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HP’s Former Open Source Leader Helps Expose HP as a Fraud on ‘Open Source’ Issues, Reveals Microsoft’s Role in SCO’s Attack

Posted in Free/Libre Software, HP, Microsoft at 4:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO’s strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO’s financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital.”

Bruce Perens (years back)

Summary: Thoughts and analysis of HP, which despite pretending to have embraced Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) is very much a Microsoft ally, managed to a large degree by people from Microsoft

HP is a scam when it comes to “open source” support. While their hardware is quite Linux-friendly (my wife uses an HP laptop), their extreme/radical policy of self interest in the server room and on the desktop continues to show. Their recent openwashing campaign, which I have campaigned against (they are claiming to invest in FOSS only for marketing purposes, just like IBM), should not impress too easily. What comes to mind is HP’s negative lobbying against FOSS and stories we have heard from Perens (former HP manager for FOSS). It’s all just a charade, intended for the most part to increase sales but also to attract talented staff (recruitment).

HP’s history has been quite well documented in this site for nearly 8 years of its existence. HP is an ally of Microsoft and many of its managers these days are people who worked for Microsoft. In order to keep selling GNU/Linux servers (hardware with GNU/Linux sells better) HP is trying to maintain an image that would appeal to geeks. However, it’s all fake, it’s a façade. Perens proves it now in part by repeating what he wrote some years ago [1]. The stuff Perens says about SCO and HP is dynamite, revealing a huge extent of collusion against GNU/Linux. HP was well aware of it.

Years ago in Slashdot Perens explained how HP offered him AstroTurfing help, i.e. it offered to spawn agents of propaganda if he needed it. To quote Will Hill (from last night): “Yes, I was just thinking about that the other day. He said this in 2008…”

…just about every PR firm offers to help “manage the perception of your company in online communities” these days. What do you think that means? Astroturfing Slashdot, Youtube, etc. In my various manangement positions it’s been offered to me. Indeed, some of the companies offer to create negative publicity for your competition that way – HP had a publicity firm for its Linux activities that told us it would do that when we wanted. I never asked them to do so and hope nobody else did either. This stuff is just standard these days. You’ve got to expect it.

As Hill adds: “There’s a grim similarity between that and government astroturf programs revealed by Snowden. Greenwald recaps well that in “No Place to Hide” by showing us that government hires teams of psychologists and has made a science of disrupting online discussions and deception. The point of it all is “strategic influence disruption.” The targets not terrorists but “hactivists” like Anonymous, environmental groups and people who might compete with the plutocracy. We should not be too surprised by the similarity because both programs are run by the same people – 75% of the spy complex money goes to private contractors and HP is probably one of them.”

There are some new examples of what seems like AstroTurfing by Microsoft. Some Microsoft lies (a placement) got posted in “CFO World”. It is an evidence-free denial of Microsoft collusion against public. This is how propaganda works.

Meanwhile, returning to the subject which is HP, watch Microsoft booster Julie Bort going into propaganda mode, claiming that HP has “Plans To Destroy Microsoft Windows” (we countered a similar bit of propaganda some months ago) and then calls HP CEO “gutsy” for inviting Microsoft’s CEO. This is utter deception, a sort of PR which seeks to portray Microsoft has burying the hatchet and smoking the pipe of peace with rivals. Here is a portion: “Moments after HP announced its grand new plans to compete with the Microsoft Windows operating system, Whitman was thanking Microsoft for being a major sponsor of the conference and inviting the company’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, on stage.”

This very much shows whose bed HP is in. The company, despite trying top appear as a backer of FOSS, is very much serving Microsoft’s agenda, still. HP is pretending. Yes, HP only pretends to be a friend of GNU/Linux in order to drive server sales to geeks. We know this also because not too long ago HP lobbied against GNU/Linux in Europe (amid national migrations), saying it would be more expensive than Windows. We covered this several times back then and also showed in over a dozen posts that around the same time HP was appointing Microsoft executives to executive positions at HP. The same happened in Amazon, but that’s another story.

There are other interesting bits in the new interview with Perens, including his take on dual-licensing, but most relevant to us was the following bit:

Perens: At some point I accumulated enough credit for achievements that it became unnecessary to fight over it :-) . But I am hardly without flaws. Most visible might be that I want to get things done and don’t mind trampling others if that’s what it takes. I try to keep my ego down enough so that I get through those narrow doors.

The worst problems I saw at HP had little to do with Open Source. What I remember most was the sadness. There were and are many smart people there, and so many of us were conscious that the company was in a sort of death spiral and that we couldn’t do anything about it. The “pretexting” scandal was to the discredit of the board, the general counsel actually took the 5th in front of Congress on national television! Carly (the CEO) asked all of the employees to take a voluntary pay cut in the same month that she and other Board officers sold tens of Millions of dollars of HP stock. I remember my boss (a Section Manager, now the CTO) announcing at a meeting that an employee had gotten a “Reinvention Memo”. That meant lay-off, a sarcastic re-framing of HP’s “Reinvent” motto that showed how even upper managers like him were in despair. There was a series of ill-advised acquisitions of second-best or declining companies that HP failed to turn around, and then sold for cents on the dollar two years after acquiring them. The Compaq merger put the company at the very top of a business with vanishingly-small margins.

There was one really bad day that I guess is safe to talk about now, more than 10 years later, because the information is already in the public and thus no longer subject to NDA: Microsoft showed HP their plans to sue the Open Source projects for the Linux Kernel, Samba, Sendmail, and a list of other projects. Someone immediately shot me an HP VP’s memo recounting that meeting and concluding that we should back off of Open Source before the lawsuits started. When I passed it to my boss, I was told to keep it quiet. But I was hired to be an Open Source community leader first, and an HP officer second, and keeping quiet about that meant betraying the Open Source developer community. I just hated that and it poisoned my involvement with HP.

Microsoft eventually used SCO as a proxy to achieve what it disclosed to HP that day. I’d been warned long before that happened, and could do nothing until SCO announced their damaging but ultimately unsuccessful jihad against Linux.

What I think is worth remembering about HP is that it was once the great tech company that people wanted to work for, as Apple or Google might be for many today. I think a lot of what made it great left with Agilent. The Test and Measurement business was a low-volume, high-margin business that required lots of too-highly-paid old smart people who worked in expensive labs in Palo Alto, California. That became the most costly place to do anything largely due to HP’s own success. But Test and Measurement was also the brain-trust of the company, and lent its creativity to all of HP’s other aspects. So we lost a lot, I think, when Agilent was spun off of HP.

HP’s problem regarding Open Source and Linux was that systems running Linux competed with other HP lines running HP-UX or Microsoft, and HP was structured as Organizational Silos. Each line had its own sales-people, and different lines competed with each other for the same customer. HP-9000 folks were always complaining because Linux undercut HP-UX and thus HP-9000, as were folks who sold Microsoft Windows systems based on x86. If I said anything in the press about Open Source or Linux, a customer would ask one of those single-line sales-people about it, and it would come back to my boss as a complaint rather than a sales opportunity.

HP was always to some extent in Microsoft’s pocket, although they were also aware that Microsoft had screwed them and would continue to do so. HP de-emphasized further development of the HP 9000 hardware because Microsoft had told them in the late 80′s that they were soon to have an enterprise-quality NT. HP believed it, but MS failed to deliver for a decade. That lost HP Billions while Sun Microsystems took the engineering workstation market from HP. The HP officer who made that decision of course went on to be a Microsoft executive.

What we did achieve at HP was a good process for deciding what to do with Open Source when individual opportunities came up. If you wanted to incorporate Open Source in a product, or you had a business reason to Open Source something, we resolved the legal issues, the community issues, we even handled some security aspects and achieved a reasonable level of reuse. That could all be achieved by middle managers. So, everybody in the company knew that it was OK to use Open Source, but there was a process you had to go through. It wasn’t particularly expensive, it did sometimes sink multiple days of some engineer in doing paperwork, but that’s just due diligence and we ended up on a better legal footing when we used Open Source than otherwise.

There were things we decided not to Open Source because there was no good business reason for doing so. We weren’t UNICEF, so there had to be a business reason for everything. There were times when legacy customers would have gained benefit if we brought one of HP’s nine legacy operating systems to Open Source, but untangling the proprietary software that originated with third parties from the rest was too difficult. There were a few times when it was decided not to Open Source a legacy product because we were afraid that IBM might use it to sell their hardware against ours. Once that happened with a system that had only 5000 existing customers, and it would have been better for the customers for HP to open it but the decision – not mine – was not to do so.

I’ve since helped other companies start their own internal Open Source Process, and still do so today.

What we never achieved within HP, what I never had the power to do, was: to get HP to completely stand behind any innovative product regardless of what that meant for old-line products, to make innovation the #1 job of the company, and to grow a brand-new company from the old one every year that they were in business. They needed to embrace disruptive technologies as a pioneer rather than have the disruption done to HP by competitors. I think they tried to kill the Silo organizational structure after I left, I don’t know how successful that was.

Let this remind us that neither HP nor Microsoft has changed. In fact, many people from Microsoft moved to HP and there is now Microsoft agenda at HP. Microsoft’s FOSS moles too are now working for HP, in very senior positions in fact. Both companies deserve to be treated as a pair and the same goes for Dell; these are historically (in recent history) Microsoft hardware companies.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Interviews: Bruce Perens Answers Your Questions

    Microsoft eventually used SCO as a proxy to achieve what it disclosed to HP that day. I’d been warned long before that happened, and could do nothing until SCO announced their damaging but ultimately unsuccessful jihad against Linux.

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