OK, so with most of the rest of the curious digirati, I tried Windows 8 beta developer yadda yadda whatever version that was available yesterday from our, ahem, friends in Redmond.
I never thought I’d see a desktop that would make me appreciate Unity.
Windows 8 is the desktop equivalent of the old guy wearing a striped shirt with his plaid Bermuda shorts and white socks with his sandals.
To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
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.
I’ll wait for the laughter to die down.
The answer is clearly, “No. Absolutely not.” We should not trust Microsoft any farther than Steve Ballmer can throw a chair.
I’ve said this before publicly and despite being rebuked for it, I stand by it even though it’s a somewhat dogmatic position on the issue: You do everything — everything — in your power to keep Nazis from entering the synagogue. Clearly and historically, Microsoft has reveled in their role as digital brownshirts since one of their many ill-conceived, all-conquering goals was to strangle FOSS and Linux — which they consider a cancer — in its proverbial cradle; though 20 years later FOSS and Linux provide a more-than-viable alternative to the products coming out of Redmond, both in a commercial and a personal-computer realms.
Microsoft uber alles? Not on my watch, pal.
So don’t get me started on those who would be like Neville Chamberlain trying to achieve “peace in our time” with Microsoft when the results would more than likely be, well, catastrophic as they were in Europe in the late ’30s and ’40s.
A leopard (even a Snow Leopard, but we’re getting off-topic) can’t change its spots, and to hear folks even discuss bringing up the possibility of working with Microsoft arguably is akin to collaborating with the enemy.
Microsoft’s participation in contributions to the Linux kernel, as discussed here yesterday, is based on fixing virtualization code they contributed to the kernel when it appeared that they had taken GPLed code to include in their program. So their original contribution of the code to the Linux kernel a couple of years ago was to comply with the GPL; fixing it, too, was their responsibility as outlined by the license as well. Do they deserve any special consideration for doing what they’re supposed to do?
To think, even remotely, that Microsoft has somehow “seen the light” and has come around to embrace FOSS and Linux is pants-wetting laughable. Additionally, it remains to be seen how much “participation” will remain now that most, possibly all, of what they contributed may have been fixed this time around. My bet is that we’ll see Microsoft drop like a large stone from it’s “perch” as the fifth leading corporate contributor to the kernel, and very quickly.
So, you might ask — and even if you don’t — what can Microsoft do to earn the trust of FOSS/Linux advocates?
Simple. For Microsoft to earn my trust, they can merely do one thing: Open the code on their products, GPLing or releasing it under another acceptable license — that plain, that simple.
Let’s not hold our breaths for that one, since that will not happen, period. And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Microsoft, as they are today, even remotely would be a good corporate neighbor — let alone a trusted contributor — in the FOSS/Linux realm.
As my friend Ken Starks likes to say at the end of his blog posts, “All-righty then.”
For those few of you who might have missed this blog, I do apologize. As many of you know, I have moved about three miles down the road to beautiful downtown Felton, about a half-mile south of the traffic light on Highway 9 — say it with me: “That enough directions for Felton.” It has taken me fairly close to a month to unpack and sort out the new place; unpacking included taking things out of boxes, asking “Do I really need this?” And then putting away what I do need and taking what I don’t to the Abbot’s Thrift Store down the street.
But enough about me.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently wrote a piece on ZDNet that has caused some brouhaha in Linux and FOSS circles. It’s a classic tempest-in-a-teapot issue: Microsoft — horrors! — is one of the top five corporate contributors to Linux kernel development and, if you just read the headline, it implies that Microsoft is fifth on the list top contributors.
Well, to paraphrase Paul Harvey (you’ll have to google him, kids), here’s the rest of the story: Microsoft is fifth on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel and 15th overall on the list. They’re behind Red Hat, Intel, Novell and IBM on the corporate list, and 15th overall.
While SJVN aptly outlines the scenario which causes Microsoft to come to the table — virtualization — what is not said, but stands out, to me is that between the four corporate contributors ahead of Microsoft and the 15th overall position that Microsoft holds are 10 non-corporate contributors to the kernel, meaning for all intents and purposes, individuals who are working for the greater good and not for some corporate benefit that Linux provides.
I have not had a chance to see the original article on Linux Weekly News from which SJVN bases his column, thanks to not having a subscription. But I would be interested to see who and what is ranked where.
[Also, I’m not going anywhere near remotely bringing up where Canonical is on the list of corporate contributors to the Linux kernel. Uh uh. Not me. No way.]
Of course the FUDmeisters are spinning this for all it’s worth – Stop the presses! Microsoft a top Linux kernel contributor! — but SJVN puts it all in perspective and while it’s certainly decent of the corporate giant from Redmond to help improve Hyper-V and Linux interoperability, it’s not a sign of the apocalypse by any matter of means.
However, as one comment to SJVN’s post points out, you don’t turn your back on a coiled snake.
Watch this space, as well as that snake.
Every day when I check my blog stats — and now that the number of hits is in triple-digits, it warms my heart to know that some people really like the blog — there is always one item from 2008 which is still getting multiple hits on a daily basis for reasons way beyond my understanding.
It is this one: It’s Official: Microsoft’s Concerned about GNU/Linux, which outlines Microsoft’s 10-K report, which they file annually with the SEC (as all corporations do). This one is from 2008. In it, as 10-Ks are supposed to do, it points out potential pitfalls to the business, and open source is one of them, so says Microsoft.
Needless to say, I find it extremely funny that commentary on a 10-K from three years ago is still getting attention.
But never mind. I really wanted to relay this bulletin: This just in . . . HelioOS Project made it as one of the top three finishers at the Rock A Charity Event on Feb. 18. HeliOS, Well Aware, and English at Work are the three top-finishing charities in the contest. Congrats, Ken!
And, once again, here are the last three words of The Heart Sutra: “Don’t Waste Time.”
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
One of the more peculiar items I find when checking my blog stats is that I still get hits for a blog item I wrote in 2008 — 2008 — about Microsoft’s 10-K report that year and how it implies how good the open source paradigm might be compared to its own software and its own business model.
Bear in mind that one of the purposes of a 10-K report — somewhat like the medical disclaimers you hear on drug commercials that, after listening to it, would make any normal person avoid the drug at all costs — is to outline any potential pitfall in buying stock in the company you’re considering so you can’t sue them if, well, the stock goes south; way south.
Why the blog item keeps getting hits is beyond me, but for those who keep reading it, thanks.
A brave man: My friend Steven Rosenberg, who writes a tech column for the Los Angeles Daily News, wades into uncharted territory in his column today, where he outlines dual-booting a Lenovo with Fedora and . . . wait for it . . . Windows 7. As always, Steven’s blogs are always informative and instructional, and the reasoning behind his using the Xfce spin of Fedora is something that hadn’t occurred to me before. Steven says in the blog that he “prefer(s) the Xfce tools over those in GNOME. I like the Thunar file manager, the way you can ‘minimize’ a window but keep it visible on the desktop, I like the look (and speed; these helper apps are super-quick) and functionality of the Xfce terminal and Mousepad text editor. The Xfce configuration apps all work great, and there are plenty of them.” Nice work, as always, Steven. Keep us posted on this dual-boot adventure.
Survey says: Ken Starks over at the Blog of HeliOS has a fairly interesting survey to be taken, if you have several minutes. Tell Ken how you use GNU/Linux or Linux and help him out.
Now, who wants more coffee?
Colonel Panik, my good friend and constant commenter to this blog, asked me to give you all some insights about what we’re finding at the Felton Farmers Market every Tuesday.
An order is an order, and Bob does outrank me.
So here’s what we’re finding in Felton:
More people are using Linux than come to the Felton LUG meeting: We’ve encountered roughly a dozen people in two weeks who live in Felton who use Linux who we’ve never seen at a meeting. My oft-echoed question, “Have you heard of Linux?” has been met with a constant “Yes,” and many of the people who have, and who have used (or are using) it are already using Ubuntu. I like to think this has something to do with the Lindependence events back in 2008, not to mention the Software Freedom Day events we’ve had here since 2007, but there’s no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a hunch.
Most people are looking for digital alternatives: There are only a handful of people — I can only think of two in two weeks that we’ve had the table — that have no interest in FOSS after explaining what it is. In fact, a lot of people are looking for alternatives to the laundry list of maladies that accompany their daily Windows experience. In fact, easing them into FOSS with the OpenCD is a good way to introduce them to programs like OpenOffice.org and GIMP, and eventually we can get them to change operating systems to something — oh, I don’t know — free as in freedom and price?
“. . . I haven’t used it, but my $FAMILY_MEMBER has”: This is a common response by those who have not used Linux/FOSS themselves. This is a promising sign. Even though they may not be using it, at least they’re aware of it. Those who went home with a disk hopefully will know more about it and come back the following week with questions.
There are other things that amaze me: The Google engineer who stopped by the table — “Oh, I’d better know what Linux is.” — and others who work “over the hill,” as we call the Silicon Valley, who would stop with strawberries in hand to take a look at what we had, and take a disk or two to try out. Also, what amazes me is that a lot of youngsters — teens, of course — who have used FOSS and don’t mind spending their time at the table talking about things like “Will GIMP ever have only one window?”
Thanks for helping at the booth so far go to: Bob Lewis, my partner in Felton LUG organizing, who is one of the most sensible and passionate Linux evangelists I know; Karsten Wade, who brings his vast knowledge and rapier-quick wit, and OpenSource.com swag, to the table; Frank Adamson, the Ubuntu-using octogenarian who took his daily mile-walk to come to staff the table; and to Peter Belew, for making his talents available at the table.
See you next Tuesday. Coming up next: Reports from OSCON.