Free cheese

    “There are no free dinners,” they say in America. Translated into Russian, this means: “If you want to get something worthwhile, be prepared to fork out!” However, this folk wisdom does not prevent people from dreaming about free cheese, hoping to avoid a mousetrap.

    Unlike the material world, in the virtual world to realize this dream without violating the criminal code is much simpler. A huge army of amateur programmers creates in the evenings and on weekends and is ready to share their achievements with everyone. Thanks to this, today there is a situation where almost any problem can be solved using a free program. Text and graphic editors, audio and video players, system utilities and even operating systems ... Take any class of programs and you will find free analogues of commercial products in it!

    This is what the theory looks like. In real life, things are a little more complicated.

    A free program is a hobby for its author. Therefore, short nights at a home computer, an amateur programmer, first of all, seeks to realize his creative impulse. And it is unlikely that he will conduct a survey of potential consumers of his program to find out their real needs. Not even because of laziness. It’s just that this development side is not interesting to him: “It’s better to implement this function and this algorithm, which I read about in the magazine, but buttons of different sizes do not bother anyone.”

    Free programs are often written "for themselves", and therefore are built so that it is convenient for their creator to work with them. After installing such a utility on a computer, you have to deal with the interface for a long time and try to understand the logic of the developer. If this program has a user manual, and at least in general terms its interface is described in it, consider yourself lucky!

    But it often happens that before writing a user’s manual, the author’s hands do not reach it. Or it can be present only in the native language of the creator, which does not necessarily coincide with yours. And a very rare amateur developer will agree to answer user questions and help solve difficulties arising in the process of work. As a result, the study of a free program requires much more time, and many opportunities remain undeveloped.

    The issue of the quality of the program is no less serious. Indeed, the development of any program is not only the joy of solving a complex problem, but also the tedious, painstaking work of testing and debugging. In most cases, testing and debugging a software product requires no less effort and time than programming. And few of the enthusiastic developers have the willpower to go through this stage to the end. After all, the solution of the task is a creative process, but the search and correction of errors is pure routine!

    Finally, an enthusiastic developer may simply lose interest in his brainchild. You can cite dozens of examples when a wonderful program became obsolete and “left the stage” due to the fact that the author stopped releasing new versions.

    Quite different motives drive commercial software developers. This is a business.

    And like any business, it should focus on the interests of the consumer, otherwise the company’s employees will have nothing to eat. Therefore, professional development teams not only deal with applied programming, but also conduct research on their audience, design a convenient interface, write a user manual and do not save on developing a website for their software product. In addition, all firms developing commercial software products without fail provide their customers with technical support.

    Of course, for home users, most of the problems of free software are uncritical, and many of the advantages of commercial software are not so important as to give money for them. In the end, the “advanced” buddy will help to master the free program, and you can put up with the need to sometimes overload a hovering computer. Therefore, it is on home PCs that you can find many free programs for all occasions.

    A completely different situation in the commercial sector. After all, a competent company leader should pay attention not only to the selling price of a software product, but also how much it will cost to use it.

    It often turns out that saving money at the time of purchase over time results in much more serious costs. Lack of documentation for the program or an unsuccessful interface require additional time to train employees. And since there is a “staff turnover” in any company, you will have to spend time training regularly. And this is either additional people on the staff of the company, or separation from the work of one of the most experienced employees. Both that, and another - expenses which quickly add up to the amounts noticeably exceeding the means saved on purchase of the program.

    Therefore, competent managers prefer to pay for a normal lunch than to hope for a “free cheese”!

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