Would you pay for Open Source Software

Recently Peter Toft wrote a blog entry (in Danish) entitled Hånden på hjertet: Vil du betale for Open Source?, which roughly translates into
Honestly, would you pay for Open Source?

The blog post and the associated comments are all in Danish, but those who answered yes can be split into three groups (I’m generalizing a bit here, read the comments, if you want the details)

  • Yes, and I do occasionally. Either through one-time donations or buying merchandise.
  • Yes, and I have some sort of monthly subscription/membership, like jointhegame.kde.org/ or FSF.
  • Yes, but I don’t know where to throw my money.
    If I had to support the development of all the (open source) software I use, it would ruin me, because I use so many open source programs. If there was a central place I could pay, and have my money distributed, that would work for me.

I myself belong in the first category, mainly through merchandise purchases.
But I must admit that I do share some of the thoughts of the people in the last category. If I want to donate my money to pay for developer hours and I don’t want the hassle of shopping around, to locate and distribute money to all the many projects deserving support, where do I go?

So I would like to bring Peters question to the wider audience of Planet Ubuntu. (If you found this blog post through some other means, feel free to share your thoughts as well).

Would you pay for Open Source Software?

If yes, what would/do you pay for?
A specific product, monthly subscriptions, merchandise or something else?

If no, why not?
Is free the most important aspect of Free Software?
Are there to many places to throw your money, so you choose not to at all?

Would you be interested in donating to some sort of foundation, whose sole purpose it was to pay Open Source developers to work full time on what ever project they were working on?
Photo by: Philip Taylor

64-bit vs. i386 and Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu CDs

EDIT: Søren points out that the server CDs are in fact 64 bit. However I think the point made below is still valid for the desktop CDs.

There were a few comments to my latest blog post about the lack of 64-bit CDs in the LoCo CD box, and the reduced number of Kubuntu CDs compared to the number of Ubuntu CDs.

I don’t agree with this critique. As I see it, the CDs are for handing out and passing on to people who are completely new to the Linux / (K)Ubuntu game. These people don’t necessarily know what hardware is in their computer and a question like “Do you have at 64 bit processor?” won’t make sense to them. Worst case scenario the question will make the user feel stupid (not a good starting point for a great user experience with the new software) or the user will answer incorrectly, and will end up with a CD that doesn’t work with their hardware.
Sure, support for huge amounts of ram is nice, but I still think it is rare that the average user has and needs this (yet). And the user who does need it will be aware of the difficulties, and know to either ask the person who hands out the CD or do the research of how to get 64 bit support.

As to the number of Kubuntu vs. Ubuntu CDs I know this is a issue that a lot of people feel very strongly about. But the fact is that the average user who has never used anything else than Microsoft Windows doesn’t know the difference between Gnome and KDE (or the difference between Thunderbird and Evolution or the difference between Emacs and Vi…). The big strength of FOSS is the choices. But that is also one of the weaknesses. When you come along as a new user you are in no way qualified to make the choice between several different software packages, if you have no idea what the differences is. So you need someone else to make that choice for you. And if you find out you prefer another program than the one installed by default, the solution is often not further away than Synaptic or a link on the web: install kubuntu-desktop
(This link installs kde on a Ubuntu system. If I remember correctly it needs to fetch 100MB or more and will make KDE your default desktop environment. If you don’t know what that means, you don’t need to do it.)

That is why I think it is fine that Canonical has chosen to ship more plain Ubuntu CDs than Kubuntu and no 64-bit CDs at all. It limits the number of choices that the use can’t be expected to make anyway. And if you are well informed enough to make the choice you should also be expected to know what to do to get the system you want.