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Alternatives to maintaining commercial pkg. locally?

Reinhard Doelz doelz at comp.bioz.unibas.ch
Thu Sep 2 09:25:25 EST 1993


In article <Pine.3.07.9309022012.B3143-d100000 at nuscc.nus.sg>, bchtantw at NUSCC.NUS.SG (Dr Tan Tin Wee) writes:
...
|> I believe if your users are not fussy, it is possible to survive on a
|> really low or no budget facility.  You can get all the software listed below
|> for free at the usual ftp sites and email server sites or contact me.
|> Getting nice pictures for publications may be a slight problem, as you
|> will have to do some computing gymnastics (well, they're free after all)
|> and play around.
...

I fully agree - there's a lot of stuff out there which is free.
And, indeed, you can do most of the work without paying a penny 
for licenses and resources (we had the discussion on (ab)usage of 
public servers earlier on this bboard). 

Don't understand me wrong but I consider a comprehensive package 
to be a software environment which is (a) smoothly integrated 
(b) well supported and (c) widely used so that there's a considerable
experience, and the chance that you do not need to educate incoming 
newbies. Fuzzy users and researchers are not necessarily the same 
community - why should a molecular biologist know how to configure 
a software package if the hardware spec is not quite the same as requested
by a program package, or why should a molecular biologist write a 
small program to transfer data from format X to format Y ?

The packages which jump into mind are Intelligenetics, GCG and Staden, 
and to some extend GDE, Darwin, and others. All of these do or at 
least advertise that they do provide a smooth environment integration
with all facilities needed, so you need not reformat, prepare cryptic 
I/O files, redraw plots because you don't have the driver, and 
get endless mail server bouncers. 

I like the interfaces of the 'big' ones, and I like to mail someone 
and get back a patch within the same day. Both Intelligenetics and 
GCG are commercial companies which operate on a for-profit basis, and 
this implies that you get value for what you pay. If you didn't the 
companies would close down soon... 

In terms of RESEARCH we want to be productive. Meaning that I find it 
very tedious to train a user community which is well-used to a 
particular package (as the original poster mentioned, GCG in this case). 
It does not make sense to reeducate people or even worse let them 
retry individually - the mistakes you will make are more expensive 
than the saving you gain from the discarding of the facility.

I fully appreciate the work of the authors who publish the Tools for
Public domain. I do it myself also (see my announcement tomorrow). 
However, as a PD author I am not necessarily comitted to keep a 
release stable, supported on particularly YOUR environment, and 
will not feel obliged to support you if an uninteresting problem
occurs (e.g,. questions like I run XXX and YYY and if I set 
the ZZZ then your software bombs). We have this discussion quite 
often, as I have only a limited zoo of systems, I will be predominantly
write for these. If someone else has a slightly different system
and wastes time because the 'gymnastics' are more than a surgery, 
that raises costs. Or, if I am helpful enough to get you satisfied
in adopting my PD software for your system, who pays me for this, 
as I am not owning this system and therefore will not need to 
make my program run on it? 

The early internet and public domain business was mostly focused on 
a givin' and takin' in terms of an _exchange_. As we are approaching the 
situation of providers and customers today (what can you expect on a 
internet with 1.5 mio hosts), the system doesn't scale and we better 
not try to compete commercials- we might get to very dangerous grounds
there. 

Keep these restrictions in mind - public domain software is great as 
long as you are not dependent on it. Use it as much as you can if you 
feel that you benefit from it, but do not expect that you trash 
a XXXX$ license and get replacements for free at 0$ cost. It might 
be 0$ cost on the purchase but much higher if reevaluated with time 
of support staff, research staff, and time lost due to incomprehensive 
results obtained due to unpractical reformatting procedures. 

Regards
Reinhard 


LEGAL DISCLAIMER
I do not work for any of the companies mentioned. The opinions
expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of 
my employer. 

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