internet browsers and free software?

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JohnFiscal
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internet browsers and free software?

Post by JohnFiscal » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am

Forking off from viewtopic.php?f=11&t=232677 about web browswers,

I read the Wikipedia article about Waterfox and then Palemoon (and its "market share"), and then about web browsers in general. Then I found a related article titled "Free software programmed in C++".

Now I am curious, "why" is there so much free software available? I know there are some that have both a commercial (paid) and a free version, with the free being somewhat crippled in some way. But there are also full-fledged programs that are free (one I use every day is TrueCrypt ...yes, been discontinued but it works well for me and I trust it, and Veracrypt seems to be Vera slow). Even entire operating systems are available at no cost, many flavors of Linux.

I can dream up some motivation for groups to be doing this but I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who is actually involved in some of these projects.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:01 am

JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am
Forking off from viewtopic.php?f=11&t=232677 about web browswers,

I read the Wikipedia article about Waterfox and then Palemoon (and its "market share"), and then about web browsers in general. Then I found a related article titled "Free software programmed in C++".

Now I am curious, "why" is there so much free software available? I know there are some that have both a commercial (paid) and a free version, with the free being somewhat crippled in some way. But there are also full-fledged programs that are free (one I use every day is TrueCrypt ...yes, been discontinued but it works well for me and I trust it, and Veracrypt seems to be Vera slow). Even entire operating systems are available at no cost, many flavors of Linux.

I can dream up some motivation for groups to be doing this but I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who is actually involved in some of these projects.
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by jebmke » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:14 am

JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am
Veracrypt seems to be Vera slow
By slow do you mean slow to mount the encrypted file or slow in process (while open)?
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JohnFiscal
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by JohnFiscal » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:27 am

jebmke wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:14 am
JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am
Veracrypt seems to be Vera slow
By slow do you mean slow to mount the encrypted file or slow in process (while open)?
As I recall, quite slow in mounting a USB drive. Been a month or two since Iast used it. Otherwise, its gui is like a clone of TC

ETA: TC runs fine on my Win 10

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Earl Lemongrab
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:58 am

Some of the free software, including the TrueCrypt/VeraCrypt programs you mentioned, are open-source. That means that volunteers worked as a group to develop the program. While it is possible to sell the product, the usual licenses for open-source allow anyone to distribute the program, free or otherwise, as long as they follow the license.

There are other programs that are sales generators by having some feature restriction. That's common in the app world, where the game or other product will be free to use, but if you want the full-feature version it will cost.

Sometimes the program is ancillary to other revenue generation. Example, I can get free Overdrive applications for my devices. That's because they are selling their service to libraries to provide downloadable content. If people had to buy the apps, they'd be less likely to use the service.
Last edited by Earl Lemongrab on Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by DaftInvestor » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:30 pm

Open source can be powerful; a story outside of code/OS development:
Shortly after the turn of the century, a free encyclopedia for everyone with various folks and organizations contributing was in full swing: Wikipedia. At the same time Microsoft up'ed their efforts with Encarta - their paid-for encyclopedia - they had dozens of folks working on and planned a nice profit for their commercial efforts - they started moving free portions online but were planning on reaping profits with CD-distributions and online subscriptions.
Microsoft eventually gave up on Encarta losing a lot of investment made (killed in 2009). Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website worldwide - monthly readership is approximately 495 million. Go figure.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by azurekep » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:34 pm

Free software has been around way longer than a lot of pay software.

Some of the motivations, particularly for the smaller developers:
  • Generosity. The only "payment' being appreciation by the users, along with the occasional donation
  • A desire for the author to try out their development skills, while getting RT input from the users. When a program is free, users are more forgiving.
  • A somewhat utopian mission of a free and open internet along with free and open software

    The days of freeware were fun. Users had direct communication with the developers (actually "authors" is a better term since it was usually one person for the smaller freeware, not a team) and there was a sense of community. The authors were almost like stars and the sense of appreciation by the user and pride by the author fed on each other to create a useful product.

    The current situation we're in, where everything is payware, or one is paying with their personal information, is relatively new.

    I noticed a big shift after 2008. Authors who used to offer free products starting asking for money. By that time, the Internet was commercialized and the new environment was pay or give up your privacy. And of course, a lot of people were hurting for money after the financial crisis.

    I'm thankful for the freeware/open-source authors and development teams that still exist and haven't sold out.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by lazydavid » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:44 pm

JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:27 am
As I recall, quite slow in mounting a USB drive. Been a month or two since Iast used it. Otherwise, its gui is like a clone of TC
The reason it's "like a clone" is because it's a further-developed version of the same software. When TrueCrypt was suddenly abandoned right around the time that a full audit found some vulnerabilities in it (those two events are not correlated, just a coincidence), the code from the penultimate release of TC was forked into a variety of new projects. VeraCrypt is just the most popular of the forks. They fixed all/most of the problems that had been found in TC, and have continued development from there.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by JohnFiscal » Thu Jan 04, 2018 2:55 pm

JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:27 am
jebmke wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:14 am
JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am
Veracrypt seems to be Vera slow
By slow do you mean slow to mount the encrypted file or slow in process (while open)?
As I recall, quite slow in mounting a USB drive. Been a month or two since Iast used it. Otherwise, its gui is like a clone of TC

ETA: TC runs fine on my Win 10
I was reading further about the development of Veracrypt. The long duration for mounting a drive was mentioned in passing. More to the point was that the [arcane technical points that I've forgotten, pertaining to the encryption and mounting the drive but I could locate them again in the FAQ if given enough time] were much increased over Truecrypt. So there was some actual justification for the mounting time. OTOH, as a user I found it annoying. But there was certainly some (slight?) security advantage as a result.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by shorvath » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:25 pm

I work for a company that produces and supports open-source software packages.

Our revenue sources: research grants (as software support subcontracts or as investigators depending on our level of involvement) and consulting. The idea is you pay to have someone customize/help you with the software package instead of paying license fees.

Open-source is big with federal grants. No funding agency wants to see "We created this awesome new predictive thingy! But you have to pay for ansys to use it. And we need funding for our ansys costs as part of our grant." Third party software license costs is a huge hiccup in tech transfer from academia to startups.
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by triceratop » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:39 pm

Longtime (10+ years) Linux distribution developer here: I would prefer to see a world where software is free and open source rather than a world where software is primarily not. My limited efforts are my attempt to change the world in that direction. Also, if I didn't do the work, then who would?

For many developers the desire is simply to scratch an itch that doesn't exist in software; many also have an appreciation for the effect their efforts have on their users and the world as a whole.
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by revert » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:59 pm

I've been contributing for ~10 years and involved with open source at two of the big four. Generally I break it down between individual contributors (who can have a wide range of personal reasons), companies whose business monetizes open source (eg. a free and paid version), and companies whose business benefits but doesn't directly make money off of open source (often large companies).

The first two have been covered, but the third is fairly interesting and an increasingly large piece of the pie - stuff like Chrome, much of the Linux kernel, and the languages/toolchains themselves (clang, etc.). Typically the motivation is because the company needs a specific feature for themselves and maintaining it as a patch set out of tree will be more work over time versus merging it into the project; or the company wants an area where they can experiment with new designs, and the only way to get adoption is by rolling their own (Chrome and protocol work is an example); or it plays into a recruitment strategy - coders interviewing at a company may know it for an open source project, may already have experience with it, and are often excited about being able to give back to the larger community in the course of normal work.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by madbrain » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:10 pm

Spent 10 years of my career contributing to open source security for one of the major browsers, among other apps. Security through obscurity is very bad. Closed source applications just don't have as much outside scrutiny and can be much more vulnerable, often unbeknownst to their makers.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:30 pm

JohnFiscal wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:56 am
Now I am curious, "why" is there so much free software available?
Economically, it's because the marginal cost of providing free software is so very low.

Open collaboration appeals to humans' best instincts, which is why I think it is as popular as it is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_collaboration

What is also interesting to me is software that some individuals create to solve their own problem and then share at no charge. They have various reasons for doing so, sometimes altruistic, sometimes as part of a business model to eventually sell the software or an upgraded version of it.

Here's an example, software that strips unneeded languages and architectures from Mac O.S. It is not so necessary now, but was very helpful a few years ago when hard drives were much smaller and more expensive.

https://ingmarstein.github.io/Monolingual//

Someone mentioned Wikipedia as being similar above. I would also point out that this website (Bogleheads.org) is in the same vein.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by azurekep » Thu Jan 04, 2018 9:13 pm

Pajamas wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:30 pm
Open collaboration appeals to humans' best instincts, which is why I think it is as popular as it is.
Music to my ears. Not enough of that going around these days.

I remember one freeware author used to ask for photos of his user's cats as "donations". He didn't want money, because he loved creating the software, but he enjoyed the interation with his users. Since he happened to like cats, he wanted to see pictures of his user's cats.

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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by Angelus359 » Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:25 pm

Much of opensource is funded by paid support contracts for said software
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by Alex Frakt » Fri Jan 05, 2018 3:06 am

One of the best things about being a programmer is that if something bothers you about existing software (or if something you want doesn't exist at all), you can do something about it. If your new widget is sufficiently useful and reliable, why not share it? Even if you think someone might pay for it, giving it away is easy; while selling is very, very hard.

This site was created in exactly this fashion. I was a frequent contributor on the old Morningstar (M*) Vanguard Diehards forum which had an absolutely awful interface that was slow and could not cope with the popularity of our forum. It got so bad that many new threads disappeared before the poster got a single response. This bugged me, so I wrote a simple program that grabbed the threads as they appeared and created a nice list of links to the last couple of days of threads. It also loaded much faster than the M* page. Once I got it working, I shared the link on the forum and quite a few of the regulars started using it.

After a couple of days of this, I received an e-mail from another programmer (I should say a "real programmer", I'm just a hobbyist) who also had a problem with the M* interface, but in his case it was the search that bothered him. So he had downloaded and indexed the entire history of the forum. He asked if I was interested in putting up a site that would combine my links and his search engine. He had spare hosting space, so a couple of weeks later diehards.org was born.

JohnFiscal
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Re: internet browsers and free software?

Post by JohnFiscal » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:25 am

Alex Frakt wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 3:06 am
... He asked if I was interested in putting up a site that would combine my links and his search engine. He had spare hosting space, so a couple of weeks later diehards.org was born.
Alex, that is a great tale of the events. Really nice to know how this all transpired. And thank you to you both!

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