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09.10.08

A Loss for Ballnux is Not a Loss for GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, SLES/SLED at 6:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LS

Lenovo returns empty list on choice, denies changes

Many GNU/Linux aficionados have already seen this report from Henry at Ziff Davis. It claims that Lenovo has “ditched” SUSE, but there are refutations going on at the moment.

Gorman continued, “We will continue to certify Novell and Red Hat Linux on our ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops. Additionally, we will be offering Linux on our Think servers, an area we are seeing a greater demand for Linux.”

Background

IBM’s ThinkPad line played an important role in the history of Linux, becoming the first notebook from a major manufacturer to be available both certified and pre-installed with Linux (Red Hat was the flavor of choice back in 1999, and the ThinkPad E600 was the model that everyone wanted, if memory serves). And too, prior to buying IBM’s PC business, Lenovo — even then China’s largest PC maker — offered Red Flag Linux pre-installed on some systems.

SUSE preinstalls are also not available in the UK.

Jolly good! So how come a visit to Lenovo’s UK website offers no Linux options whatsoever?

A couple of months ago we noted that Lenovo had stopped offering these machines without any O/S (FreeDOS rather). Our reader dsmith reported this. Microsoft ‘tax’ became unavoidable, which is grounds for complaints.

“At the end of the day, SUSE/Microsoft tax (patents) is the reason we prefer not to promote those offers from Lenovo.”More recently, InformationWeek reported that IBM had begun negotiations with Lenovo, which might result in Lotus on top of Red Hat, Ubuntu, or SUSE ThinkPads. There has been no word on that since. A recent press release, “Lenovo to Present More Linux-pre-loaded Laptops,” was mentioned here and it talked about SUSE (SLED) specifically.

At the end of the day, SUSE/Microsoft tax (patents) is the reason we prefer not to promote those offers from Lenovo. The topic was touched on before and contained some explanations in:

People who thought about buying a GNU/Linux-powered ThinkPad can turn to companies that actually preload GNU/Linux and not some Microsoft-taxed variant of it (‘Ballnux’). Dell, for example, keeps expanding its Ubuntu initiative, but there are other issues there. Microsoft is actively trying to elevate the cost (and therefore viability) of GNU/Linux on the desktop and server. It’s important to put an end to this abuse.

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74 Comments

  1. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 7:40 am

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    I’m sorry, I don’t join you in saying that losing a SUSE option on Thinkpads isn’t a loss for free software. Having no GNU/Linux option is not better than having one you don’t prefer.

    GNU/Linux is going to continue to be more expensive for OEMs to install for years yet.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 9:17 am

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    GNU/Linux is going to continue to be more expensive for OEMs to install for years yet.

    With Novell’s patent payments to Microsoft? Sure.

    Lenovo seems likely to restore Linux options (see links above), but hopefully it won’t be just the choice between Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Linux (SUSE).

  3. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 9:38 am

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    Novell’s “patent payments” have nothing to do with it. GNU/Linux will be more expensive to install whether it’s Fedora, Debian, SUSE or otherwise.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 9:57 am

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    I worry about precedence/complacency, not short-term cost. It’s about freedon, not price.

  5. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:35 am

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    If you don’t worry about the price, don’t keep trying to put the blame for the price on a single market player when the truth is that it’s the same for all suppliers.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

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    I was not talking only about price. You’re moving goalposts.

  7. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:56 am

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    I’m not moving the goal posts. I stated that GNU/Linux is a more expensive pre-install for OEMs right now; you said “Due to Novell’s patent payments” and I disagree you have any basis to blame Novell for that.

    You’ve tried to shift the discussion, not me.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:07 am

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    I didn’t say it like that. I asked a rhetorical question.

    By the way, it’s confirmed now. No more Novell Ballnux from Lenovo. More business for Dellbuntu, hopefully. Those who keep their margins healthy, i.e. without the patent tax (not sure about Dell though), will make this crowded Linux preinstalls market tougher for others. SUSE can’t survive in when other distros are cheaper and unencumbered by Microsoft.

  9. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:29 am

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    … and back to square one.

    The “Linux pre-installs market” is not affected by the cost of any patent deal. The costs of GNU/Linux pre-installs are high due to design, support and manufacturing.

    Celebrating this as more business for other players in the market seems somewhat premature to me. This isn’t good news.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:37 am

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    it’s not good news. Mind the headline. I merely try to say that Novell’s loss is not a loss to GNU/Linux. Novell is tied up with Microsoft.

  11. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:41 am

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    I think it’s too simplistic to say that any loss to Novell is not a loss to free software. Novell are crucial contributors to various critical components, not least the kernel, OpenOffice.org, KDE and GNOME.

    Novell have invested an awful lot in the free software desktop in particular, and have a particularly well-tested and polished product. If they are unable to make it work, it’s not likely that other free software companies are going to succeed. If Novell gave up on the free software desktop, that would have serious repercussions.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:45 am

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    Some people lose a limb because parts of it are diseased. it’s bad. This doesn’t mean that there’s a better choice.

    Novell says it’ll roughly triple collaborations with Microsoft. What does that tell you? That Microsoft becomes a Free software contributor?

  13. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm

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    I really don’t think comparing the loss of a distro from pre-install to people having limbs cut off is particularly apropos.

    As regards triple collaborations; who knows – some of them I benefit from (like their work on OpenOffice.org), some of them I don’t (like the virtualisation stuff). Where it improves free software I will applaud, where it damages I will condemn, and where it makes no difference I won’t care less.

    What I won’t do is come to judgement on it before I know what they are doing. I encourage you to take that attitude also.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:14 pm

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    Novell operates for its shareholders and for Microsoft’s. Why would you expect anything different?

    Novell is still overwhelmingly a proprietary software company.

  15. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:20 pm

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    All businesses operate for their shareholders; you can level that “criticism” at all of them.

    I’m still not going to criticise them for things they haven’t yet done.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:25 pm

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    Not many companies find themselves balancing a pendulum with a proprietary magnet (asset) that big. IBM maybe… but they may be using Novell in this case. Oracle and Google mostly *use* F/OSS.

  17. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:32 pm

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    Novell’s proprietary “magnet” is much smaller than any of those companies you list.

    IBM and Oracle clearly have bigger proprietary software sales and assets, and I’d be pretty surprised if Google didn’t given a. the vast number of app engineers they have and b. the size of their business.

    Oracle certainly don’t mostly use free software, not even close, and neither do their customers. Google might “mostly” on a numbers basis just because of the sheer number of servers in their datacentres; the vast majority of their software is not free software though. Novell is the only one of those businesses that even has a free software desktop policy.

    I’m not sure why you think what you do, but you’re very much wrong about the companies you cite.

  18. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:40 pm

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    You’re just repeating and expanding on my point. I was not suggesting that these companies are ‘better off’ than Novell (they are worse off). Compare that to Mandriva, Canonical, and Red Hat.

  19. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:49 pm

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    Well, you said Oracle and Google mostly use free software, which is pretty clearly false.

    Clearly Novell do have a proprietary software business, but even compared to Canonical it’s nothing huge: in most areas, both businesses have a proprietary offering (e.g., Novell do Platespin, Canonical do Landscape. Novell do Groupwise, Canonical offer Unison and Zimbra. Novell do Zenworks, Canonical offer Parallels. Canonical even offer proprietary codecs, databases, DVD software etc., all through their store).

    I won’t argue with you that Red Hat are the better friend to the free software community; that’s pretty clear. I’m not sure why Canonical get a pass on their proprietary software busines, though.

  20. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm

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    Well, you said Oracle and Google mostly use free software, which is pretty clearly false.

    See the emphasis on the word *Use*, not F/OSS.

  21. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:59 pm

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    How does shifting the emphasis change what you mean?

  22. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

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    They use it and hardly produce it. Try reading his with emphasis on different words. It sounds better than it’s written down.

  23. AlexH said,

    September 10, 2008 at 1:12 pm

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    Ah, if you’d said “consume” instead of “use” I would have understood what you meant better.

    Yes, certainly those companies you list are about the worst in terms of simple consumption and lack of contribution.

    I’m still not sure why Novell deserve to be in a different bracket to e.g. Canonical though. They probably make more money on their back catalogue of proprietary software, but the contribution they make is measurably much more significant.

    All of Sun, Canonical and Novell have significant proprietary software offerings. Sun have a deal with Microsoft too; which was for even more money than Novell’s. Sun protect their customers from legal disputes like Novell do. Canonical push DB/2 and Unite, which are both not just proprietary but expensive in the extreme.

  24. Victor Soliz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

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    Perhaps because canonical’s proprietary business are not spreading FUD and BS against the rest of things out there claiming peace of thought and ‘more interoperability’ while getting big $$$ from MS.

  25. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 3:50 pm

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    It’s the “he’s evil, but the others are evil too” type defense. Microsoft plays this psychological game a lot against competition like Apple and Google.

    Microsoft even uses shills in this game

  26. Baby In The Bath Water said,

    September 10, 2008 at 4:47 pm

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    You use shills against Novell in this “game” too. E.g. twitter and his 10+ sockpuppet accounts.

    Note: this comment was posted from Novell’s headquarters.

  27. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 10, 2008 at 4:56 pm

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    “twitter” is not associated with this Web site. He participated in IRC though. So are Microsoft employees who start whining when they get pressured not to interfere.

  28. Jose_X said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

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    From wikipedia:
    >> A shill is an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer.

    >> “Shill” can also be used pejoratively to describe a critic who appears either all-too-eager to heap glowing praise upon mediocre offerings, or who acts as an apologist for glaring flaws.

    I had never looked this word up before.

  29. Jose_X said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:55 pm

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    >> I’m still not sure why Novell deserve to be in a different bracket to e.g. Canonical though. They probably make more money on their back catalogue of proprietary software, but the contribution they make is measurably much more significant.
    >> All of Sun, Canonical and Novell have significant proprietary software offerings. Sun have a deal with Microsoft too; which was for even more money than Novell’s. Sun protect their customers from legal disputes like Novell do. Canonical push DB/2 and Unite, which are both not just proprietary but expensive in the extreme.

    Of these companies, I currently only think Novell’s fate is very closely tied to Microsoft. Novell is the one most helping Microsoft by working hardest by far to spread protocols that really help Microsoft.

    Novell is the one most damaging to Red Hat, which is the biggest contributor. For example, while Novell contributes dotnet related crapware and keeps most of their business closed, Red Hat continues to stay at least close to 100% open if not 100% open and to buy and open up closed source acquisitions (even outside the sw realm).. and to mostly (or entirely) shun dotnet related crapware. Red Hat relies on open source and open standards, not on closed source and on this “interop” magic that is acquired in doses nightly after each romp in Redmond. http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2008-09-08-026-35-RV-SW-0001

    I consider Microsoft the biggest threat by far, and Novell is their biggest “FOSS” trooper. Novell’s success is to be considered setbacks for legit FOSS companies that will be losing business to Novell.

    All of this said, we don’t know what deals exist with the others or with anyone else that have not been made public. Any company can turn tomorrow more towards Microsoft. This is especially true if their nonMicrosoft avenues fail or lose ground. This is all the more reason to want Microsoft to fail, the sooner the better.

    In short, while most of the big players hedge with Microsoft deals, Novell depends on Microsoft for “oxygen”. [But no one should be given a get out of jail card.] Also, if we ignore dotnet-ish FOSS, Novell is not doing nearly so hot as a contributor as you claimed. If we look at dotnet-ish FOSS as an infection, the contributions become something quite different. I view Novell today as a liability to our community and society because of their very strong support for the real plague to our society that is Microsoft. The threat level from Microsoft definitely goes beyond the threats from RIAA and co. The sooner Jacks and Jills everywhere can better taste this foulness, the faster we are likely to rid ourselves of it.

  30. Jose_X said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:15 pm

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    >> Clearly Novell do have a proprietary software business, but even compared to Canonical it’s nothing huge: in most areas, both businesses have a proprietary offering (e.g., Novell do Platespin, Canonical do Landscape. Novell do Groupwise, Canonical offer Unison and Zimbra. Novell do Zenworks, Canonical offer Parallels. Canonical even offer proprietary codecs, databases, DVD software etc., all through their store).

    >> I’m not sure why Canonical get a pass on their proprietary software busines, though.

    I would like to learn more about this. [Eg, more details about the products and revenue numbers. How well do these run on Linux. Which have FOSS versions. Are we looking at reselling? ...]

    The comment submitted minutes ago mentions in a bit more detail Novell’s contributions and the differences with these companies you mentioned.

    The real villain and threat is Microsoft. How companies deal with Microsoft is very important.

    Novell is just a company. It’s not a living thing. The company itself is but a business vehicle owned by investors. If it does more harm than good, I would want it to be abolished. There is nothing to be taken personally because Novell is not a person. As for the employees, good living people are released from even good companies all the time. Any Novell engineer would be able to find a decent job elsewhere. But more importantly, various individuals quit the company or were released when Novell got closed to Microsoft. Those staying or joining up afterwards would then be helping spread the malaise.

  31. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 1:05 am

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    Any company can turn tomorrow more towards Microsoft.

    Just watch what Microsoft did to Corel when it had embraced GNU//Linux. Same as Novell…

  32. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 2:42 am

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    @Jose:

    “For example, while Novell contributes dotnet related crapware and keeps most of their business closed,”

    Where are you pulling that from?

    The majority of Novell’s contributions are not Mono-based, so even if you don’t want to run free software based on Mono that’s not what they’re mostly producing.

    @Roy:

    I really don’t think Corel needed Microsoft’s help to go out of business.

  33. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 2:48 am

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    @Jose:

    Sorry, I missed your question about Canonical. Of course, all of the financial figures are impossible to get, since they are a private business based in a tax haven.

    Some of their proprietary re-sale products are available in their online shop (e.g., DB2 for £2000), others are available from the partners (e.g., Unison for up to £15000) which will be coming to their store soon. I imagine that this is also available from the software installer, since that has proprietary software built into it also.

  34. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 2:48 am

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    “Out of business” or “out of GNU/Linux business”?

  35. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 9:22 am

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    @Roy: both. Their GNU/Linux activity came in the death throes of an already failing business; and they never made much (any?) significant revenue from it, even though they were previously a market leader in an area they weren’t even competing with Microsoft.

  36. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 3:46 pm

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    AlexH, I really don’t know the breakdown of Novell’s contributions, but note that by “dotnet related crapware” I wasn’t limiting to mono. I was talking about anything that is related to Microsoft platforms. Eg, I would put into that bin any software that tries to use MS protocols, so OOXML, Win/Vista ports, moonlight, MSExchange compat apps, and MS “interop” patches would be included.

  37. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 3:51 pm

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    Alex, picking FOSS up just to give it away to Microsoft, so to speak, is not a step forward. It’s a bit like the ‘open source’ movement, which hijacked control from those who knew what they were doing.

    http://www.itwire.com/content/view/20601/1090/

    “That’s because the so-called open source movement rules the roost these days – and is anxious that people should forget their roots.”

    There are many people out there who attribute “Ubuntu” to a charismatic rich man and GNU/Linux to some Finnish guy who hacked on someone else’s kernel, badly.

    http://www.educ.umu.se/~bjorn/mhonarc-files/obsolete/

  38. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm

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    @Jose: then you put stuff like Samba and OpenOffice.org in the same bucket? To be honest, that’s just sad.

    @Roy: who says that Linus “hacked on someone else’s kernel”, exactly?

    Your comments about “giving away software” are hostages to fortune.

  39. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm

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    Novell just bought a GNU/Linux distribution just like Linus played with Minix.

  40. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:05 pm

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    I’m really not sure what your point is. Are you saying that Novell doesn’t hack on GNU/Linux?

  41. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:11 pm

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    It’s not its origin and much like Linus, its mind is not with Free software philosophy.

  42. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm

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    You still haven’t answered the question; who says Linus “hacked on someone else’s kernel” exactly?

  43. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:23 pm

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    What was Corel’s main business?

    I know Corel sold (sells) Word Perfect to run on Windows. That is a dead end, and Microsoft clearly plays a role there. You can’t keep up with integration and interop on Windows against Microsoft. Microsoft products can integrate better than anyone else with any part of the whole platform. Corel can’t even if they wanted to.

    It should be clear that most (no?) closed vendors cannot compete on Windows because only Microsoft has the inside hook (the tremendous insider knowledge, control, and levers), and their products will eventually cover everything in an attempt at seamless integration of full functionality.

    The easiest choice is to surrender and ask for a deal.

    Otherwise survival lasts until Microsoft gets around to your market. If Microsoft hypothetically went down ahead of you, then they would sort of take down the very platform you depend on; thus, you can’t beat Microsoft, but only delay your death.. given Microsoft’s advantages and ambitions. If Microsoft were split up or vowed to stay off certain markets forever than that would be the exception.

    Linux favors FOSS. At least it’s a transparent and fair platform. Every vendor has an equal op to excel (limited in some cases because copyleft and closed source don’t mix tightly). A goal when developing closed source for Linux could be to develop fully custom distros to support your app. Another important strategy would be to make sure to provide an open version of the closed app. Consider then becoming the top supplier of that FOSS app.

    Closed source, to survive, requires control of the entire software stack.. Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Novell (Netware), and few others can pull this off within their markets.

    Linux then offers balance. It’s possible to have a business, but you will have a tough time controlling many markets.

    If you can constantly come up with creative and new material, you can ride ahead of the wave, but that is difficult to do forever. Game companies and those doing custom work, deal with the creation of new material all the time. These can survive on closed platforms as long as they don’t get too dejuiced.

  44. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:26 pm

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    @ Alex:

    1. Linus did not code up Linux from scratch

    2. To Linus, the GPL (GNU/Free software) was an afterthought

  45. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:30 pm

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    @Jose:

    Corel’s main business was and is Corel Draw, and their main market was always the art market. Their competition was not and is not Microsoft in that arena.

    WordPerfect was a later acquisition that they bought deliberately to attempt to compete with Microsoft Word. It failed because they didn’t understand the market and MS simply shipped more copies.

    The history of Corel is pretty well (independently) documented on the ‘net.

  46. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:30 pm

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    @Roy:

    Linus didn’t write Linux from scratch?!

    Er, I’m very much afraid he did.

  47. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

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    >> then you put stuff like Samba and OpenOffice.org in the same bucket? To be honest, that’s just sad.

    The level of crapwareness differ. There are sub-bins within the major bin ;-)

    Issues to consider: How much of the product is/isn’t specific to Microsoft hooks, and who is contributing those portions that are. It’s also important to consider the overall role such functionality plays [Eg, wine attempts to give a home on Linux to Windows apps, effectively by substituting out Microsoft.. Virtualization can also play a similar role.]

    I don’t know Novell’s breakdown of contributions, as I said. I don’t think there is much doubt, however, that Novell’s focus nowadays is on integration/interop with Microsoft protocols. I think the majority of their contributions today would fall into some such sub-bin.

    You can’t do the interop game with Microsoft except to the precise level for which they will allow that. We reject that. We are better than that. Linux is an equal opportunity employer. Everyone gets all the info they need to compete at the highest level.

    >> You still haven’t answered the question; who says Linus “hacked on someone else’s kernel” exactly?

    Yes, that was confusing. I’m not sure who he (RS) meant either. That was a long thread. Regardless of who said that, Linus did not hack Linux out of Minix. Minix was probably a useful starting off model though. Linus has written about this. I just don’t remember the details.

  48. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:45 pm

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    >> Their competition was not and is not Microsoft in that arena.

    So then Adobe or someone else got to them first.

    Closed software are individual monopolies. The big mama is Microsoft because they control all the crucial elements of the stack (at least on their platform).

  49. AlexH said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm

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    @Jose:

    The thing is, you cannot criticise Novell for developing Evolution (and making the Exchange connector free software) when they didn’t use Microsoft protocols; they used SOAP. The Samba people are doing precise Exchange integration with OpenChange; do they deserve criticism too? They are more deeply involved in that than Novell ever where.

    Do GNU deserve criticism for implementing .net? Do Sun deserve criticism for implementing OOXML in OpenOffice.org? What about KDE for making sure their stuff runs on Windows?

    The problem is, you criticise Novell for these things, and they’re often not even the ones doing the work! They spend two weeks hooking up the OOXML convertors, you criticise them. Sun put literally years of developer time into it, and no-one here complains. One developer makes Tomboy run on Windows, people here freak out. Big parts of KDE4 are ported to Windows, does anyone here care?

  50. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm

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    Alex,

    I’ve just looked up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minix#MINIX_and_Linux

    My bad. For some reason I remembered Linus playing with a few thousands of lines of code. I thought he had derived Linux from it. I was wrong, so I must hae read some rubbish somewhere.

  51. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm

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    AlexH, what percentage of FSF contributions does portabledotnet (or whatever it’s called) constitute? And how far does that software even go?

    I do have my eyes on Sun, but they are at this point still a major contributor to a very large platform that competes directly with dotnet. Ditto wrt Openoffice which takes sales directly from a major Microsoft cash cow.

    Some hooks go deeper into the code than others. Some of these interfacing have different strategic value. You can’t ignore degrees.

    I will not sing Sun’s praises everywhere and am wary, but Sun is no Novell from what I have been seeing.

    I don’t like the KDE4 ports to Windows. I think the porting is limited to a few individuals. I guess KDE4 is designed in a way to make it easier to port. Though I don’t think it’s a good idea, there are some positives if Windows developers start to target KDE4 for some integration (this is not likely to happen to any significant degree any time soon.. web apps or java would be more likely targets than KDE4). Also, KDE4 is a major platform on Linux. Overall, the KDE4 people aren’t “doing Windows ports” but are doing the whole platform. In this case it would be more accurate to criticize (a la Novell) the specific individuals doing the majority of the porting. I even actually saw (video) at one point that it was just one guy.

    >> They spend two weeks hooking up the OOXML convertors, you criticise them. Sun put literally years of developer time into it, and no-one here complains.

    I don’t know the details, but I want to note that (eg) 10 developers working for 2 weeks represents almost half a year in developer time.

    >> One developer makes Tomboy run on Windows, people here freak out.

    My dislike is Tomboy itself.

    A few apps here or there is not that big a deal though, especially if these are not that great to begin with (I don’t use it, so wouldn’t know).

    Novell however is married to this sort of work. It takes up a large portion of their time. Is this not true? I’m open to facts. I’m here to learn like everyone else. So is Novell not really doing much with Microsoft nowadays?

    Novell is the one talking up the value in choosing Microsoft first. Novell (Novell employees == Novell in most cases) is the one most encouraging the FOSS world to dive into mono, OOXML, etc. Novell is relying on special non-open/free deals with Microsoft to get ahead of every open/free Linux vendor.

  52. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm

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    Rather than “ahead of every open/free Linux vendor” make that “behind Microsoft”.

  53. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:30 pm

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    >> Novell is relying on special non-open/free deals with Microsoft to get ahead of every open/free Linux vendor.

    Yes, I know Novell is not the only one here. Note though that Novell advertizes that they have the most intimate relationship with Microsoft, and Microsoft does generally recommend Novell’s Linux, not Xandros, Solaris, etc.

    I’d like to think I could be an equal opportunity disliker. Please help.

    [FWIW, I dumped Xandros as my main OS at home shortly after the Xandros announced deal. Xandros might be right for someone else though.]

  54. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:34 pm

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    Some people took it further than you, Jose.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8TjLIYxP1A

  55. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Gravatar

    This one’s not of the same caliber.. but it’s still pretty good:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVbf9tOGwno

  56. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Gravatar

    I’ve seen it before. It’s brilliant.

  57. Jose_X said,

    September 11, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Gravatar

    >> I dumped Xandros as my main OS at home shortly after the Xandros announced deal.

    It was also time for me to move on. Every so often, it can be interesting and a good idea to change distros (under the right circumstance, I’d be trying distros left and right, but that hasn’t happened for me yet). I looked towards Xandros when I was trying to find something that others might like and ended up polluting the hard drive with “usage” so ended up staying longer than I would have wanted to anyway.

  58. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Gravatar

    @Jose:

    You could say that Mono takes up a decent proportion of Novell’s time, but it’s nothing like the majority.

    You can say that they’re the ones “encouraging people to use OOXML” – but there is zero evidence for that. When I say they spent two weeks integrating the XSLT system, I mean literally two weeks. They spent very little time on it. Sun has dedicated a number of engineers for a while now to OOXML.

    And I don’t understand why you give Sun kudos for improving OpenOffice.org, when Novell are the second biggest contributor to that software doing some extremely important work on it – yes, _including_ interop, but no, not mainly OOXML by any measure – and you see that as Sun competing with Microsoft, Novell helping Microsoft.

  59. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy.

    Thanks for the retraction: you were basically repeating bad facts from the Ken Brown / Alexis de Tocqueville Institution report on Linux’s origins, which is why I was very surprised ;)

  60. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Gravatar

    Novell stood behind OOXML as a supporter (paid supporter). Microsoft exploited this.

  61. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Gravatar

    Look, “Supporter” or not is very much in the eye of the beholder.

    I think you have to accept, though, that one can be an active supporter and contributor to OpenDocument whilst still having interest in other formats.

    If you look at what happened in Office 2003, there was an XML format which in theory would have made conversion of documents to and from Office extremely easy. In practice, OpenOffice.org’s support for that format stinks: I never saw an Office XML document which didn’t crash OpenOffice.org. Contrast that with OOXML, even with the XSLT conversion, and it’s actually suddenly usable. With Sun’s work on the “native” OOXML code in OpenOffice.org, it’s going to be nearly as good as .doc support.

    Novell are helping people move from Office. Their work on interop: not just OOXML, but VBA, graphs, solvers, etc. is all invaluable, because they enable more people to use OpenOffice.org.

    You can castigate them for helping to improve OOXML, but at the end of the day it’s a. necessary and b. a smaller financial commitment than Sun have invested in it, by some way.

  62. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Gravatar

    You’re steering away from my point. Microsoft called Novell an OOXML backer and used that to make a mockery of ISO.

  63. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Gravatar

    It only made a mockery of ISO to those who don’t understand ISO.

    You might not like ISO’s decision – neither do I particularly – but they’re not some arbiter of technical merit. At the end of the day, the various nations voted for ISO. You can argue fairly that they did so on commercial pressure, but it’s their vote.

    Having ISO status is going to make very little difference. What is key is what happens in the future, and how ODF and OOXML are merged.

  64. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Gravatar

    Um, “voted for OOXML”, not “voted for ISO”, obviously.

  65. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:40 am

    Gravatar

    I see you’re *still** defending ISO and Microsoft, not just Novell.

  66. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Gravatar

    I’ve never defended Microsoft or ISO. As I have told you on many occasions, I don’t think OOXML should have been standardised.

    However, I’m also not stupid, and there was never any realistic likelihood that ISO wouldn’t standardise it based on the simple numbers of businesses and commercial interests who want such a standard. I’m not going to waste my time hand-wringing about it.

  67. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 2:51 am

    Gravatar

    You mean, “Microsoft partner” businesses (that sometimes receive bribes)? ODF already existed and Microsoft could have embraced it. Your defense above has the troll pattern of: “Don’t get me wrong, I like Linux, I use it on my server, I dislike Microsoft as much as the next guy, but Linux [enter Linux bashing here].”

  68. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 3:21 am

    Gravatar

    Where I agree with you is that a lot of the momentum for the ISO standardisation came from Microsoft partner businesses: that’s clear. But, I disagree with you about why they do that. It’s not about “bribes” or stuff like that, it’s commercial interest: there is a *huge* market around selling Office-based systems and applications. For people in that space, OOXML is very useful, so of course they are going to support it.

    By saying that I understand why other businesses want OOXML, I’m not denigrating ODF (although you’re wrong to say ODF already existed: it didn’t). ODF is the better standard for the most part (there are areas OOXML is better: spreadsheets, for example). But it’s not ODF vs. OOXML for other people.

  69. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 3:24 am

    Gravatar

    Also, I reject your notion that criticising (for example) Linux is “trolling”. If the criticism is fair, of course it’s not trolling.

    If we blind ourselves to the areas where free software is weaker than proprietary alternatives, it’s never going to succeed.

  70. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Gravatar

    You’re once again dodging to another area, which escapes the issue that ISO (and the process) got influenced by money.

  71. AlexH said,

    September 12, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Gravatar

    I don’t know what you’re reading, but they’re not my comments.

    In the three comments I made about ISO, I said each time that they were responding to commercial pressure. Commercial pressure, businesses wanting to make profit, call it what you will, I’m not in any disagreement with you about that at all.

    My only point about ISO is that this isn’t any different to how they usually operate; *everything* they do is driven by commercial pressure. As I said before, they are not arbiters of technical good taste, nor are they creating standards just for the common good of man.

    All I’m saying is that it is a relatively self-selecting group of people who had any expectation that ISO would refuse OOXML.

  72. pcole said,

    September 12, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Gravatar

    The loss is not with (Open)Suse. That will not disappear. It may well, in due time, fork off novell. MS has a history of roadkills (MS Partners), that can’t be denied. Any company that has entered into deals with MS has had a temporary gain only to be trashed later.

    The entrance of MS into FOSS is where we have to be vigilant. MS is a consumer, not a producer. Its influence is nothing short of viral. Just ’cause they donate a bit of polluted code doesn’t mean they’ve changed their way of doing things. Trying to redefine “OPEN” their way as compared to FOSS’s way is semantic trickery.

    Just as ISO is becoming less relevant, MS will follow the same path. People are starting to wake up and are becoming quite vociferous about choice – while at the same time are being vilified as deranged sycophants. Why would I want to give up my freedom of choice for monetary comfort?

  73. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 12, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Gravatar

    AlexH, I’ll do a post later just to show how Microsoft and its media talking point (for a fact, with preexisting proof) are attacking VMWare and promoting Novell/Microsoft. Novell is a bad company. It empowers Microsoft (a bully), doing its ‘homework’ for protection from those ‘other kids’.

  74. Jose_X said,

    September 12, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Gravatar

    >> It’s not about “bribes” or stuff like that, it’s commercial interest: there is a *huge* market around selling Office-based systems and applications. For people in that space, OOXML is very useful, so of course they are going to support it.
    >> In the three comments I made about ISO, I said each time that they were responding to commercial pressure. Commercial pressure, businesses wanting to make profit, call it what you will, I’m not in any disagreement with you about that at all.
    >> My only point about ISO is that this isn’t any different to how they usually operate; *everything* they do is driven by commercial pressure. As I said before, they are not arbiters of technical good taste, nor are they creating standards just for the common good of man.

    OOXML came out of Microsoft’s closed, monopoly-preserving oven in a hurry. Meanwhile, ODF was developed over a longer period of time, all along with an open source model (OO.o) to work from and which everyone has been free to study, take, use, extend, redistribute, etc during this whole time and moving into the future.

    ODF leverages existing standards similarly developed in the open over time and which many already use. OTOH, OOXML introduces much overlap with these existing standards (even if we ignore ODF proper).. again, all of this rushed out of Microsoft’s closed, monopoly-preserving oven.

    When you say that OOXML has a lot of potential, that is not a reason to support it. ODF has a lot of potential. Any omissions or weaknesses in ODF can and basically will be added. A text file has a lot of potential. XML has a lot of potential. What we should look at is what assets does OOXML bring and how does this compare with the liabilities also brought. Might it not be a much lower cost to consumers and to most vendors to instead change (or perhaps tweak) ODF if/as needed?

    You are correct when you say ISO and Microsoft partners (and many others) are affected by profits. What some here and elsewhere call “bribes”, what others perhaps call illegal price differentiation from a monopolist (the USDOJ should be sued for selling us short), what are special limited insider access deals for chosen partners, what would be backing easily acquired from partners buried neck deep in MSware, what would fall under the “a favor for my friend Bill Gates” category, as well as other sorts of “favors” are in fact nothing more than seeking out profit (or preventing heavy losses), just as you said. So I agree about the profit motive, but I disagree that OOXML’s potential to lead to profits, outside of the Microsoft NDA deals, is what is driving the support for Microsoft. This “tremendous” market opportunity, barring the Microsoft factor, is only likely to be much more costly than the similar “tremendous” ODF market opportunity.

    I wanted to clarify that Microsoft is the reason, not OOXML itself. Thus, it’s more than possible that a crummy standard be pushed forward because the driving factor was money by those exploiting the weak ISO voting rules and not technical quality or general benefits to the majority of consumers.

    Microsoft only has to lose money on (eg) 200 partners/customers (some being small and others themselves very dependent on Microsoft for health) in order to be able to rape the many many other customers. ISO was vulnerable and Microsoft exploited it beyond anything that had been done before. That’s the Microsoft Modus Operandi TM.

    If consumers had to vote. If ISO had better rules. If we had anticipated this issue earlier, OOXML would not have passed. That’s what the evidence seems to suggest.

    But there is good news. OOXML is a garbage trap and is reflective of existing closed MS binary formats, and this was brought to light decently, if no where entirely, because of the ISO standardization effort. The uncleanliness of this situation and of OOXML will continue to mark OOXML, Microsoft, Microsoft’s existing binary formats, and even some of Microsoft’s accomplices. Microsoft still has much money to spend on OOXML to clean up the stains… and they’d still find it worthwhile because SO MUCH money and control is on the line. The Office Suite Cash Cow, monopoly levers, and serious existing investments within Redmond are on the line.

    I’d love for all the customers that are poised to be screwed because of OOXML to move quickly to ODF. Sure, Microsoft will be there to screw ODF, too, but that’s preferable to UhOhXML because there will be many clean ODF options to MS’s ODFestation.

    But What About.. #1: If OOXML was hurried up then maybe mistakes were made and MS’s existing closed formats don’t suffer from them?

    That’s a possibility just like the moon might be made of cheese. Everything has errors. Not being able to see them and treat them on your terms or to be able to do proper risk management is a very real cost for closed source and closed formats. If you have any investments in these closed formats or closed source apps (MSOffice), you continue to be in that situation. The mappings to OOXML will have problems because Microsoft continuously changes their formats and is creating new software. [Complex software come with many new bugs and bugs on past bugs and fixes of past bugs which can lead to lost info.. again, because only Microsoft has access to (real control over) your material/files. They don't give you the source code snapshot of the software you bought. ... In practice, people learn to lose some information.. most of the time it's probably bearable.. of course, loss of privacy and other problems is another story.] OOXML and MS-ODFestation will come with closed extensions.

    But What About.. #2: If many use MS, then perhaps OOXML is the “lower cost to society”?

    Well, closed source is always a high cost. If a real open option exists, that’s a lower cost path long term and maybe even short term. Short term, there are yearly savings on licenses, but there could be costs for retraining or for re-coding (maybe small maybe not). Long term, you have the accrued yearly savings, and the one-time overhead costs have been accounted for. Even better, the free/Free FOSS relies much more on the sorts of standards ODF uses vs OOXML. Why lock yourself out of the best FOSS has to offer by going with the Monopoly Controlled Formats?

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