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Feature: Open Source

Why proprietary software is dangerous for business-critical applications

By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on August 28, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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A friend of mine is the IT manager for a medium-sized wholesale distribution business. One afternoon in early August, a hard disk drive in one of his employer's servers started to show signs that it was dying. That hard drive contained the company's (proprietary) credit card processing software, which was chosen specifically to integrate with the company's (proprietary) inventory control and accounting software package. My friend -- we'll call him Stan -- didn't think the problem was a big deal. He'd just reinstall the card-processing software on another hard drive, move the customer data he'd wisely backed up onto the new drive, and go home for the day. That was before he called the software company that had sold his employer the card-processing program -- a call that left Stan and his boss angry and confused.
What Stan wanted from the card-processing software publisher was simple: an "unlock" key for the new installation. It's the kind of request software company customer service departments handle all day long. They check to make sure the caller has actually purchased the software in question, then email a new key or read it over the phone.

But this software company said, "No, we can't give you a new registration for your old software. You need to upgrade to our latest version, and the upgrade will cost you [several thousand dollars]."

It turned out that the company that had sold the original software had been bought out by a larger software company that had substantially rewritten the program and didn't want to support old versions at all, not even with emergency re-registrations for existing customers. Nope, they said, you must upgrade to our new version. That is your only choice. Take it or leave it.

While the financial blackmail aspect of this attitude angered Stan -- and angered his boss even more -- their biggest worry was that they might have trouble integrating the new software with the rest of their accounting and inventory control system. Note that for a company that makes most of its sales over the Internet or by phone, with credit cards as the most popular means of payment, any interruption in the ability to process those credit cards is costly, and if it goes on for long can easily become catastrophic. So the obvious, sensible, conservative path for Stan to take was to reinstall the software he already had, and that he knew worked correctly, then experiment very carefully with a new version.

Stan's next move was to make a bit-for-bit copy of the dying hard drive in hopes that the new copy would run correctly. As those of you who have tried this move know all too well, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. And as you also know, if you're dealing with many gigabytes of data, this can be an all-night job that requires all-night babysitting. It is something no sysadmin or IT manager looks forward to. But Stan did it, and, lo and behold! It worked.

The alternative short-term plan, if the bit-by-bit copy hadn't worked, was to process credit cards manually, using a terminal like the ones you see in almost every restaurant or retail store.

The long-term plan obviously does not include a costly upgrade to the current card-processing software. And Stan, being a Linux user and open source advocate, used this situation to show his boss that open source is often not only better and less costly, but safer than proprietary software.

The question, though, is whether there's an open source credit card processing program that will integrate properly with the company's proprietary accounting and inventory control software. If not, Stan's company might decide to help underwrite the creation of one that would do what they need. It's also possible that they will carefully and slowly start looking for an open source accounting and inventory control package to replace their current proprietary one, although this would be a huge move for them; one that might take several years to make if, indeed, they make it at all.

But the real point here is that an entire medium-sized company's executive staff has learned a hard lesson about the dangers of proprietary software, and members of that staff who previously resisted open source are now ready to consider it -- and for business continuity reasons rather than as a money-saving measure, no less.

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on Why proprietary software is dangerous for business-critical applications

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FOSS is Much Safer in the Long Run

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:06 AM
Good article.

In fact, for the last few years, my main argument when selling clients on an Open Source solution has been that it provides better long-term viability.

That argument seems to have more impact than cost savings, or even freedom (although the long-term viability is, in fact, a result of FOSS freedom).

While most customers would like to save money, the future cost-versus-effectiveness considerations are fuzzy enough that they often opt for the safe and known (Windows), over the new and promising (FOSS).

Likewise, many customers have never really understood how many of their problems are actually a result of their lack of freedom (especially Microsoft lock-in).

But every customer has experienced a case where software they liked and/or relied on (in business, or personally) has stopped being supported, leaving them high and dry.

Thus, potential clients tend to sit up and take notice when I explain that, even if the supporting company goes out of business, the software will still get support from its users, and, even if there are no other users, in the worst case, my clients can always take the source code and maintain it for themselves (or pay someone). This can work as either a long-term solution, or a stop-gap measure providing time for a controlled migration, which is to say that my clients will not suddenly be left in a lurch, the way they can be with proprietary software.

It's easier to sell something when you can relate your argument to a situation that the customer has personally experienced.

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This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:07 AM
While the financial blackmail aspect of this attitude angered Stan

WHY SHOULDN'T SOFTWARE COST MONEY???? Everything else in life does.

Oh do stfu about money and proprietary software.
Go back to running your limo service Rob!

So far proprietary software has been running business critical functions and all of a sudden it's a bad thing because nobody is giving open source the time of the day?

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:23 AM
And can you explain, why software which you've already bought should cost more money to move to a new machine? Maybe if you read the article your post wouldn't be as pointless as it was.

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This is just insane!-VHS left in the cold.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 06:24 AM
"And can you explain, why software which you've already bought should cost more money to move to a new machine?"

So what are you all going to do when VHS finally dies? Bitch that the media companies are blackmailing you into buying DVDs? Nothing in this world is forever, but change certainly is.

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Just move to DVD

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 09:18 PM
According to fair use, one can dump the content of the VHS tape into you computer and then burn it to a DVD or any other media that a new player can handle.

Being required to pay money to move software to a new machine is like being required to pay money to be able to transfer the VHS to a new medium.

Hey, if you like to pay for your content over and over again, go for it. Me, I like to just move it to the next meduim without having to pay.

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Re:Just move to DVD

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 12:52 AM
Your logic skills are extremely poor. According to fair use, he did dump the content of the VHS tape (the dying hard drive) onto a newer machine.

What he wanted was for the company to ship him a new vhs tape, which is not very reasonable (granted, a simple key with no support shouldn't have been too hard, but there's no obligation at all).

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Re:Just move to DVD

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:32 AM
"but there's no obligation at all"



and that is the point, you $#@$ing tool.

He wasn't asking for a "new" vhs tape, he was asking for a key so he could use his existing vhs tape. Stupid analogy, stupid person.

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Hey, did you pay for those words you typed?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:45 AM
After all, everything else in life costs money. And do you pay your brain bill by the month, or do you have a coin slot in the side of your noggin? Because your little rant sounds as if time had expired on your head...

Geek Unorthodox

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Don Ritchey on August 29, 2006 03:02 AM

This is exactly the scenario you have when:



You are out on a lonely road in the backside of nowhere, out of cell phone coverage and out of gas. You hike to the nearest farm-house and call AAA, only to find out that the local coverage has been subcontracted out to a fly-by-night outfit in the next town. The catch, they will come out and refuel your car -- for a non-refundable "deposit" of $200.00 and the cost of gas at their rate, which is 3 times the going price per gallon (and they will charge you for a full tank at that rate, regardless of how much you need).



The point is that the software company has the right to change for support, and you have probably paid for a support contract (if you have any brains at all). What is unjust here is that the proprietary software company chooses this moment to throw in the cards and tell you to upgrade or else. This is not a choice, this is extortion. If you had six months to make the choice (a reasonable amount of time in today's world where upgrades must be planned), you could choose to upgrade or migrate. In this situation, you hand is being forced, for no good reason, other than the software company sees a way to make a forced sale.



If this were a local car dealer, I would be writing letters to the editor of the local paper and getting rid of the vehicle, making sure that everyone in the community knew the morals of the company. This is what keeps local businesses honest.



Since the company is probably in a relatively small niche market, the opportunities for leverage (and justice) are more remote.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 03:13 AM
Whew, you lost me with that analogy.

Simply put, I think the point is that software companies are under no obligation to support old versions, so the question becomes what should they do with the old versions? I say make them freely available with no support. Somebody else might say charge a minimal "re-acquisition" fee. Or of course, they can keep going down the same dastardly path and drive more users to open-source alternatives. That works too.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Don Ritchey on August 29, 2006 04:39 AM
The point was that the customer thought that they had on-going support from the vendor, who turned around and attempted to hold them up. Yes, I make the analogy to armed robbery. When your back is to the wall and the person is threatening your company's survival, that is about as threatening as it gets.

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This is just insane!-Contracts.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 06:35 AM
"The point was that the customer thought that they had on-going support from the vendor, who turned around and attempted to hold them up. "

That's what contracts are for. I've several loans. Can I *assume* that the interst rates will be fixed throught the life of the loan? Only for one, and that's because I GOT IT IN WRITING! The others are also IN WRITING! Can I *assume* that I'll have lifetime warrenty on my car? It's not IN WRITING! So no I can't. Sorry the businessman forgot that important point. But then I expect businessmen to understand the necessity of contracts and not *assume* anything. And yes that applies to OSS as well. He may be able to find someone to fix OSS, but that's as much a hassle, as finding out you have to upgrade your software.

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Re:This is just insane!-Contracts.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 11:33 PM
He may be able to find someone to fix OSS, but that's as much a hassle, as finding out you have to upgrade your software.

Hardly. OSS is much more transparent in this respect. A user of software generally knows exactly when an upgrade would be required (as in the new version is no longer fully backwards-compatible) and can make the necessary preparations, or even just hire someone on contract to maintain/update the old code as-is. Being explained this over a support call that you are denied an installation key and MUST upgrade to the latest version at a significant cost is not acceptible in any business practice, except maybe that of shoddy software companies whom don't deserve ANY business whatsoever.

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Hey Insane - Support =$=Ok, License upgrades are..

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 03:13 AM
It is no problem paying for support and that costs money, hey if a file becomes corrupted then sometimes, depending, the original folks are the ones to fix this.

This "forced upgrade" game is PURE MICROSOFT. This company ALREADY paid for software, gladly, they just would like to have their investment in the software go a bit longer then the "force-em-to-upgrade-so-I-can-get-more-profit-sha<nobr>r<wbr></nobr> ing-etc-management and marketing folks dream up.

They also have an investment in a total package that the software company who sold it to them could not provide. This forced upgrade scenerio can break a company if things don't work right.

WHAT IF THE SOFTWARE COMPANY HAD GONE OUT OF BUSINESS. Hey - it happens.

OpenSource and having the code in your hands is like having your future in your hands.

Nothing against making money, but extortion is a different matter (OpenSource is the answer to that problem). Many companies pay willingly for open source solutions AND ALSO PAY FOR SUPPORT FOR THOSE solutions. Both the customer and the Open Source Software Provider benefit from a mutual trusting relationship where value is in the equation AND forced upgrades are not an issue that causes bad blood.

I know of several companies that are migrating away from proprietary force-em to upgrade software companies becasue of the very reason that the article points out... they were burned, badly... and they do not forget... THEY LOVE OPEN SOURCE...and they are still paying for software, but they are not in a postion where they can be forced to just thru hoops at the will of some marketing manager for any software company.

If you ever ran a business, and were held up by such a software company, then you would thing that being in such a position, and burned like this company, that NEVERR AGAIN WOULD BE YOUR REACTION, You would swear never to be that insane, to be put in such a position ever again.

Yep - INSANE, is anyone who does business with any company that operates with forced upgrades on it's customers.

Free Software, or reasonably priced software, with reasonably priced "paid for" support and Free upgrades (not forced), is NOT INSANE for any business to be able to deal with in their long term plans...!

Being jerked around by the likes of forced upgrade companies is NUTS..

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Force Bullshit

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 07:23 AM
People often confuse economic power with gun power. Microsoft or any other software company does not have any gun power. So they literally can't force anyone to do anything. Only a government or a government run monopoly has the gun power necessary to force people to do things that they don't want to do.

It is people who clamor for the government to "Force" proprietary companies with anti-trust actions, price gouging acts and FTC investigations who are really resorting to force using the governments gun power.

As for benefits of having the source code, that is another bullshit. Have you heard of the ERP source code customization project disasters? No company that has been burned by source code customization disasters will want to go open source or even open proprietary source.

GNU/GPL etc may be good for all the industries because they get something for free. But it is bad for the programming community because they "force" the programmer to beg for donations or seek their living some way other than by programming (like giving support and making a below subsistence living). Do you then wonder why programming and IT is becoming unfashionable among college students in America and Canada and there is a real software programmer crunch coming up?

Hate destroys the hater much more than the hated. Isn't hate for microsoft destroying the programmers who happen to hate it? I have rarely heard a non-programmer spewing hate for microsoft even though they are the ones who shell out real money to software companies.

GNU/GPL is also anti-competitive in other ways. Since there is very less prospect of making money by open-source programming, fewer and fewer people will enter the market and those that they do will opt to join existing projects instead of starting newer projects which will result in fewer choices being available to the customers as the GNU/GPL may also have destroyed proprietary competitors in the process.

I won't be passing by this page again and thought I would add my 2 cents.

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Re:Force Bullshit

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 01:39 AM
Awsome!!!

I couldn't agree with you more. Well thought out and this is exactly what is happening in the open source software world.

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Re:Force Bullshit

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 09, 2006 08:03 AM
>> People often confuse economic power with gun power. Microsoft or any other software company does not have any gun power. So they literally can't force anyone to do anything. Only a government or a government run monopoly has the gun power necessary to force people to do things that they don't want to do.

>> It is people who clamor for the government to "Force" proprietary companies with anti-trust actions, price gouging acts and FTC investigations who are really resorting to force using the governments gun power.

Oh, please. Hello?

You can't have the smallest proprietary software business without guns. Are you going to take the law into your own hands to enforce your contracts?

Microsoft uses gun power whenever they file a lawsuit and implicitly everytime they form a business agreement or Eula (which is very often).

Gun power is used to punish those that break the law. I break a law if I pirate. I break a law if I sneak into MS headquarters and copy the Windows source code. Microsoft broke the law when they violated the various antitrust laws. These are all violations of rules that society has deemed important enough to be backed by guns [for better or worse].

It's that simple.

And if anything, volunteerism, which is more common with FLOSS, is what really doesn't use guns. I'd like to see Microsoft resort to that. MS would do us well to give up their guns.

>> As for benefits of having the source code, that is another bullshit. Have you heard of the ERP source code customization project disasters? No company that has been burned by source code customization disasters will want to go open source or even open proprietary source.

And have you heard of all the success stories where having the source code saved peoples rear ends? Hello? Anyone home?

>> GNU/GPL etc may be good for all the industries because they get something for free. But it is bad for the programming community because they "force" the programmer to beg for donations or seek their living some way other than by programming (like giving support and making a below subsistence living)...

Do the people that leech off FLOSS write the code? No, not by definition they don't. Someone writes the code though. They are called developers. It is these people that you are claiming are being screwed.. by each other. So they must all be idiots, lemings, or something. Oh, well, eventually, the FLOSS developer race will die out unless they are superhuman.

>><nobr> <wbr></nobr>... Do you then wonder why programming and IT is becoming unfashionable among college students in America and Canada and there is a real software programmer crunch coming up?

I wasn't wondering, but, if I was, my guess is that kids are realizing that if they aren't superhuman or lemings they should not be thinking about a career in programming. Kids are smart. There is probably easier money to be made elsewhere for the non-leming, non-superhuman they reason.

>> Hate destroys the hater much more than the hated. Isn't hate for microsoft destroying the programmers who happen to hate it? I have rarely heard a non-programmer spewing hate for microsoft even though they are the ones who shell out real money to software companies.

I'm a hater and I hate people like you that make me think I will die cause I hate.. dying.

At least for a few people, kicking Microsoft's butt is like a motivation. Kick the "evil" competitor's butt. Grrr. [Microsoft hates FLOSS people<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.. or they did.. do you? Do you hate what FLOSS lemings are doing to the software industry in this country? Maybe you'll die like me, you hater. Serves you right. See you in h......]

>> GNU/GPL is also anti-competitive in other ways. Since there is very less prospect of making money by open-source programming, fewer and fewer people will enter the market and those that they do will opt to join existing projects instead of starting newer projects which will result in fewer choices being available to the customers as the GNU/GPL may also have destroyed proprietary competitors in the process.

Blah blah and puff too goes this theory when you actually peek outside your window and see what is happening.

If Linux has something, it is choice and variety.

>> I won't be passing by this page again and thought I would add my 2 cents.

That's too bad. You had change owed back.

What your spiel boils down to is this. FLOSS is a fitter game play and those not willing or capable of playing it well will die or at least be humbled.

"I don't want to die. I can't figure it out. Maybe I can get others to stop playing it. I think I can. I think I can. Na na na na na la la la la la la.... can't hear you."

Many people have thought just as you have.. only to find out later that they too could be at least a bit superhuman. Change IS scary.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 07:13 AM
Roblimo always has a tendancy to make a mountain out of a ant hill. Nothing new there. Thats the problem with Linux people they always want something for nothing. If Open Source software didnt exist the whole 1.5% of Open Source users would be pirating software. Nothing wrong with proprietary software at all, Its just a problem for this community.

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Sometimes an ant hill becomes a mountain

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 07:57 AM
Just one example from my life in IT related fields...

Most EULAs require that when upgrading your software all use of the previous version must cease. No big deal right?

True story:
- Create, ship and archive a design in a well known schematic capture program.
- Upgrade the program which now has a new data file format.
- Upgrade active files to the new format.
- All is well for about two years when the program is upgraded again.
- Upgrade active files to the new format and continue on.
- Law suit is filed involving the several-year-old design.
- Latest version of the software cannot read the data files archived from two versions back.
- Not allowed to run previous version to convert two versions back file format forward.
- Company that makes the software *refuses* to grant one time license to previous version software since they "cannot support it."
- Software company requires and gets a fee *eight times the cost* of a new license to convert the two versions prior formatted data files up to the new version.

This little story involves two problems: Extortionist EULA policies and closed data formats. Had the tool been open source, converting the old data files would have been a non-issue either by just installing the old version or by processing the data files to bring them current.

Want another?

A company merges with another company. The service contract on some of their networking equipment is declared invalid by the vendor because the newly merged entity doesn't have a license to run the software on the equipment. The EULA does not allow license transfer. The new company already owns the hardware and the software. But they must pay again the multi-thousand dollar fee for the license to use the software they are already using. No new version. Just another license fee. Free money to the vendor and no added value to the customer.

Only one comment about your statement that Open Source users would be "pirating software" if there was no Open Source: If you actually believe that you need to open your closed, biggotted mind and come out of your troll cave to look at the world around you a little more often.

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Re:Sometimes an ant hill becomes a mountain

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 12:59 AM
You have 'open source' very confused with 'open standards'.

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Sorry I wasn't clear

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 08:21 AM
I undertand the difference between Open Source and Open Standards.

My first story could have been solved if the data files were based on an Open Standard format, even if the application was closed source. You are correct.

The second story is one where Open Source would have prevented the extortative actions of the vendor. Not that a reasonable resale license and true customer service wouldn't have either.

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Re:Sorry I wasn't clear

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 09:39 AM
Open source would not have automatically prevented your second story unless the customer was comfortable with doing a lot of stuff on their own without support. A support contract could easily be tied down in a restrictive way and the customer might be forced to build their own version (I'm thinking of a redhat/centos sort of scenario here).

Granted, it's certainly going to be less common as open source support companies aren't going to be quite so stingy and projects like centos do provide better opportunities for diy-ers.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 09:31 PM
Opensource folks want something for nothing because that is the beauty of our community. If you don't like it, why are you posting here? For your information, the Opensource community is far larger than you think, and growing. Yes, nothing wrong with proprietary software, if you choose to go that route, but don't go bashing our community when you clearly don't understand it.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 06:55 AM
Everything you said is correct save for one:

"Opensource folks want something for nothing because that is the beauty of our community."

That generalization is a fallacy. There are some people out here who "want something for nothing", and more often than not those are the ones making pirate copies of Windows and MS Office for their buddies and using functional activation keys gotten from a Google search.

Open Source folks want to be able to simply use their software in accordance with the Open Source Definition (<a href="http://www.opensource.org/" title="opensource.org">http://www.opensource.org/</a opensource.org>). Remember that when we speak of "Free Software", we are referring to *Freedom*, not price. At my place of work, we use open-source software here (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), and we don't mind paying for it. We just paid for a Nagios installation and last year paid for some custom development work on NMIS (it's now in the upstream CVS). Since it's open source, we know that we are free to do whatever we need to do to it, and our data, five years later.

*That* is the beauty of our community.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 12:15 AM
Hey, buddy. There would be no proprietary software with out open source. Windows is a case in point.

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MCSE Alert!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 10:12 AM
Wow...you're right up there with Rob Enderle and Laura DiDiot! Would you likes some fries with that MCSE certificate?

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Re:MCSE Alert!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 02:37 AM
I have a copy of Redhat Linux 5.0. You think they'll still support it? Seems like they got rid of the non-busine$$ versions of their software and left support to some "community". As I continue to upgrade hardware, I'm sure this will keep working. Afterall, it is free (Ok I paid $70 at Compusa-hell no I don't download 8000mb files from the internet and try to make disto.disk images.).

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Re:MCSE Alert!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 01, 2006 01:58 AM
No readhat does not still support it but you do not have to upgrade it if you do not want to and you can install it again on newer hardware

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You're right, but not for the reason you think

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 11:07 AM
Yeah, MCSE's don't ever bother to read the Open Source Definition before they spout off little tantrums like this.

OK, boy, let's see how you react when LongWait finally comes out, and you call Microsoft for a Windows XP activation key because *your* hard disk is showing signs of dying, and they tell you to go screw. Oops, you just changed your position! Wow, that was fast.

Open source software is, therefore, the only *safe* line-of-business investment.

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Re:You're right, but not for the reason you think

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:13 PM
Actually Im LPI Certified, RHCE Certified and an avid supporter of Ubuntu. Just Im a realist enough to know, not all proprietary software is bad, that Roblimo does tend to blow things dealing with proprietary software all out of proportion. Nothing is wrong with proprietary software, its there, its not "illegal" to use and does a good job at what its supposed to do.

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Re:You're right, but not for the reason you think

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 07:11 PM
its not "illegal" to use
Doesn't this depend on the laws of the country or what is actually in the EULA. Are some countries not banned from using certain software?

As for your post, I don't think he is saying that proprietary software does not do the job or is not up to the job. He/They were quite happily using the proprietary product until they hit a major snag, and now they are in a position where they have to upgrade the software at great expense and they have no choice in this. It is not a problem with the product itself but the company who provide the product. The whole idea of talking about the open source route is that this kind of restriction is removed, at least in most cases.

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Re:You're right, but not for the reason you think

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 06:35 AM
If you're a RHCE--which is not easy to get--then you should be smart enough to understand that the issue wasn't one of "oh, we need that company to modify/bugfix this software", but rather one of "we just need an activation key to run it on this other box." That's what the article said. That's it--a simple activation-key call. No asking for bug-fixes or security updates or "how do I do 'X' from the FlamFlam Menu" or anything else like that.

Even Microsoft, as draconian as they are, will give you an activation key for your already-purchased MS Office XP in a hard-disk-failure situation like this, even though MS Office 2003 has been out for three years. Why? Because you bought the right to actually use the software. *That* is what this other software company denied its customer, and why that company just lost said customer. Depending on how the license was worded, such denial of usage might even be illegal.

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Re:You're right, but not for the reason you think

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 09:40 PM

Nothing is wrong with proprietary software, its there, its not "illegal" to use...

Sounds like you're implying that it's illegal to run open source software. Can you provide examples of when and where this is true?

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 05:38 PM
I think what a lot of the people arguing against this article are missing is that the company wasn't asking for support, just a reactivation key. It's entirely unreasonable for a company to tell them they can't use the software anymore simply because the company doesn't want them to.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 09:26 PM
Not insane at all - proprietary software companies could literally give a rodent's behind about the customer and their data, except when it comes to stciking with their prorietary solution. When a proprietary company wants to move forward, they do, and expect everyone else to move with them. Microsoft is a prime example of this, and probably one of the worst offenders. Proprietary companies will help to bring you up to speed with THIER software, but that's because they are making money.

One can draw an analogy with the document format standard situation: the<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.odt document format is a great thing because when a company has thousands or millions of documents in a format every word processor can read, then they can always have access to their documents. When they have them in a proprietary (Microsoft) format, they are forced to import/upgrade every document if the new application version does not support the old format. This is great for proprietary companies because they make more money, but bad for businesses.

Why should we pay for software when the OSI and FSF exist and support our community? Proprietary software has been running businesses because businesses (and consumers) didn't know any better. Now people are starting to wake up and realize extortionists like Microsoft are only out to make a buck, nothing more.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 07:08 AM
Agreed, except for one point, and that's the notion of "Why should we pay for software when the OSI and FSF exist and support our community?"

There's nothing wrong with paying for Free/Open Source Software. Back in the '80's, Richard Stallman would send anybody a tape of Emacs, for $150. That's how he made money to sustain himself until he got his consulting gigs and ultimately the McArthur and Takeda Awards (he's now financially independent as a result of the latter two). It is said that, back then, he sold quite a few tapes, so it would seem that those purchasers were getting their desired ROI.

Red Hat and Novell, as well as JBoss, MySQL Inc., and quite a few others, sell Free Software every day, and the GPL explicitly permits this. There's nothing wrong with making a buck. There *is*, on the other hand, something wrong with using unethical practices to make that buck, which is what this credit-card-processing company did.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Jeremy Hogan on August 30, 2006 12:52 AM
> WHY SHOULDN'T SOFTWARE COST MONEY???? Everything else in life does.

That's orthogonal to the point. Access to the codebase would have helped in this situation. It's not about not wanting to pay for software, Red Hat solutions cost a good penny, for example. It's about owning what you've paid for, and being allowed to use it while it worked and not being forced into a cost prohibitive corner buy an unsupportive vendor.

Would you tolerate it if you bought a car, needed maintenence from the dealer, and they told you "sorry, we don't make those brakes anymore, but for triple the cost, you can have this new car." No, because you didn't need a new car, you already owned a car, you needed routine maintenance.

This is not an example of folks wanting something for nothing, it's an example of a company favoring their future sales over present customers. That's not a free versus closed debate, it's a good versus bad business practices debate.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:47 AM
Your point is not relevant either. This article focuses on the value for business continuity. Having the source code for Red Hat (or any other product) does little to help a small to medium size business if the company is no longer viable. The concept of a small business paying someone to maintain, update and tailor the code to their needs is usually prohibitively expensive and replaces the dependence on a software vendor with dependence on an individual. What happens when the person who worked on your version of the open source app that needed major customization to actually fill your needs stops working unless they get $200k a year?

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:27 AM
Simple, you hire somebody else.

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Re:This is just insane!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:33 AM
Hire somebody else to do it. You have the source. It's no different than the vast majority of software in the world, which is developed on-site. Shrink-wrap developers, software distributors (OSS or not), they are the minority bit-players in the software world.

At least it's possible, when getting (and possibly customizing) canned open software, to continue to support and customize the stuff when the 'provider' would rather you follow their business needs rather than your own. Your choices are far more restricted when you depend on closed solutions.

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Raid, and buy 2 exactly the same servers!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 02:54 AM
RAID - if RAID is used then this fellow would be swapping exact hard drives (that are bought extra and stored).

AND also keep on the shelf an exact copy of the server you bought for parts or for complete swapping of software from one to the other where they are kept in software version synch (for emergencies).
AND maybe keep this other server off-site.

I would be surprised if this key would not be on multiple hard drives in a HardWare RAID scenerio.

Moral: Use RAID and buy extra servers for parts, etc!

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Lifetime hardware guarantee... would be great.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 03:21 AM
When is some hardware manufacturer going to offer the same motherboard, the same processor, the same chipset, the same RAID controller, and the same RAM the SAME SERVER OR DESKTOP...<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.... for 20-50 years for a base of users who don't want the latests and the fastest, that just want the same thing they got that runs just fine?

If a company were to make this offer for a life time access to replacement hardware that is exactly the same, for 20-50 years, or more, the folks in the business world would line up around the world for this option. Many think, if it ain't broke, why do we need to upgrade, and why can't we buy what we got last time (it works fine and they just want the same as before)!

There is a niche business oppurtunity for anyone that does this (a big oppurtunity)! I bet that many patents are running out on hardware designs where someone could use these license free designs to set up a business plan out of building solutions out of a hardware for life with no changes offer!

AND I bet that LINUX would run on those boxes.

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Case in point - Apple

Posted by: joecommodore on August 29, 2006 08:19 AM
At work we've been using Apple Maciuntoshes since 87 during that time the hard drive interface has changed (SCSI to IDE), the networking (Localtalk to Ethertalk and most likely to NFS later on), The processor, 68000 to PowerPC to Intel Dual Core, the operating system System 5, to 6, to 7 to 8 to 9 to X some of them were pretty major transitions (even before X).

Think it won't happen to Microsoft Windows or your PC.... riiiggght, think<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.Net, Vista, Palladium, etc.

Not to say that the vendor did not have any right to do what they did, they do, and as a user YOU do have a choice: to accept what the conpany offers you or to look for alternatives. And Linux is a viable alternative, either free (which is isn't you still need skilled people with either Linux or Windows, or Mac experience), investment ($$ for programming custom code) or commercial, etc. It mainly works out who are you going to pay, for a box ready to install, soneone to make something custon or something in between.

The benefit of open source code is the ability to tailor your softwware set up for your needs (such as the specialized accounting system) and/or updated, and not worry as much about change, and if there is an unavoidable roadblock you have the source code - to adapt or just base a new system on. Which is more than a 'do it or loose it' situation.

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Apple not a case in point, sadly

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 10:05 AM
Apple is, unfortunately, not a case in point. Remember, the previous poster was talking about being able to guarantee certain hardware for 20-50 years or whatever. Apple doesn't do that; just try calling them to get any part for the Mac Classic, for example. Even IBM doesn't do it anymore for our 30-year-old dinosaur mainframe. Maybe third parties might be able to pick up that kind of thing, but third parties could also easily pick up VESA Local Bus cards, too (I haven't seen any VLB cards sold in many years). I sure haven't seen any new NuBus network cards sold, though I have seen used ones occasionally on eBay (I bought one for my PMac 5200).

Where I do totally agree with you is in the benefits of using open source code. That PMac 5200 I just mentioned with the "new" NIC? It's now a LTSP client and, considering its age, doesn't do too badly. 640x480x256, true, but it's certainly useable in a pinch. Impresses the heck out of those for whom I do LTSP demos.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

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Re:Lifetime hardware guarantee... would be great.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 01:20 AM
Services like this do exist, although I doubt 50 year old hardware is available. Ironically, SCO does this sort of long-running support, but I'm sure it costs a medium-sized fortune.

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Re:Raid, and buy 2 exactly the same servers!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 11:18 AM
This is a perfect example of how certain business models attempt to enslave the customer into a paying cashcow.

Dont you just love their PR when afterwards they try to blackmail you?

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Re:Raid, and buy 2 exactly the same servers!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 01:15 AM
You are precisely right and I don't understand why more people haven't pointed this out. The article would be much better with the title "Why stupid administrators are dangerous for business-critical applications".

Wtf was he thinking running a critical application on a single drive? What if he hadn't noticed the impending failure? What if it had happened suddenly instead of slowly? With proper mirroring, you could theoretically go through an unlimited number of drives, as long as too many don't die at the same time.

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Same story with 'good admins' (Re:Raid, and buy 2)

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 04, 2006 09:06 AM
Just change it a little:
"Hard drive blown, but the good system administrator replace an image and a backup from last day.
But the stupid program said: «Registration key doesn't seem to be valid. Please call manufacturer to get a new one»"

It seems that (s)he was not a good admin after all... because (s)he didn't buy the software with the right license in first place.

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Missed the obvious lesson

Posted by: Fujisawa Sensei on August 29, 2006 10:26 PM
The obvious lesson, and a much better idea would be: "keep your software maintained and upto date".

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Not so obvious

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2006 11:26 PM
> The obvious lesson, and a much better idea would be: "keep your software maintained and upto date".

So what you are saying is that, rather than waiting until he was forced to pay thousands of dollars for an upgrade he did not need, he should have volutarily paid thousands of dollars for an upgrade he did not need.

Uh-huh. And I've got some swampland in Florida I'd like to sell you.

Thanks anyway, but I think switching to Open Source, and avoiding unnecessary upgrade costs, is a much better strategy.

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Re:Missed the obvious lesson

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:40 AM
Sometimes, you must not keep the software up to date. Many times, the new versions, in an effort to advance features and fix old bugs, break the features you must absolutely have. Or your "must have" features are deliberately dropped. Or you discover the tech support and mailing lists are worthless or worse.

This happens frequently in the nonprofit sector. Donor tracking, volunteer management, and fund raising applications are bought out, the new owners completely rewrite the software, and you discover it has become something entirely unsuitable, something that never would have been bought.

I have become a believer of using software that can be kept forever. Forced upgrades can be death to organizations.

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Focusing on the wrong issue

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:36 AM
The real issue is that these folks weren't backing up their systems. Don't blame the proprietary software for the fact they didn't have a backup of their system.

I think this is a typical red herring type of argument. The business model I've seen for OSS is free software, but charge for the consulting. So the business would avoid thousands of dollars in upgrades only to pay thousands of dollars to a consultant. It's ultimately a wash.

Stop making this a religion. OSS is NOT the solution to all problems.

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Re:Focusing on the wrong issue

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:49 AM
Some copy protection schemes depend on the hard drive serial number.

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They WERE backing up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:29 AM
All of their data was backed up - Rob said so in the article. In theory, there's no need to back up the application itself (as long as the configuration info was backed up or otherwise recorded manually). They had the original install media.

The only mistake the IT manager made was either (a)assuming that, under his current maintenance contract, he could call the vendor and get a new installation key, or (b) possibly forgetting that the install key was a one-time key, and you have to get a new one each time you re-install the software - a very poor practice by the software vendor, since you have a higher likelyhood of support calls with each sale.

It is possible that the software vendor, when it phased out support of the older version of the application, tried to get the customer to upgrade at a reasonable price, but was turned down. The article doesn't get into that. However, the vendor apparently continued extend an annual maintenance contract to the customer for a price. Either way - the customer was right and the software vendor unethical - and possibly guilty of violating local or state laws regarding the selling of a support contract with no material support behind it...

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Re:They WERE backing up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 05:54 AM
In theory, there's no need to back up the application itself (as long as the configuration info was backed up or otherwise recorded manually). They had the original install media.

I'd say not being able to reinstall without calling the vendor for a new key is a pretty good reason to back up the application itself. If anything goes wrong with that hard drive, ideally the system would fix itself (ie, raid and a notification to the admin to replace the failed drive, or a failover machine). Barring that, the admin should have had a plan that allowed him to come in and replace the drive manually, by himself, within an acceptable amount of down time. He didn't and hence, it's his own damn fault.

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Re:They WERE backing up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 06:39 AM
Wrong answer. When you purchase software, there is a reasonable expectation that you can reinstall it again in the case of a hardware failure.

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They WERE lubed up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 01, 2006 12:12 AM
"Wrong answer. When you purchase software, there is a reasonable expectation that you can reinstall it again in the case of a hardware failure. "

Care to give us the legal ruling on that? Or is this just more "Newsforge lawyering"?

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FUD, to a point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:41 AM
I happen to agree that moving to OSS is a prefered move, but there isn't always a project that fits the needs of the business.

Commercial software is usually sold in two ways: perpetual license (with annual maintenance fees), or on a subscription basis (monnthly, yearly, whatever). Both types come with a contract that cannot be unilaterally changed, which leaves me with several possibilities here.

1. The license for the software had expired, or the maintenance fee wasn't paid.
2. The version in question had been EOLed, and no one did anything to upgrade until this emergency presented itself.
3. The language of the contract actually allowed the vendor to screw its customer over.
4. The vendor took it upon itself to screw the customer over outside of the contractual bounds.

I'm sorry, but every single one of those falls into a "vendor management" category, something that small to mid-sized shops have to do regardless of whether the software they're running is open source.

If you want to pick a reason that proprietary software is bad, you're going to have to find a reason other than "I was too busy to manage my vendor relationships."

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Re:FUD, to a point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:43 AM
Bullsheet.

YOU are supporting FUD by writing such tripe.

It's rather obvious that the anti-OSS people are missing a few brain cells.

Why are all you clowns so loyal to something stupid? Do you own stock in it? You probably hold microsloth stocks, or you're just an aging conservative.

OSS is safer. Eat a pile of dirt if you don't like it. Or, continue being a MS slave. We don't really care.

OSS will outlive you.

Snipe all you want with petty jargon, and you'll get petty jargon right back at you.

"Vendor Relationships" exist largely because of onerous and one-sided licenses. It's another way of saying "we gotcha."

I use linux systems and I have no need to worry about asinine 'vendor relationships' because I don't have to buy anything from anyone, or sign anything.

You do go on kissing that butt though. You seem to be good at it.

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Re:FUD, to a point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 05:49 AM
Your reading comprehension skills are amazingly poor, troll.

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Re:FUD, to a point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 06:42 AM
You didn't help our cause here. Try again please, but with much more rationality and logic.

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Missing the Point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 03:48 AM
Great article. I have run into this many times.

Unfortunately there are some people who miss the point.

This company already paid for and licensed a piece of software. That they are not able to move that piece of software (which they already paid for) to a machine that is not dying without paying the software company a bunch of money is insane.

Most reputable companies allow you to move software (note move, not copy) from one machine to another. It is unfortunate that there are so many predatory software companies out there. I guess people are too busy bashing MS to look at all the companies out there that are really putting the screws to other businesses.

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just silly

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:02 AM
That's just silly. This has nothing to do with open source software. This guy didn't have a very good maintenance plan, and it almost cost him a lot of money.

Besides that, there are plenty of small software companies that will create custom software packages, and give you the source code, for a good price. Balance the price of having a skilled software engineer on staff who can actually make use of the concept of Open Source, and a custom made software package you have full access to -- and see what you get.

You still have choices at this level -- you don't need to buy a "product" that needs a phone call and a key to get it running. Shop around.

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Re:just silly

Posted by: gh3ng1s on August 30, 2006 05:07 AM
I think your friend needs a slap up side his head. The thought of running "Mission Critical" software on a single hard drive is stupid to say the least.
Why was this not running on a RAID array? Why did he not have a fully documented and tested Disaster Recovery plan?
I think he should be looking for a new profession, he is obviously not suited for the IT industry.

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Re:just silly

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 10:26 PM
You obviously haven't dealt with many different software installations, have you!

Software keys are often "one use", that is, the exact same package on the exact same computer, installed a 2nd time will require a different key than the first time.

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What a joke

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 04:32 AM
This guy didn't keep records of software his company purchased serial number(s)/ product keys so this turns into a rant against closed software?!?! No, I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. Try again.

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Re:What a joke

Posted by: EnigmaOne on August 31, 2006 03:16 AM
You've obviously never stepped into a new situation at an existing shop. Stuff like that (including original installation media) gets lost all the time. That's simply the real world, and it's up to the inheritor of the situation to deal with it effectively amidst all the fires that crop-up to be stamped out, daily.

You must not have bothered to read the lines:
But this software company said, " What Stan wanted from the card-processing software publisher was simple: an "unlock" key for the new installation. It's the kind of request software company customer service departments handle all day long. They check to make sure the caller has actually purchased the software in question, then email a new key or read it over the phone.

No, we can't give you a new registration for your old software. You need to upgrade to our latest version, and the upgrade will cost you [several thousand dollars]."
; which adequately frames the position against proprietary software consumer-gouging.

An unlock key for the new installation would not necessarily have been identical to the earlier unlock key, used for the original installation. Again, a routine practice on the part of the vendors of proprietary software kludges.

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Re:What a joke

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 31, 2006 08:02 AM
Nah, not always the case.

We had to re-install MICR reading software for a check scanner after a hardware failure.

We had the license key written down. It didn't work, because the key was machine specific (sort of like having to re-activate Windows if you change too much of the underlying hardware).

$600 for a new key, old version paid for or not.

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Processing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 05:20 AM
This will not change, unfortunately... I work in this industry and know developers of what I consider the main 3 credit processing applications.

The industry is heavily regulated and becoming moreso, very quickly. I'm pretty sure I know the package you are talking about and beyond the issues you describe, there are more pressing security concerns. As unfeeling as that company is, however, it may be a liability issue, as CISP software requirements recently went into effect, meaning the new owners could be at risk for violating standards, where previously there were none. (The CISP requirements themselves bourne out of gross security negligence across the industry)... just my 2¢

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Re:Processing

Posted by: EnigmaOne on August 31, 2006 03:30 AM
I do not see any article of the 2004 CISP requirements/PCI framework, which would have prohibited the vendor from providing the required activation key to Stan; given sufficient means of confirming prior customer relationship with the vendor.

The vendor had no defensible foundation, under the CISP requirements/PCI framework, for the refusal; and were merely trolling for unjust enrichment, in response to a reasonable request.

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This article is ridiculous fluff

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 08:21 AM
This article is a joke, as stated before this situation could have been easily avoided by the IT Management by adhering to some standard IT process. Like keepiing copies of License keys fro all software.

The exact same scenario could happen if he had Open source Software. You did not keep a copy of the opensource software that you installed or it has been lost over many years as you have not been keeping up to date with latest releases or did not notice that the opensource project had been shutdown. Your software fails one day and you no longer have a copy of the software to install, so you do a google search to try and find a copy. Only to find that the project no longer exists and you can't find a download anywhere, or to reference the story above directly the project has now released a new version that doesn't support the old release and they no longer provide the old downloads, because the person running the opensource project does not have time to maintain that release and wants everyone to use his/her groovy new features. Here you are in the exact same pickle you would be in, in the story above. All through your own bad management as above.

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The point that was *actually* missed

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 08:24 AM
This isn't about backups, or RAID, or FOSS vs. proprietary, or any of the other things the article and comments blamed.

The 'blame' (such as it is) in this incident falls directly on the vendor of the credit card processing software. Their support policy sucked, plain and simple.

It is possible to have suckful support policies whether your software is FOSS, proprietary, or somewhere in between. Everything that happened to Stan could have happened if he were using open software.

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Yuck

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 30, 2006 10:45 PM
This article sucks. It has nothing to do with FOSS. Roblimo isn't a very compelling author, either. Yuck. I don't visit Newsforge for tripe like this.

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Re:Yuck

Posted by: EnigmaOne on August 31, 2006 03:33 AM
Thanks for your contribution to a lower signal-to-noise ratio.

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What a bunch or no-brain imbeciles

Posted by: Joe Klemmer on August 30, 2006 11:41 PM
I had intended to post a useful comment to this story but the complete flood of tripe and brainless responses by the majority of posters is just to disheartening. Posts like this one are typical of the brain-dead idiots that are killing the IS/IT industry...

This article sucks. It has nothing to do with FOSS. Roblimo isn't a very compelling author, either. Yuck. I don't visit Newsforge for tripe like this.


What kind of fool cold post this asinine crap? Hopefully it's someone who is kept as far away from anything technological as is humanly possible.

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Which company owns the cc processing software?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 01, 2006 10:59 PM
Which company owns the credit card processing software metioned in the story? It's definitely one that I'd like to avoid. You didn't mention if they were reported to the BBB or not.

BTW this story definitely hit a nerve as I can see, not just from all the shills hitting the comments, but also from MS' mouth pieces picking up the "is OSS dangerous" theme.

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Which poster owns the poor argument?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 02, 2006 12:50 AM
"BTW this story definitely hit a nerve as I can see, not just from all the shills hitting the comments, but also from MS' mouth pieces picking up the "is OSS dangerous" theme."

Ah yes. The classic "they're not thinking like I want them to think so they must be the enemy" argument. Makes you want to go out and invade some country, just to celebrate.

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