Thursday, December 14, 2006


A well written list of NMR freeware can be found at:

It's 3 years old, which is, unfortunately, too much for such a rapidly evolving field. Apart from this inconvenient, it's nearly perfect. The only (minor) defect is that the list contains more than one entry per operative system. My ideal list would just contain a unique recommendation per OS.
The questions is: why there is so much NMR freeware around, that all web lists are rapidly outdated? It is well proven that the authors of freeware never become famous, and I mean any kind of freeware, I don't mean the NMR niche. If NMR freeware is never celebrated, and if the author of any free program is never remembered, the probability of becoming famous writing it are zero. Only one word can explain why people writes it: money. They write it for the money and they stop writing it when they don't receive money anymore. This has been my case and the case of all the NMR freeware I know about. I used to receive my regular salary when writing freeware and renounced to it to write commercial software.
Unfortunately, for the users, the day arrived when the sponsors realized that this kind of software brings no fame. The only hope is to become the standard of the field. NMRPipe went near to that status, yet was limited in platforms (only UNIX) and in applications (mainly 2D). All that the sponsor can get is a publication, written by the author himself. In some cases they may add a poster or a follow-up paper, and by that time they realize they are scraping the bottom of the barrel. No external author ever cares to write a review. Even youtube movies get their reviews, but NMR softwares don't. Vomiting as it can be, this is the reality. When the sponsor realizes that even the stinkiest movie gets more attention than the best-crafted NMR program, that's the moment when the flow of money stops. And when the money arrives no more the programmer (being him no saint) quits.
I don't mean that it would have been different, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt, if the beneficiaries had cited more frequently their softwares, reviewd them, evangelized them. The beneficiaries of freeware also receive their salaries and their grants, therefore their choice was not dictated by economical motivations. If they had really loved the free software they'd a least tried to save it. They didn't love and didn't care. They decided for the death of NMR freeware and, if it was not for the residual stupidity of the sponsors, they'd had almost fulfilled their intent.
How a software dies? It is constantly fighting on four fronts:

  1. advancements in NMR
  2. changes in file formats
  3. changes in the operative systems, processors, compilers, libraries, etc...
  4. competition from other NMR programs

The lethal bullet can arrive from any of these sources, but the first cause alone would suffice. NMR is so vast a field that all programs have at least one hole: they never find the time to cover the whole gamma.
At the risk of being liable, today I uploaded the definitive version of SwaN-MR at The sponsor forgot its existence. I wrote it but it's not mine. If you are so poor that you couldn't buy a new Mac in the last four years, chances are that SwaN-MR will run on your old machine. If you are so lucky to own a vintage 68K Mac (mine died), look somewhere else.


Post a Comment

<< Home