Computer program costs

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Spartan159
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Computer program costs

Postby Spartan159 » Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:05 am

if retro tech computers are half the cost and weight per step backward, would programs be less expensive after their TL of introduction? For instance, Expert/2 is available initially at TL 12 for Cr10,000. Would it cost less at TL 13? Less still at TL 14? Only talking about the price, not bandwidth. I have full confidence in code bloat.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Sat Apr 15, 2017 10:49 pm

This could get complex really fast.

You're going to need interoperability and some form of compatibility standards.

Some things are pretty basic and can only be improved incrementally.

In theory, programmers should make software elegantly slim, trim, lean and mean.

A lot of software seem to need libraries.
Spartan159
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Spartan159 » Sun Apr 16, 2017 12:54 am

Thanks for responding. In theory yes. But on the simplest level, should computer programs be cheaper as they age? Or are you implying that as the TL improves the new system requires the program to be rewritten for the new system and therefore costs the same as when it was introduced? I was thinking of a generic flat 80% cheaper per level, maybe 75% at best, such that the TL 12 Cr10,000 program would cost Cr8,000 at TL 13, Cr6,400 at Tl 14, and Cr5,120 at TL 15. Smaller more efficient programs would be another thing altogether, Lord knows I'd love so see some of the Naval programs shrink some. If anything those would cost more, not less.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Reynard » Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:13 pm

I'd swear that software in the real world gets more expensive because of all the increasing complex bells and whistles the computers get stuffed with as well as demands for software to do more.
Spartan159
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Spartan159 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:35 pm

Yep, program/3 costs more than program/2 which costs more than program/1. But when program/4 comes around, how much does program/3 cost then? When does it go in the bargain bin?
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Reynard » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:45 pm

Program/3 gets sold on the lower tech world where it is State of the Art at its full price.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:12 pm

Generally, hardware caught up about a year later, and you could afford to buy it two years later.

But I think we've reached a plateau, and the more intensive operations are now being pushed to the GPU, considering they seem to be, commercially at least, graphic orientated computer games and video rendering.

I've over invested in DDR3, so I have to wait before I get rid of my current stable for Ryzen, and DDR5 maybe available in two or three years.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby steve98052 » Wed May 10, 2017 4:49 pm

Mature software will cost less. For example, Microsoft Word once cost $500 or $600 and Office around $1000. Now Office is in the neighborhood of $100.

In a setting where technology levels vary a lot, standard software should cost less when development costs are amortized. A one-off piece of software -- say security cracking software for a TL11 computer used only on a specific world -- will be expensive. A standard piece of software -- say jump control for a ship class that's common throughout a sector (or a populous subsector) -- will be cheap at all technology levels, unless there's something special about it, like trying to make it run on a computer that's not quite advanced enough to handle it without a struggle.

Looking at the rules, written in the 1970s when software of all kinds was rare, expensive, and little understood by almost anyone even on a user level, prices work one way, and Traveller tradition has often retained those rules in some form. But real software hasn't followed those assumptions, and when the rules diverge from present day technology it makes sense to adjust the rules to recognize that.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Thu May 11, 2017 11:39 pm

Open software should be pretty prevalent after three millenia. What haven;t we thought off that hasn't been programmed by then?

If each jump programme is customized for the peculiarities of each starship, you'd need to have a resident programmer onboard to adjust the programme, each time the starship takes a dent.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Nobby-W » Fri May 19, 2017 4:40 am

Spartan159 wrote:
Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:05 am
if retro tech computers are half the cost and weight per step backward, would programs be less expensive after their TL of introduction? For instance, Expert/2 is available initially at TL 12 for Cr10,000. Would it cost less at TL 13? Less still at TL 14? Only talking about the price, not bandwidth. I have full confidence in code bloat.
Software for older computers needn't be intrinsically less expensive, although you could argue that there's an eventual trend to commoditisation. For example, once open-source O/S software like Linux or BSD became widely available on commoditised hardware, it created a significant downward pull on the value of operating systems. In fact, the real value of an operating system is that you can run your applications software on it. One might argue with some justification that this is the only reason the computer industry puts up with Windows. Several vendors still make traditional mainframe systems and have customers willing to pay large sums of money to run their portfolio of applications. While reliability and throughput play a factor in this this could be achieved with more mainstream kit in many cases but the incumbent software has such a value and high replacement cost that it's still cheaper to pay for the hardware.

You can see similar phenomena in aerospace software; the CPU in the main avionics computers on a F22 dates back to the 1990s. It's about as powerful as a Playstation I. The case to rip and replace the avionics systems with more modern hardware just isn't there because the R&D and certification costs would be prohibitively expensive.

Computers can also maintain a large degree of backwards compatibility if desired. For example, modern IBM mainframes can still run binaries written for a System/360, which was first made in 1964. Even the humble PC has a fair degree of backward compatibility available through use of VMs and (although more spotty) supported legacy APIs.

Software costs are largely going to be a function of market forces. For software designed to run on a starship there is only going to be a finite market dictated by the number of starships. The software isn't going to be useful outside this market. If the number of starships increases significantly then the vendors may be prepared to reduce the price of their software in order to get access to a share of a larger market. From this perspective, obsolescence of the software is less of a force than the size of the market (after all, plenty of folks still pay top dollar to run SAS, SAP R/3 or Oracle).

The other force at play would be commoditisation of the software, an example of which can be seen with open-source systems. In some markets (e.g. software development tools), open-source is king, and there is relatively little appetite in the market for any benefits that commercially extended versions could bring. Most vendors of proprietary development tools are either slowly making their core tooling available in this mode (even Microsoft) or receding into niche markets (e.g. Embarcadero's purchase of Delphi, which largely supports existing applications software written on that platform).

What one could perhaps see is a secondary market in certified avionics systems running commoditised, older versions of software (especially if this software was developed by state actors and released as a public service) and more high-tech, cutting edge kit running modern software. The former might be quite cheap and the sort of kit you might find in remote areas, made by local vendors based on older I.P.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Nobby-W » Fri May 19, 2017 4:40 am

Spartan159 wrote:
Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:05 am
if retro tech computers are half the cost and weight per step backward, would programs be less expensive after their TL of introduction? For instance, Expert/2 is available initially at TL 12 for Cr10,000. Would it cost less at TL 13? Less still at TL 14? Only talking about the price, not bandwidth. I have full confidence in code bloat.
Software for older computers needn't be intrinsically less expensive, although you could argue that there's an eventual trend to commoditisation. For example, once open-source O/S software like Linux or BSD became widely available on commoditised hardware, it created a significant downward pull on the value of operating systems. In fact, the real value of an operating system is that you can run your applications software on it. One might argue with some justification that this is the only reason the computer industry puts up with Windows. Several vendors still make traditional mainframe systems and have customers willing to pay large sums of money to run their portfolio of applications. While reliability and throughput play a factor in this this could be achieved with more mainstream kit in many cases but the incumbent software has such a value and high replacement cost that it's still cheaper to pay for the hardware.

You can see similar phenomena in aerospace software; the CPU in the main avionics computers on a F22 dates back to the 1990s. It's about as powerful as a Playstation I. The case to rip and replace the avionics systems with more modern hardware just isn't there because the R&D and certification costs would be prohibitively expensive.

Computers can also maintain a large degree of backwards compatibility if desired. For example, modern IBM mainframes can still run binaries written for a System/360, which was first made in 1964. Even the humble PC has a fair degree of backward compatibility available through use of VMs and (although more spotty) supported legacy APIs.

Software costs are largely going to be a function of market forces. For software designed to run on a starship there is only going to be a finite market dictated by the number of starships. The software isn't going to be useful outside this market. If the number of starships increases significantly then the vendors may be prepared to reduce the price of their software in order to get access to a share of a larger market. From this perspective, obsolescence of the software is less of a force than the size of the market (after all, plenty of folks still pay top dollar to run SAS, SAP R/3 or Oracle).

The other force at play would be commoditisation of the software, an example of which can be seen with open-source systems. In some markets (e.g. software development tools), open-source is king, and there is relatively little appetite in the market for any benefits that commercially extended versions could bring. Most vendors of proprietary development tools are either slowly making their core tooling available in this mode (even Microsoft) or receding into niche markets (e.g. Embarcadero's purchase of Delphi, which largely supports existing applications software written on that platform).

What one could perhaps see is a secondary market in certified avionics systems running commoditised, older versions of software (especially if this software was developed by state actors and released as a public service) and more high-tech, cutting edge kit running modern software. The former might be quite cheap and the sort of kit you might find in remote areas, made by local vendors based on older I.P.
Condottiere
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Fri May 19, 2017 12:48 pm

Apple is a closed garden.

Android is almost ubiquitous on mobile telephony.

Everyone is used to Windows on their personal computers; they even use Windows on nuclear attack submarines.

Microsoft has made many missteps, but they appear to believe they have time. Slowly, the X-Box become PCified; then Windows gets emulated on ARM, being by then fast enough to make any lag indiscernible.

Within a century, any patents or copyrights that Microsoft holds now will be public domain.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby AndrewW » Fri May 19, 2017 3:18 pm

Condottiere wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 12:48 pm
Everyone is used to Windows on their personal computers; they even use Windows on nuclear attack submarines.
NOT everyone.

They tried windoze nt on a ship, stopped dead in the water due to a simple divide by zero error.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Fri May 19, 2017 7:56 pm

I think they've moved on to more linuxy proprietary operating systems; it does mean, that the Department of Defence becomes responsible to make them work.

The problem tends to be service and maintenance, since if it's free, you need enthusiasts to develop it further and fix security loopholes.

However, after three millenia, the basics would have been taken apart and made more or less foolproof.

I'm sure that no one in the Imperium Navy would begrudge spending half a million CrImps for the jump four programmes for each Tigress, but a commercial skipper for a freetrader whose design has been around for centuries, probably not.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby steve98052 » Wed May 31, 2017 5:55 pm

There was a significantly long time period when Windows was cheaper than Linux for a lot of businesses, because the installation process for Linux was too complicated for people without substantial system administration skills. Hobbyists could afford the time to tinker their way through an installation, but a business couldn't, unless they had system administrators as part of their core staff. Without the right expertise, using free software meant paying a consultant to set it up, and paying again for maintenance. Windows cost money to buy, but installation was simple enough for ordinary people.

Things have changed in recent years; my Ubuntu system was trivial to install. My main audio and vector graphics editors, Audacity and Inkscape, are free software and have been simple to install and use for as long as I've used them. My main music editor, Musescore, is free-ish, and it's simple.

On the other hand, some free software is not so developed. Neither my wife nor I would trade in her Photoshop or my Paint Shop Pro for GIMP, due to performance and stability issues. We'd sooner use Microsoft Office 97 than Open Office or Libre Office, again due to performance and stability. There's nothing comparable to Premiere for video editing in the free software domain. I tolerate the quirks of Blender because I don't do 3D enough to justify the high cost of commercial 3D software, but if I did more 3D I think I'd pay to get away from the Blender user interface. I use Eclipse for coding, but I'm two major releases behind because the upgrade installer hates me; I'd be happy to pay Microsoft a few hundred dollars for a low-hassle substitute, but I have a lot of stuff that depends on Eclipse, so I'm kind of stuck with it.

Getting back to Traveller, it's not much different in game terms to say that the software is mostly free but it requires a paid consultant to install it correctly than to treat the cost as a fee for the software itself. Maybe starship captains get into bar brawls over whether it's better to run Microsoft Jump-1, Apple iJump-1, or FreeBSD Jump-1 on a Beowulf free trader.
Apple captain: It costs a bit more, but it does what I want and I don't have to do anything to make it work.
Microsoft captain: Yes, but if anything goes wrong you're stuck until Apple fixes it for you. Mine is cheap, and I can customize it if I want to.
Free software captain: I can costomize everything, my jump engineer can do most of the maintenance on it herself, and I never have to pay an evil megacorporation for something that's been free since the Rule of Man.
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Re: Computer program costs

Postby Condottiere » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:42 pm

Microsoft is bending backwards to present the Chinese government with a localized version.

I think Munich gave up their experiment with Linux.

With the Russians, it's a little trickier, since they're halfway convinced that the NSA has implanted backdoors in Windows; one reason they've started writing reports on typewriters.

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