Paying for our tools

Recently Karen Lopez pointed out something rather obvious in the Microsoft SQL Server Community. We’re cheapskates.

I don’t want to talk about training though. I want to talk about software. We don’t like paying for it ourselves. I think that’s kind of weird and bad.

In 2013, I purchased but didn’t renew an MSDN license. That’s about a grand. Over the years, I’ve given a lot of money to JetBrains for their .NET tools. Thanks to their new subscription model I only have to pay them $199 a year for all their tools. This is actually great news since I work in multiple languages these days. I also bought Zend Studio, a PHP IDE because I had to conduct corporate training with it.

Now, I am a contractor, so I don’t have a full time employer to buy me things. However, other than my current JetBrains subscription and Zend Studio, that’s all software I bought myself while a W-2 Employee working for someone else. The MSDN license was to work on open source software at home on my personal machine. While community edition makes this unnecessary now, I literally paid money for tools I used for work I did for free. While that seems crazy because it’s software, no one things its crazy that I bought a set of torx wrenches to replace the engine in my drill, which I use for personal projects around the house.

In addition, I’ve made various donations to OSS software over the years. Some projects I’ve donated money to include:

Now I understand everyone has different expenses and different life situations. However, one should consider these are the tools of our trade. The double edged sword about software development is that it is an unregulated and unlicensed field. This great for self-starters and those lacking formal education like myself. On the other hand, you usually have to do your own training on your own time because your employer often won’t. You don’t want to use your work laptop for that.

In addition many Open Source tools are often worked on by people for free. Donations rarely bring an income anywhere near what we can make through employment or contracting but, donations do help. They keep us happy, and sometimes let us pay for hard costs like the license to a profiling tool or hosting. Also, donations inspire us to fix your bugs.

What are your feelings on paying for licenses out of personal funds and donating to OSS? Share in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Paying for our tools”

  1. I’ve paid for licenses in the past when the license applies to me as a person, such as the lifetime license I have for UltraEdit. I have a problem with personally paying for a license that I won’t be able to take with me when I leave, though oddly I have been known to buy RAM and leave it in a machine. (Cheap enough and perhaps to avoid the impression of stealing on the last day, plus they’re generally machine-specific).

    I haven’t donated money to OSS, but I am the maintainer of T-SQL Flex, a free add-on for SQL Server Management Studio, and grunt-ts, a TypeScript build task for Grunt, among a handful of other minor projects. I try to donate my time by filing good reproducible bug reports or patches, but of course it’s easy to fall into the “yak trace” hole when everything is always slightly broken. I used to maintain a collection manager for SMS 2003 (now called SCCM), and at the time it was closed-source but delivered as Careware; free to use, but donations appreciated to the American Heart Association or American Cancer Society or similar charities, and source code available for proof of donation (for corporations that required it). So perhaps that’s a form of paying?


  2. First of all thanks for all you contribute back in terms of time and talent.

    I’ve never paid for a license I couldn’t take with me. The JetBrains licenses are tied to a person. The’re are actually different prices if an individual versus a corporation buys them. They’re also of the fuzzy “you can install them on multiple machines but only use one copy at a time”

    I did install one ~$10 Microsoft Access add-in on a client’s laptop that sits on a shelf that I RDP into. I’m not sure how that license works as far as tranfering it. However, its $10 and the author has fixed bugs for me. Also, I never want to have to touch access again, and don’t own a Microsoft Office license so I can’t use it on my personal machine.

    Yes I paid for Visual Studio, and use it at home. However, despite contributing to open source VBA projects, I refuse to buy a personal license for office.


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