Linux

The responsibility of the Linux user: Purchase software

Jack Wallen comes across a couple of software titles for Linux that remind him it is the Linux user's responsibility to purchase good software titles to help developers see there is, in fact, a market.

If there is one aspect of Linux that has frustrated me (and many others) over the years, it's that the vast majority of Linux users do not, and will not, purchase software. I get it ... one of the appeals of Linux is that it's open source and there are so many free titles to choose from. In fact, one could easily go his entire computing life (on Linux) and never purchase a single piece of software.

This mind-set causes one major issue. When software companies look at the Linux community, and see how prevalent this attitude is, there is zero incentive to bring their titles to the Linux platform. And even when some companies take the risk, and port their titles to Linux, there are so few purchases, the titles tend to either die off or never get updated.

One of the biggest complaints about Linux is the lack of games. The truth of the matter is, this same mindset killed a company, Loki Games, before it ever really got to start producing some serious titles for wanna-be Linux gamers.

So, why am I writing about this now? This past week I came across two software titles that look absolutely incredible for my ilk. Between these titles, one is testing a Linux beta and the other has a full-fledged Linux release. Now, the titles are a bit niche-y, but the illustrate my point perfectly.

Figure A

Both titles are tools for writers. The first is a piece of software that many writers cannot live without -- Scrivener. For the longest time, this title was Mac-only and was the envy of every writer using either WIndows or Linux. Well, the developers are working on a port for both Windows and Linux. I've been using this title since I discovered it and I can tell you, I fully understand why all the Mac users have been gloating about this software for so long. Figure A illustrates the interface and how this title can be used to make the life of a novel writer far easier.

I'm thrilled that Literature and Latte have decided to bring this title to Linux. My fear, however, is that once the title enjoys its full release those authors that enjoy the Linux platform won't bother to purchase the title. With no one purchasing the title, chances are the developers will be informed to cease and desist development on the Linux port.

Scrivener for Mac costs roughly $45.00 USD. I would imagine the Linux port will run the same.

Same is true with another software tile. Storybook is a title of a different nature -- although for the same niche. Instead of allowing writers to completely fashion their books within a single piece of software (from character development to writing the manuscript), Storybook works as a tool to keep an overview of characters and plotlines for novels. I have one particular series in development that will require such a tool, due to the complex and long-term plot lines that will need to be carefully plotted and numerous characters involved. Storybook is perfect for this.

Now Storybook has two versions -- a free version and a paid version. The paid version adds a few features (in particular the Storybook Memoria which offers a graphical map of plots). The paid version of Storybook 3.0 for Linux will run you a paltry $27.89 USD.

Both of these titles are affordable solutions for writers. In the case of Scrivener, it is often considered the industry standard tool -- and we are looking at an official port for Linux. But for this to achieve any sort of success, Linux users will have to actually break down and purchase the software. As much as it seems this would be a simple task, prying precious Pounds from the typical Linux user is not an easy task. And so I want this blog to serve as a call-out to Linux users across the globe to open up their minds and their wallets when they find titles like Scrivener and Storybook available for purchase. Without actually making purchases, these types of titles will never survive.

It's such a double-edge sword -- the porting of titles to Linux. Companies do this knowing they are risking loss. They know the Linux community has been spoiled all these years. But those days are numbered and the window of entry is brief. I fully plan to purchase Scrivener when it becomes available. I will also purchase Storybook so I can keep track of my next series (The Book of Jacob) with a tool and not my aging memory.

I don't expect there to be a lot (or any) fellow writers reading this blog, so I wouldn't dare ask everyone here to purchase either Scrivener or Storybook for Linux. But there are titles out there you can, and should, purchase. Be on the look out for such software titles. When you find solid applications for Linux, worthy of purchase, report them here so we can all take advantage and help the developers understand there is in fact a market for Linux titles.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

31 comments
slimscraggle
slimscraggle

Okay, I know this is old, but I'm just researching this now and have to say if software developers want me to buy their applications they need to price them accordingly. $50 bucks is outrageous. $30 is pretty high. I'd love to buy software for Linux, but that doesn't mean I want to be ripped off. I can only remember paying more than $20 for a windows application once.

LeonBA
LeonBA

As a Linux user, I don't often need to buy software--but I did purchase a copy of Nero Linux, because burning capability is important to me, I like the way Nero works and want the features it offers, I trust it to do the job right, and I wanted to encourage the company to continue development of its Linux software. My standards may be high when making a purchase decision, but I will shell out for something I feel is worth it.

marcdw
marcdw

Being that my office needs are light and I already had SoftMaker Office on Windows I decided to pay for the Linux version. Being that I'm a legacy machine kind of guy it works out much better than the heavier offerings (MS/OOo/Libre) while handling their file formats just fine. Paying for a multi-platform app sort of counts to I suppose (such as Simidude). If it fits a need...

jwbales
jwbales

I switched to Linux 12 years ago. But I keep a Windows 98 partition which I use once a year to prepare my taxes. I would prefer tax preparation software which ran on linux and would gladly pay for it since I already pay for TurboTax or for TaxCut. Since this is software which must be revamped annually, it requires too much manpower to be open source. If one of the major tax preparation programs would run reliably on wine, I would buy it preferentially.

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

So.... you're saying writers are "cheap" bastiches!!?? j/k

pgit
pgit

There is a company that will allow you to purchase licenses for various codecs, their little app is called codena. At least with Mandriva Linux, when you encounter a video or audio source for which there is no open source codec, a window will pop up asking if you'd like to go purchase the appropriate codec. Unfortunately for them, the US is the only place where you can't just (legally) go and grab the same codec from a free repository somewhere. (such servers are in Europe) A lot of Americans apparently don't care much for copyright and a developer's right to make a living off their work. I see people with US locations in their profiles asking forums how to get codecs working. Later they'll openly state they downloaded and installed the codec from a free source, i.e. they admit they are breaking the law, and there's at least an IP to associate with the fact. (not to mention their profile info in the various forums) I appreciate the efforts of folks like codena. I checked the "every opportunity I can" option in the poll. I wish there were a lot more apps I could pay for, especially the proprietary stuff I maintain that is windows-only. Windows gets markedly more expensive to license beyond 10 machines on a given LAN.

d_baron
d_baron

The two author's tools are great examples of very reasonably priced titles that can be quite useful. There are FOSS tools of similar bent so the prospective user might want to compare. I had purchased several titles for song production on Windows and still use some of them with WINE on linux. Linux has a larger variety of audio tools than windows though not as polished, each with its own quirks. One I would buy when it is upgraded to Ardour 3. I have not experimented enough with the FOSS tools to decide, however. Also note, Opensource can be sold as long as sources are available. Many users may not want to bother compiling and tinkering and a finished package at a nominal price might well sell.

parnote
parnote

... shown that they are willing to pay for quality software. In the past couple of years, several game developers came up with the "pay what you think it's worth" payment plan for several game releases. When the dust had settled, Linux users paid the highest amount for the games (per person average). Meanwhile, Windows users paid the least amount for the games (per person average). How many more times do software developers have to be shown that there is a market for well written Linux software, before they realize it? For sure, there will be those in the Linux community who will opt to stay with FOSS solutions. That is a choice they will have to make. So many Linux users fled the commercial operating systems after falling victim to bloated software that costs an arm and a leg, that doesn't deliver. Or, their once excellent software purchases suffered from "feature creep" when the software developers tried to make the software all things to all people, thereby serving none of their users. Under Linux, most software does one thing, and does it well, following the "right tool for the right job" mentality. If software developers can avoid unnecessary bloat, feature-creep and keep the prices reasonable (er, $700 for Photoshop vs Gimp is a no-contest decision, with Gimp coming out on top almost every time), then Linux users will undoubtedly open their wallets and purchase the software. They have already proven that they will. Even as a non-gamer, I added to that when I purchased the game Machinarium to run on my PCLinuxOS installation a couple of years ago. Mind you, I had not purchased a game in YEARS (even when I was a Windows user), simply because I do not play them. But Linux users cannot purchase what is not made available to them.

gradkiss
gradkiss

I personally avoid purchasing software ... and even utilize free software foundation's developers and recommendations. There has always been one exception ... when I purchase and license a DVD player from Fluendo due to the legal requirements established in the uS ... that all pay and all produce the same duplicate codecs. That will soon change ... there is a growing number of people using Morris code to accomplish what the uS and Corporations like Microsoft and Apple will never , but eventually honor themselves. It's always good to know that you've accomplished something that does not disparage anyone, including yourself.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Game engine port for Linux is free, but game data isn't. It has to be copied from the installation DVD for Windows, purchased in the usual manner.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Pay for software. Sure, if it fits a need and the price tag justifies the functionality difference from competitive software. (Eg. Photoshop for Linux would have to justify the 700$ price difference from GIMP). In terms of games, I'm even more likely to plop down the monies. I'd love nothing more than not having to stop all my running software and reboot to Windows just to enjoy an hour or two of gaming. I've actually been doing far less gaming (and spending less money on games) because the need to boot a Windows session on bare metal does not justify shutting down long running processes and hosted VMs. You listening out there game developers? Linux Gamers exist and are waiting eagerly. Give me a native Dragon Age 3 engine or port the Shogun Total War 2 engine over and I'll be at the counter with wallet in hand the day of release. (yea, I know; we need a properly DirectX equivalent build out of the GL stack and an honest effort to deliver full GPU functionality in vendor drivers (or help community devs do it) is needed still.)

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

http://celtx.com This one is for writing scripts too. It is all free until you want to collaborate online so I'm not sure it fits. But, even then, it's $5/mo with version control. Not bad-

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

but sometimes you just can't help yourself! Jack, the primary factor driving any Linux adoption is price...period, end of discussion. Do you really, for even a slight moment, think that your typical Linux user is going to purchase anything, especially if there is something that will almost, with some kludge work, work well enough to get a task done? The only other factor driving adoption of Linux, and OSS in general, other than price is that it is ABM..."anything but Microsoft".

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

It does occur on occasion that the company writing a bit of code will sell it on a website. You can then download this code to the Linux of your fancy and install the program! I know this is hard for some people to comprehend (robo_dev) but it is not entirely unheard of.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Most Linux software is open source and therefore written by 'the community'. Do you just open the window and throw a bunch of dollar bills out, hoping the right developers get a piece of the pie? I understand you buy Support Services, but of course you do not actually BUY open source software. If I want SubVersion support, I buy it from CollabNet, if I want RedHat support, I buy that.....

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Our uses tend to be fairly straight-forward, but occasionally we need something a little specialized. For CAD work, BRL-CAD fits our needs well, but its rendering capabilities leave a bit to be desired. Enter AC3D by Inivis. We are able to do anything with these two titles the big boys can with Autodesk offerings and then some. Total price tag is $80.00 per seat. Not a problem considering the Autodesk equivalent is around $10,000 on sale and in a bundle. Yeah I'll pay $80... No problem.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

by the sounds of it. I know Aussie prices never were as low as in the US, but I've never seen a Windows application as low as $20.00 except old stuff in the clearance bin.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Something like the current year's tax rules could be easily applied as an update or policy template. No real reason to change the program engine each year just to implement new tax policy. I'd love to see quicktax on without a reboot too.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This aproach turns up elsewhere also. There are a number of games for the Maemo platform which provide a ported game engine and directions to copy over content from your previously purchased intsall media. The one thing I'd like to see is better hadnling of the install though. I'm not sure how the ID software games are and the Maemo games seem to be "copy into this folder and run the game". I really wish Neverwinter Nights 2 had been put out this way; also that NWN1's *nix install process had been provided more cleanly. Ideally, have the *nix game engine ask for the original install media and copy the licensed content into place on it's own instead of making the user jump through hoops. Good on ID for releasing the game engine source after a retail lead time.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

When I migrated to Linux, price was the LAST consideration. Stability was paramount; next came a requirement to keep legacy software functional after an upgrade. Building a new install on new hardware with Linux is so much easier (even when Windows is pre-installed by the manufacturer!) that the first thing I do when I buy a new computer, after powering it up, is "format c:", then install Linux. A lot faster than spending days looking for drivers for equipment no longer supported... Price? Oh, yeah- that's a nice little secondary nuance...

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

The article is about paying money for superior software that's closed source but runs on Linux. For example, I own a Nikon D70, and do all my shooting in RAW Format. What's the (IMHO) best batch RAW manipulation program? Bibble. http://www.bibblelabs.com/ They develop for Mac, Winders & Linux, and the Linux port works very well. Did I sit and whine that it wasn't free, or did I pay for it? I got out my credit card & purchased it. Was it cheap? Comparatively speaking, yes. For what the software does, $99 for the lite version and $199 for the pro version is very affordable - compared to the Adobe & Nikon offerings. Worth every penny. (The pro version also gives you the ability to run the software on any platform, with the lite version you must choose your platform at time of purchase.) New cameras are added & bug fixes are taken care of quickly, upgrade discounts are liberal and the developers spend quite a bit of time on the forums. Jack is just advocating when a tool exists that isn't freeware or OSS but does the job better than free offerings, consider purchasing the software instead of whining about licensing and pie-in-the-sky source code ideals. [[ For the record -- I do agree with you though on Jack's serious lack of participation in the conversations on his posts. To Jack: I read (and usually enjoy) most of your posts, but your drive-by, throw the story out the window & gun the accelerator attitude on your blogging does reduce your credibility somewhat, IMHO. ]] Laterz, "Merch"

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

In our case, the deciding factor was stability. If Microsoft made software which was head and shoulders above open source offerings, I'd buy it. As it is, I run some under Wine (see my post about Visio above). Evangelism has no place in serious tech work. ABM is just as bad as MAAC... Microsoft at any cost. The computer is a tool. Use what works.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

One of the more popular business models is the free basic edition with retail "value add" versions available. ("Freemium" I believe?) So, while you may not have found reason to pay for software, you've probably had the option to purchase more functional retail versions (or at minimum, vendor support). If your talking distributions only; Red Hat seems to be a fairly valid collection of Linux kernel based retail open source. On the other hand, we can also look at a bazillion apploiance and embedded Linux kernel based open source products.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Where open source model fits the bill, I use it because I believe in the open source system. Sometimes the only tool, or the best tool, is one which has been made in a commercial, closed source setting. Where these folks port to Linux and have produced a superior solution for a fair price, I have no problem whipping out the wallet. As an example, Visio is superior to Dia (unfortunately). If Microsoft ported Visio to Linux, I'd buy it. As it is, I use the copy I bought under Wine to good effect.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

There are a number of light-weight CAD packages out there- I have actually purchased TurboCAD for under $100. I doubt I would even consider AutoCAD no matter what the price, because, since it tries to be everything for everyone, it does nothing well (at least without a whole lot of learning curve). Dasault has recently released a native Linux version of their DraftSight package- I am considering purchasing the upgrade as I type. Will I buy commercial software for my Linux box? Absolutely- if the commercial house can give me what I want at a reasonable price...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Assuming "Freeware" meant "Free Open Source Software" not it's actual "Free Closed Source Software" meanging... pay for proprietary solutions.. heck.. pay for open source solutions. If you have a FOSS app you rely on regularily, consider giving a donation to the developers even if they don't officially put a price tag on it's initial aquisition.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

I also use both free, open source as well as commercial closed source packages. Whichever best fits our needs, not just my personal preference. My remarks were targeted more to Jack, even though he rarely, if ever, reads the replies. Where I work we are predominantly a MS Windows environment, due to software requirements from an outside vendor. At home, I use whatever I have close at hand!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Visio seconded also. As you point out, Dia isn't Visio. Sadly, the only client app that can fully interoperate with Exchange is Outlook. Give me a native port of Outlook at a reasonable price and the wallet comes out.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

With three Windows installs to my name at work, I don't see justifying a plugin purchase for Evolution but that is a great option I'd look at if Evolution was my home PIM app. It may be as close as you get to full exchange functionality without Outlook.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

This is why I run evolution with the simian connector (another for pay product)... but if outlook was available, I'd buy it instead.

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