Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Reason Why Software Is Expensive

Joel Spolsky recently spoke at Y Combinator about selling software to corporate customers. He said that in most companies software costing up to about $1000 could be bought by individual managers without any additional approvals. Above that threshold, software purchases generally had to be approved by a committee. But babysitting this process was so expensive for software vendors that it didn't make sense to charge less than $50,000. Which means if you're making something you might otherwise have charged $5000 for, you have to sell it for $50,000 instead.

The purpose of the committee is presumably to ensure that the company doesn't waste money. And yet the result is that the company pays 10 times as much.

- Paul Graham in 'The Other Half of "Artists Ship"'

Monday, November 24, 2008

How Fortran Was Developed

While going through a presentation (pdf) by John Anderson of the University of Edinburgh at LISA'08, I came across a fascinating quote:
As far as we were aware, we simply made up the language as we went along.We did not regard language design as a difficult problem, merely a simple prelude to the real problem: designing a compiler which could produce efficient programs.
- John Backus, Developer of Fortran and inventor of BNF
Googling a bit led to Backus' paper (pdf) from which the quote had been taken.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth: The Free Desktop Has Been In 'Catchup' Mode

The free desktop has been in “catchup” mode: catching up to first Windows and now nipping at the heels of the Mac. Our path has been obvious to date. In some areas, our technology and applications lead; in others we still lag. From here on, progress becomes much less clear, though I’ll bet on the moving herd and natural selection of free software over directed closed commercial development any day.

How now to move from such a reactive strategy to true leadership in all areas? How do you set strategy, when our very culture is that of serendipity, discovery, sharing of ideas, and creation? where a single vision cannot rule?

- From Jim Gettys' post 'Time To Lead ...'

In case you are a newbie or one of those irrational defenders of crappy open source desktops, please check out the Wikipedia entry for Jim Gettys. No wait, I will save you that click with this one line from that Wiki entry:

He is one of the original developers of the X Window System at MIT and worked on it again with X.Org, ...