create software that anyone can run, study, modify and distribute, including their own modified versions. The real opportunity for making money with free software comes from providing training and support services, as well as custom development. Plenty of companies are making a lot of money this way.

Software that does not give the user freedom is this way is uncooperative and unhelpful to those wishing to live in a free society.

The Free Software Foundation is one such organisation that seeks to educate the public about the issues of software freedom.

“It’s tempting to ascribe this to the “cult of no-pay”, programmers and users who simply won’t pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be. These people used to be called pirates. Now they’re open source enthusiasts.”

Really, fuck you. I’m an open source developer and user, and haven’t used unlicenced software since I was a kid.

I have a strong resistance to pay software, but it’s not so much the fact that you have to pay–I mean I pay for hardware no problem…

The problem with Pay software is the way it tends to work.

I don’t want to pay for the bugs in your code or secondary installs. I’m paying for a working, top of the line piece of software. If the line shifts, I expect the software to shift.

If I paid $60 for a license for MS Word for Windows when it ran on Windows 3.0, I expect my license should still be valid today on whatever OS is still supported. I mean, if I had downloaded (FOR FREE) the first version of Open Office, I would have the latest and greatest today and it would run on any platform OO supported.

I also don’t expect to be bound to a disk. If I need to re-install, I expect that should be possible–I mean it’s a license not a disk you are buying, right? If the disk fails or is stolen or lost, my license should still be valid.

I shouldn’t have to pay more if I use the same software on 45 computers as long as I’m the only user of that software on all 45 computers. I have a license for the software, not the software on the computer with Serial # 309823745908.

When a company starts failing to maintain the license they sent to me, I should be able to do whatever I want with their software–in fact, I think software sources should be kept on file–and as soon as the company fails to fix a serious bug or update their software to the latest platform it should be released.

(This is much of what the patent office was created for–to ensure that good products weren’t lost and were eventually available to all–sure software patents suck right now, but if they were only valid for 2 years and after that they were published as public domain, then I’d be kinda open to the idea…)

There are a HELL of a lot of drawbacks to pay software that don’t exist in free software and not a single advantage to pay (except that in some cases there is no free equivalent.)

PHP is clunky but professional-grade and good enough.

MySQL is an insult to real RDBMS. It still has no interest in data integrity.

If you seriously think money is the issue and not freedom, you must have been living under a rock for the past decade, or overdosed on the Microsoft Kool-aid.

I’ll gladly donate to an open source project, but I the instances in which I’m still willing to use some closed source extortion scheme are few and far between.

And I do mean use, having to pay for it is irrelevant, besides the fact that it is adding insult to injury to have to pay for the privilege of not having any privilege…

Closed source is a licensing scam, more or less unique to the world of software. Most other stuff you buy you actually own, and you are free to resell it, take it apart, change it, fix it, learn from it, whatever. I’ll pay for software, I won’t pay to get screwed (unless you’re a hooker).

Linking the desire for freedom with piracy is pretty typical for the utter contempt some software makers have for their users. Never thought you would be one of them.

One more thing–real programmers don’t need tools to work with regular expressions.

What, there are tools to BUILD regular expressions other than text editors? Never knew they existed.

Flatly, if you need a tool to build a regular expression, you are in the wrong job.

And yeah, php is a toy language, along with asp and vb - it doesn’t mean people can’t do real work with them. I wont ever be one of them.

You windoze guys and your crappy pointy-clicky tools - you waste so much time moving the mouse around, I guess you don’t have time to learn how to do your job.

Software developers who will never pay for any software are selfish and mostly greedy. They among any people should know how much effort it takes to build a good software.

How would these same developers feel if other people never buy their software?

When I need a piece of software and can’t find a free version, my next step is to find a shareware or commercial software. If it’s one I would use on a regular basis, I will buy it. Because I know it will save me time which costs many times the software cost. I don’t understand why people do not think of this. They don’t blink to pay for a $30 dinner which lasts an hour but $30 for a software which is useful over and over is too much.