Open your rockets

I had fun at the last Syracuse Rocket Club launch, and I’d like to get to the September launch. Word is they’ll be doing a glider duration competition, so earlier this week I went looking online for a boost glider kit. I ended up selecting the Sky Rocketry Condor which I ordered from Apogee Components. I like their web site: large selection, lots of information on the products, lots of other information (for instance, about 319 back issues of their nice newsletter). I also ordered another rocket kit, the Squatty Body by Odd’l Rockets. The order went in on Tuesday and it was delivered in less than 48 hours (USPS Priority Mail; Apogee charged about 8 bucks for postage.) I was impressed enough to send them a nice note.

One thing I’m less than impressed by, though.

Apogee has a model rocket design and simulation program called RockSim. From what I can tell it’s the most popular app of its kind. Apogee claims “More modelers, teachers, and engineers use RockSim than all the other rocketry programs combined!” There are versions for Windows and Mac OS. From their description it seems to have useful features no other rocket software has.

And, of course, it is closed source.

And on top of that, it’s copy protected. It requires PACE.

That right there is a deal killer for me. I like open source, but I don’t insist on it. I do insist on not installing copy protected software. Software companies that treat me like a felon do not get my business — and even if no money were to change hands, I do not trust their software on my computer.

But if that weren’t the deal killer, you know what would be? The price: $123.60!

Look at that number. That’s more than the Home and Student Edition of Microsoft Office. It’s three times the cost of Skyrim. It’s six times the cost of the latest Mac OS X!

I wrote to Apogee to tell them why I wasn’t installing the trial version of RockSim let alone buying the full version. They replied “We don’t like using PACE either… But we have to have some sort of Piracy protection. In the past, there wasn’t any on RockSim, and no one bought it. Only when we added the protection did sales increase.” Well now. No one wanted to pay the asking price for RockSim until they made it uncopyable? Does that not suggest that, just maybe, the problem was with the pricing?

Well, anyway, here’s the good news: OpenRocket. It’s open source, not copy protected, free as in beer and speech. Reads RockSim files, too, though doesn’t implement all of RockSim’s features. (Yet!) Java, and I’m no great fan of Java, but it does run on about anything: Windows, Mac, Linux… Maybe the user interface isn’t as good as RockSim’s, maybe the performance isn’t as good, maybe the simulations aren’t as accurate. Who knows? Not me, since I won’t touch even the trial version of RockSim. But that’s okay, OpenRocket looks good enough for me.

(SpaceCAD is another one. Closed source, Windows only, $79. Don’t know if it’s copy protected. Don’t care.)


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