Open Sores

Alot of clawing and gnashing here today. I was thrilled to see that Userful had released their Pre-Book software as open source. I gleefully downloaded the server image from Sourceforge, dreaming of the that glorious day when I wouldn’t have to deal with Envisionware’s PC-Reservation anymore.

I burned the iso and found a box to use as a test server. The system booted up and it was …Fedora! Not really my favorite brand of linux, but I can’t win em’ all. The install required no input at all, and took just a few minutes. That’s where the good part ended. At first boot, the Postgresql service wouldn’t start. Without a database, the Pre-book web installation also wouldn’t start (something about incorrect data format for this version of so-and-so). My instinct told me to update. For the uninitiated, using Redhat/Fedora’s updater is akin to passing a kidney stone, and only slightly less time consuming.

An hour and a half later, we were all updated and gave it another go.

Same message.

After extensive googling, I gave up and reinstalled. It turns out that Userful was aware of the problem and had a troubleshooting entry for it- all you had to do was edit a single file that contained a single line, telling the software to use the new version of Postgresql. How simple would this be for Userful to correct? Aaaaaaaargh.

All this I can endure. But then my tin-foil-hat alter-ego stepped out from the shadows and said “What if Userful is intentionally making this difficult, so people will just buy Pre-Book from them?” This notion doesn’t sit very well with me. In my humble opinion, it’s much better to be closed-source and admit it, rather than be a company peddling itself as open-source. Granted this is not the first time a software company has taken a half-assed approach to releasing its code, but when the product relies entirely on FOSS, people should know better.

In the end, I did successfully install Pre-Book. After a little bit of tweaking, I tried logging in with a newly-created user and bam: a database error stops me cold. Here we go again…

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