Good engineering vs. poor support: which wins?

by Harold Martin

I recently needed to do some upgrading and cleaning of my tower computer.

The chassis comes from a well known and respected manufacturer, and it had claimed to have a removable dust filter. I contacted the company about how to clean this and was told to remove the bezel and I would be able to access the filter. Only problem was that this required removing the drives, which was entirely impractical.

I decided just to use my air compressor to try and clean the filter along with blowing out the rest of the components.

Finishing that, I put the PC on my workbench to do my upgrades and (behold!) saw the filter's clips near the bottom of the bezel. A simple pinch and tug and the filter was out.

This companies lack of "support" had me thinking that the product wasn't so well designed after all, and that its engineers had done a poor job, which turned out not to be the case.

Unfortunately, this is a problem I have also encountered in OSS. Those who aren't savvy enough to 'just figure it out' (and these types will arrive en masse as Linux moves onto the desktop) will inevitably be turned off by a lack of simple documentation or the indifference of some developers.

Better supported software stands a good chance of succeding over 'better' software.

Share your thoughts on the article above.


2004-01-14 17:15:25
stfw, rtfm or pay $$$
that about sums it up. humans cost money, time is the most valuable resource now. If you want to consume someone else's time and expect quality hand holding, then you are going to have to compensate them for that.

2004-01-15 05:22:17
I completely agree
I own a small consulting firm specialized in project management consulting for mechanical engineering, and is quite completely focused on MS products.
Anyway I,ve tried in the past months to figure out some very nice opensource groupwares and collaboration tools (MS share portal and MS project server are very espensive !!!!), and very often I find my self unable to complete the task in reasonable time, just for the lack of updated and practical setup documentation (I've got a small background on php4 and mysql and this help me a little).
So my question about OSS is .. who is the final target for this kind of products??? The developers market, the hobbies market or (I really hope) the final enterprise users market??

If the annswer is for the last ,ok noway the product must be complete (in functionality documentation and support) , and during setup we need to know a well defined procedure to install the software ( I know that in unix we have always more than one way to do things, but the enterprise environment need speed and stability for every task, so no time for test or trial).

And if the money matter (of course it matter !!) listen what told me one of my customers.If I buy a MS package it will cost me about 1000 euro and the game is finish, I know how to run it. If I install an Open Source software it will cost zero now , but how much You will cost me to support it in one year??????

I think OSS need to know in the future how to answer to this kind of practical questions.
Speaking always only about OSS technical superiority about commercial products don't help the enterprise customer to make the right choose.
OSS need to transfer semplicity, as MS do (I know is not true, but marketing help a lot).

2004-01-15 21:50:31
If you feel that way, then chip in
You would like to see better documentation/support for Free Software? Great, and we agree; please chip in! We could use the help.