Linfield's Line- by Kevin Linfield

A Look at OS/2 Shareware Practices

OS/2 has been blessed with a vast array of shareware applications, yet odds are that the shareware you are currently using is not registered. Why don't people register the shareware they use? Or maybe I should word the question another way. . . why are the numbers of registrations so dismal?

1. Cost

The purpose of shareware is to "try before you buy", and to offer a way to market software economically. For the average shareware programmer, writing OS/2 software is a hobby, not a full time job. In many cases, the program written is the first OS/2 program tackled and the author is "learning" how to PM program. But too often the programmer appears blinded by the high price of today's software and tries to charge far beyond what any sane person would pay. I remember just before OS/2 Warp was released I was looking at a shareware word processor. While still in the initial feature stage, the author wanted US$40, a price I found excessive since Footprint Works (now IBM Works, a part of OS/2 Warp) retailed for US$49.95 and also included a spreadsheet, charting program, database and report writer. Needless to say the author was not very receptive to my suggestion that he lower his price.

It should be pointed out that there are shareware programs that may be worth their "commercial" price. Zap-O-Com is probably the best communication program for OS/2. If you like (or need) its multitude of features, it is well worth the US$90 price to register it. I personally do not use it; I bought PMComm way back when and although there are the few minor (and one not so minor) annoyances, it does the job I need. I also think that people should try to use the program IBM has included with OS/2 Warp--HyperACCESS Lite. Why spend over $100 (which is probably more than you spent for OS/2 Warp) on a communication program when one came free with the operating system?

2. Selection

Every day, I examine part of the wealth of shareware that is available on the Internet. In many cases, I question the author's motive for writing shareware (as opposed to freeware) when existing freeware or IBM Employee Written Software (EWS) does the same job. In a recent issue of Canada Computes! I answer a question of what alarm program I think is best for one of our readers. A quick trip to Hobbes found many alarm utilities; the best (in my opinion) is Tiny Alarm 2.1, a freeware utility by Martin Vieregg. Why should anyone spend up to US$30 on a simple alarm utility when this one does the job so well?

3. Why register?

Before you go off the deep end and flame me, please keep in mind that I do advocate registering shareware that you feel is worth it. Yes, if you feel that it is worth it, not only if you use it. I personally registered LinePlot even though I use the freeware gnuplot for my everyday graphs. LinePlot has great potential, and I want the author to continue to develop it. Hopefully one day the program will offer all of the features I want, but until then, I keep checking out each release and e-mailing the author my thoughts and ideas. Of course, I also register shareware that I use every day. If memory serves me correctly the first program I ever registered was PM Patrol 2.12. Although PM Patrol went commercial and is now back to shareware at version 4.0b, I find it an indispensable tool that I strongly recommend everyone check out.

Concluding Remarks

So what am I trying to say? Shareware authors, check what is out there, and price your software accordingly. Do you want to compete with commercial applications? Please, don't plan on making your million dollars at the expense of the home user. Users, register what you use, and support the grass-roots level OS/2 programmers who price their offerings at a reasonable rate.
Kevin Linfield is a columnist for Canada Computes! and vice-president of the Toronto OS/2 User's Group

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