Look to the future.
Check to see if the software has a good chance to be supported in the future.
Be wary of:
Free Software. The problem with 'free' software; the writer gets no money
from it so there is no ongoing support. After his initial burst of enthusiasm
he moves to other things or goes back to school. And on-going support IS
Lack of source code. (Not necessarily free source, just the availablilty
of source if needed) Be very leery of software that does not come with or
advertize the availability of source code. Be extremely reluctant to use
any such product as the basis for something that will need to work for more
than a couple of years, because the chances are very high that such a dependence
will cause problems down the road. It matters not hether the product
is free or is sold for money. The problem occurs with products from failed
or otherwise terminated businesses, as well as abandoned products from on-going
concerns; it is not exclusive to free software. The main difference between
free and commercial software, when distributed without source, is that free
software tends to rattle around on ftp sites long after support has ceased
to be available, which often results in confusion or disappointment. Abandoned
commercial shrink-wrap software on the other hand, rattles around in discount
bins for years, frequently causing monetary loss in addition to the
disappointment. Commercial software sold only by mail order or web download
is probably the least likely to cause problems for new customers... it is
only customers who bought before the business closed who are harmed.
Companys and Authors that just came on the scene and have no history of
supporting thier products. There are free source products that are supported
and that continue to grow. Wouter's JAL is probably a good example of a
sourceless free product that continues to be well-supported, but there are
counter-examples all around.
If A equals success, then the formula is A = X + X + Z where X is "work",
"Y is play", and Z is "keep your mouth shut" - Albert Einstein
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