Free Software: it means business

published Aug 01, 2006, last modified Jun 26, 2013

Hello again! If I may, let me tell you a short story.

I'm a young entrepreneur — I was never the type of person to endure a regular job for more than 6 months. I’ve always prided myself of being independent. And Free Software has made that happen for me. No, this is not a millionaire success story, it’s just the story of yet another Average Joe who’s made a decent life.

I've held my blog for over 5 years now, starting with a concoction of PHP and HTML, and (later on) using the famous (and now defunct) b2. As amazing as b2 was, it was never satisfying enough. A lot of hacking was required to create a customized blog, and so I tried to keep the hacking to a minimum. But, of course, after a while, all manners and sorts of hacks tend to fall out of control, and rear their ugly heads back at you.

It was then that I discovered WordPress (back in the ages of 1.2) -- rather than being different from b2, it was an evolution. Later editions incorporated the ability to extend the WordPress machinery via plugins -- a fantastic deal, since WordPress itself was complicated to hack and, again, hackery leads to problems later on, as any software engineer can tell you.

May I remind you that, at the time, I was supporting myself via ad-hoc Linux and Free Software consulting?

Okay, back to the topic that concerns us. WordPress kept evolving, but I left this blog stale. I postponed publishing new content for a long time -- at the time, I hadn't thought that a weblog could be such a powerful platform for self-promotion. Due to boredom, I quit my earlier startup (it's chugging along, and I'm still proud of it), I got myself a job, in no small part due to the steady (yet poor) income that it provided.

Once I got the job, I finally found time to restart the blogging endeavor again. And I kind of liked going back to blogging. Mind you, WordPress and its third-party plugin community had grown really powerful and strong. So transforming this place into a complex yet usable blog was little work unto itself.

Until, of course, ambition set in. Pretty soon, this place was juggling over 65 different plugins and themes, all (seemingly) working properly. Wow, never could I have imagined that keeping up to date with plugins was such a monumental task. To ease this kind of work (remember, this was a labor of love, completely unpaid save for a few cents of advertising income), I checked everything into a Subversion repository.

Again, everything was smooth again. The combination of WordPress, Subversion, Apache and PHP was a winner. I could incorporate new and upgraded functionality to the blog in a matter of minutes: just check the new plugin in, see what changes had been made, test it, and commit (or revert).

Then it hit me, real good. I've poured a good two man/months on this... and this kind of work may be of use to somebody else! What if I provided quality control, support, and a convenient package of the software, which is Free Software after all, and sold it?

The story doesn't get much longer than this. Supercharged was born. Okay, so people needed a quick way to make their blogs better, and it so happened that I was there. A couple of revisions and customers later, and I could quit my job. And I quit it!

Right after quitting, I started to rethink "this Supercharged thing". With a lot more leisure time in my hands:

  • I completely automated the sales, release and configuration management processes (thank you, bash!)
  • I rechristened the product into Turbocharged (a project that I have now abandoned)
  • I built a new Web site for it from scratch (the original site was a small section of this place)

It just so happens that yesterday was Turbocharged's first day online, and I'm damn proud of it.

So what's my current status? I'm really happy. I'm not rich (yet). But I get by, and I get by a lot better and less stressful than I used to, back in the days of my latest job.

I have more money. I have more leisure time. Heck, I could even go on permanent vacation now, and tend to my customers' support needs using my mobile phone and Palm T|X organizer (yes, it's got SSH and VNC clients). I also regularly get requests for custom engineering based around Turbocharged, which represent what I've alloted as my disposable income.

I'm not going to deny it. It was work (and much of it, a labor of love) that got me where I'm at. But this simply wouldn't have been possible without Free Software. Free Software gave me the tools of the craft. Through Free Software, I gained the knowledge that allowed me to actually perform the job. Through Free Software, I've had (dare I say it) more fun than through clubbing.

So, whenever someone dares to say "it's Free Software, it's non-commercial, you can't make money off it", please point them to this very page. Because Free Software means business.