The Price of Time

  • Apple Cinema Displays

    An interesting blog from Adobe on the price of open source software. The poster is a senior VP for Adobe and abviously has some bias in saying that Open Source software that competes with Adobe is cheaper, but doesn't necessarily save money.

    The comments to the blog are interesting and I'm sure you can guess what they say. What's interesting is a reference in the blog to a business owner and creative professional that says while he likes open source, he wouldn't base a business on it, at least not for the adobe-like stuff.

    I know Linux was in the place many years ago and slowly it's proven that it is possible to actually base a business on this platform. I think it's close now for the average person to think about using open source Office software for their business. I used Open Office for a few years and it seemed to do the job most of the time, but I reached a point where the process of exchanging documents with Office users didn't work. I'm sure it was a short term thing as the Open Office suite made changes to work with newer versions of Word, but at the time I needed to work, so I moved back to Office.

    Why didn't I muddle through an upgrade? It wasn't worth the cost savings to me. A $400 savings for Office can evaporate instantly if I have more than a day's worth of issues with another product. The TOC for me is fairly low for Microsoft products. I know how they work, they've been very stable for me, and the amount I pay is pretty low in comparison with the time it takes to get things working and get me productive.

    I struggled with getting video capture to work on my PC. It was painful, caused some crashes, and editing was a pain. Eventually I stopped trying to do much with it and gave up on the idea of Christmas DVDs for our extended family. We got an iMac the next year and I was excited to make some DVDs, thinking it would take a few hours to grab some old video and string it together.

    Four hours later I gave up because the way the Mac worked wasn't intuitive to me (for video production) and it was frustrating. Online searches gave me so much nonsense, or ideas, thoughts, anything but "making a DVD on an iMac for Idiot PC users" that I stopped messing with it.

    That wasn't open source, but it was similar. I have issues on PCs, but not that many. In a business environment, where I need to produce content easily and regularly, anything that delays me or causes problems ends up costing me much more than I'm usually willing to pay.

    And why are the corners of those windows in MacOS so #%#$%^#@$@#$ small? It's like they want to be sure us older folks can't resize stuff to the way we want it. Maybe that's what drives those 30" cinema monitor sales!

  • Steve,

    It's not the price of time, it's the price of stupidity and greed. Microsoft changes it's file formats for the sole purpose of keeping other programs from reading them, and you reward them for that!?!?! I've had a Mac as the family computer since 1994. My daughter was four. I showed here {cmd}-Q will quit out of any program, here's your tab on the launcher, and she could figure out the rest.

    There is much that could be better in most software out there. See http://www.squidoo.com/ImprovingSoftware/ for my take on how it could be improved, but just because you paid M$ or Adobe is absolutely NO guarantee you got the best stuff. I'm sure that fore very example Adobe's VP vitest, you could fins someone who had similar frustration trying to get started with Photoshop or Illustrator. In software, you don't get what you pay for, you get the marketing you pay for. Or you can be smart and not pay for hype.

    Your credibility is shot with me.

    Phil McIntosh

  • As for the "Wouldn't base a business on it", I think that depends on what is meant.  Would I use an alternative to Adobe for all of my business publishing for a business that was not centered around electronic publishing.  Probably.  Would I use an alternative if the business was all about creating those documents.  Maybe not.  If the documents are complex and use obscure features of pdf it's possible that only Adobe renders properly.  But for most users, most of the time, good enough is good enough.

    I think for most business uses, open source is good enough, but again, it depends on the use, and it depends on the user.  For Linux, especially, having an admin is important, but most small business don't want to/can't afford the expense of that extra person.  The adoption of any new platform requires either a commitment by the users to learn it, or an advocate who can jump start the process.  OpenOffice.org is probably good enough for nearly all business use, but without that advocate, and without a clearly successful conversion to MS-Office documents there is too much inertia in business to make the change.  In both of these situations Microsoft has an advantage in that everyone knows enough about it to use it.

    I must say I'm disappointed that you imply that four hours of using a completely new system should make you as proficient as you are in a system that you've been using for years.  If you had said that you spent four hours using Linux and couldn't use it properly everyone would say that you didn't give it a real shot.

    JimFive

  • I have to agree with Steve on this one.  It is the "convenience" I'm paying for.  The convenience of having my documents compatible with 99% of the business users out there, on top of that is stability and feature set.  Nothing will ever work exactly the way I want, nor have all the features I want but I've found that most have what I need.  The other "Convenience" is knowing the product is supported (usually anyway) and while a Google search solves 90% of any questions I have I know I can get the other 10% done quickly as well. 

    And I don't even want to talk MAC versus PC; there has never been any comparison for me (I can't stand MAC's).  Having come from a Unix and Mini/Main frame environment the "lack" of low level tools has always frustrated me.  I've just started using Vista (installed on my daughter’s new laptop for college) and so far I HATE it also.  They have gone so far to make it IDIOT proof, that it takes an IDIOT to use it.  I almost through it through the wall this weekend while trying to get it to connect to my home wireless network which uses WEP encryption and MAC address restrictions.  It took me 30 minutes to find the darn MAC address.  First I couldn't figure out how to get a command prompt (end up running a help search for "Command Prompt" and it opened a command window.  While that was nice that time, do I have to search HELP every time I want a command window!)?  Then after getting to the prompt and typing the tried and true "IPCONFIG /ALL" was shocked to see that IPCONFIG is not supported.  Finally stumbled across it somewhere in the control panel I think but after all the flipping around I'll be damned if I could find it again.  I did get it working but what should have taken me 5 minutes as an experienced professional took me over 30 because they have tried to make it "Easier".  And MAC has always been about the EASIER and to me much less usable way of doing things.

    Oh well, enough ranting, just wanted to chime in that I feel you often get what you pay for and while a lot of "Geeks" like me are willing to play around with the free stuff and even wrestle it into submission the majority are not and the Mainstream stuff will likely remain that which is produced by a real company.

    Jm2c,

    James.

     

  • I've often wanted to switch to Open Office, but I found that it's track record for reading/rendering (the last is the most important) of MS documents was not always 100%.

    When the majority of users out there (for good or bad) are using one product and you try to use another to manipulate that information, you are going to run into some problems.  If there was a standard format and a way to enforce the rendering and saving of that format, then I think we would be in much better shape.  Documents would more portable across all environments.  I think of image formats.  How are we able to have so many different formats (jpg, gif, png, etc) and everyone seems able to open/display/modify/save these without a hitch?

    Granted, a word/excel document is a little more complicated than an image, but just the same - until we have an even parity - we're stuck with one product.

    Looking at Adobe file support (PDFs here) - I've tried Foxit Reader and while the program is small and fast, I found the rendering of documents to be less than ideal.  The text often had the look of a fax (the lines weren't solid, the text was faint).  I don't know why this would be, but no matter what version or what machine I rand Foxit on, I still had the same affect with every document I opened.

    And Mr. Matthews - who ever said that there was a guarantee that you "got the best stuff"?  We're talking about software here.  Something that is inherently prone to bugs and could always use "just one more feature" to make it perfect.  Otherwise, there'd never be a reason for upgrades or future releases.

    The long and short of it is that until another company comes along and provides a file format that is usable in MS Office - that it will render properly in their product as well as Office and it works the same across multiple platforms and let's face it -is going to have to be free!  We are not going to see people move.  Even then, it's going to be a tough row to hoe because the MS format is so entrenched.

    The new apps that use this format would have to be so killer for a MAC, PC and most likely Linux and free to make the switch.  It would have to do something that Office can't.  Right now so many people have Office on their systems (work systems now - not home) that surplanting that is going to be a very tough battle.

    The apps would also have to work EXACTLY (or as close as possible on the MAC) as they do on every other platform so that support can easily provides help desk services to their client base.

    I wish I could see another solution.  I don't see how we can move away from Office at this time and frankly, I'm happy with Office - I loved Wordperfect when it was on DOS - it was the best.  I also liked Quattro Pro for Windows.  But with the lack of a real competitor for so long, everyone standardized on the only viable solution.

    Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

  • Given the frequency of television commercials touting the completeness of Macs and how easy it is to get things accomplished, I don't think expecting to be able to create a DVD video, even a rudimentary one, in 4 hours is expecting too much.

    I have never used a Mac and therefore have no opinion in the hard/soft pro or con, but the fact remains that ALL companies hype their products without telling the consumer the whole story. It seems to me that Steve fell victim to the hype and became frustrated when the fallacy behind the hype became clear.

    That is not an anti-Mac statement but refers to business in general. Microsoft have been guilty of this, but so have Ford, GM, Chrysler, Wal-Mart....

    Advertising raises expectations. If development fails to meet the advertised expectations, then either the development is flawed or the marketing people need to start talking out of the other side of their collective mouths.

    ------------
    Buy the ticket, take the ride. -- Hunter S. Thompson

  • It's a mistake to think of this as an 'open source' issue.

    The 'Open Office' compatiblity issue would be just as much a concern if you were running a 'closed source' non MS product. (Running Wordperfect in MS world). It has nothing to do with the nature of the development. MS constantly changes its file formats to confound the market (and confound it's earlier customers... try opening an Access file in the wrong version). This becomes a club to virtually force new sales and upgrades.

    I would love to see the open format concept succeed. With open formats, products would compete on how they perform rather than on what 'everyone else' is using.

    As far as video stuff, it is a complete jungle. Open/closed, makes no difference. Compatiblity is a minefield.

    ...

    -- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --

  • Interesting comments and thanks for the debate. I liked the different perspectives.

    For the record, I felt bad after writing this and I've been reading a bit more and watching some of the new tutorials on Apple.com over the last few days. I've probably only invested another 4 hours or so in the DVD process, but I figured it out. It's not smooth and it's seems somewhat kludgy from my perspective to go from iPhoto to iMovie to iDVD and some things act different than I expect, but I got a DVD made.

    I definitely fell victim to the hype and with a new iMac Christmas morning, I expected to get a DVD made that afternoon for the kids. Part of that was me, part of that was a lack of a "wizard" from Apple to make that happen. Not that Apple did anything wrong, but it's a fact that trying to be different causes issues.

    And it's not always worth it.

    I've installed and used Linux. It was ok, but at that point in my life it didn't function any better or worse for me. Actually it was worse in some ways because I lost productivity trying to get things like wireless networking in 2001 working.

    Would I base a business on Open Source? If I had the people, I'd run Linux and MySQL in a heartbeat along with the rest of the LAMP stack. They do a good job and they work, but they don't give me a reason to move off Windows/SQL Server/.NET. There's still costs there and paying someone to dig through source code for a problem is more expensive (in my mind) than paying MS $250 to look for a bug and give me a workaround.

    As far as compatibility goes, MS definitely causes issues there. Brian and I had some issues last year exchanging documents because he's an early adopter and was on Office 2007 long before me. I wish that the file formats would get more standardized and at this point with XML based docs, it would almost make sense for ANSI or someone to adopt the Office 2007 format and let everyone implement it. MS can add all the features they want in XML as long as the required elements are there.

    We'll always have compatibility issues. It's going to be an issue as long as we have different vendors. I wish there was an easier solution, but if we could buy a piece of software and never upgrade it, we'd also not have the rich software we have today. We'd have 5,000,000 more half done projects on http://sourceforge.net/.

  • Business needs drive just about everything. I use an XP Pro workstation at work to wrangle my SQL Servers. I use Office 2003 and hate the thought of having to use 2007 some day, I can't stand the interface. Maybe these ribbons make more sense when the host OS is Vista-like, but it's going to be a long time before Vista appears here!

    But for my personal stuff, I don't need Office compatibility for my documents and spreadsheets, so on my Mac I use Neo Office, an Open Office derivative. It reads and writes DOC and XLS, but I don't put that compatibility to the test by needing to exchange documents with work. I still have Office XP via my old ThinkPad and through Parallels on my Mac should need it.

    Can't comment on making DVDs, never tried it.

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    [font="Arial"]Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson[/font]

  • "Your credibility is shot with me"

    There you go Steve.  Now the Mac fanboys will place a fatwa on you.

    There is no "i" in team, but idiot has two.
  • Fo me the issue I hav seen is that it all boils down to user experience. If the user has issues and even after a long period cannot figure out what to do then it is all over. Even freeware can cost you more than properly documented an well supported commercialware.

    In addition Open Source licenses can get companies in big trouble because noone read the user agreement. Consider MySQL, it states in it's agreement it is free for personnal use only, you must license it for commercial use and in many cases (which means you use it in any manner to conduct business no just make money).

    I also find that even thou Corporations are most concerned with TCO they are more concerned with the amount they can almost guarantee will be the TCO and find MS, Adobe, IBM and the other commerical providers generally deliver within a reasonable about of certainty compared with Open Source solutions.

    As for me used Mac, Windows, and OS/2. Prefer XP and am really disappointed with Vista capatability with existing hardware and software. Plus it's so resource intensive just to make pretty pictures it seems unreasonable.

  • This is what you get for living with the latest and greatest.

    Madison avenue lives and we still believe them.

    Corporately, we use Office 97. Guess what, our docs and spreadsheets work with everybody else we deal with. They also look and operate just the same as the ones produced on our Vista laptop with Office 2007.

    Wait, nobody has been able to use that laptop to produce much of anything yet. It always comes back with a request to use one of the other laptops instead!

    The UI must have come from Apple. Same type of result Steve had with his iMac DVD. Not user intuitive after years of Windows.

    Yes, I know its time to upgrade and we will.  It won't be to Office 2007 however.

  • Ahh comon, at least Office 2007 is more compatible with everyone, as the files are xml based.

  • Office 2007 may be more compatible, but the ribbon crap is annoying. I wouldn't care so much if my ALT+I popped the INSERT menu, but they've gotten rid of the menus. It's just stupid.

    It may be more usable for my Mom and others, which is fine, but don't make it harder for the rest of us to work with the product.

  • As it would happen, I just sat with a user with that laptop. First time log on took about 20 -25 minutes for it to create a new user account and search the network etc.

    I finally got Word up (Office 2007) and asked the user to create and test print something for me.

    I know it's a lack of training but once again, it is not intuitive enough to click on the icon to bring up the file and printers options. What a pain. The ribbon will have to be modified to accommodate the user needs. I wished the user good luck with PowerPoint and made sure to show him how to save in the 97-2003 format.

    This isn't an office bashing thread but I just want to point out that in business use, the latest and greatest is not always best even if it's free. How many users actually use all or even half of the functions available in any of the office products, old or new? Not many is my experience.

    We do use Foxit but found that one important application choked on it, so we had to install Adobe reader in order to use it. Too bad. I dislike bloatware but still use Windows.

     

     

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