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July 14, 2000
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I am shocked - shocked, I say!- to discover that the Linux/Open Source media would operate using the same sort of shenanigans as the media covering the Evil Empire!
posted by m.polo (8 comments total)

This is a joke right? Offering free linux software to good reviewers? Like anyone in the world can't just download any piece they want for free anyway?

(I'm a little slow right now, I just woke up)
posted by mathowie at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2000

It is really tempting to give a good review to get some free software, but you want to be honest with your reader. On the other hand, it is also nice when the manufacturers think you're great and send you free stuff. So whose fault is it? The software creators or the reviewers? I really can't tell you who is to blame. The real question is: Who is going to clean this up?

Whose fault is it? Umm. Duh. It's the reviewers!

Example 1:

I read a review praising software. I drop 80 dollars on that software, and have problem after problem. I no longer trust that reviewer, and in fact will probably write an email to the reviewer deriding them, 'blog about my poor experience and use every opportunity I have to say "Product X sucks and reviewer Y sucks even more."

I read a review outlining the problems with a piece of software, which ends on a generally positive note (ie 'despite all these flaws, once you get through the install, it works acceptably') I may still be willing to buy the software. I go in educated, and this time I tell people "Product X sucks, but because of reviewer Y, I knew what to expect, and how to avoid the pitfalls."

Media is about credibility, and if you're willing to scrap your credibility for something you can download for free, well... I don't have a word to properly express my disgust for you.
posted by cCranium at 7:56 AM on July 14, 2000

bleh. There was supposed to be an "Example 2:" before that second example.
posted by cCranium at 7:57 AM on July 14, 2000

When I first saw this (linked at OSO) I thought it was indeed a joke, like Matt. Getting free software for free. Oh ho. Very droll.

Since then ZD have picked up it and it seems to have made it to the /. front page too.

I do hope it is a joke. ZD getting trolled would be highly amusing. But the article's been there quite some time and they haven't pulled it yet.

If it's not a joke the author is a grade A moron, obviously.

posted by BobInce at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2000

The specifics of this article aside, there is a problem in the commercial Linux world. Some of the distros really do suck, and nobody talks about it. The reviews all go as far as the installation: "Wow! I had a gui with dropdown menus and everything just moments after I booted! It found all my hardware, and the system seems to run fine. This is a great distro, everyone should use it."

Umm... thanks, I think. There's a whole host of other issues that go into making a good distro: how recent is the software? How easy is it to secure? How well does it set itself up as a server or a workstation? How easy is it to integrate software that's not part of the distro? Can you automate installations across several boxes? Every distribution is stronger in some areas, and weaker in others. But you'd never know this unless you read the Linux trade journals.

As much as I love slackware, I can't recommend it for every application. Use the right tool for the job. I get the feeling that most of these pundits have been reviewing windows and mac stuff most of their careers, and they expect Linux to behave the same way: install everything on the cdrom, whereever it wants to, because there is no other way to do it. And write a good review, so you can get a free copy.
posted by katchomko at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2000

First off, we have the usual problem here of what's "free". Yes, Linux distros can be downloaded for "free"... but what if you're installing onto a blank box, you don't have a burnt CD, there's only one box, and it's at home with a dial-up connection, not a company network? (as a f'r instance)

Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, etc., are most distinctly not "free", as bought in the store, with manuals and CDs.

This is why "free" software frequently reminds me of those offers like, "10,000 cartoon stickers for your kids for FREE! Just $4.95 for shipping and handling!" (real example).

From a software reviewer's point of view, there's also the issue of lead-time. Yes, one can download and burn for free... once the software's released. Problem is, your deadline is about 2-3 months ahead of the release date. Which means you're dependent on the vendor giving you a pre-release beta.

These are long-term, systemic problems with the computer trade press. You can either review things upon release through colluding with the vendors... or you can have slightly stale reviews, but with the policy of getting the product at the same time/channel as the general public.

So far, the trade has gone for the first, almost every single time. {shrug}

posted by aurelian at 1:11 PM on July 14, 2000

The editorial specifically mentions Mandrake, Red Hat and SuSE - endeavours that are very much "for profit." Nowhere does the article say that the reviewers are getting software for free; besides, as others have pointed out, why would you need it? But those companies - and others - do have other things that they do charge for, otherwise they wouldn't be in business. One may presume that those products or services are the things the reviewers are recieving in return for favorable reviews.

FWIW, I posted this originally because the entire "Open Source" thing just cracks me up. Blah blah blah bazaar blah blah free blah gnu blah blah... And VALinux, a company without a single nickel of profit to its name, is currently valued at something like US$1.5B... Everybody's makin' money but the guys who crank out the software... hmm... what's wrong with that picture?
posted by m.polo at 2:09 PM on July 14, 2000

Not much, according to the people involved in developing it.

(I'm going to avoid the direct correlation to what Napster's doing, and instead just hint at it in a painfully obvious oh-so-subtle-like manner. :-)

The people cranking out the software are doing it as a hobby, and because they believe it's improving their lives, and because they're working towards something worthwhile.

They also learn an insane amount about whatever portion they're working on, which then makes them saleable to the people using the software.

Not to mention the people who are in fact writing open-source software and getting paid to do so.

The stuff I'm working on is completely open source, it has to be. It's HTML and Javascript. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I really do feel that pretty much anybody could do what I do, it's basically just pulling different components together in a way that's effective. I just happen to be willing to do it.
posted by cCranium at 2:56 PM on July 14, 2000

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