Developer tax

I’ve been looking into writing my own filesystem driver to accomplish the distributed peer storage goal that I mentioned last week. Yeah, it would be a daunting task, but it would also be fun. (And since I’m currently thinking about graduate school, it would also shoehorn in nicely for thesis work.)

It turns out that in order to write a filesystem driver for Windows you need the IFS — Installable File System — Kit from Microsoft. I’m somewhat surprised that the IFS Kit isn’t included in the Platform SDK, but whatever. But then I see …

The kit costs $109.

Really? Really?

I’m at a loss for why they would be charging for this thing. (Charging $109, no less!) Let’s stop and think about what you can do with it—you can write filesystem drivers. It’s not like there’s going to be a huge demand—if they sell more than 100 I’d be surprised.

But also think about the competition here. You’re primarily talking about people who already have some existing filesystem type that Windows doesn’t support, like Linux’s ext3, and they want to make it work on Windows. Shouldn’t Microsoft want to encourage that type of development?

And then there are developers like me. I’m an edge case of all the edge cases. No one in their right mind is crazy enough to develop and code a completely new filesystem, not based on any existing code on another platform. If there are even a dozen other people doing that kind of work, again, I’d be amazed. But if I do it … then Microsoft has a leg up on the other platforms. Again, it’s in Microsoft’s interest to just give the thing away and hope people do great things.

I’ve never understood SDK fees. You might have been able to make a case for them two decades ago when you had to print actual reference manuals … but now? Bittorrent a DVD image and be done with it.

So why charge for it? I just don’t get it.

By Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.