I got back from Boston, and there was a package from Apple.

It was (another) copy of Mathematica.

Academic Edition.

After three separate progressively less cordial conversations, I made (another) trip to Kinko’s — this time to send a return and await my refund.

Plan B involves trying to purchase a non-academic edition direct from Wolfram.

Gina and SKaRey (the teenagers: Sara, Kayla, and Corey) have started a pool on how long it will take to acquire the correct version of this software. The original order was placed on Memorial Day weekend. The smart money is clustering around the Labor Day weekend as the winning date.

This experience has convinced me that Matt Asay gets it right when he asserts that the promise of open source lies in distribution. I’ve got to admit, it has rarely threatened to take me three months to acquire a copy of any open source software package.

And, aggravation aside, according the the Help Desk Institute, on average, a Level I support call costs $25, and a Level II support call costs $100. So, Fedex costs for four shipments plus a couple of hundred bucks in help desk calls. Over one software package. Directly attributable to the licensing model. Which impacts the distribution model.

I would have preferred this (Plan C):

apt-get install mathematica

The binary would have (as it now does) required me to activate on-line. Hit my PayPal for $40 a month. I would have to connect to the Internet once a month to confirm that my account was current. Over 3 years, that’s $1440. (I gave myself a discount because of the reduced help desk interaction and distribution, warehousing, inventory, etc.)

That’s less than my wireless phone plan. That’s less than my cable internet access. That’s less than what I spend on **coffee**. For those of you who thought I was being extravagant spending so much money on a software package. By comparison, Gold membership in the Mandriva Linux Club is $60/month. (Fair is fair: let’s compare the Mathematica academic edition with Silver membership — Pro is Gold membership).

Seems like Mathematica (on a three year TCO), is **way** cheaper than Linux.

Or coffee.

What a bargain. If only they had a distribution channel that worked better.

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