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client requires source code

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Unsure if this is the correct forum but could someone suggest best location for response if its not?

 

Briefly client has asked to buy source code that is used to run my test rigs so they can modify as and when  required. They have very limited experiance of Labview but have suggested that they will get a third party to write the code if I will not supply it. Already know this has been turned down by their managers due to cost at an attempt last year but perhaps things have changed?

 

So do I sell the code for my rigs and risk future upgrades and any new test spec work or try and find some sort of compromise?? In truth Labview code gives a better return on profit than the electronic/mechanical side of test rigs which are quite intense on material cost, 2 tons plus and a pain with logistics for where they end up.

Labview Version 8.5
Labview Version 8.6
Labview Version 2014
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A pure business decision.

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Reese, (former CLAD, future CLD)

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Some call me the gangster of love.
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I hate test software that comes without source code.  I have a system that is a pain to debug because I don't have the password to the Block Diagrams.  I have gone so far as to write my own replacement VIs out of spite, rather than asking for the vendor's help.  On the other hand, I have paid for their services in situations where I couldn't solve the problem myself.  I hesitate to use them for more projects because of this situation, but I hesitate to outsource anything...

You'll likely lose business in some of the cases where don't need you (but they may hate to need you that way).  If they don't have a lot of experience, your willingness to sell them the source may put you first in line for jobs they choose to outsource.  I'd appreciate working with a company that worked with me.

Jim
You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are. ~ Alice
For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur? Eccl. 8:7

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Accepted by topic author jack1

I'm surprised that such an important issue was not madated by your customer from the beginning.

 

As you mentioned, this could all just be a threat.  If management has already shot down the cost of rewriting the code, then all likelihood, it makes no sense to pay someone the money and lose all that time to rewrite what they already have, risking that they can't reproduce it.

 

On the other hand, you risk potential new future business, as they know you are unwilling to provide source code, and will look to someone who will.  One of my customers will not even do business with you if you don't give it to them.  They had a bad experience on one set of systems where the vendor went out of business and they have no way to maintain the systems.

 

In my experience, customers want to know they are covered in case of you being unavaiable or them no longer wishing to do business with you.  Every customer gets source code from me unless it is a product I have developed.  In that case, they can buy the source for their own internal use for a high price.  It makes them really decide if they need that source code or not.

 

I suggest something similar in your case.  You give them what they are asking for, but at a fair price for you.  You realize that giving them this code may mean they go elsewhere, so you need to take that into account.  If this code is only used by them, and you haven't been charging them for all your time in devlopment, then you need to get all the money you are owed.  Otherwise, price it below how much it would cost to do it from scratch, but high enough that you can lose some business and be covered.

 

Most of the time, the customer will come back to you.  It is going to be cheaper and faster to pay you to do it since you are experienced with the software already and don't have to come up to speed.  If they themselves are not experienced and stat tinkering, they are only costing themselves in the long run.

 

I have one customer who loves to tinker.  He always ends up paying me twice what he should because of this.  Usually, he doesn't inform me there is a new version and doesn't provide it (or provides the worng version).  I do the work, then he complains about something not being right.  Then he gives me the right version and pays me to do the work all over again.

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@Matthew Kelton wrote:

I'm surprised that such an important issue was not madated by your customer from the beginning.

 

As you mentioned, this could all just be a threat.  If management has already shot down the cost of rewriting the code, then all likelihood, it makes no sense to pay someone the money and lose all that time to rewrite what they already have, risking that they can't reproduce it.

 

On the other hand, you risk potential new future business, as they know you are unwilling to provide source code, and will look to someone who will.  One of my customers will not even do business with you if you don't give it to them.  They had a bad experience on one set of systems where the vendor went out of business and they have no way to maintain the systems.

 

In my experience, customers want to know they are covered in case of you being unavaiable or them no longer wishing to do business with you.  Every customer gets source code from me unless it is a product I have developed.  In that case, they can buy the source for their own internal use for a high price.  It makes them really decide if they need that source code or not.

 

I suggest something similar in your case.  You give them what they are asking for, but at a fair price for you.  You realize that giving them this code may mean they go elsewhere, so you need to take that into account.  If this code is only used by them, and you haven't been charging them for all your time in devlopment, then you need to get all the money you are owed.  Otherwise, price it below how much it would cost to do it from scratch, but high enough that you can lose some business and be covered.

 

Most of the time, the customer will come back to you.  It is going to be cheaper and faster to pay you to do it since you are experienced with the software already and don't have to come up to speed.  If they themselves are not experienced and stat tinkering, they are only costing themselves in the long run.

 

I have one customer who loves to tinker.  He always ends up paying me twice what he should because of this.  Usually, he doesn't inform me there is a new version and doesn't provide it (or provides the worng version).  I do the work, then he complains about something not being right.  Then he gives me the right version and pays me to do the work all over again.



Matthew Kelton has the right answer here. This is exactly what we do if asked for code.

Tim
GHSP
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Thanks for all of your replies, appreciated.

 

My situation is closer to the one outlined by Matthew. Basically I design/build equipment for automated testing and the Labview element is sold to allow the rig to function from an initial brief. The actual cost of it is included in the whole price and the initial design/development cost is not recovered and generally costed to only represent about 6% of the actual rig value.

 

Idea being was that as different equipment to be tested is attached then additional programs are sold therby moving towards a profit situation with the Labview code. Sometimes customer requirements have required hardware redesigns as well as Labview code so it was always deemed easier from my customers point of view to leave the source code with myself.

 

I think perhaps the best solution from all of your comments would be to sell the source code with no restriction and then they can carry out their own changes as required. Only reservation I have is possible damage to the test rigs which although they have hardware fail safe built in for the operator they also use watchdog systems that monitor the control PC etc via Labview in case somthing strange happens or the PC crashes. If someone did mess with these pieces of code the worst that would happen is that the test rig would shut down with control panel hardware error codes.I suppose these elements could be incorporated in firmware and embeded on the test rig so no longer dependant upon Labview.

 

Thanks again all,

 

Jack

Labview Version 8.5
Labview Version 8.6
Labview Version 2014
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Jack,

 

Safety of the equipment and personnel should never be left to software running on a standard computer.  (Real-time on embedded hardware can be considered, if you adequately test the entire system). What if the OS crashes while the hardware is running? You indicate that you use watchdogs. As long as those are not running on the same computer, you may be OK.

 

When (if) you provide source code, you could include documentation advising the purchaser of the possibility that modfiying the code could endanger personnel or equipment and the liability falls on the party who modified the code.

 

Lynn

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The safety aspect is taken care of using conventional control gear with fail safe relays that are designed to drop out if abnormal conditions occur along with emergency stops etc so the PC plays no part in this. The watchdogs are dual system electronic boards (that cross check with each other)  linked into some of the DAQ systems (as well as fail safe relays) that have to have an update from the PC via Labview. These updates are to confirm that the control from PC and data are valid and like I mentioned nothing strange has happened.

Labview Version 8.5
Labview Version 8.6
Labview Version 2014
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Jack,

 

It sounded like you were doing things responsibly and you have confirmed that.  I added the caution as much for other readers who might not have thought about such things.

 

Lynn

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