A Note to Software Developers

There’s a piece of software I use often. It’ll remain nameless, but let’s just call it ‘FooPlus’. FooPlus is a handy utility that is distributed free of charge. I like it and use it often.

However, me and FooPlus are about to have a knock-down drag-out fistfight. Why? Because I won’t update it.

It’s decided that I need to update it at least every 90 days. To remind me to do so, when I start it up, it sends me to its home page. In doing this, rather than open up a new browser, it commandeers a random existing instance of Internet Explorer. Good-bye, e-mail in progress. Good-bye, web article I was reading. Hello FooPlus home page.

Here’s news to the makers of FooPlus and any other software that behaves in this manner. STOP IT. I don’t have to have the latest version of your program. Just because you feel the font wasn’t quite right or the buttons were a bit small or it needed a new hat is not something I need to be alerted about.

The current version of FooPlus does exactly what I want it to do. I don’t want to upgrade it because I don’t NEED to upgrade it. Anyone who has been working with computers more than two weeks knows the risks of upgrades: they are not always improvements, and often you find you wish you could go back. If I want to upgrade, I’ll upgrade. Until then, leave me the hell alone.

Now already I can hear software developers adjusting their propeller beanies and being outraged at my audacity. How dare I complain about FREE software! Well let me tell you something, kids. Free means just that — free. Just because a program is free doesn’t mean I surrender all rights associated with it. It doesn’t give you carte blanche to start screwing with my web browser in 90 days because you fixed the typo in the help file nobody read. It’s either free or it isn’t, and free means free from monetary commitment AND free from pestering about “new and improved” versions. If that’s not the case, let me know up front that you intend to harass me on a regular basis and I’ll gladly avoid your program in favor of something else.

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