From: r...@cs.ubc.ca (Robert Lin)
Subject: GNU and the issue of support
Date: 9 Sep 90 22:20:00 GMT
Organization: Objective Software Engineering Corp.
Posted: Sun Sep 9 23:20:00 1990
Is it really true, that a free product like GNU would have no support?
No customer hand-holding? I wonder. The frustrating thing about the
present commercial UNIX products is that there are holes, big bugs, that
nobody really gets around to fix. We wait forever for things to get fixed,
and nothing ever happens.
If source code was freely available, you can be sure a dozen gurus on the
net would jump into the fray and produce bug fixes in a fraction of the time
it takes for any other commercial UNIX vendor.
Take GCC as a good example. People find bugs, bugs get posted, and a fixed
version comes, usually within the month. Even before then, you can generally
find patches for those people impatient for the new version.
And then there's the other myth, the lack of software support. Will we really
not have DOS support under GNU? Maybe in the first six months, yeah, but
before too long, someone will put together a DOS package. If not FSF itself,
which isn't at all interested in DOS integration, then a third party, a
local net guru, or someone like that.
I'd willingly and happily pay which ever commercial company good money, if
I can have the same level of openness that I'd get for free with GNU.
If whenever I report a bug, and they know its there, but can't fix it,
I'd like to receive a copy of the source code so I can fix it myself.
I'd even be willing to protect their commercial interest by signing a
non-disclosure, and after submitting my fixes, destory my copy.
Sure, it is expensive to support a product. Good tech support people are
hard to find, and harder to retain. As a software vendor myself, I can
sympathize with the cost of maintenance. But as a private individual,
a programmer, a guy who only wants to see a smoothly running system,
I cheer the arrival of GNU.
-Robert Lin <r...@cs.ubc.ca>
From: david...@sixhub.UUCP (Wm E. Davidsen Jr)
Subject: Re: GNU and the issue of support
Date: 13 Sep 90 00:31:46 GMT
Reply-To: david...@sixhub.UUCP (bill davidsen)
Organization: *IX Public Access UNIX, Schenectady NY
Posted: Thu Sep 13 01:31:46 1990
In article <9...@ubc-cs.UUCP> r...@cs.ubc.ca (Robert Lin) writes:
| Is it really true, that a free product like GNU would have no support?
| No customer hand-holding?
Well, if you have $100k/year for support, Cygnus will support most of
the GNU stuff. The company was formed by Michael Tieman, John Gilmore,
and (I'm sorry, brian offline tonight).
For the average person, well... you have the source, right?
bill davidsen - david...@sixhub.uucp (uunet!crdgw1!sixhub!davidsen)
sysop *IX BBS and Public Access UNIX
moderator of comp.binaries.ibm.pc and 80386 mailing list
"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -me
From: lupine!...@uunet.uu.net (Ron Guilmette)
Subject: Low-cost GNU support is available (was: GNU and the issue of support)
Date: 13 Sep 90 19:29:40 GMT
Organization: Network Computing Devices, Inc., Mt. View, CA
Posted: Thu Sep 13 20:29:40 1990
[ The list Ron refers to below is also in the GNU Emacs
distribution as file etc/SERVICE. If you can't ftp a more
current copy from pub/gnu/etc/SERVICE on prep.ai.mit.edu,
feel free to ask g...@prep.ai.mit.edu for one.
The information Ron provides is also in the article `Free
Software Support' in the last (June 1990) GNUs Bulletin. I've
appended the article below. The Bulletin is available from
You also have the GNU mailing lists (aka the gnUSENET
newsgroups) to help one another with.
In article <1...@sixhub.UUCP> david...@sixhub.UUCP (bill davidsen) writes:
>In article <9...@ubc-cs.UUCP> r...@cs.ubc.ca (Robert Lin) writes:
>| Is it really true, that a free product like GNU would have no support?
>| No customer hand-holding?
> Well, if you have $100k/year for support, Cygnus will support most of
>the GNU stuff. The company was formed by Michael Tieman, John Gilmore,
>and (I'm sorry, brian offline tonight).
> For the average person, well... you have the source, right?
There is a serious mis-perception here which is being rapidly propagated
to the ends of the earth. This mis-perception deserves to be corrected.
As I understand it, Cygnus Support sells major-league year-long comprehensive
support/service packages to major corporations, consortia, government
institutions, and top research (academic) institutions. The bucks involved
are indeed major, but then that is probably appropriate for major-legue
support customers who are using GCC or other GNU software development tools
in schedule-critical in-house development projects where the support customer
feels the need to get guaranteed 4-hour response time.
For those organizations and/or individuals who do not feel the need to
purchase quite such a high level of support (which, I'm sure, Cygnus
provides in a very top-notch fashion) other alternatives (with potentially
much lower costs) are readily available.
Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of GNU users (and potential
GNU users) are completely ignorant of this fact.
******************* PUBLIC NOTICE ********************
Len Tower of the Free Software Foundation maintains a list of consultants
who are willing and able to do software support on GNU software. Some
people on this list are willing to provide GNU software support on a `time
and materials' basis. I know this to be a fact because I'm on the list,
and I myself am willing to provide GNU software support on a `time and
The GNU consultants list may be easily obtained from Len Tower. Just send
him an E-mail at <to...@prep.ai.mit.edu> requesting a copy of the list.
One final thought. Support is pretty much like any other commodity... say
for instance... water. Some people need to irrigate vast tracts of farmland.
They (quite reasonably) see the need to buy water in units of acre-feet.
Other people just want a cool drink on a hot day. Fortunately, our free
market system provides ways in which both types of needs may be satisfied.
// Ron Guilmette - C++ Entomologist
// Internet: r...@ncd.com uucp: ...uunet!lupine!rfg
// Motto: If it sticks, force it. If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.
Please freely redistribute this text to other forums under the term of
the Copyright Notice below.
From the June 1990 GNUs Bulletin:
Copyright (C) 1990 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Written by: Michael Rowan, Robert J. Chassell, Richard Stallman,
Leonard H. Tower Jr., and Michael Bloom
Illustrations: Etienne Suvasa
Japanese Edition: Mieko Hikichi and Nobuyuki Hikichi
Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute verbatim
copies of this document as received, in any medium, provided
that the copyright notice and permission notice are preserved,
and that the distributor grants the recipient permission for
further redistribution as permitted by this notice.
Free Software Support
The Free Software Foundation develops and distributes freely
available software. Our goal is to help computer users as a
community. We envision a world in which software is freely
redistributable. This means software will be sold at a competitive
market price rather than a monopoly established price; often, it
will be given away. We see programmers as providing a service,
much as doctors and lawyers now do---both medical knowledge and the
law are freely redistributable entities for which the practitioners
charge a distribution and service fee.
To help you find support and other consulting services, we maintain
a list of people who offer such services. We call this list the
GNU Service Directory. This list is contained in the file
`etc/SERVICE' in the GNU Emacs distribution. If you want to offer
services, you can use this list to help make yourself known.
(Contact us if you would like a copy of this directory or wish to
Most of the listings in the GNU Service Directory are for
individuals, but one is for Cygnus Support, which is the first
for-profit corporation that we know of that provides support *only*
for free software. Their address is `i...@cygnus.com' or Cygnus
Support, 814 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301. FSF is not
affiliated with Cygnus Support, but we hope that Cygnus Support is
a harbinger of the future.
If you find a deficiency in any GNU software, we want to know. We
maintain a considerable number of Internet mailing lists for making
announcements, reporting bugs and for asking questions. The Emacs
and GCC Manuals have chapters explaining where to send bug reports
and what information to put in them. Incidentally, on the larger
lists, it is not surprising to see an enquiry answered on the same
day it is posted.
These mailing lists are also gatewayed into USENET news. If your
site receives USENET, you can follow these discussions using news
software. To find out more about the `gnu.*' newsgroups, ask your
If you don't have Internet access, you can receive mail and USENET
news with a UUCP connection. Contact either a system administrator
at a local UUCP site, or UUNET Communications, which can set up a
UUCP connection for a modest fee. (UUNET is a non-profit
organization that provides network connections.) You can contact
UUNET by e-mail at `i...@uunet.uu.net' or by paper mail at:
UUNET Communications Services,
3110 Fairview Park Drive - Suite 570,
Falls Church, VA 22042
Phone: (703) 876-5050
When we receive a bug report, we will usually try to fix the
problem in order to make the software better. This may help you in
the long run; however, we may not provide you with immediate
assistance. This is not and should not be our job. Our task is so
large that we must focus on that which helps the community as a
whole, such as developing and maintaining software and
documentation. We mustn't let ourselves be sidetracked into
helping individuals one by one. We do not have the resources.
Thus, do tell us how an installation script doesn't work or where
the documentation is unclear---but please don't ask us to help you
install the software or figure out how to use it.
If your bug report does not evoke a solution from us, you may still
get one from the many other users who read our bug reporting
mailing lists. Otherwise, use the Service Directory.