Time Expired Software!

Chris Fields cfields at gab.unt.edu
Mon Jan 13 16:20:10 EST 1997


Tim Cutts wrote:

> The $3000 price-tag sounds as though you are referring to GCG.  Bear
> in mind that GCG, as a UNIX package, can then be used by thousands of
> users.  My GCG installation is used by 1,500 people.  $2 per user per
> year.  I reckon that is a tiny price to pay.  Consider if I had to
> maintain all of those individual programs separately, and keep them
> all up to date from their various freeware sources?  I just couldn't
> do it, and the University would have to hire someone else to help me,
> which would cost a hell of a lot more than $3000.
> 
> If you're insisting on a separate copy of the software on everyone's
> desk, of course it's going to cost a fortune.  It's much more
> cost-effective to buy a large UNIX box, and one copy of the software
> to run on it.  There's no such thing as a GCG site licence any more;
> after all, you only need to buy one copy for each computer it will run
> on, not for each computer it will be accessed from.

I hate to say this, but if you look at the prices for the programs that
I mentioned, the lowest they run is about $1500 (still the price on a
downpayment for a car).  I did neglect to mention (sorry) that the price
came from the GCG package, and I understand what you are referring to. 
GCG is a wonderful package if your university will pay for it (I happen
to work for a public institution where budgetting occurs).  GeneWorks,
itself a beautiful program, is still overpriced (~$2500) and allows the
use of the programs on two computers (I don't believe that a network
licence is involved, either).  DNASIS has the same strict guidelines
(both systems have a key which allows the programs to run only when
attached to the keyboard, a great anti-pirating device).  As for the
others mentioned, I have seen many posts on this and other NG addressing
the problems with the DNASTAR package, and the PC-GENE package is (as
far as I know) very user-unfriendly (I tried the DOS version myself; it
won't allow long filenames, has confusing nomenclature, and has a few
bugs as well, all for $2000).
 
> Not really.  They requently have to pay for their network access,
> their salaries, their hardware, their compilers, their technical
> support from software and hardware vendors.  Then they are selling
> into a vertical market where the number of sales they will make is
> vanishingly small compared to office software such as Word.
 
> >If somebody out there can justify the extreme costs of these programs,
> >please let me know (email or this NG).
> 
> It's simple business.  If your sales volume is low (as it is with this
> software) you have to make per-unit cost high, because your overheads
> will be similar regardless of the sales volume you have.

I understand also that these commercial programmers pay licensing fees
for their integrated packages, and these, along with the "narrow" field
of consumers, drives the price up.  But this is what I think: the
"narrow field" of consumers arises from the price of the programs.  The
owner of the GeneWorks program loves it (he is a few dorrs down from our
lab), but his grant money took a big bite in order to get it, and he
says in retrospect that he should have tried to look for a different
package.  Our lab currently operates on a five-year old version of
DNASIS and gets along okay (the results are somewhat
publication-worthy), and I have scavenged up some software off the
i-net, both shareware and freeware, which help as well.  

> You what?  I run the biocomputing for Cambridge University, so I am
> well aware of the money situation.  Graduate Students shouldn't have
> to buy this sort of software anyway.  Doesn't the lab buy the
> software?

I just feel that the packages offer a lot for an amount above the
budgets of most public institutions (unlike Cambridge, which, correct me
if I'm wrong, is privately funded).  Everything we do has to be approved
by just about everybody but the governor, which is one reason why so
many professors here have decided to buy their own software instead of
being told that the "state can't afford it."  

BTW, we don't have a Biocomputing Division; I have been pretty much
designated the 'computer-man' of the department, so I guess I'm the
Biocomputing Division (and a sorry one at that!!).  

To wrap this up; I recently got an email from a gentleman who sells
GenejockeyII, which runs for about $1000.  I plan on downlading the demo
version and comparing it to the other programs at school here; if it
fares well, I will post it here.  Notice that the price is much lower
than other packages (and I have heard good things about this one).  I
also am planning to talk to my professor about getting GCG for the
network here (I believe that if all the professors and grad students
made enough noise, it could happen).

Sorry about the long rant and the editting of your former message; you
made some good points (and convinced me to ask my prof about GCG).
-- 
C. J. Fields
Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences
The University of North Texas
Denton, TX 

email : cfields at gab.unt.edu
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