Open source and support

So people keep telling me that you can't get good support for open source. At least, you can't get it unless you pay for it. At least not if you need actual code changes. At least not.. etc etc.

Yesterday I opened a bug with Mono, because it crashed (segfault) whenever I tried to execute anything on the Graphics class. In about 30 minutes I had my first response, asking for some more information. Another 20 minutes later and I had a solution - I was missing a scalable sserif font on my system (it's a server after all). And 5 more minutes confirming that a better error message will appear in a later version.

This is the second time I had to file a bug with Mono. The first time, it was XML-related, and an actual code bug. In this case I had a patch to apply to my installation within 48 hours, and it was included in the next release (in the meantime, I had a workaround).

In contrast, I've had an ipsec issue open with Microsoft since last week, without an actual solution in sight. Granted, this is a more complex issue than the ones above. And don't get me wrong, the guy(s?) working on it from the MS are doing a good job. But it generally takes more time. And more than once I've had cases closed with "no resolution, issue will not be fixed".

There are of course cases when things aren't fixed, but a (good or bad) workaround is provided in the open source world as well. But the argument that support is worse there just doesn't stand. In my experience, it's usually about as good.

Unless you are in a position where you can hire someone (or have someoen on your staff) that can actually fix the broken code. In this case, open source is a winner because that is possible to do this. That's just not possible in closed source - I can have an army of good coders, they still can't fix a bug in Windows.