Linked by Stefan Michalowski, M. Sc. on Thu 19th Aug 2004 08:27 UTC
Editorial Lately posted on Slashdot, an article written by Joel Spolsky mentioned the trouble through which Microsoft went to make each version of Windows backwards compatible. In one case, for the game Simcity, they even changed the way memory handling was done when running that application. You can find additional stories of software tricks that recent versions of Windows have to perform in order to run these bug-dependant applications on the web. After reading the story, I discussed with a couple of friends how weird this was and how Free Software completely avoids this problem.
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RE: RE: Re: *Sigh*
by Stefan Michalowski on Thu 19th Aug 2004 13:50 UTC

> Summing up all the companies I've visited, I've seen both small and big specialized applications, they by far outnumber the more common ones.
>But they're used by few, some specialized app in one company, some in others.
>They all do use and rely on the common applications ofcourse, but the specialized ones are just as imporant for just them.

You bring up an important point. People and companies currently depend on specialized closed-sourced applications. Because they are closed-sourced, the companies are in a vendor lock-in. This is somewhat ok as long as the vendor provides support for their software. But when the vendor stops supporting it's software for whatever reason, the user company is in a difficult situation. Either they have to migrate to a new solution, or stay with the old unsupported version.

Even Microsoft cannot check every available closed-source application to see if it's latest version of Windows supports it. You will end up with unsupported software in the closed-sourced world. But you will not have the same freedom as in the Free world, to be able to fix your application to make it work in a new environment.

As in every case of freedom, there is a price associated to that, but my argument is that this price is worth it and actually gets voided by the fact that backwards compatibility also has a price, that of security and stability.

> The OSS community isn't going to be able to develop every little piece of program everyone needs

Why not? I mean, what is so different in developping closed-source applications and open-source application? Both use the same languages (C/C++/Java/C#), both have tools to help develop applications. What would stop companies from making open-source or Free software for all these specialized applications?

> (When was the last time you saw a ISUP protocol tester on freshmeat ?).

Just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it will not be done. Also, Free software does not equal automatic public distribution on the Internet. You could write and sell Free software to a small set of customers. The only thing you have to provide is the source code with your software and give the right to your customers to modify and distribute that software. I think most customers will continue paying you for updates, because you will have the expertise and you will be the trusted source. But if you, for whatever reason, disappear or cannot support your software, your customer will be able to find support elsewhere.

> Please take your time to read the first link in the article.
>The one that points to;
> Read the lot of it, and try to understand some of the most
important pice in it. (Namely, that attracting developers to
your operating system is about the only thing that matters.)

Joel makes a valid point, and I think that Free software does provide some backwards-compatibility. You can run gtk-2.0 and gtk-1.0 applications at the same time. You can run qt2, qt3 at the same time. But when you have the source available, the rules change. You do not have the same restrictions as previously. You can innovate more freely than before. Think about it. Microsoft cannot innovate too much because they will break comaptilibity with old *broken* applications.