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Some years ago, while I was in a small computer shop in a suburb of Melbourne, trying to convince the owner to put a few machines running GNU/Linux on display, a lady arrived with a laptop in hand.

She had a problem: a disk had got stuck in the floppy drive and she wanted it taken out. The man in the shop reassured her that he could fix it and was promptly thanked  by the woman who then asked him how long it would take and how much it would cost.

He cast a quick glance in my direction and, with a straight face, told his customer that he would have the job done by 3.30pm and that it would cost $60. It was 9.30am at the time he said this.

As many of you would know, all that needed to be done was to straighten out a paper clip, shove one end into the little hole near the floppy drive and jiggle it a bit to get the disk out. It takes about 10 seconds.

The point of this tale? It just underlines the fact that the entire IT industry is built on overpriced products and services. People working in the business get away with it because IT is a complex business - and they are very good at making it seem even more complex than it is.

Whenever I see any kind of publicity material from the Business Software Alliance one thought comes to mind - lower the prices of software to something reasonable and nobody will copy it .

CONTINUED

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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