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Blog: Designing a New Software Distribution Process

Blog: Designing a New Software Distribution Process

In reading this month's Wired Magazine (not yet online unfortunately) I found its article about the new Red digital movie camera fascinating. Based on a new chip, it shoots at very high pixels and can execute enough shots per second to compete with film. Moreover, it has the ability to selectively focus part of its picture while leaving other parts fuzzy, a technique used in every movie to focus the attention of the viewer. Plus, it cost 10 percent of what less-capable digital movie cameras cost, as well as less than one month's rent for a Panavision camera.

Still, all is not perfect with the camera: to store its digital information costs about US$12,000 per year, while regular film only costs US$1,000. Despite such criticism, Bengt Jan Jonsson, cinematographer for the Fox TV show Bones, is quoted as saying "Honestly, if you proposed the film work-flow today, you'd be taken to the city square and hung. Imagine I told you we're going to shoot on superexpensive cameras, using rolls of celluloid made in China that are a one-time use product susceptible to scratches and that can't be exposed to light. And you can't even be sure you got the image until they're developed. And you have to dip them in a special fluid that can ruiin them if it's mixed wrong. People would think I was crazy."

This discussion comparing the merits of digital vs. film: look at these small shortcomings in the new process, when what we've has worked for over a hundred years vs. the established process is familiar but doesn't make sense if examined objectively is reminiscent to me of the proprietary vs. open source debates that go on.

CIOs comfortable with the current way things are done criticise open source: there's no throat to choke, the vendors aren't big enough to service my organization in the way we're familiar with, what is this community thing anyway? All valid to a lesser or greater extent.

However, those responses are formed without examining the flip side: how do things work today and does that process make sense? To echo Jonsson, imagine I told you "Someone is going to create a software product, spend as much selling it to you as you pay the first year, refuse to let you try it enough to determine whether it will really work in your environment, keep the internal code secret and not let you examine it, forbid you from publishing benchmarks so that its performance can be compared to other products, charge 20 percent of the initial price each year for maintenance whether you need it or not, and potentially pull it from the market due to internal business reasons with no possibility for you to do anything about it. Oh, and by the way, if they do keep in the market, they may come up with mandatory upgrades requiring additional fees." People would think I was crazy.

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