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RE: COMP:Freeware?

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I think my current post will respond to your comments. I only have one thing
to add to my post (which I hope you will consider before this one). If a
developer of a widely used and respected software decided (at some point) to
give his software away, would you consider it any less accurate or reliable
because it is now free?
There is a fundamental difference in our discussions between what is
freeware and what is given away as a promotion or as restitution for a past
problem. I use many non-engineering freeware and have not had any problems
with them. Microsoft gives away software often. I have purchased shareware
from companies who survive on the sale of their software or who receive
licensing from other sources and who give away smaller limited versions
(WinZip, Copernic 98, MS Internet Explorer, Netscape etc). These are
promotions given as freeware which are maintained and which evolve under the
scrutiny of the public's eye. The sucess of each of these companies lie in
sucessful sales of their other products or indirectly from the use of these
programs which are tied in some manner to other products.
This is my point. I don't agree that a freeware or shareware products need
be considered any more or less buggy than any product released to the
general public. I also feel that when a software vendor relies upon the
quality of his product to sell more product, he has nothing to gain and
everything to lose should he give away any product that is any less reliable
than the products he sells.
The types of products that you describe are typically hobbies or volunteer
offerings that the developer hopes will generate enough income to help
support the maintanence of his software or lead him permanently into a new
venture. Other products start as shareware because the developer can not
invest enough capital into creating a sufficient number of packages needed
to satisfy the minimum requirments of a mass merchandiser. One such product
was recently (about six months ago) listed under's top ten - and
is marketed by our own Shafat Qazi of BQE Software. This is BillQuick, a
very powerful and fine billing software for consultants. BillQuick is
downloadable as shareware and is supported almost entirely by the shareware
sales. In addition, BQE now has more than four full time tech support
representatives, a full website devoted to upgrades, tech support options,
trialware (shareware) and news of upcomming future releases. In addition,
the sale of the product has generated capital to invest in upgrades. Sales
through shareware also generate income to allow for more mainstream
advertising - but sales are still considered direct and the trial download
qualifies it as shareware.

Therefore, I don't feel that your opinions can be considered reliable in all
situations - surely not in the examples I've just mentioned and not in the
case of FastFrame or Avansse. To lable them as such is really doing them a

As far as a "bug is a bug" I refer you to my email post earlier today. In a
very limited context that you indicate, I would agree. I just don't feel
that the majority of tech support calls uncover what the caller believes to
be a *bug*.

I'll end on this note.


-----Original Message-----
From: J. Strua [mailto:jstrua(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, October 12, 1998 6:19 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: COMP:Freeware?

>Dennis Wish,  you wrote
><< Please be careful about the term "bugs" since the majority of "bugs"
> exist in software are actually the users lack of understanding on how
to use
> the software. I am not saying that Sib has a valid or invalid claim,
> would not want to make the implication that free software is any more
> less "buggy" than the software I paid for.>>


A bug is a bug. Majority of bugs are bugs not users mistakes. Not
knowing what you are doing is very different from a case when you are
following the instructions in the manual and the program does not
perform as stated in the same manual.

There is no question that a commercial piece of software that is in use
by many practicing engineers has a much better chance to be "less buggy"
than a software written by an individual and used by very few. Not only
this freware package will not the same "workout" and testing, but there
is also no time and very little of an incentive to "fix" the shareware
piece. Surely you will not demand the same attention from the author to
whom you paid zero fee vs. a software provider who is paid by you for
the technical support?

The main difference (as you stated previously) is between "playing with
the software" where a demo can impress you enough to recommend a
software package to others, and earning your fee doing engineering while
using a working tool. The keyword here is "working" tool. That means a
piece of software that performs in a reliable manner that will not leave
you "high and dry" at the deadline with "techsupport via e-mail". Try to
explain it to your client next morning that with your fee at $120/hour
(we all wish - no pun intended)the shareware program you were using
locked your computer.

If a new or an improved package becomes available, it is very important
to review it to get first hand impression of it. The time you will spend
on doing it is directly proportional to the frustration you are
experiencing with your current package. If you are happy with what you
have, you will spend just enough time to get an idea if there are any
features that your package does not have.

Until I have a chance to use a package on a "real" - read "paying"
project, I would not recommend it (even to my competitors as I value
their opinion also).

Just some thoughts on the subject.


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