Christmas Fudge, not Christmas FUD

I was amused by some recent posts from ecomsolutions.net saying that open source is crap and that you need a custom-build cart. Most of the assertions they make are so risible as to not warrant a response (which works out well, because they don’t allow comments) – but it’s Christmas, so just for fun, let’s go through them:

  1. Most open source software applications are not reliable
  2. Ever hear of “the blue screen of death?” Commercial software – even expensive commercial software – is often riddled with bugs. And you can’t fix them yourself, nor can you hire someone to fix them, because the source is not publicly available.

  3. No support exists for open source software
  4. Free support is typically provided via a forum or mailing list. Dedicated support can easily be arranged if you are willing to pay. Certainly no dedicated free support exists for open source applications, but neither does it for Microsoft, Intuit or any other software vendor. In fact, this is how JBoss and RedHat operate – give away the source, charge for support.

  5. Higher installation costs
  6. Again, this is just rubbish. Higher than what?

  7. No guarantee of updates
  8. When is there ever a guarantee of updates for anything? Look at all the applications which were instantly obsoleted by Vista – including my beloved Palm Pilot HotSync.

Now certainly it’s true that adopting an open-source application is not a zero-cost proposition. You will either have to spend time yourself maintaining it or spend money hiring an expert to do the job. But this shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone who has any e-business experience; the same is true of any website. And turning the development of your e-business over to a third party might make complete sense, whether they use an open or closed source approach.

But let’s look at the flipside – what are the dangers of turning over your entire e-business to an operation like ecomsolutions.net, which does not release its source?

  1. They control the code
    This means any changes must be done by them at a price they alone determine. If you control the code, you can accept multiple vendor bids for changes.
  2. You are completely reliant on them
    If they decide to get out of the shopping cart business, you’re out of luck. Will you even be able to get to your data? Who knows! What if there’s a security issue? With Zen Cart, you have the benefit of thousands of reviewers looking for bugs.
  3. You have no alternate support options
    Want to get someone else to support you? Surprise! It’s a proprietary application that only they know.

Think I’m making this all up? Here’s a recent post on the Shopify forum in which people are arguing about these very issues. Shopowners are complaining that it takes the developers too long to do things; developers are reminding shopowners of how difficult these things are to do and that they would not be better off doing it themselves.

The question of buying vs. renting a shopping cart (and open vs. closed source) is a serious matter with costs and benefits to either approach. That Software Guy provides a treatment of this topic looking objectively at both sides. The solution you choose should be based on your own situation, needs, abilities, schedule and budget. Do your own due diligence and make a decision based on facts, not some vendor’s fearmongering.

Backup Strategy

Part of my PC to Mac migration is figuring out a backup strategy.  On my PC I have a thumb drive that I periodically drag files to; on my Mac I’ll use Time Machine and an external USB drive.  I’m mostly satisfied with this, but I’ve always wanted to augment local backup with offsite backup.  To this end, I’m looking at Athena Backup (a company some former Nortel colleagues started).  I’ll blog about my experience next week.

Moving to a Mac-based PIM

I took the jump this month and bought a MacBook so I’d have a small computer to travel with that came with Linux tools. I wanted to migrate my Outlook Notes to a similar application on the Mac. I installed trial versions of

I looked and but did not install

Of course, first, I had to move my data off the PC.

Outlook offers a variety of export formats for notes, but when a group of notes are selected, a single output is produced. Selecting 10 notes and choosing to output in RTF, say, creates one big RTF file. Probably not what you want.

Another option is to select all notes, use Edit/Copy and paste them into a folder. They come out as .msg files, which can then be opened (using double click) and saved as .rtf files. Probably manageable if you have a small number of them.

The most scalable option is to export all notes as an Excel spreadsheet, and then use AppleScript to generate an entry per item from this spreadsheet.  This can be done in DevonThink Pro (but not DevonThink Personal Edition) and probably in OmniOutliner. This post on the DevonThink forum was instructive in this regard.

I’m leaning towards DevonThink  – I like the SOHO Notes interface, but the web is replete with horror stories about Chronos and SOHO Notes.  I’ll keep you posted!