Advantages of FOSS


Jerome Kaidor


A while back, there was a thread about the advantages of commercial
accounting software ( as opposed to open source ). I'd like to present a
bit of the other side. I'll admit to being a bit biased because I'm a
former programmer. Now a business owner, but it's hard to get out of the
programming habit :).

Advantage #1: You Have the Source. Or if you hire a programmer, he
has the source. This means that if there is a bug or feature in the
software that you cannot live with, you can fix it or hire someone to fix

Case in point: I use Quicken for my business. I have a horror of
entering data twice. So I got an accessory program to print checks. And
a dedicated laser printer loaded with magnetic toner and check stock.
Data from Quicken goes to the check printer program, which formats it up
and sends it to the printer. So far so good... A fly in the ointment is
that Quicken does not send the check numbers to the check printer
program. So the check printer program counts, and Quicken counts. If
everything works just right, the check numbers match up. Usually they
do. It doesn't take much to get them out of sync. It's REALLY BAD
software engineering to have two programs counting independently. But
Intuit will never change this behavior. Why? Because they make a lot of
money selling preprinted checks. If it was FOSS, I'd just dig in and add
the numbers to the output stream.

I can surely understand wanting one's vendor to be around - to be
substantial and reasonably guaranteed to be there in the future. But my
impression of Intuit is that unless you are a very LARGE customer, you're
not going to get much support from them. Surely no bugfixes. Maybe I'm

Intuit has been nagging me for months now to upgrade to Quicken 2008.
A friend of mine says its quite buggy, so I've been clicking "no".
Ultimately, I will have to upgrade. Might be years from now. Last forced
upgrade was when they discontinued support for QIF. FOSS will never force
you to upgrade.

Advantage #2: Popular open source projects tend to be relatively
bugfree because anybody who's annoyed by bugs is free to dig in and fix
them, and people do. My linux box soldiers on for months without a
hiccup, but my Windows XP desktop has to be rebooted every couple days.
And let's not even MENTION Vista. Large companies perceive that there is
more money to adding features than to fixing bugs, so that's where they
allocate resources ( programmers ). Admittedly, this advantage might be
minimal in the financial area, because the pool of people who are
programmers AND interested in bookkeeping is probably small.

- Jerry Kaidor


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