Markus Options for Support
In addition to the confusion over what English-speakers mean by the word free, there are people who seem to think you must be evil if you earn money in any way from open source software.
It is nice to have programmers and other developers who contribute to open source software without having to earn a living from it. But the free software movement also needs professional developers who have families and must find a way to make money.
My compromise works like this. If I can develop software that you can take and use without my help, then I am very happy about that. But I do need to make some money from my software, or I cannot afford to create it.
If I do a good job designing my software, many schools will have people with the skills and time to support it. I make no money from that, but the school and the students will benefit, and hopefully they will tell others that the software works well for them.
You can visit the Markus Forum [no longer available] at Linux.bz where you can ask questions or even help others who are using Markus or are interested in it. To use the forum you will have to register for the forum (which is free) and receive your password by email. You can then log in and change your password if you like.
If you need more help than you can get in a forum, or you need it very quickly, then you may consider paying the developer for consulting. You get the benefit of direct attention from the person or people who should know the most about the software, and by supporting the project in this way you also increase the probability that it will continue to be available and get better as time goes on.
Training and Training Materials
Every project should have some basic documentation and reference material. There should be enough information that a reasonably skilled and motivated user could do the installation and support work themselves.
For those who would rather have a well written book or other documentation, someone (not necessarily the developer) may write reference or tutorial material that could save the user many hours and solve special problems in using the software. These materials may be free or at a reasonable cost. There are also traditionally published books that can be rather expensive, but if they save you many hours of study on your own, this may be a bargain.
Markus is an example of a project that may require formal training of teachers and others who will use it. For many reasons, it might be good idea to have the developer do that job, if it can be done at a reasonable cost.
You may need features that are not there in the software. Or you may need some changes to the program to meet your needs. You may be willing to pay for these changes to get them done immediately. Hopefully, those improvements can help others also.
Some open software has developed a process where a user may post a bounty, saying that they will pay this amount if the developer or someone will program this feature for the software. This bounty may not really cover the cost of the programming, but if it is a feature the developer would like to add anyway, a bounty could certainly put that feature higher on the developer’s priority list.
Some users are grateful enough to donate money directly, or perhaps donate other resources such as web hosting or help with marketing the project.
Larger open source projects are often supported by one or more corporations.
There are also companies who burn CDs of open source software for a very reasonable cost. A service like this enhances the ability for more people to use open source software, so I think they should be encouraged.
If you use open source software, you should consider giving something back to the open source community. You may not have the programming skills to help create open source software, but you can support it in some way. You can donate money, buy training or materials, or even just help the developers market the product. A "thank you" is nice, but if you are in a position to provide real support you can help the overall movement.
Markus Screenshots, Special