Giving Away Software For Free Costs More Than You Would Think (Part 1)

Little known fact: The Ubuntu distribution is now includes 23,164 packages.

How much did all of these packages actually cost to make? Well thanks to the Constructive Cost Model, (COCOMO) we can find out. COCOMO estimates how much it costs to write x number of lines of code, based on complexity of the project as well as how collaboration takes place (ie over the internet vs in an office), and many other factors. Then you get a ballpark figure of how much the software cost to develop.

How can we find out how many lines of code are in those 23,164 packages? It’s not actually that complicated. First, downloading the source code, then using a tool called SLOCCount. SLOCCount is a tool which parses every line of source code to verify that it actually contains code and not things that shouldn’t be counted, such as comments, and newlines. After we have the actual number of lines contained within Ubuntu Gutsy, then we can plug it into the COCOMO formula and estimate the cost.

I do not recommend that anyone actually does this on their own to confirm my results, as this article is only for educational and research purposes only. I found an article that used SLOCCount and the COCOMO model to determine the cost of Debian Potato roughly in the neighborhood of 1.9 billion dollars, if it were to be completely re-written from the ground up.

“Debian Potato” may not ring a bell with most of you – it is a version of Debian Linux that was released in August of 2000. 1.9 billion dollars back in 2000, how much is Linux (and more specifically Ubuntu) worth today?

This is going to be a fun ride.

Article Index:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Method
Part 3: Conclusion

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