Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free software

There has been a lot of excitement recently about the release of a Technology Preview of SDR-Radio.com, the new software defined radio console named, for some curious reason, after its website domain, which is being developed by Simon Brown HB9DRV of Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) fame.

What seems to have passed unnoticed so far is that, unlike HRD, SDR-Radio.com is not going to be freeware. A note in a corner of one page of the site says that licensing details are to be announced for the more advanced SDR platforms but soundcard (SoftRock) users will get a 30-day free trial after which the program will still run but with some serious nag-ware!

A few years ago Simon used to really get up my nose with his announcements of new versions of FT-817 Commander and HRD on various mailing lists. The announcements would always be accompanied by the information that the software was not merely free, but ***FREE*** software written by radio amateurs for radio amateurs. There used to be a page on the HRD website that was virtually a political statement, stating that ham radio software should be free, and that hams who charged for their programs were parasites (or something on those lines) taking money from the pockets of fellow hobbyists.

I remember this very well because at the time I was struggling to set up a software business to supplement my dwindling income from freelance computer journalism. My ham radio programs were more popular than the utilities I was trying to sell, and I was very tempted to try to develop a ham radio program commercially. Except that according to Simon and others who supported his position that would have made me an evil profiteer who should be cast out of the hobby altogether.

Today when you visit the Ham Radio Deluxe website the first thing you see is a request to "support Ham Radio Deluxe" by making a donation. And SDR-Radio.com is going to be commercial from the outset. I'm not criticizing Simon for this in the slightest. Developing software, whether for a hobby or anything else, takes time and costs money and there is no reason why people shouldn't try to earn something from it. But I really couldn't pass by this about turn over the principle of whether ham radio software should be free without commenting on it!


Steve GW7AAV said...

Umm! I was going to do a bit on my blog about this software until I saw it was not free. I thought if they are going to charge for it why should I publise it for free when there are free alternatives. I realise that a lot of work goes in to these projects but if they then want publicity then they should pay for it.

OnlineQRM said...

I met Simon in Germany. He was simply the most irritating person I've ever met. He moaned and moaned about what an awful place the UK was and he bigged up Switzerland, a place which is essentially a racist, police state. Says a lot about the character.

The reversal of fortune about free software and charging for software is so amusing considering how he banged on about HRD being free. The thing is HRD isn't very good, it's bloatware that only runs on Windows when better software is availble along with the source that runs on all computers.

I shall derive the greatest pleasure indeed when his new SDR software is hacked and the nags/keys get removed (as they certainly will) simply because it couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

Paul said...

Odd that some believe paying what is usually a mere pittance for fruit of another's long, hard labor is "evil profiteering", yet would willingly pay $100 dollars or more for a pre-made dipole antenna that they could make themselves for maybe $10 worth of parts and a soldering iron.

Hey, I admire the freeware guys, not just in ham radio but the entire open source world -- without them we wouldn't have ***FREE**** web browsers or Linux. But no one should ever begrudge another for trying to earn a living. Once you start calling someone they're an "evil profiteer", they're likely to call you a "Marxist." Then things get ugly, fast...

Paul WW2PT