Open Source Abandonware

I've always been a fan of open source software, but one thing has bugged me recently with the whole process of "release early, release often". The problem I've had with this is I'm very slow to upgrade my distributions on my home machines. (I'm still running RedHat 9, if that's any indication). Once I've gone through the pain of getting the distribution installed to my liking, I don't want to keep on going through that pain every 3-9 months. Unfortunately that means that I'm several revisions behind in Evolution. (I'm using stable 1.4.6, latest stable is 2.2.something, development is 2.3.something). So when Nathan Owen posted a fix to bug 201167 (The Palm Category bug that has bugged me for over three years running.) against the 2.3.1 source tree, I was bummed. After all this time of being promised that the Palm Categories would be fix in the next branch, here was a concrete patch to fix the largest issue that made me unhappy with Evolution. I felt abandoned, and a little resentful that I would be stuck with this bug until I went through another distribution upgrade.

Then the magic of Open Source was uncorked.

I posted to the bug asking if this patch would be backported to 1.4.6. I figured it couldn't hurt to ask, and the worst that would happen is I'd be told "no", or I'd be ignored. But what happened was even better than I had hoped. In my mailbox the next morning was the patch. Yes! The patch to the todo conduit for Evolution 1.4.6 that would make category syncing on my Palm a reality. I applied the patch to the source code (which is still out there and freely available for anyone to look at and compile for themselves) and (After downloading the required libraries) recompiled Evolution with the patch applied. After a long while, I had several installable packages, of which I carefully installed the pilot conduits over the currently installed conduits.

And it worked.

There I was, with software that could have easily been considered unsupported, with a patched version that worked.

I don't think most commercial software companies can claim this kind of service. Granted, some may argue that they shouldn't have released the conduits without the category sync issues figured out initially, but supporting software that isn't officially supported with new code fixes and patches is nothing short of amazing. Think back to all of the software that you've purchased that isn't supported any longer. Think Quicken or Microsoft will still fix software that isn't supported? Didn't think so.

I love Open Source.


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