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Should I work on proprietary software? 17 January 2007

Posted by Matthew Fulmer in intel, software.

Yesterday was my first day on the internship at Intel. It was a lot of fun, and the cafeteria is amazing. But I found out what I had been dreading to hear: I am to develop proprietary software for Intel to use in-house.

I was considering dropping the internship for that reason, but I talked to my father about it first. We talked about the values of free software (for the first time), and I decided that the cost of developing the proprietary software in-house is not very high, as opposed to distributed proprietary software, and that I will only work on proprietary software if it is not distributed.

Here is how I weighed the cost:

Proprietary software costs everyone who uses it a certain amount of freedom. It costs everyone who does not use it the ability to use it, which is not too bad. The software I will be making is a Python program to string together and record the results of proprietary Intel testing and measuring equipment, and so has very little use outside of Intel. That is why I say that denying everyone outside of Intel the right to use it is not too bad: they will not want or use it anyway.

Now consider the cost to the user: the freedom to share it. First, all users are being paid by Intel,  and second, nobody wants it anyway. Thus the users are compensated, and the non-users have a negligible interest in the software, so I think it is OK to work on this proprietary program.  None of this would be true if the program was distributed; thus I will never work on distributed proprietary software.