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.comment: New Stuff

Free as in Software and PictureBooks

  • April 25, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell
I try to avoid accepting freebies. It isn't that I have oodles of bread or enjoy paying for things when maybe I don't have to, but paying for that which I receive simplifies things considerably. This isn't simply a matter of my belief that people should be paid for what they do (which belief I think is one of the fundamentals of right and wrong). Instead, it's so that if i write something you can be sure that even though I might be wrong, my wrongness wasn't purchased.

There are exceptions. Computer trade shows, for example, where the only possible measure of success is the quantity and quality of swag acquired. (With T-shirts and CDs with weird and interesting stuff on them as the measure, nothing beats a good Linux show.) Then again, swag is meager payment for enduring the people in the big-corporation booths at most computer shows, so it's not strictly a freebie.

If Sony Corp. were to phone me with the offer of a free PictureBook, I would manage to concoct a way whereby refusing it would be downright unneighborly. This is because I want one and cannot afford one. This does not mean, though, that I would sell my soul for one; if it came to pass that I had reason to write about it, which is likely, I'd still bitch and moan that an otherwise delightful machine comes with a friggin' winmodem in it.

But when a software publisher offers a product for money, I do not as a rule accept a free copy. It isn't that I disagree with reviewers who do get review copies. But I find that my delight at money well spent, or anger at money squandered, is just a touch deeper if there were actually money involved. I have written and will write again about Kapital, the personal finance manager being developed for Linux by theKompany.com. I bought a license for it, even though I suppose I could have gotten it for free. (Now that I think of it, I believe there's a demo that everybody can get for free.) When I write about it, I'll know and now you will, too, that my opinion is uninfluenced by exogenous variables.

So it was with trepidation, and only after discussion with colleagues, that I accepted a freebie, one of three desktop developments I want to take a look at this week. The freebie is version 1.2 of HancomOffice, the Linux office suite developed in Korea. I had taken a look at it a few months ago and was tremendously unimpressed. The head of the company emailed me a couple of weeks ago and asked that I take a second look, at the new version, a copy of which would be sent to me if I wanted it. I agreed to do so. (For those who keep track of such things, it costs $45 to send a copy of Hancom Office from Seoul, Korea, to Newtown, Connecticut, USA, via FedEx.)

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