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Is The Lone Coder Dead? 809

Posted by timothy
from the rms-played-by-anthony-hopkins dept.
CyNRG writes "The little guy. The one-person software company. Can it still exist today? That's me. I'm once again, after many years, writing my own commercial software to sell. A few things have changed: the patent feeding frenzy. This is my main concern. My perception is that one must verify that you don't infringe on any patents when developing new cool software, and that the explosion of patents granted by the USPTO has reached epic proportions. If this perception is true, then that makes it almost impossible for the Lone Coder to create something new that doesn't infringe on other patents. The amount of money required to perform the due diligence research seems like it would be greater than the amount of money needed to develop the software, or even the total revenues that the software could ever generate. Please someone tell me I'm wrong!" Is he?
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Is The Lone Coder Dead?

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  • I hope not ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smoyer (108342) <smoyer64@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:38PM (#10838064)
    That would be the end of innovation in the U.S. and would cause an even greater shift of technology jobs to oversea markets!
  • You're wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frennzy (730093) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:39PM (#10838081) Homepage
    Feel better?

    Seriously though, the one good thing I can think of about all this ridiculous IP litigation is that it actually can drive a good 'lone coder' to really innovate as opposed to create the same old mouse trap in a different way.

    In either case, good luck to you. Make us proud.
  • Yes! (No) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanusFury (452699) <kevin.gadd@gmail . c om> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:39PM (#10838085) Homepage Journal
    Well, I'm not exactly an expert, but it seems to me that he's just over-reacting. The threat of patent infringement to a one-man development team seems to me like it would be miniscule compared to much larger threats like running out of money or being unable to accomplish your goals.

    From what I've seen of the software market today, one-man teams still seem to be a way to make money. You just have to find the right market, and avoid overextending yourself - do a good job on the things you can manage, instead of trying to do everything and doing a crappy job of it. I've seen lots of developers succeed by marketing shareware or selling software over the internet (especially as far as indie games go, for example Starscape).
  • by chris_mahan (256577) <chris.mahan@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:41PM (#10838092) Homepage
    Coding software to sell is dead, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    What's a coder to do?

    Code away on an open source project, gove away all your hard work.

    THEN...

    Offer your services as an implemetation and customization consultant for said open source software for businesses.

    Implementations are not fun, but pound for pound, you get serous cash. Especially if you wrote the software to begin with. You can charge the most.

  • by Mite51 (771446) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:41PM (#10838097)
    You are probably safe as long as the money you make from your software is less than the legal costs to go after you. If you start making a lot of money and get a lot of attention then someone is likely to come after you, for a variety of reasons including patent infringement. Tho this is true for anyone that comes into a lot of money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:43PM (#10838118)
    As I understand it, if you run across a 'possible' infringement and decide to go ahead and then some court deems that it is an infringement, then you knowingly have perpetrated the deed, and the penalty is greater than just simply going ahead and writing the code and letting the chips fall where they may. At that point you won't have knowingly infringed.

    Oh yes and sell out to the big boys, get that indemnification and let them worry about the suit.
  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spyky (58290) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:47PM (#10838148)
    But just because software has grown so large (and the computing power needed to run simple applications has increased at the same pace). For most applications, it's simply not possible to have a single person write it from start to finish. If they did, the software would be 5 years out of date when they finished.

    It's the same as any other mature industry. A single person can't really build a car from scratch either. At least not one that has any hope of competing with the product of a large design team.

    I mean I don't like software patents anymore than most people on Slashdot, but your argument doesn't appeal to me.

    -Spyky
  • Re:Bittorrent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chris_mahan (256577) <chris.mahan@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:53PM (#10838210) Homepage
    Probably not. But I bet his resume/cv will climb to the top with this:

    ==Skills==
    *Bittorent: Imagined, designed, coded, deployed, and now maintaining the Bittorent protocol and OS-independent Python client. 12 million users since 2003; 500,000 gigabytes of transfers per day on average.

    ==Objective==
    Build a world-class, industrial-grade extranet messaging and collaboration protocol for your company.

    ==Requirement==
    $180,000/yr, total combined annual work hours not to exceed 2300. Cost of living adjustment based on consumer index no later than April 1 of each year. Choice of location.

    I tell you, if this guy works for a company 4 years and costs them $1M, they will have gotten themselves a bargain. This guy is cheaper than an average team of 4.

  • by kinema (630983) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:55PM (#10838229)
    What about writing open source software on contract? This is how companies like Namesys (ReiserFS) exist. Reiser4 development was paid for by DARPA, SuSE and Lindows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:57PM (#10838249)
    Forget it. Cash is king when you're on your own, and the last thing any prudent developer should be doing is pouring energy into a labor of love while speculating that eventually there will be a some kind of services revenue stream for your so-called free product.

    If your software is so good, why does your customer need to spend serious cash for your services?

    You're better off consulting on behalf of serious customers respond to your ability to solve their problems. If there is opportunity to productize your work along the way, so be it.

    If you don't plan to make money, the market will see to it that you don't.
  • Re:Yes! (No) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quinthar (8712) <dbarrett@quinthar.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @09:59PM (#10838263) Homepage
    I agree with this post, and I will add that being sued for patent infringement is a problem that you should be happy to have (in the same sense that your servers crashing from unexepctedly high demand is a happy problem).

    If you're being sued, hopefully this means you've actually created a product that was successful enough to get noticed. That's the hard part. Defending yourself from a patent suit, while expensive and shitty, isn't nearly as hard as creating a product that matters in the first place.

    -david
  • 1. Well, "lone coders" can't afford the legal work of performing patent searches. This is true. But you know what? I think small or even medium-sized corporations probably can't afford it either.

    2. Even if you ARE clear of existing patents, what if a big company decides to fight you in court? Again, a small or medium-sized company could never afford to fight this.

    3. Then again, it's not always in some big company's interest to shut you down or sue you out of existance. Often they probably just want a chunk of your profits. (and a chunk of zero is still zero, so they don't make money if you fold, either)

    What a fucking country.
  • Re:Not to worry... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by douthat (568842) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:01PM (#10838294)
    What if I used the 1-click shopping "algorithm" in my code? People wouldn't have to reverse engineer to determine that I've infringed on Amazon's patent.

    My point being that he may be building some software that infringes on someone's patent, but he doesn't realize it. If one didn't realize that Amazon patented 1-click shopping and included it in some software package, he would still be liable for damages, even though he didn't know about the patent.

    What he's asking can't be solved by security-through-obscurity .
  • by turnstyle (588788) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:06PM (#10838332) Homepage
    I'm [turnstyle.com] a fellow lone coder [turnstyle.com].

    It's not easy -- you have to stoop to doing stuff like adding gratuitous links to your Slashdot posts.

    This isn't going to be a popular sentiment here, but I'd say that the GPL and P2P generally make it tougher to make a living.

  • by Lucas Membrane (524640) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:07PM (#10838349)
    Several things have lessened the role of the lone coder down to just about nil:

    1. Marketing costs are high and price per unit that users are willing to pay are not high. Unless you've got way into six figures to for advertising and marketing, forget about getting your sales out of two figures.

    2. This means that you've got to sell high-priced apps. And the best shot at these would be business-specific custom or semi-custom apps for medium-sized companies (big companies have IT shops to write their own custom apps). I used to do pretty well at that sort of thing. Unfoturnately, medium-sized businesses usually by now have some fool who can do just about as good with Excel or Access as you can do with whatever you lone code with. So why wouldn't they let their in-house code monkey enjoy a little job enrichment by writing the app instead of paying you thousands of dollars to write it?

    3. Computers are everywhere now, and everyone knows of their risks. Few companies will trust a lone coder with anything important because of all the computer risks associated with 1-man project.

    There are still a few that do it, but most of the ones who I've known to be successful in the past are moved on now.

  • by Moken (780202) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:17PM (#10838415) Homepage
    As long as there are freeware compilers and notepads, there will always be the Lone Coder. Despite the patenting and the proliferation of giant projects with thousands of coding slaves behind them, there's always room for individual innovation. Look at all the concepts that people have discovered by themselves... from General Relativity to the modern day convenience of BitTorrent. That will *never* change... at least not until we all become thoughtless automatons.
  • by jhoger (519683) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:17PM (#10838421) Homepage
    A. You should not do patent research (treble damages). Don't feel bad... big companies don't do this research either, for the same reason.
    B. As a small operation, you're not the target of infringement lawsuits.
    C. If you're doing closed-source software, they probably won't be able to tell you're infringing unless it's some patented video or audio codec implementation.

    Keep in mind that you don't go straight from infringement to a lawsuit. The patent holder may well just want you to take a license, which can be negotiated as a royalty paid to them on copies of the software you sell.

    If you can't afford a license, or they won't sell you one, you will have to rework your code not to use the patented idea.

    The sky isn't falling. There are all manner of different liabilities that can pop up for any business at any time. There is no way to predict it. That's what insurance and indemnification are for.

  • by gtoomey (528943) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:28PM (#10838511)
    This shareware spam filter made Nick Bolton $3.5 million [computerworld.co.nz] in 2003 and now he employs 28.
  • Neyer Software (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarkPNeyer (729607) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:40PM (#10838594)

    My dad is a one man coder. He sells software used for statistical analysis, at quite a pretty penny, too. As far as he's explained it to me, he's been selling more or less the same software for 15+ years now, but he keeps making new versions because changes in windows will occaionsally make his software stop working, so the people who need it just go buy a new copy.

    I don't know how much he makes annually selling the software, but I assume it's probably not enough to support a family with.

  • by turnstyle (588788) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:41PM (#10838598) Homepage
    "oh yeah, i dimly remember andromeda. i threw it out when i realized that it purposely wouldn't work if i modified the php. and i replaced it with a GPL competitor."

    This reply to my post (just above it) perfectly demonstrates what it can be like.

    So here I am, trying to pay my own way -- and the response isn't "no thanks, it's not for me" -- it's this weird and totally unnecessary hostility.

    I'm used to it, and I know that people like this don't generally contribute much (GPL or otherwise), but for a new coder getting started, people like this can be a big bummer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:42PM (#10838614)
    If you write software correctly, it doesn't NEED "services as an implementation and customization consultant for said open source software for business".

    Open Source is NOT a viable business model for small business. What business in their right mind would buy a product which ties them for life to a small vendor for support?
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:48PM (#10838647)
    This isn't going to be a popular sentiment here, but I'd say that the GPL and P2P generally make it tougher to make a living.

    I agree with you completely on the GPL. From the perspective of anyone who depends on writing software to make a living, it is an especially obnoxious proprietary license. It differs from typical proprietary licenses only in that the "proprietor" hires anybody who wants to work for it, pays them absolutely nothing, dumps all its products on the market for free, and will refuse to sell you a license no matter how much you offer. Add to that the growing sentiment I hear often of "it's not GPL so I'm not gonna use it", and competing with the GPL is like competing with Microsoft.
  • Re:Of course not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grax (529699) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:55PM (#10838692) Homepage
    Now you understand. Our patent system doesn't require you to invent anything. Only to think of something. If thinking of things made you an inventor I would be a pretty serious inventor. (I still think that the line painted in the street to show you if you are too close to the intersection to stop if the light is yellow is a good idea.)

    The current trend is to take obvious ideas and add the phrase "on the internet" and boom, new invention.

    Old Idea. "I want to buy something"
    New Idea. "I want to buy something on the internet"

    Old Idea. "I want to auction something"
    New Idea. "I want to auction something on the internet"

    Old Idea. "You can find things with a table of contents"
    New Idea. "You can find things with a table of contents on my web site, which is on the internet"

  • Re:You're wrong. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:56PM (#10838699)
    id love to hear how you would reinvent a scrollbar
  • by starm_ (573321) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @11:02PM (#10838729)
    I just heard that apparently the lone coder isn't dead after all. He just moved to another country.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @11:37PM (#10838930) Homepage
    You write a custom app. Release it in 1 year. Market it. 6 months. Release v2. Market it more. Release v3. People start talking about it. yadda, yadda, yadda... How do you eat while spending the years it takes to get a good open source project to get even used? How many more years before it develops a cult following, and admins start installign it? Jesus, something like Apache took a fucking decade before it paid to be an Apache consultant. That's a long time being homeless, while hoping that yous stands out among the millions of other programs.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @11:47PM (#10839012)
    Funny - I make my living by writing, integrating and providing valueadd support for BSD & GPL'd solutions (mostly web-based).

    The BSD license does not resemble a proprietary license. Neither does the Apache license, and people make plenty of money building on and supporting both Apache-licensed and BSD-licensed solutions, even though they are not as aggressive as the GPL.

    The Apache and BSD licenses are truly free licenses. The GPL looks like a free license, and enjoys the reputation of a free license, when it more closely resembles a proprietary license that belongs to no one.

    Most software is a commodity now

    It's a strange commodity that makes you lose rights to your own work if you attempt to incorporate it.
  • by turnstyle (588788) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @11:50PM (#10839042) Homepage
    "I'm one of those people who's donated more money (and time/code/bugsreports) to open projects than the sum of all closed products."

    You may indeed be one of those people, and I know from personal experience that those people are really great. However, I can also tell you from personal experience that there just aren't enough like you.

    You simply can't make it as a full-time coder on a begware basis -- ask any coder with a "donate" button, you'll see. Sure there are exceptions -- but mostly from corporate sponsorship for mega projects like Apache, Firefox, etc.

  • by brit74 (831798) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @11:54PM (#10839069)

    (Just logged in) I'm a lone coder. As I said, I also do the artwork for the game software I'm writing (fortunately, I'm capable of doing a good job). Patents aren't really a concern for me since I'm doing a variation on a wargame theme. If I were doing something very new, innovative, and lucrative, however, I would be more concerned. It's possible to make decent money as a lone coder and still stay off the radar screens of the corporate lawyers.

    Someone else mentioned that lone coders don't have enough money to do marketing. I suppose that may be true in many cases, although it is possible to get a publisher and still be considered a "lone coder" (although publishers bring their own source of headaches).

    There is also the issue of getting the software to market without it looking dated. I don't think this is a huge problem unless you are trying to create a very cutting-edge game which competes with the likes of Doom3. The longer time-to-market that a lone coder (sometimes) requires is mostly a problem from the perspective of competition getting there first. So, lone coders can benefit a great deal by finding new variations on a theme. If you have an idea that is obvious (like 3d massively-multiplayer games were before the advent of Everquest), then the lone coder is going to get to market too slowly to compete.

    To underscore the point that lone coders can bring a good product to market, take a look at my software: http://www.empiresofsteel.com/ [empiresofsteel.com]
  • by flacco (324089) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:04AM (#10839137)
    So here I am, trying to pay my own way -- and the response isn't "no thanks, it's not for me" -- it's this weird and totally unnecessary hostility.

    not hostile at all - more sardonic than anything else.

    simply pointing out that you opened yourself up to losing a potential customer to a gpl product precisely because you did not offer what open source does - the ability to modify the software for one's own needs.

    maybe doing that keeps you some customers, but obviously it loses you others.

  • Go for it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elegie (681405) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:14AM (#10839197)

    If you want to develop software yourself, then by all means go for it. Shareware-type software (without spyware or adware) is common, but some is more successful than others [semicolon.com].

    Software patents are a concern, but it is better to work at fixing the problem than simply worrying about it. Most patent infringement cases have involved large-ish companies. Though it may sound strange, a good policy is not to look for software patents. Previous postings have already mentioned this, but it is meaningful in terms of avoiding "willful infringement" which is much more serious than innocent infringement. Linus Torvalds has said that "no engineer should ever go looking for a patent" [wired.com] and he mentions liability as one of the reasons. Also see this article [slashdot.org] from an attorney. The best idea is not to be concerned unless you already know about a software patent i.e. compressed GIF images.

    May you have the best of luck with your software development. :)

  • by Saeger (456549) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .jllerraf.> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:26AM (#10839248) Homepage
    It's a strange commodity that makes you lose rights to your own work if you attempt to incorporate it.

    Sorry, but I'm not in the camp that thinks the GPL is somehow bad because it lets you stand on the shoulders of giants while requiring you to do the same (if you distribute). You're not losing any "rights" by not being able to exploit the commons.

    --

  • by Buran (150348) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:51AM (#10839403)
    And then the corporation (not you, so it stays off your credit record) promptly declares bankruptcy to thumb their nose at the corporate scum. Then the guy starts a new company with a new product.

    Repeat ad infinitum.
  • by Craig Ringer (302899) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:30AM (#10839598) Homepage Journal
    Regarding libraries, the library author should release under the LGPL if they want a GPL-style license but to still have their work usable with closed-source software.

    Some don't want closed-source developers to be able to use their work. That's OK - but I don't think their work should be made a core part of operating systems.

    I, personally, would probably choose either the LGPL or BSD license for any significant library I wrote, depending on the library and it's intended use. Smaller/simpler stuff I'd just release under the BSD license simply to make it easier to use.

    Your viewpoint seems to omit the idea that open source / free software developers may not wish closed source developers to be able to use their code. I don't doubt that's frustrating, but they really have as much right to make that decision with their work as you do to sell yours as closed source. Hell, it frustrates me - I'm working on an in-house app and we want to maintain the freedom to choose our license if/when we release the app more widely.

    The key point is that GPL and LGPL authors are not releasing their work to the commons / public domain. They're releasing it under a restrictive license, just one that's restrictive in very unconventional ways. You're not _supposed_ to be able to use it, any more than you can borrow code from Microsoft's shared source programme or bundle their OS or app DLLs because there's something convenenient in them.
  • by Craig Ringer (302899) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:43AM (#10839642) Homepage Journal
    Regarding the Apache and BSD licenses, I tend to agree.

    When it comes to the GPL, I agree that is a restrictive license, and "less free" than the BSD/X11/MIT/Apache licenses. I can't say I agree with the rest, though.

    GPLed works generally belong to no one person or organisation, true. This doesn't always have to be the case (take Asterisk or all FSF software, for example) but generally is. The difference is that I don't see how that's a problem, if all authors/contributors have decided that that license is appropriate for their work. In fact, surely it's much the same as a distributed group of people working on closed source software - the codebase doesn't belong to any one of them - except that the GPL developers let you use their work under a different set of conditions?

    You do not lose the rights to your work if you incorporate GPL code. You will generally have the option, much the same as for any other copyright infringement, of removing and rewriting that portion of the code. You may have to pay damages or settle for other remedies, especially if the copying was knowing. The difference between the GPL and a proprietary license is that it offers you the /option/ of releasing your work under the same license as another way to escape the infringement. Sometimes that might be appropriate, but when it isn't it just comes down to another copyright infringement / license violation case.

    The point is that in many ways the GPL is just another proprietary license, it just gives you different options and a different set of restrictions. Many find it much easier to agree with than other licenses, many others find it impossible to accept. So what? Your own view undermines your complaints - if the authors of GPL works had wanted their work free for everybody to use however they wanted, the would've released under the BSD license or similar. Complaining that they didn't has as much validity as if I complain that your work isn't released under the BSD license, because I want to use it in my work without offering you any compensation.
  • by guet (525509) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:42AM (#10839917)
    EU is going the same way.

    Err, no, with Bush in power, it's probably headed in the other direction, toward direct confrontation.

    Hear about the ongoing steel tariffs war?
    Microsoft fined for monopolist behaviour?
    GM Crops?

  • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:10AM (#10840006) Homepage

    Incorporating is to protect you from bullshit, it costs less then 100 dollors.

    - you know, the way USDs are sliding nowadays, these new dollors maybe a good deal.

    BTW., in Canada it cost me around 700CAD to incorporate 3.5 years ago.

    The fees vary immensely in the US depending on what State you incorporate in, among other things. Delaware has very corporation-friendly laws in many ways, and is famous for being the state where you can incorporate for $100.

    At any rate, the original post in this thread makes exactly the point I was thinking of, although it oversimplifies a bit. It's not enough to simply incorporate, you also need legal advice to make sure that you avoid making mistakes that could lead a court to set aside the corporate veil - that rarely happens, because most corporations have legal counsel and are careful to avoid these things, but it's a particular danger for a one-man corporation that doesn't have luxuries like a full-time legal staff.

    Also, he asks about performing patent-searches to try and avoid infringing - it's my understanding this is a very bad idea. There are so many patents issued that this would be a very expensive search, in terms of time, the results for anything non-trivial are most likely going to be positive (that is, there are probably patents covering it - whether or not those palents are valid can only be determined by long and expensive litigation however) and if you do such a search the only real effect is to make any infringement willfull meaning you could face enhanced damages.

    I think the best advice is to form a corporation, pay yourself a wage (relatively high, but within market norms for what you're doing, as soon as the corporation has the cashflow to do it,) no patent searches. But most importantly, you need competent legal counsel. IANAL, this is not legal advice, and if it were, you'd be crazy to take legal advice from a slashdot post, yadda yadda yadda.

    It's not that needing to talk to a lawyer in this situation is a new thing, either. But the patent situation definately means longer talks, and more money paid, as well as a much higher probability of eventually having the corporation taken away from you by some freeloader with a patent, and being left with nothing but the memories and whatever is left of your personal salary. So while the lone coder may not be dead, he's definately starting to look endangered.

  • by Lisandro (799651) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:13AM (#10840014)
    You're the brother of Mike Matthews! The Big Muff Pi and Guitar sytnh are the best guitar pedalboxes ever :) Not that he'll care, but say him "thank you so damn much" from me!

    Anyway, GPL proliferation made living off coding more difficult. There was a small paper written by Stallman himself where he discussed this, and pretty much ended up agreeing that yes, as software becomes a comodity, programmers will get paid less - this compensated by other benefits from open source licensing. I just can't find the damn link right now. But it just sucks, because sometimes people don't want the best product, they just go for the cheapest.
  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:56AM (#10840151) Homepage Journal
    Software is a comodity, rarely a luxury product anymore.

    Most programmers do not realize that their role has changed in many instances from IT Designer or Engineer to IT Quick FIx or Janitorial Service.

    If you do not understand the nature of software today do not expect to receive sympathy for a vision of the wolrd that is contradicted by day to day reality and facts.

    The only thing copyright infringers can't copy is your personaly lended support. The more software you write and release under open licensing schemes, the more software there is out ther to be mantained and customized.

    Programmers should not see themselves anymore as designers but mantainers and IT tailors.

    Write useful software, release unencumbered of close licenses and make it known you are the final authority regarding the software.

    If it is truly useful you will have business expanding its usefulness.

    If it is not (yet another window manager for example) then frankly you should not expect much recompense for your efforts, appart from the joy of learning.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @04:02AM (#10840169) Homepage Journal
    And frankly I despair when I see such nonsense rated insightful.

    If you are referring to the software you write yourself, nobody is forcing you to license its distribution under the GPL. Of course people writing similar applications and releasing them under the GPL will have a competitive advantage: I as an user want to own my IT infrastructure and am tired of vendor lock in. If you can't deal with that, thoug, but still nobody is forcing you to release the fruits of your labour under the GPL.

    If is other people's software you are complaining about then get a grip, the authors can release it under wathever licensing scheme they see fit and is none of your business dictating how they do it.

    So exactly what is your point?
  • by stoborrobots (577882) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @04:17AM (#10840199)
    http://www.openwatcom.org/ [openwatcom.org]?

    Or something else?
    http://www.thefreecountry.com/compilers/cpp.shtml [thefreecountry.com]
  • Re:Of course not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flyboy Connor (741764) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @04:42AM (#10840271)
    Your real goal though is to write something, get it patented and then sell it for millions to the big boys.

    Except what will happen is something like:

    Microsoft: "You have a patent we need."

    Lone Coder: "OK. It'll cost you a million bucks."

    Microsoft: "Forget it, we're going to use your stuff without paying."

    Lone Coder: "Then I'll sue you."

    Microsoft: "But our defense will be that our code is a tiny but significant bit different from yours. So we're not infringing."

    Lone Coder: "I'll get a really good lawyer who'll show that you actually ARE infringing."

    Microsoft: "That will take years. Lawyers are expensive. In the meantime, we believe that you are infringing on several of our patents. So we're going to unleash our army of lawyers onto you. Can you really afford the legal costs?"

    Lone Coder: "You bastards."

    Microsoft: "Now now. There's no need for ugly language. We're your buddies. We're here to help you! If you just sign over the rights to your patent to us, we will allow you to continue using it yourself. Of course, when our new blockbuster software comes out, your market is destroyed, but until that time you will be able to make a living."

    Lone Coder: "Arghhhhhh!"

    Microsoft: "And you pay us a million dollars, just so that we won't have our lawyers start sueing you for infringing our patents, as soon as we have thought up a couple that you probably are infringing."

    Lone Coder: *whimper*

  • by YellowBook (58311) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @05:07AM (#10840329) Homepage
    It's a strange commodity that makes you lose rights to your own work if you attempt to incorporate it.

    The GPL can never cause you to lose any rights to your own work; only to derivative works of other works that you would not have any right to incorporate without the GPL. Now, if you incorporate GPL'ed code into something you've written, you still only own the part you wrote, not the whole shebang. And if you release your work under the GPL, and someone contributes improvements to it, you only own the part you wrote; you have rights to the contributions only under the GPL.

    Complaints about the GPL "taking away my rights" basically amount to the vocalizations of people who want to use other people's work without abiding by the terms (based on giving back to the community) that the author of that work set. Basically, GPL-hatred is a kind of looter-mentality.

  • by mabu (178417) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @05:50AM (#10840439)
    Personally I wouldn't worry about patents. The original intent of patents were to protect IP but now they're primarily used for two other purposes: to stifle innovation and attract investors. The lone coder doesn't really need to feel intimidated by either of these issues. In a worst-case scenario, if you manage to create an app which attracts the attention of an entity which would threaten you, at the same time you'll probably also be approached by entities that are interested in acquiring your technology (and willing to help defend it).

    It's a sad commentary on the state of innovation in our society that something like this is even an issue. Imagine if all the great artists throughout history were discouraged by the thought that their work might infringe upon or offend somebody, or whether or not the prospect was profitable.

    Then again, if you're getting into coding merely as a means to an end, you can do us all a favor and don't bother. If you haven't identified an area where you think you can contribute, why bother? You're in the biz for the wrong reason and we have enough lame code from un-passionate producers just doing it to make a buck.

  • by SyniK (11922) <tom.gamerzday@com> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @05:53AM (#10840446) Homepage Journal
    I intend to one-up you. I have no life savings and only crazy ideas. You had capital, that makes it easier. Though, admittedly, I have nothing to lose.

    I think you are mistaken that open source coders do not know the value of their work. What motivates them is not necessarily its monetary value. If most open source coders are professional coders during the day, they know exactly what their time / energy is worth.

    Red Hat (while $$ whores these days) worked their asses off to make a cohesive distribution out of the wild and wooly linux scene. It wasn't / isn't my cup of tea, but they've done a lot to give back to OSS along their way. They saw that Linux (OSS) had potential as a commerical business and stuck with it. Yeah, they make all the money. That's what businesses do. They hired some of the coders that made linux what it is today (Alan Cox).

    When just being an MSCE is grounds for making $100,000+ (in the bubble), there needs to be a long, hard soul search before the regulars can get back to work. Commercial software (Games, OSes, Entertainment apps, websites) is shit these days anyway. Might as well make it go fully belly up and start fresh.
  • by werdna (39029) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @07:53AM (#10840727) Journal
    Patents in the US govern any manufacture, use or sale of a product within the U.S., but also any importation or offer to import therein. Most nations have similar rules. Ultimately, if you want to play in foreign markets, you are going to expose yourself to liability elsewhere, for which you can ordinarily be served by international treaty.

    I don't know if Sealand is signatory to Hague, but even if it isn't you still can't do much harm to others or good for yourself from the bitsy island, unless that is where all your assets are located, and everything you want is there.

    Sure, you can go to sealand and infringe away, but don't imagine for an instant you can exploit the invention beyond its borders without risk.
  • by scum-e-bag (211846) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @07:58AM (#10840742) Homepage Journal
    "That's why warez is so destuctive; things stop being created."

    No. What is so destructive is when an economy comes to rely on Intellectual Property laws to create wealth. Intellectual Property laws are laws, which, create an artificial protective bubble around an economy. This protected economy has negligable physically tangiable assets. As soon as the laws become unenforceable the economy crumbles.

    Intellectual Property is to Property as Fools Gold is to Gold.
  • Creative Law. . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @08:00AM (#10840748)
    Write something beneficial to humanity, make it available at a reasonable price, (or for free), and the Universe will help you out. You don't need to worry so much about IP laws and copyright. Just get the job done, and if somebody else uses your idea, or if you use somebody else's, then that's fine; it means a beneficial system is propagating. If you don't get in the way of energy propagation, if you are both selfless and savvy, you'll be amply rewarded in unexpected ways. There are always enough customers for a good idea.

    The more you give, the larger a conduit you become, and the more you are able to transit through yourself in the future. It really works and it's not magic.

    Example. . .

    Two creators are sitting on great ideas. Creator A doesn't want to start development until a third party offers pre-payment and guarantees of recognition and general safety. Creator B understands that giving is power and so jumps right in, develops and distributes the idea, making sure in advance only that the system being created is logical and viable enough to pay for itself. The end result, you've all seen. Creator A goes nowhere and does nothing, while Creator B, if the idea is of true benefit and interest to humanity and the execution was not driven by wishful thinking and the wasteful expenditure of energy through poor planning, will be seen and respected and the money will start to flow. --The more integrity, work and faith Creator B puts into the system, the wider the conduit grows.

    The "Homestar Runner" guys are worthy examples. --They put up their work with no promises offered to them, and these days they make a living selling thousands of T-Shirts, coffee mugs, CD and DVD collections. They turned down a TV development offer, which could have vaulted them into an even higher power bracket, but they were comfortable and best suited for their conduit width as it stood. But if they continue to give in earnest and if their work continues to be valued, they will have more offers in the future when perhaps they are feeling ready to grow.

    I've met a bunch of guys who have perfectly viable ideas, but who won't start development because nobody is offering to pay them for their time and effort up front. They will not go anywhere.

    Finally. . , very few people need to get rich. Being super-wealthy naturally attracts IP lawsuits, etc., and that's where the problems start. Being wealthy is a huge responsibility, because it means maintaining and working with a very wide energy conduit which, while it can do a great deal of good, can also be very demanding. Evil empires are easy to spot, because they are naturally attracted to needless collections of enormous and unwisely used power. It's entirely possible to be quick-moving and healthy on a lower level and not have to worry too much about the behemoth control freaks. --And when people do have to worry, (there is the eternal war on between Good and Evil, after all), then the support network is a powerful device which can protect the really pure gems of its own system. The SCO affair is an example of how evil can be very effectively shut down with minimal effort. Like swatting a bug. Without the current network of giving individuals is in place, SCO could actually have become a real problem. As it was they were swatted down like a bug. Evil is inefficient and stupid because they employ wishful thinking; they don't plan realistically. If they did, they would see that selfishness is ultimately self-defeating and they would choose not to be evil.

    So long as you remain part of the 'energy' distribution network and stay on the Light Side, you'll be well taken care of. I stopped worrying about these things a long time ago, and just focus on feeding my community as best I am able, while cutting off those who do not give anything in return to the network. When everybody gives, the system grows and those who are part of it are laughing.

    Works like a charm.


    -FL

  • by SlamMan (221834) <{squigit} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @08:17AM (#10840793)
    Um, you could say the same thing about cash, or stock. If the government crumbles, you're out of luck.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @08:55AM (#10840990)
    I agree, this guy is an idiot. It's not IP laws per se but the KIND of IP laws enacted. Without them people can't get paid for their work and I for one am not a communist. Trouble is, the US is enacting laws written by the the biggest cash donors, so the laws suit their needs. This is not neccessarily good for the economy as a whole.

    As much as I hate the tactics of the RIAA, MPAA, MS, etc., they have a point even if you don't agree with it. If everybody works for free what's the incentive to work at all?
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @09:39AM (#10841310) Homepage
    But I'll post it anyway.

    If your software needs "services" and "support" in sufficient quantity to support you, then you are writing impossible-to-maintain junk that is at best customized for each user. At worst, it breaks everytime someone tries to use it and they have become dependent on it so they have to pay you to fix it.

    Proper software tools need almost no support, little documentation and works out of the box without a lot of customization that can only be done by the author.

    Maybe it is different kinds of software, but mostly I have seen the two kinds mentioned here: junk and quality. I won't even say that "quality" is attained - it is perhaps more of a goal to be sought after. It you really make it there, then you end up losing everything to piracy.
  • Your wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @11:10AM (#10842045) Homepage Journal
    Okay fine your wrong. The days of a lone coder writing the latest and greatest Video game are gone, the days of the lone coder writing a Lotus 123 or Wordstar and becoming a huge force in the software industry are gone. The days a a lone programmer making a good living writing embedded code, or vertical market software are still here. There is very good money to be made in "Vertical" markets. Everything from auto shops to storage units use computers now. You may even get small time rich doing it. I am talking a few million here not Hundreds of millions but still not bad. Frankly it has gotten easier for the small guy to do some really good stuff. SQL databases for Linux and Windows are available for free and Postgres frankly is good enough for just about any small business setup you are likely to imagine. Open Source could be a huge help to you take SQL ledger and modify it for some market and add some custom code to maybe run a cash drawer or set up a website for a Pizza place that allows you to order on line and you have a product.
    No the lone programmer is not dead he is just making money in the markets that are too small for the big fish to bother with.
  • by Jbrecken (107271) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:29PM (#10842775)
    1. He had become reclusive with the shock of finding out that real, live women DIDN'T have staples in their navels.

    What porn have you been reading that still has staples in the centerfolds? Not only do the good magazines use glue bindings these days, but the stereotypical Coder is more likely to be reading his porn on the net.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:37PM (#10842891)
    This is why it's stupid to try to sell software to the masses when you're a small company. I have no sympathy. Trying to sell boxed software for general consumption is suicide, because 1) you'll face too much competition from traditional large software companies, and 2) people will just pirate your software anyway. Face it, individuals are just too cheap to buy your stuff.

    If you want to be a "lone coder", you need to work as a consultant, creating software for larger companies under contract. They supply the specifications, you supply the software. Something like 95% of all software is in-house software, and is not sold as a retail product. Companies need all kinds of custom software to do various specialized tasks for them; this is where your opportunity as a "lone coder" lies.

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature. -- Rich Kulawiec

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