Summary: How the Novell-backed Silverlight impacts GNU/Linux users and what NASA is doing with it
NOVELL’S sick obsession with Silverlight (may lead to “drooling” or foaming at the mouth) is a subject we explored in recent days [1, 2] because Silverlight turns out to be a Windows-only technology that can only be a compromise for other (non-Windows) platforms. Here is the implication as one writer puts it:
Silverlight gives the multi-platform market to flash
What I get from this decision is that the objectives Microsoft had with Silverlight have changed. It looks like competing with flash in the wider, multi-platform market is taking a back seat to the introduction of new functionality. What Microsoft is pushing is Silverlight as the default web based development platform for Windows, with some limited compatibility with non Windows platforms. This goes in the opposite direction to Adobe Flash which seems to favor a consistent set of functionality and compatibility across all platforms. Flash is not only available on Windows, Mac and Linux, but also on the Wii, and soon an ARM version should be released for smartbooks. And that does not even cover gnash, the open source version of flash that is more or less to Flash what Moonlight is to Silverlight. In short, Microsoft is giving up the multi-platform market to Adobe.
Groklaw has just processed some more Comes vs Microsoft exhibits, including text where it shows Microsoft’s treatment of ‘extensions’ to APIs/protocols and such things. The title says: “Gates: ‘I have decided we should not publish these extensions.’”
You might find it interesting to compare this memo with Bill Gates’ July 20, 1995 letter to Novell’s Robert Frankenberg, Microsoft’s Exhibit 15 [PDF] in its collection attached to its Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. It’s a hoot. Frankenberg had complained about undocumented calls, and Gates writes that both the FTC and the DOJ has “thoroughly investigated” the allegations and found them to be “not provable”. That was then. This is now. Here’s my favorite part of the letter:
In fact, Microsoft goes out of its way to make early copies of API and protocol specifications available, hold design reviews (that even our competitors attend), and run the largest beta test programs in the industry. Novell has been invited to participate in many of these “Open Process” events — and all without requiring a tit-for-tat arrangement.
Does Novell pay attention to this at all? It is currently fighting against Microsoft in court over discriminatory extensions and APIs, such as the ones it’s falling for when dealing with Silverlight. This is contradictory.
After a couple of minutes of talking to a very polite receptionist, who finally understood that I was having a problem with a website, I got transferred to Mark in Public Services. I explained the problem to Mark, pointing out that:
1) Most geeks are fans of the space effort.
2) Most geeks don’t run Windows.
3) Most geeks refuse to have Microsoft software on their systems.
4) Does CalTech/NASA/JPL really want to annoy their biggest fans?
5) Does Microsoft have the right to force us to run Windows?
Mark had never heard of the website, so I pointed him to it, and he spotted the bit about the Memorandum with Microsoft immediately, and pointed out that of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. And he’s correct. Of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. However NASA/JPL is a government institution, with responsibility to the American taxpayers, not Microsoft, and that it could be argued that any memorandum that blocked access to a significant part of NASA/JPL’s core constituency might not be legal.
I have a suspicion that this demonstrates how deeply Mono has become entrenched in Ubuntu. Gimp critics like to complain that it’s not Adobe Photoshop. True, it lacks CMYK support and other features essential to producing very high-quality professional color prints. For everything else it’s great, it makes excellent Web images and darned good color prints.
How different is Gimp? Not very, I think the critics have never touched it. Virtually all image editing programs have similar toolsets, the brush, pencil, airbrush, bucket fill, crop, eraser, fonts, and so on. Higher-end ones support layers and bales of plugins and add-ons. I think what the critics really want is Photoshop for free just because it is expensive, like the trendy folks who only wear brand-name apparel with high price tags. Like paying more makes those denim jeans that came out of the same factories as the cheap ones wear better. At any rate anyone who has touched a decent image editing/paint program before will do fine in Gimp, and someone who has never used one has some learning to do. Requiring a user of a product to learn anything seems to be a criminal offense anymore.
The latest episode of Tux Radar debates the issue and mentions “Mono haters” at one stage. Would that include “haters” like the FSF, for example? Resistance to Mono exists because of a real problem in Mono. To suggest that “irrational hatred” is behind all opposition to Mono is like casting people who get vaccinations “Swine flu haters”. █