Monday, April 4, 2011

The End-User and the Source Code

NOT about computers!

I may need to buy a new coffee filter soon. I've been using the old one since 1986.

Yes. 1986. A "gold" filter (probably brass plated with gold) bought at Peet's coffee the week I got back in town from being in the Army. It is starting to get a little torn around the top edge but otherwise still works great. When I finally retire it, it will be because it is no longer possible to pour water through it properly.

Which is true of almost all of what I own. In the case of my old Mustang, when I retired it the engine was only hitting on two cylinders, not just the emissions control but everything North of the carburetor was gone, the brakes were shot, the tires bald, the body rotted in several places and the frame bent. It went to a junker who was willing to take it for free (my next car went to the State, who paid me two hundred bucks for it). In both cases, I am quite certain no-one drove it after me.

Lately, of course, technology moves so quickly and our society has become so wasteful, it doesn't matter that the pants I am tossing only have one hole, or the television I am tossing still works perfectly. No-one cares. Not even in Bangladesh, where some poor family is going to poison themselves leaching the salvageable metals out of the carcass (or where-ever recycling goes now -- it is not SUPPOSED to be poisoning the third world but I have no guarantees it isn't).

I recently sent a computer to the junkyard. 7100 frankenmac; old Mac tower with a Sonnet upgrade daughter-board and two NuBuss audio cards; Audiomedia 4-channel I/O and a Sample-cell II with eight outputs. Still works great, of course. But I just sent the last of my rack-mount samplers to a friend as a long-term no-conditions loan. I am entirely virtual instruments now, firewire and all that.

Still, when I run something to the ground, use it with patches and baling wire and duct-tape until it just can't be repaired any more, it doesn't actually leave me with a good feeling. Sure, I got some good use out of it, but I know when it leave me no-one will ever use it again. I am the true end-user.

I just finished a short gig and I did something I have not done before -- at least, not that methodically. I took my source code.

Well, not literally. In this case, I was using a Yamaha sound board with the ability to memorize patch and cues (as well as EQ and other settings).

I am still in solid support of Creative Commons, and Open Source, but I have decided I will no longer apply those traditions in ALL cases. In the case of the theater work I do, I am increasingly in competition. And not just with hungry young designers who can learn from my work (whom I have unselfishly shared with, even volunteered time to assist and instruct, many times in the past.) I am also having my living threatened by theaters who call me in to do a job, then don't call me again -- because they can use the set-up I created without me, and not have to pay for it.

So no more. When I left this gig, I erased the memory of the sound board and took the only back-up of my work with me, on a personal thumb drive. I also unpatched ALL of the cables and even returned all the adapters to the bins, leaving no clue as to what had been plugged into what.

(In this particular situation, I am in direct conflict with someone who has full access to the facility and has already -- basically -- stolen a gig from me. I am unwilling to give them an easy route to duplicating what I accomplished.)

The free ride is over. I still feel favorably about sharing, and about helping out, but I've been stepped on by young designers who learned from me and went on to take the gigs I was wanting. They have used gear they have borrowed from me...meaning they look better to the client but didn't bear the cost of the research and purchase and maintenance I did. And they have even had me bail them out -- usually uncredited -- so their name is still on the program and the contract and they get the next gig as well even though I did the lion's share of the work.

No more. The source code stays with me. You want the work? I come with it.

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