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Editor's Note: You Get What You Pay For

Feb 07, 2009, 00:04 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

"You get what you pay for" is a common FUDphrase used to discredit Linux and FOSS, because so much of it is available free of cost. Which scares the purveyors of overpriced crapware, who would rather walk barefoot through broken glass and burning dung than write software that customers actually feel happy paying for. It's hooey and we know it. But there is a related truism that is valid, which is "Whoever pays the piper calls the tune." You could shorten this to "money talks." And that is definitely true.

One of today's articles got me to thinking about this. Red alert: Ardour is in serious trouble. Ardour is Free Software, licensed under the GPL, and is also free of cost. It is a professional-quality multi-channel digital audio workstation that competes with the expensive closed-source proprietary applications, such as M-Audio's ProTools and Steinberg's Nuendo, both of which will suck hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of your pocket before you know what hit you. Cubase, Sequoia, Adobe Audition, Cakewalk, and all the rest add insult to injury with inconsistent support for standards and formats, and many of them try to lock you in to their own hardware as well as software.

Of course they're all Windows applications, with some token support for Mac OS X, which is a joke because Windows is a lousy platform for serious audio work. So Ardour fills a very important and under-served niche.

Ardour has been sponsored by the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) since early 2007. I'm guessing that they're having financial problems just like everyone else; whatever the reason for withdrawing their support, it illustrates the peril of depending too much on a single sponsor. Hopefully Ardour users will increase their financial support and save the project.

LWN Saved By Readers

It's happened before: for example, Linux Weekly News almost went out of business because the publishers could not afford to keep it going. Fortunately, they came up with a successful subscription model and readers rallied 'round, and so we still have the benefit of this excellent publication.

There is this weird multiple-personality thinking that infests the FOSS world. On the one hand, we boast much of Community. On the other hand, we crave corporate acceptance and support. But suits are bad! But we need them, or rather we need their money and approval, but not their interference. The reality is that serious financial support comes from business, and not from FOSS users.

It's becoming a more acute problem because the rapid growth of Linux has brought a huge infusion of Windows and Apple refugees who bring their bad proprietary habits with them, such as being demanding and whiny instead of pitching in and helping.

So I am suggesting that everyone take a look at all the great FOSS goodies they are using, and pick a few of them to sponsor yourself. I've heard all the usual objections-- there are too many so how do you choose, your few dollars won't make a difference, you're too broke, blah blah blah. Put those tired excuses out of your mind, it's not that difficult. You know what applications you rely on the most, and how many thousands of dollars FOSS is saving you, and if they have a "Donations go here!" link then you're in business. If they appear well-funded, then find someone who looks like they will benefit from your support. A few dollars are always better than zero dollars.

As this big fun recession spreads, it's even more important to reach out and help wherever we can. Just to get the ball rolling I'm going to list my own favorites that I've been intending to financially support for ages, and never quite got around to: Audacity, Digikam, and I'm going to revive my subscription to Linux Weekly News. Who do you think is worthy of financial support?