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Microsoft’s 800-pound gorilla

August 26, 2011 11 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

You might think from the title that this is a blog item about Steve Ballmer. Well, this blog item is about an 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of Microsoft’s living room, but it’s not that gorilla.

Microsoft fanboys and fangirls have been in a pants-wetting frenzy over the recent Microsoft 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Microsoft removed Linux as a threat in the document. The implication here to the uninitiated is that Microsoft is no longer worried about Linux or, even more misguided, that Microsoft has “won” its battle with the “cancer” they call Linux.

But as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story.

A corporation files a 10-K every year and, in it, outlines some of the pitfalls that the corporation may encounter during the course of the year. Not only is it law, but it’s also clearly a cover-your-buttocks mechanism by which corporations can say to stockholders, “See? We told you there were risks, now that our stock tanked” (if that’s indeed what happens).

In 2008, this was in Microsoft’s 10-K report filed with the SEC:

“Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software that we developed and distributed . . . . In recent years, certain ‘open source’ software business models have evolved into a growing challenge to our license-based software model. Open source commonly refers to software whose source code is subject to a license allowing it to be modified, combined with other software and redistributed, subject to restrictions set forth in the license . . . . A prominent example of open source software is the Linux operating system. Although we believe our products provide customers with significant advantages in security, productivity and total cost of ownership, [blogger's note: OK, try not to laugh too hard here] the popularization of the open source software model continues to pose a significant challenge to our business model including continuing efforts by proponents of open source software to convince governments worldwide to mandate the use of open source software in their purchase and deployment of software products.”

[As an aside, I wrote a blog item about this in 2008 and I have received multiple hits on that item every day ever since. Every day.]

For 2011, it seems the 10-K adds other factors that would hinder Microsoft. It removes the language that considers Linux a threat and replaces Linux and FOSS with Apple and Google, according to Brian Proffitt’s article on the same issue, “Microsoft disregards Linux as threat. Big mistake.” Brian’s article has a red-lined version of this text, if you want to take a look.

Is it me, or is this a textbook frying-pan-into-the-fire situation? I mean, having to fight Linux and FOSS for market share is one thing — and Windows, um, advocates like to parade around the fact that Linux only has 1 percent of the desktop market, if that.

But now, with Microsoft having to face off with Apple (which is in far better financial straits than Microsoft) and Google (which is in the same excellent financial straits as Apple and far better financial straits than Microsoft), I have to ask: Are the happy-dancing Windows fanboys/fangirls who are so happy about Linux being “vanquished” really that stupid? Would you rather face two stronger adversaries than one smaller one?

With their most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, Microsoft has done the regulatory equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and shouting, “La, la, la — I can’t hear you.”

As Brian points out in his article, Linux is not really out of the picture when it comes to affecting Microsoft’s bottom line. Google’s ChromeOS is Linux and . . . um, there something I’m forgetting about how Linux is trouncing Microsoft in an area where Microsoft can’t get a foothold. Wait, it’ll come to me.

Oh yeah: Android. Based on Linux, Android is cleaning everyone’s clock in the mobile realm, including Apple, and is light years ahead of Microsoft in a category where Microsoft has yet to leave the proverbial runway. Need I say more?

So Microsoft can put a red line through Linux and FOSS and tell the SEC that Linux no longer matters, while Windows partisans pop their corks and chalk up another one for their side. Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, the reality is much different.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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The e-mail that changed computing

August 25, 2011 1 comment

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Twenty years ago today, this e-mail was sent out on the comp.os.minix newsgroup:

“Hello everybody out there using minix -

“I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

“I’ve currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work.”This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them :-)

“Linus (torva…@kruuna.helsinki.fi)

“PS. Yes – it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.”

That operating system “that won’t be big and professional like GNU” became Linux, which celebrates 20 years today. Jim Zemlin at the Linux Foundation gives us a pretty good look at what we know for sure in these past two decades.

So thank you, Linus, for getting the ball rolling 20 years ago.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Giving Dreamfish a Grant

August 25, 2011 2 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

As mentioned in blogs past, Grant Bowman lives and breathes what it means to be a FOSS advocate; a talented, experienced IT guy who is always there for projects. Lindependence? He’s there. Partimus? He’s there, too, not only as a volunteer but as a board member as well. OLPC San Francisco? Presente. Ask Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Fedora, and they’ll tell you he’s been ambassadors for all. In no small part, the computers at the KIPP School in San Francisco, all running Linux, are humming along thanks to the volunteers who keep them running. One of the hardest working volunteers in the group? Grant, of course.

Few people know his accomplishments because Grant treats the proverbial spotlight as if it were plutonium; avoiding it seemingly at all costs. He works behind the scenes and gets things done without concern for his own recognition or promotional gain.

Since I’ve known Grant, I’ve considered him a good friend; not in a superficial Facebook sense, but in a bounce-stuff-off-of, ask-for-advice, got-your-back-dude, have-you-over-to-my-house friend. He’s always been focused on promoting FOSS, but more importantly, he’s been focused too on helping people.

Dreamfish apparently gets how valuable Grant is to any organization, since he’ll now serve as the Technologist in Residence for the Dreamfish Community Tech team in Nairobi, Kenya. For three months starting in September, Grant gets to impart his knowledge and wisdom in managing the project team there.

The Dreamfish team will be engaged for six months. They have already been working for about three weeks. According to Grant, “they are doing a fantastic job and will continue after I am gone,” once Grant’s
three-month residence is over.

Grant will also take the reins of FOSS promotion as well. He says he’d like to facilitate connections with OLPC too, and connecting with FOSS groups in Nairobi as well.

The San Francisco Bay Area FOSS community’s loss — albeit temporary — is clearly Nairobi’s gain.

Here’s a little bit about the project:

“From August to November, our team will build new online community technology for Dreamfish, a global peer development network connecting entrepreneurs and individuals working together to realize their dreams. Dreamfish is the first internet-based global cooperative, co-owned by hundreds of women entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs and professionals in 26 countries.”

So, admittedly, you might be saying to yourself, “that was quite a windup.” And you’d be right, because here’s the pitch.

The Dreamfish Community Tech project needs equipment and funds; more of the latter, as is always the case, but some of the former if you have a laptop you’re not using. Remember that “sandwich” blog I wrote back in June? This would be a good example of how to put that grilled ham and cheese that you don’t really need to good use — and I’ve donated a sandwich a week for a month (rounding that up to $25) to get this project going. The good colonel — ColonelPanik of LtFSG comment fame — has done the same. Now it’s your turn.

And Grant, make sure you put that return trip ticket in a safe place.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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