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January 2000

OS/2 Freeware... a big deal?
You bet!

By: Wayne Swanson - VOICE VP - swanee@pillarsoft.net

There's no Such Thing as a Free Lunch!

I am always amazed at the number of applications that are more or less donated for the use of the OS/2 community. Some of these applications are done by budding authors who are unsure of the value they may present to another user and yet others are done by seasoned veterans of OS/2 programming.

In the case of the budding author, many times the applications are sent out as freeware because the author is new to programming and may be a bit shy about charging for his work. Maybe it is a bit of insecurity when it comes to placing a dollar value on it so he just lets it out as freeware. Another reason may be the authors fundamental belief that software should always be free.

As the budding authors gained experience many have stayed the course and others may have decided that they can move into the coding for pay arena. These are both laudable goals but I am here today to remind us all of the value these people have brought to our tables.

If you look around, you'll find that there are some very experienced authors that have served us also. They have provided some extremely well done programs and yet they ask nothing in return. Why you ask? Let's look at one of the better known examples of an indispensable author for OS/2 software that distributes some very important tools to us for free. Henk Kelder is our shining example.

Henk, the Budding Author

First, some background. Henk was unemployed back in 1981-1983. His first child was due and he was desperately in need of a job. During his study (math & physics teacher) he already had been trained to use ALGOL 60 for a year or so and he started enjoying some time on his TI-99/4a home computer. Via an unemployment program he went to a course to learn COBOL and ended up with a new job. Over the years he learned to program in C and through some of the projects they had done, he 'met' OS/2 (v1.2).

When version 2.0 came out, Henk started hacking the INI's because, he says, "they became so very large on my machine." That was how CHECKINI was born. How did he decide to release it as freeware? He really didn't. A colleague of Henk's released it (more or less without his knowledge) via fidonet to the public and a star was born.

Was this a problem? Did Henk really want to market CheckIni? As it turns out, that was fine with Henk. "I didn't want to get any obligations with my software. It's a hobby and it should stay that. I always felt that when I asked money for it, I would be obliged to maintain the software and respond to any question."

This sounds like someone who doesn't want to keep it all up to date and have to answer all the email but that is not the way it is with Henk. Even though he didn't want to have the obligation, he treats it like it is. It is still updated quite often along with his other tools and Henk still tries to answer questions too although he says that it is, "Sometimes too much for me to handle properly."

So why does he do it? Why do all the work, answer all the emails and do it all for free? In the end he says, "Of course it gives a good feeling to know my software is helping people. It is probably my main motivation.... It doesn't differ much from the 'professional' software I write for the company I work for (Cap Gemini in the Netherlands). I find it very satisfying to write something I see that adds something for users..."

The Real Stars of OS/2

Where would we be without guy's like Henk Kelder. He might say that his programs are just nuts and bolts that he put together but no one else has done it. No one else has taken the time to dig out the information from the ini files, to build the tool to check all the relationships and clean it all up. I'm not sure Henk would appreciate this (he seems to be a pretty modest guy) but I've always considered him to be a sort of "Guru" for OS/2.

We see the result of his work but have we ever stopped to think about how amazing it is that someone like Henk has spent untold hours figuring this all out, automating the process and then offering it up to us?

Take a minute to look at your desktop and count the freeware apps you are using. Look at the lineup of programming talent that has come together under the banner of OS/2 Netlabs <http://www.netlabs.org>? There are many authors like this and they all contribute to the well being of our systems.

So What Does This Mean To Me?

I must say that I am happy to use any program that does it's job well but have a hard time using free programs without at least trying to repay the author in some way for his (or her) kindness.

We owe each of these people, at the very least, a well deserved "Thank you" note and to let them know how much we appreciate their work. It is a feather in their hat to have someone tell them how valuable "xxx" application has been to us and how much we appreciate it. This helps you too... It inspires the author to be at the top of his game because he knows he has people appreciative and perhaps even depending on his work.

Why do they do it? My guess is that they all have a common affinity for OS/2 and better yet... they are willing to do something to make it better for all of us. Let's not forget to thank them...

Henk's Homepage can be found at http://www.os2ss.com/information/kelder/index.html.

Wayne is chief cook and bottle washer for PillarSoft (Home of WarpZip and the PillarSoft Suite and other OS/2 products http://www.pillarsoft.net) and a light commercial construction firm. On weekends he dons his cape and mask as he doubles as the Vice President (VP job description? "Stay out of the way!") of V.O.I.C.E.

Editor Note: If you want to help in a more tangible fashion, MENSYS is now accepting contributions toward Netlabs, with the funds to be used for things which their all volunteer staff can't provide. You can sponsor Netlabs at http://shop.mensys.nl/cgi-bin/db2www/mns_art2.d2w/report?artname=NETLABS.

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