Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where is all the Linux Shareware?

I'm back on Linux. No, really. After about 8 years of OS X, I've made the move back to Linux. Ubuntu, to be specific. Don't get me wrong — it's not that I have something against OS X. It's Apple and Apple Fandom I don't like (and the fact that Steve Jobs has recently taken over as the Evil Sith Lord).

It's only been a few days, but so far I'm really liking Ubuntu. It installed pretty easily on my '07 MacBook Pro, and although the trackpad is a little spotty, I can live with it. I'm even ok with the minor glitches in the video display and other little bugs I can work around. It's all cool, and frankly, it's a heck of a lot better than Linux was 8 years ago.

So what do I do when I come back to this somewhat edgy environment? I start looking for shareware. You know, handy programs written by independent developers that you can try out for a time before deciding to pay for it. There's plenty of it for Windows, and there's plenty of it for OS X as well. In fact, I'm especially impressed with the quality of software available from independent developers for OS X. It turns out there's not much software that you can actually pay for, if you have a Linux desktop machine.

I know, you're thinking this Alf guy is pretty crazy, wanting to pay for Linux software when Linux is all about Free-As-In-Speech. But guess what? There's no money in Free. Oh, but you already knew that.

Open Source software is wonderful. I make my living as a software developer using (and sometimes releasing) Open Source Free-As-In-Speech software. I believe standards should be Free. But I'm also practical, and my time is very limited. Creating something that's fun and scratches an Itch is really important, and I do that when I can. And I release it free of charge. And yet, I want to pay other developers for software. Why?

Well, here's the rub: Creating something that mostly works is fun, even if it's kind of buggy for cases that I don't care about too much. Creating something that's flawless, and works smoothly for a broad class of users takes real work. And at the end of the day, software developers only get paid for doing real work. Sometimes I need software that's more or less flawless, and it's hard to find that kind of software for Linux.

This week I read an article about how Linux on the desktop is dead. I know it's not really true, but if Linux is going to ever really thrive on the desktop, it's not going to happen on Free software alone. So take a few moments to seek out useful Linux software that's useful and NOT free, and spend a few bucks (or euros or pounds) in support of an independent software developer.

In the end, we'll all benefit if you do.