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Red Hat Software Businesses

Bob Young Responds Personally, Not Officially 174

Posted by Roblimo
from the letting-down-what-hair-he-has-left dept.
Bob Young prefaces his answers to your questions by saying, "You may notice I've ducked some of the answers below - there is a reason for this. My role at Red Hat these days is as Chairman of the board. Matthew Szulik is Red Hat's CEO and will be a better person to answer some of the specific issues that these questions raise....
"I have been spending more of my time recently working with Laurie Racine and her team at the Center for the Public Domain, www.centerpd.org. The Center's goal is to help improve the quality of the debate on Intellectual Property issues in the public arena. Our support of ibiblio.org (formerly Sunsite and Metalab) is just one example of the kinds of things we are doing to improve the ecosystem that makes up open source in specific and the public domain of knowledge generally.

"My answers will not be "official" Red Hat policy (that would be Matthew's job), or even the Center's official positions, but rather my personal take on the answers to your questions."

------------

Do you think a recession will help RedHat/Linux?
by donturn

Bob,

We had an Ask Slashdot a few days ago wondering whether a recession will help Linux or not. Since you're the CEO of RedHat, you probably have a better idea as to what effect a recession will have on RedHat and Linux. So, do you think you will gain more market share during a recession than you would otherwise?

Bob:

As above, I haven't been CEO of Red Hat for quite a while now (which is why Red Hat Inc is doing so well - but that's another story ;-) but here's my take on that question:

Back in the early days of Red Hat we used to sit around debating how we were going to get MIS directors to take us seriously, when one of our directors, Frank Batten Jr (now involved with open source database company Great Bridge) would insist that we shouldn't be trying to sell the MIS directors at all. He insisted we should focus our sales efforts on the CFOs (Chief Financial Officers).

His logic was simply that the open source price/performance ratio was simply so much better than the proprietary software vendors that the CFO's would eventually override the MIS dept's preference for the safe, tried and true, binary-only proprietary software model they were used to, and require that they consider open source alternatives.

In a strong economy the CFOs were willing to fund the MIS directors budgets. In a slowing economy CFO's start to scrutinize every expense much more carefully. The existence of the lower cost open source alternatives are going to be very attractive to many companies who are currently paying millions of dollars of royalties to software upgrades they really would rather not have to purchase.

Who decides what goes in and how?
by Can

I'd like some insight on how the decision is made to include something in Red Hat Linux, how quickly to roll in new releases of software, etc.

For example, I've seen pre-releases of KDE get included and updated in rawhide (and I believe in actual Red Hat releases) rather often, but even the individual GNOME components are almost never updated until well after a full stable release is announced. There are other examples, but that's the main one that comes to mind.

There also still seems to be a lot of 0.x version software in Red Hat to this day. So, I'm just curious how you make these technical decisions.

Bob:

There is no one method. It varies depending on which component of Red Hat Linux is involved, and what the development community around that component's advice to us is. Ask Slashdot to arrange an interview with one of our engineering leaders and you'll get better answers than I can give.

But... "There also still seems to be a lot of 0.x version software in Red Hat to this day" .. is a -much- smaller issue than it used to be. It was only a few years ago that we used to ship beta code as part of our official releases simply because there were so few alternatives.

Today the primary reason we ship any beta code is so that the community of users who rely on Red Hat get more insight into where our technology is going and more opportunity to help influence what it does, how it does it, and how reliable future releases will be. Keep in mind that a big percentage of Red Hat users and developers still, to this day, do not have reliable high speed access and rely on CD-Roms as the source of the sources.

Would you really recommend it for desktop use?
by update()

I'm a Linux enthusiast and contributor but I still don't see where it's "ready for the desktop" as I would understand that phrase.

Bob, if you had a non-technical friend or relative who currently uses Windows, Quicken, Office, IE and AOL, could you in good conscience tell him it would be in his best interest to use Linux instead? What exactly would be in it for him?

Bob:

Er, -I- am that non-technical friend, and I use a Red Hat Linux-based desktop exclusively.

The real answer to your question goes like this: No one (other than maybe some Slashdot reader) buys operating systems. People buy applications and then chose the operating system that best runs those applications. If you need to do desktop publishing you may go into a CompUSA store, find a copy of Aldus Pagemaker and then read on the side of the box that it runs on Windows or MacOS so you buy a computer with one of those OSes to run your app.

If you work as I do: on the net (Netscape) including all the net-based apps that I can run from my browser, reading email (exmh), and printing the occasional Word file (Applixware), you can do all these things on a Linux box every bit as easily and a great deal more reliably than on any of the 1980s legacy OSes. On the other hand if you need some application that only runs on Windows you may have problems with a Linux-only computer.

Fortunately, the future of the desktop is not in the 1980s applications that required you to load the application yourself, run it, back it up, and otherwise play sys-admin to your own computer. The future of the desktop will be using Internet appliances where the applications will sit out on the net (or your corporate Intranet) and you just download the small pieces that allow you to use those applications without having to take responsibility for them. Your sys-admin will not have to walk down the hall to have hands-on access to your machine. He or she may be in Australia and will support your machine remotely. This model requires a "real" operating system and will spell the end to a lot of the OS lock-in that all the Windows 95 and 98-based apps on the shelves of CompUSA represent.

Why invest in RedHat?
by Merk

RedHat has the biggest name recognition of all the Linux distributions. To many non-tech types Linux == RedHat. And you are now breaking even, yet despite that RedHat's stock went from $80 a share to less than $5 and there doesn't seem to be a sign of that turning around.

What do you say to people who ask why they should invest in RedHat? Also, as a high-tech company I'm sure employees got stock options, how are they dealing with the crash in share prices and how do you convince them their options are still worth something?

Bob:

As I've been preaching to anyone who would listen since long before Red Hat went public, Red Hat is a good investment if you believe that the proprietary binary-only software model as practiced by most of the software industry today is broken.

It is broken in that it does not conform to what customers expect from suppliers in free-market democracies, namely that the customer is normally in control of the customer-vendor relationship. It is only in the software industry, as this industry has evolved over the last thirty years, where the vendor is in control of his customers in an almost feudal way.

In the middle ages the feudal system was based on the ruling classes keeping the population under absolute control by not giving them any insight into the laws they were governed under. In effect you could be thrown into jail for breaking a law, and the policing authority did not have to tell you what law you broke or why it was in place.

Software users today are prohibited from making any changes to the software that they are building their organizations around, whether to add features their users desperately need, or stop their servers from crashing unexpectedly, or to patch a security hole, completely arbitrarily. In fact they can be thrown in jail for improving the systems they are using. If you don't believe me just read any shrink-wrapped proprietary software license.

Changing this industry is not going to happen overnight. So buying a portfolio of open source companies stocks, including Red Hat, may not pay off in the short term, or it might -- I'm not an expert on the stock market. But open source is solving a major structural problem in the software industry on behalf of the consumers of the products of that industry. The companies who enable this change to occur on behalf of their customers are going to be good investments in the long term.

Your impressions on the recent MS Interview
by Amoeba

[Earlier] on Slashdot we got responses from an interview of MS exec Doug Miller and he touched upon some areas of Linux that caused a lot of debate and discussion in the forum. My question to you is, would you skim through Doug's reponses and provide us with your counterarguments or comments?

Bob:

Doug Miller and I go way back. All I can say is how disappointed I am that Doug has joined the "dark side". He is a really decent human being.

He used to provide the exact opposite answers to the ones he provided in that interview and he did so with much more conviction.

(Sorry Doug.)

Also see 9 below.

Mandrake
by Xenex

Linux-Mandrake started off simply as basically a copy of Red Hat Linux with KDE installed (which was the most advanced desktop environment at that time). However since 'growing' from Red Hat, it has become a distibution of it's own, with a incredibly simple install, more features/applications (ReiserFS, more intergrated Gnome/KDE menu...), Pentium optimised applications, and generally is more 'bleeding edge'.

How do you feel about the fact that Red Hat Linux was 'the womb' of what would now have to be considered one of the strongest Linux distros for the desktop, and a major competitior to Red Hat on the desktop with it's claimed "99% Red Hat compatibility"?

Bob:

Mandrake is a great example of why open source is so valuable for the user of software.

The software using marketplace is not a simple single market. It is a vast collection of markets. Software developers who need good C and Java compilers are as different from dentists who need good dental office billing systems as two markets can get.

If Mandrake do their job properly they will serve some market(s) better than Red Hat does.

So for all those potential Linux-users who might not use Red Hat Linux because it does not include some application that they need, or support in a language Red Hat does not offer, we can point them to Mandrake.

The result is more choice in the marketplace. The customer wins, which is the whole point.

Security
by Rupert

Recently we've seen several worms attacking vulnerabilities in the default install of Red Hat Linux. What is being done to make the default installation more newbie-friendly from a security point of view? The average desktop user probably doesn't want or need BIND, do they?

Bob:

I have to duck this one. Security deserves precise and detailed answers and I'm not qualified to give them.

Other than to say the price of security is eternal vigilance.

Also, you should check out Red Hat Network. (www.redhat.com)

Competing against MacOSX
by banky

With MacOSX arriving as a desktop Unix (more or less) backed by a known, (sometimes) respected name, do you consider Apple to be a serious competitor, the same as Microsoft? Would Red Hat ever consider a PPC release to try and steer people away from MacOSX? Or, instead, do you think Apple will remain largely a niche player, but one that adds weight to the all-purpose viability of Unix?

Bob:

"Apple will remain largely a niche player, but one that adds weight to the all-purpose viability of Unix."

This is -exactly- what I think. Go to the head of the class.

Standardization
by milo_Gwalthny

Bob -

Doug Miller, a Microsoft executive, was recently interviewed for Slashdot. Many of the questions posed were regarding the competitiveness of Linux with Windows in the medium-term. To paraphrase, Doug said that there was no viable business model based on Linux, that the lack of standardization (ie. KDE v. Gnome) would be enough of an economic disincentive to commercial application developers to prevent them from venturing into the market.

On the face of it, he seems to have a point. What do you think? Does Linux need to be herded down the path towards a super-majority recognized 'standard' to be successful, or can the type of open-source movement to date provide enough tools and applications to drive Linux to dominance?

Bob:

Saying that there is no business model to open source is like saying there is no business model to democracy.

Miller's arguments are red herrings thrown to distract the debate from the real issues. The real issue is not standards or technical compatibility with specific pieces of binary-only software. In an open source world compatibility is not dependent on whether a binary-only supplier adopts the standard as written or not. Whoever is trying to achieve compatibility simply has to check the sources. So the games that the binary-only proprietary software vendors play with standards go away. The real issue is where are the innovations of the next generation going to come from. The Millers of this world think that their employers should have preferential rights on offering those innovations.

This control over future innovation is being assisted by the trend in our legislatures worldwide to expand Intellectual Property (patents and copyrights, otherwise known as government granted monopolies) rights. These enable corporations to maximize their profits at the expense of the citizens in our society and are not just bad for our democracy, it is bad for business.

Let me be clear: Intellectual Property rights (IP) such as patents and copyrights are good things. But like anything in life too much of a good thing no longer is good. Too little vitamin D and you get bone diseases. Too much vitamin D will kill you. IP can be useful to independent inventors to protect their invention from being copied and marketed by larger distributors without compensation to the inventor. But today IP is mostly used by the armies of lawyers employed by the largest technology and publishing companies to squash potential competitors who don't have access to equivalent legal resources.

Just one example: For the first hundred years of copyright, copyright terms lasted less than 20 years. In the last 40 years copyright has been extended to 70 years plus the lifetime of the author. How government granted monopolies, justified as a means for providing incentive to authors to create additional works, achieves that goal *70 years after the author's death* mystifies me.

Needless to say this change in the structure of the rules that govern our society was not promoted by authors. It was promoted by the people who truly benefit from the extended IP rules, namely the publishers. Why we as a society are so keen to reward global publishing companies at the expense of the authors, musicians, researchers, artists, software developers, inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs is another mystery.

All of these groups, in fact our society in general relies on the public access to knowledge. For every Metallica who worries that they will not be well enough paid for their next album there are literally hundreds of thousands of musicians whose ability to create and perform is being gradually eroded by the additional IP rules being imposed on us by our elected officials in the name of supporting the technology and publishing industries.

(For more detail on this check out www.centerpd.org.)

Giving the major global publishing and technology companies ever-greater government granted monopolies on vast definitions of technology (think "one-click" patents on a website) is inconsistent with how free-market democracies are supposed to work. Then arguing, as Miller does, that any alternative model cannot be legitimate because it does not generate the monopoly profits his employer collects would be a joke - if were not for so many of our legislators buying this line of reasoning.

I don't want to discourage you from writing to your representative, or your member of parliament, they need to hear from you. But here's a more positive thought on this topic: The cool thing about free-market democracies is that the citizens are the consumers. So you can sometimes solve societal problems in the marketplace. This is where Red Hat's and the rest of the open source suppliers opportunity lies.

Linux and open source is succeeding simply because it works in the customers interest better than the proprietary binary-only model does. It gets around the innovation deadening impact of software patents. It avoids the creativity sapping effect of locking up knowledge and expression behind 70 year copyrights.

While open source may not be a business model any more than democracy is a business model, it is possible to use open source to serve your customers better than the competition. Matthew Szulik and his team have driven Red Hat from revenues of less than $15 million when we went public 21 months ago, to over $100 million today with gross margins in excess of 55%.

On one thing Doug Miller and I agree: serving your customers is how you build great companies. I just don't see how locking your customers into inflexible binary-only proprietary technologies over which they have no control can be defined as serving them. I guess we still have some work to do getting the word out that there is a more robust, reliable and economic way to use technology, it's called open source.

Red Hat Acquisitions
by Kostya

I noticed that while Red Hat was valued highly, Red Hat used its funding to purchase companies like Cygnus and C2Net. Escpecially with the purchase of Cygnus, you appear to be consildating the infrastructure that makes linux viable commercially. One could conjecture that you are trying to provide developer tools and resources, both as a product and as a way to build into Linux (as in the motto "it is the developers/ISVs stupid!"). Red Hat is currently valued much lower than it was at the top of the hype, but one could argue that these (and other) strategic acquisitions give Red Hat an edge over the competition or the chance at surviving the tech stock maelstrom.

Q: How do you see these acquisitions as helping Red Hat and its position in the market?

Bob:

In general the answer to the above is: yes. As in, yes we see the need to offer comprehensive and high quality development tools as extremely important to the future of the platform we are promoting.

The only point to be clear on is who we see as competition. Red Hat's success to date has been due to our focus on the real competition. When we started the whole Linux/open source market was not big enough to pay our credit card bills, much less the rent.

So we new we had to take customers from the established industry leaders. We knew we could do this by delivering benefits that those billion dollar competitors were not willing to offer their customers.

This benefit was the control over the technology we were asking them to invest in, that open source enabled us to deliver.

Which is why we don't see Mandrake as the competition. We have products and services we can sell to a Mandrake user. The same is not true of the big binary-only proprietary software suppliers.

Hardware support
by wowbagger

Unfortunately, most hardware vendors support Microsoft because MS has the largest share of the market and they know it will pay to support MS with drivers.

Linux is not in that state, save for (perhaps) networking devices. Has RedHat considered helping to fund driver development for other forms of hardware? I'm thinking mostly of 3D accelerated video cards (by helping to fund the DRI group), but other items (scanners, USB- IDE interfaces, etc.) would be nice too.

Bob:

Yup, this has historically been a problem. Red Hat (and many of the other leading Linux distributors) has contributed drivers, and has contributed development resources to other device driver developers.

But more and more manufacturers recognize that they will sell more of their boards, add-ons, peripherals, and systems if they make the small effort of ensuring that it will run the latest Linux kernel and libraries. For example HP is now actively writing open source Linux printer drivers for the popular HP printers.

- 30 -

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Bob Young Responds Personally, Not Officially

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Quick question, there hombre.
    What in the hell does that have to do with the parent? I understand you want to be up top for the "Highest Score First" people, but at least throw in a sentence so it "seems" like you are really replying.

    You, truely, are pathetic!!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "He used to provide the exact opposite answers to the ones he provided
    in that interview and he did so with much more conviction. "

    Interesting to see confirmed from a personal perspective what most of us already felt.
    That Doug Miller is a hired gun, an advocate.
    It seems to me that Lawyers, Marketers, and Spin
    Doctors all share a common heritage going back to
    the Soliphists.
    As soon as Philosophy had blossomed in Ancient Greece, there arose a group who subjugated (
    some say corrupted) the discipline from the pursuit of knowledge to the more mundane activity of arguing a point for the purpose of getting it
    accepted , regardless of its validity.

    Back to Doug Miller.
    A hired Gun will take aim and shoot at you not because he beleives in the shooting, but because
    he believes in the money he is being paid.

    If a better offer had been made, target and empployer can just as easily be reversed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Talked to redhat today, 7.1 has gone gold. Should be an announcement within a week or so + boxes in stores after that.
  • by Micah (278)
    All I want to know is when RH 7.1 is coming out.

    6.2 came out in the last week of September. It's been over 6 months now. I don't think there has EVER been a 6 month delay between releases before.

    But if it includes KDE 2.1.1 and GNOME 1.4 and kernel 2.4.3 and the new OpenSSH fix, it will probably be worth it.
  • Actually, they can't all see each others sources, as it were. Some distros (SUSE, SLS) carefully try and rope bits of their distro off to prevent anyone using it as a base for their own distros. Others (RedHat, Debian) are more sanguine about that and play nice.

  • Nobody used the Internet before the web? Gee, what was I doing all those years?

  • Complain to that company that Lucent hired to write the drivers (and to Lucent itself for releasing that binary half driver crap).

    Of course you could just use FreeBSD (shameless plug) and have them work more or less out of the box (you might have to compile in the wi driver though).

    Finally, I should point out that it is non-trivial to get those cards working under windows, especialy if you want to use ad-hoc mode and turn on encryption.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • Sorry my father didn't pronounce the spelling. If he did it might have been 'W-i-e-n-e-r[whatever]'


    ~^~~^~^^~~^
  • I remember my Father cringing everytime we passed a "Der Wienershnitzel" saying "Look son, its supposed to be 'Das Weinershnitzel'".

    Although my boss and mechanic speak german fluently I don't so I can't say if that is true or not.


    ~^~~^~^^~~^
  • So here's someone from Redhat extolling software provided over the network, a la Windows XP. What does everyone who screamed bloody murder two days ago want to say now?

    As long as the back end is Free software, it's OK. If the service provider tries highway robbery prices after getting you hooked, othetr compatible providers will come along, or you can move the back end in-house. The price of the service will never be artificially inflated over the value of having someone else responsible for the back end.

    I rather doubt that MS's back end will ever be Free. I also doubt that the data formats will be cleanly documented and unencumbered by their legal staff. They will get people hooked and then jack up the price to just below the point where it would actually be worth loosing years of data to be rid of them.

  • for being a cool guy and taking some time to answer a few questions... =)


    Hollywood of monkeysvsrobots.com [monkeysvsrobots.com]

  • by Enahs (1606) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @10:56AM (#298737) Journal
    Heh, I had an HP rep try to claim I'd voided the warranty on my Deskjet by using it with an unsupported OS. Pissed me off real good, that did.
  • Thin client doesn't have to mean central (= big corp) control. It's certainly possible that in a couple of years you'll have a linux box under the stairs and flat-screen clients on all your walls. I know I've had a lot of luck with a home machine with screen and sshd; I have my own machine, but it shows up wherever I want it, including a thin ssh client.

    In fact, for a while I was using the machine to actually sit at, but I would still run an xterm with the screen session, making it act as a thin client for itself.

    I could really see an application with all of the components running on the client (possibly downloaded from home, if it's unusual), and the stuff that puts them together on your home machine, and an encrypted connection between them which doesn't demand too much bandwidth.
  • The clients (or some of them) could have the spiffy rendering stuff on them, instead of going over the LAN for it. After all, you don't even do extensive graphics over the system bus today. If the video card's on the client side, the bandwidth from server to client's a lot lower.

    I could easily see a client with a minimal processor, a spiffy video card with a bunch of extra memory for textures and stuff, and a monitor running Q3A really well with the program actually running on a different machine.
  • Dude, you're living in a glass house...

    Your sentances are kinda hard to read.

    That's sentences..

    I hate grammar flames only slightly more than spelling flames....

    Your Working Boy,
    - Otis (GAIM: OtisWild)
  • When Mandrake 8 final is out, I think that'll be the big desktop story. I installed the 2nd beta, and a few installer bugs needed overcoming, but otherwise it went swimmingly.

    Can't wait for the final!

    (oh, and RedHat, why not release a i586/i686 optimized release, including pgcc or the optimized egcs/gcc? You could call it RedRocket...)

    Your Working Boy,
    - Otis (GAIM: OtisWild)
  • The KDE/Gnome competition isn't as horrible as Microsoft believes or portrays. All mainstream distributions are shipping supporting libraries for both. Just pick the one you prefer and get on with life, most of your users will be able to use your software. Maybe your program won't mesh elegantly with their desktop environment choice, but it will be usable.
  • by rho (6063) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @10:38AM (#298743) Homepage Journal

    Put it in this perspective -- most people, either at home or at work, are goal-oriented, i.e. "I want to do foo", where foo is

    • Write a paper
    • Play a game
    • Send an email
    • Do my taxes

    These goals are easily met with a low-power computer that gets it's instructions and/or data from a bigger computer. They are also met by a powerful personal computer from Dell or Gateway.

    Until recently, a computer was a major investment -- upwards of $2000-3000 for a decent machine. It made sense for a PC to be a multi-use machine in the home, since multiple people had multiple goals. The business machine tended to be used solely by one person, and thus was somewhat wasteful to have a $2000 machine (which is one reason why Wintel PCs became so popular -- you could get one with no CD or sound card or network card, and save significant dollars).

    Now, a P-III with a monitor can be had for $800, and some companies managed to get VC funding based on a model of giving a computer away in return for "eyeballs". The hardware cost has dropped significantly -- significantly enough that there are many homes with multiple computers now, an extravagance unheard of just a few years ago.

    The time is ripening for NCs -- they no longer are proprietary turds designed around expensive hardware limitations -- you can put together a very nice machine for less than $500 (with the i810 motherboards) with OTS components. Mass production/purchasing can cut that even more. Now you have a real computer at a disposable price.

    The network infrastructure is growing -- cable, DSL, et. al. -- that allows for faster networking between the home and a remote server, and the cost of that is dropping (slowly, but dropping). Networks in offices are commonplace (or very cheaply added with wireless).

    All these hardware curves are meeting the user demand curve now -- the needs of users are met with cheap hardware and fast networks today. The NCs time has come, if anybody's willing to jump on it.
    "Beware by whom you are called sane."

  • Does this remind anyone else (other than me) of the oft-failed concept of the network computer?


    Those failures have all come in a relatively few years. It took a while for the automobile to take off, too.

    -
  • Since then we've seen Videotex, X terminals, Diskless Workstations, Network Computers (aka thin clients), email stations, and Audrey, all failures.

    You say failure, I say my last company has replaced all their dumb terminals with 'em, and my current one is rolling them out by the thousands.

    Go ahead and judge technology by the desktop all you like; meanwhile, the real money will be spent in the corporations.

    -
  • by Wayfarer (10793) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:58AM (#298746) Homepage
    And who wants to run software via a browser? Sheesh, these damns apps are slow enough as it is... just how is he planning in distributing a word processor, or a powerful drawing package? Perl scripts?!? Java ?!? The general death of applets should have proven that the "apps via the web" concept was a loser... and let's not forget issues of bandwidth and security...

    Bob's idea of using Internet appliances seems to echo Microsoft's ideas for .NET and Hailstorm--though perhaps with less OS integration. What he's driving at is not running apps through a browser, or (another interpretation) running apps on a remote server. My interpretation is that he suggests the relevant parts of (modularized) applications will be downloaded from the net at runtime and executed on the local machine.

    I believe that bandwidth will not be a serious issue for corporate users, but if such applications ever make it to the private sector, I'd agree that a lot of people would need to look at bandwidth and security as a potential set of problems.

    Of course, for quite a few people I know, bandwidth can be taken care of with $50/month, and security is an issue that never comes to mind. And privacy? Well, that's a whole 'nother can of worms...

    Linux is the antithesis of central control, especially for those of us who value our independence and privacy. I don't wish Red Hat ill, but I don't expect them to find success with "apps that sit on the net."

    Yes, I'd wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. But if Microsoft can successfully push .NET and Hailstorm to the private sector, Red Hat, Mandrake, et al. may have to follow--after all, as Bob says, their competition model (and thus potential for increased profits) is not to take customers away from other Linux companies, but to take them away from Microsoft. And if they can't provide a service that users feel is essential to their desktop experience (rented apps, having all one's private info on someone else's server, and all that good stuff), they won't be able to turn this whole mess around.


    -W-

    "Is it all journey, or is there landfall?"

  • by Kope (11702) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:33AM (#298747)
    Bob, you earned my respect with this answer:

    I have to duck this one. Security deserves precise and detailed answers and I'm not qualified to give them.

    Other than to say the price of security is eternal vigilance.

    There are a lot of people in Bob's position whow would have handed that question to an engineer or a technical lead and said "write me up a good sounding answer" and posted that answer as their own. Bob has the integrity to not pretend he is more technical than he is, and the intelligence to realize that good questions require hard knowledge and expertise to answer correctly.

    One of the reasons RedHat has done so well so far, in my oppinion, is that Bob clearly is not afraid to admit to not knowing the answer to every question. And in recognizing his own limitations, he is able to know what sort of talent he needs to surround himself with in order to succeed.

    There is a solid lesson here for anyone starting a business. Having a dream and a vision only gets you to the starting block. Understanding your limitations, having personal integrity, and surrounding yourself with people who you allow to take credit for their achievements will get you into the race.

    I wonder how many of the tech company failures we've seen can be attributed, more or less, to the key people in the company not knowing what they weren't experts in everything?

    Again, kudos Bob! That is the most impressive answer of this interview, and it says a great deal about you as a person that you should be proud of!

  • I dunno about that - do people really do significant amounts of office work with net-based apps?

    Maybe they don't, but they certainly could. Look at what's on the average corporate user's desktop:

    + Some form of e-mail/groupware -- Now client-based, but considering how many people use Hotmail/Yahoo for their personal mail, this probably could be entirely web-based and still acceptable to users.

    + Office suite -- How often are people using this just to view/print documents versus editing/creating? Most of the read-only functions could be pushed into a web app.

    + Various vertical-market and internal apps -- Very often client-based now, but the trend is definately towards intranet-based apps. If anyone is working on a large client-server type project with VB (etc) in this day-and-age, I'd like to hear about it.
    --
  • I'm not exactly sure why you linked to that article, but I personally found it to be pretty bad. His ideas were pretty good, but the evidence he provides is awful. The part you directly linked to about Sun was better than some of it, but it also selectively ignores alot of things
  • Care to provide specifics on the problems with package management you experience? Because as far as I've done it, it's:

    1. download the RPM
    2. fire up kpackage (or your favorite front-end)
    3. select the RPM you downloaded
    4. click "install"

    It even adds menu items for the new program(s). If your mime types are set up right (and in a recent distribution they should be), you can even click on .rpm files in a file browser to install them. So you can have one-click installation just the same as in Windows.

    I agree that it's still possible to find unsatisfied dependencies that require you to download new packages, but this happens in Windows too sometimes. And an X front-end to apt-get could handle this automatically. There's probably already such a tool for both .deb and .rpm, I just haven't gone looking for it.

  • Although I'm not a great fan of KDE, kpackage worked pretty well for me until I accidentally zapped my RPM db (don't ask, I'm a moron) and had to use the command line for a while. There's also rpmdrake I think for Mandrake, but I've never used it. Sounds like gnorpm might be more of the problem; I've never really used that tool too much.

    What would be the best would be a tool which would query rpmfind.net and recursively track down all the packages you need, like an RPM apt-get front end. I've never seen something like that but hopefully it's out there somewhere. Maybe rpmfind.net links to a good front end?

  • Yeah, because heaven forbid anybody ever enlighten themselves and change their opinion on something. A waste of time indeed when you can instead just cling to the same naïve beliefs that you had when you were younger.


    Cheers,

  • As a manager of mine used to say, "I don't disagree with you." I definitely agree, Linux is a song to install these days. But ease of installation doesn't make an OS ready for the desktop, that is _one_ ingredient, and in my opinion a lesser ingredient. We need a system that enables easy installation/removal of applications, ala Install Shield. The desktop environments are essentially ready. I am not familiar with suse's package manager, but I assume it isn't much better than RPM. The only package management system I have heard good reviews of is the Debian package manager. I know for a fact that, though I use Red Hat and Mandrake almost exclusively, I would not hand over the task of installing software to my wife, or my mother.

    I think the debates here have spent too much time looking at ease of installation(which is a big deal in systems that go south fairly often requiring re-installation), and what each desktop environment needs to be more user friendly. Those arguments have been addressed, and the new question is, "How do we make application management easier?"

    I try to convert people all the time, and installation is rarely a problem. The people I bother always pick a favorite desktop/window manager combination. But when they have to add/remove applications the learning curve gets real steep.

    But back to your post, I think Linux is _almost_ ready for the desktop.
  • I guess I have been using Linux too long then. I still use the console rpm command, which I am comfortable with. I just wouldn't push that off on a newbie. As far as uninstallation goes, the command line gives you all the dependancies you would be breaking, but gnorpm (The ONLY graphical tool for rpms I have even looked at) just told me that there were dependancies that would break if the package were removed, but never told me specifics. This was a while back, long enough that I can't really remember when, so the situation may be different now. Any suggestions on other rpm front ends? I know kde has one, but what about others?

    Now as far as one click installation, I agree this is easy. But what I remember of gnorpm it hides it gets buried in the application tree so that if you decide to remove it you have to know right where it is or spend quite a bit of time finding it, OR you could rpm -e [package_name] from a console. I have found the latter to be easier for me, but not a really good solution for my wife or my mom.

    I am going over to freshmeat to check out the available front ends to educate myself, but if you have any suggestions feel free to fire them my way. I really want to be better informed as I help others make the move.
  • For the most part, I tend to agree with you. But what you say is "all" they want to do with computers is really what I see as _most_ of what they want to do. The majority of the people I deal with want to be able to track their finances on their computer, applications like gnucash, moneydance, and the like really can't even compare to Quicken. DISCLAIMER: I use gnucash to keep track of my finances, exclusively. They want to be able to use their computers to do their taxes, keep track of their family trees, make greeting cards, they want to install educational software for their children, they want to be able to hook up their digital camera and make t-shirts using the nifty kit they bought at Walmart, and they want to install games, just to scratch the surface.

    You are right Linux is ready for the subset of users you defined, my wife happens to be one, which makes my life easy since I migrated all our computers to Linux over two years ago. But for the complete set of users, I am still skeptical[see my reply to ethereal above].

    I want nothing more than to see applications on the shelves of Walmart, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc. that are ready to install and run on Linux. In my opinion, once there is a system that enables this across the major distributions Linux will truly be ready for the desktop. Again, this is only my opinion, but this, besides sheer demand for Linux ports of commercial apps, is the next big stumbling block that needs to be removed to get commercial software vendors to port their applications. I know that there are those out there that believe that we should just develop free alternatives to these applications. I am probably about to get flamed here, but there is too much ground to be covered. The big players are too far ahead with their applications, I will take Quicken versus Gnucash again. I have tracked gnucash for quite some time and have been using it for over a year. It still doesn't have features that Quicken had back in 1995, like auto advancement of check numbers, and financial categories for transactions so you can track your spending.

    Don't get me wrong, I applaud your enthusiasm. I want more than anything in the world to be able to say emphatically that Linux is ready for the desktop, I have wanted this for the last five years. I still say that it is almost ready.
  • I strongly recommend Will Wright, author of the Sims. He's an awesome speaker and gave what most people considered to be the best presentation of the 2001 GDC.
  • I keep hearing about how the lack of desktop standardization concerning Gnome and KDE is such a problem, and I have to say that I really don't understand how. You don't NEED Gnome to run an app that was written using the GTK+ toolkit, nor do you need KDE to run a Qt app. Why can't developers like Microsoft or whoever just pick a toolkit and use it?

    -Will
  • Financial statements won't give you the level of detail you're asking for. The Consolidated Statements of Operations shows how Red Hat's revenue breaks down in terms of Subscription, Services, and Web. That seems to indicate an annualized total revenue of around $80m. The rest is presumably from investments and such, but I didn't try to track it down.
  • For your suggestion of a middle-client, check out Java Web Start [sun.com], which Sun are promoting heavily at the moment. It basically does exactly what you described. The way Java is taking off right now, it really could become a very big thing.
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:43AM (#298760) Journal
    For the first hundred years of copyright, copyright terms lasted less than 20 years. In the last 40 years copyright has been extended to 70 years plus the lifetime of the author. How government granted monopolies, justified as a means for providing incentive to authors to create additional works, achieves that goal *70 years after the author's death* mystifies me.

    This is the point we need to focus on, to drive home. Make this simple point to your congresscritter, senator, anyone with power who will listen. This is what its all about folks.

    I don't see how anyone can justify any kind of copyright, patent, or any other IP protection after the author is dead. The only reason for this is to line the pockets of the RIAA, MPAA, and OEAAs. (Other Evil Arbitrary Acronymns). Give the rights back to the authors and artists! (Now that we have an effective means of distribution, we can cut out *all* the middlemen, and get stuff directly from the creator to the consumer.)

  • "Let me be clear: Intellectual Property rights (IP) such as patents and copyrights are good things. But like anything in life too much of a good thing no longer is good. Too little vitamin D and you get bone diseases. Too much vitamin D will kill you. IP can be useful to independent inventors to protect their invention from being copied and marketed by larger distributors without compensation to the inventor. But today IP is mostly used by the armies of lawyers employed by the largest technology and publishing companies to squash potential competitors who don't have access to equivalent legal resources."

    WOW! I could not have put it better myself. This is the most lucid, concise, simple explanation of what as a small business owner my greatest fear is, and why Microsoft(tm) - see is this really necessary....was brought to capital hill....although at this point it's looking more and more like an exercise in futility[sp?].
  • Der Wienerschnitzel" might seem rather crude to a German...
    So how do you explain der Schweinebraten now?

  • Computer technology roughly alternates between centralized control and distributed control. Mainframes to time-sharing to client-server to powerful workstations. Right now we are in a decentralized phase. It makes sense that a centralized phase will come next, and that is what network services are about.

    Sure, current implementations aren't fast enough. But there are real benefits to having the app live on a central system. Maybe not to you, but certainly to any large organization.
  • Try filling out those warranty cards an check or write in Linux. (you might want to give a fake email, though.)
  • by watanabe (27967) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @08:12AM (#298765)
    Although I liked Bob better than Doug, (Doug was a bit too clever at redirecting questions toward blase positive sounding answers), I am interested that Bob considers opening Microsoft Word documents as a major desktop need.

    I find that, even with utilities like antiword and abiword, I cannot really keep up with the MS-Office ratrace in a way that works perfectly for our customers. I would like to be able to edit these documents, annotate them, view excel spreadsheets and powerpoint files, etc. as well as just read word files.

    Even for word files, the extra hassle of downloading the attachments, piping them through antiword, and then printing feels is not insignificant, compared to clicking to open in Outlook.Outlook is still a killer app for large businesses; the productivity plus scheduling capabilities are truly excellent.

    If Redhat is truly competing in a market where applications drive OS purchase, I would like to hear more from Bob on how Redhat is supporting and developing these applications. It seems to me that companies like Eazel and Ximian are where the real value drivers are for Linux, according to his argument. Or even Corel (!).

  • i must say, i got a good chuckle out of this...

    ;)
  • "Why would my grandfather want to use Linux today?"

    Because, if you don't give grandfather the root password he can't trash the system. How many people here help support their family members with IT support? Mothers, Fathers, Siblings, Grandparents? How many of their problems would be solved if they were given a user level account on a configured linux box?
  • So is it Weiner or Wiener? Der or Das?

    It's das Wienerschnitzel--this according to my German girlfriend.

    There's also das Jaegerschnitzel--schnitzel with mushrooms.

    Mike

  • In German pronunciation Wiener would sound like WEENER and Weiner would sound like WHINER.

    --mike
  • You're not looking at the apps that people are using.

    I agree that a full office suite won't work in this context (should but won't). But what about email? Task Management? Directories (A web based interface to your LDAP stuff).

    Look at the PalmOS devices. They are "productive." Hotmail is a successfull application even.

  • Their heirs? For 70 YEARS? That's 3 GENERATIONS of people who will benifit because their great-great-grandfather wrote a catchy tune. Why do they deserve a penny? What the hell did they do to help create the work?

    Screw that.

    Copyright was invented to help the widow of a dead artist survive...and when in America, the first term was 14 years. That's enough.

    I think getting a fat paycheck for over 100 years is a DISINCENTIVE to work hard at creating art. Once you succeed, you never have to work again (or so the theory goes).
  • I think that one of the things that it comes down to is that both GNOME and KDE have applications that specifically run under those platforms. Both have functionality that the other lacks. It is true that it is good to have several projects out there so that people can choose what is best for them. However, what linux really needs right now is a standardised GUI that can work with either a standard toolkit, or with the existing ones. One of the only things that Linux really lacks is a good front end. That is, and has always been one of the reasons that people choose windows over linux.
    ----------------------
  • They mean in marketing hype not technology.
    Surely not even you would claim that MS invented the idea of a web app. MS is following the inovators of the web to try and lock internet users into their own application framework hoping that people will abandon open standards.
  • I don't see how anyone can justify any kind of copyright, patent, or any other IP protection after the author is dead.

    No, this is wrong. Consider those authors or songwriters who have died early in their lives, but whose families still depend on those proceeds, especially when they're used for good causes?

    Who knows how much money Sublime CD's would have raised for drug abuse awareness if they didn't hold a copyright - especially since they became a hit after Brad Nowell died of a overdose?

    I believe that 70 years may seem excessive, but it keeps the people from whacking others just so they can use their music or books without having to pay licensing fees...

  • Thanks for the link. I wasn't able to see any kind of breakdown of how they make their money from that link, though.

    And I am not very good at deciphering finance speak.

    This is the closest thing I could find using your link:

    Red Hat solutions combine Red Hat Linux, developer and embedded technologies, training, management services, technical support. We deliver this open source innovation to our customers via an Internet platform called Red Hat Network.
    Hardly very illuminating.
  • Thanks for the link. I spent about 20 minutes on it.

    I learned more about their operations, but I still can't answer my original question. Again, I just don't know finance-speak well enough.

    I would like to know how their revenue stream breaks down and how much money they get for things like customizing/porting the GNU C compiler versus holding someone's hand through installing Red Hat versus remotely administering a small business's Red-Hat based office LAN.
  • It is interesting that Red Hat's revenues have grown to $100 million from $15 million before the IPO. There was little other information given in the interview, however, about where the bulk of Red Hat's revenue comes from.

    The standard explanation has been that Red Hat sells service. It that mainly helping people install Red Hat on their computers for desktop use? Or more complex tech support issues?

    It would be nice to see a breakdown on where most of their money is coming from.
  • one answer is, what are Microsoft toolkits often too good at? Integration. KDE and GNOME have incompatible integration glue, for example only gnome has bonobo

    If I write an X program it should work on all X clients but it won't be integrated. I could write a KDE app but then that won't be integrated with bonobo etc
  • What Bob neglects to mention is the company that lobbied for the extension to copyrights was none other than the Disney corp.

    Patents are different to copyright, I think Bob subconsciously blurred the answer here. The question is should we have been allowed to copy Mickey mouse in 1966, or wait 1986 or now 2034. I think Disney thinks the answer should be never.

  • RH 6.0 included a driver for my Canon BJC-210 bubblejet printer (thx to printtool). that might seem like a small thing to everyone else, but to me it means I don't need a windows machine to handle my "designed for windows" printer. and I also don't need to pay for a licensed copy of windows just to handle print spooling. add everything else I can do with my RH GNU/Linux machine, and I'm definitely a few bucks ahead.
  • Actually, pirana do eat each other. Back in highschool, our biology class had three small pirana at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, we had one large pirana.
  • Actually, heirs of the deceased would still continue to profit. And what monopolies? Did Jimmy Hendrix create a monopoly? Earnest Hemmingway?

    Sounds more like socialistic diatiabe to me. You built it, wrote it, sang it, etc. you and yours are entitled to profit from it. Else, where is the incentive to create? To share with others? LOL.
  • Well, People may still be buying a novel or record, thus cashflow is being generated. Who is entitled to that cash? Joe Laborer on the other hand is dead and is producing no more cash flow.
  • Stop talking and start coding.

    If you can't devote the 10 hours a day to make good progress on the project, then go pay M$ to do it for you. All that hardware is well supported under Windows, so whats the problem?

    RedHat doesn't have any obligation to make *your* hardware work for you, the hardware manufacturer has that responsibility.

    You don't think Minolta, 3dfx and whoever makes the Neo45 should be responsible for providing drivers for their products?

    You either bought peripherals that were unsupported by your OS, or installed an OS that didn't support your peripherals.

    Go whine at Minolta, 3dfx/NVidia and whoever makes the Neo45, not the Slashdotters, because it's your own stupidity and unrealistic expectations that got you into this mess.

  • It is hands-down the best productivity suite for ANY OS.

    Maybe, maybe not. But if it is, it's only because everybody else who makes office suites was basically forced out of the market by M$'s illegal, anti-competitive bundling agreements.

    If it weren't for that, Lotus Smartsuite or Corel PerfectOffice would have been profitable enough to justify further investment by their respective owners. But as it was, Lotus and Corel simply could not afford to try and stay neck and neck with, or speed past, Office.

  • Does this remind anyone else (other than me) of the oft-failed concept of the network computer? This seems to come up every few years -- it's back to the future time, as companies try to restore the days of dumb terminals and mainframes. Sure, the processing is now distributed, but the fundamental problem remains: People simply aren't comfortable with having their software residing on another machine.


    People are certainly comfortable having their search engines [google.com] and mail servers [hotmail.com] residing on another machine. For the majority of computer users, the location of a process is irrelevant: only the results matter.

    k.
    --
    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people
    are really good at heart." - Anne Frank
  • Congratulations, you just invented Sun's Java Web Start [sun.com]. Seriously though, this just came out recently and looks to be the exact direction Sun is taking to try and revive client-side Java.
  • You mentioned dedicated wordprocessors a couple of times there. I hadn't really thought much about their death, not that I really miss them or anything. I suspect that they were killed more by ink jet printers and cheap workgroup lasers than my cheaper computers. The niche they seemed to fill was allowing poor typists to product professional looking documents (in the standard of the day) which is something that just wasn't possible to do with a personal computer attached to a 9-pin (or even a 24-pin) dot-matrix printer. There were a few places that had access to a $20k laser printer but they certianly didn't exist in most offices and never in a private home. Today I can get a cheap laser printer for $300 that produces better looking documents than any typewriter and for about the same money I could also get a color inkjet that can print out magazine quality full color pages. The dedicated word processor was great when it could do everything that a computer based word processor could do and make better hard copies, but that day is over.
    _____________
  • Now that we have an effective means of distribution, we can cut out *all* the middlemen, and get stuff directly from the creator to the consumer.

    As a musician, recording engineer, and record label owner, I can say that it has been possible since the mid-1950's for musicians to make and sell their own records, even internationally. Thanks to computer magic, it's even easier for lazy "musi-cans" to make crappy records on their Pee Cees and beam with pride at their bitchin' MP3s (which are an abomination before truly great audio).

    Musicians voluntarily sign away their rights to large record labels; despite what she implied, no one held a shotgun to Courtney Love's head to persuade her to sign a crappy contract. Suddenly, she's a victim? Gimmie a break, she's only a victim of her own delusions of grandeur.

    mb
  • I'm a bit disappointed with Bob's answer to my question. Basically, he's taking a "If you build it, they will come" attitude to hardware support. I can think of another company that took that attitude with their computer product.

    Its name was Atari.

    True, many hardware vendors are supporting Linux, many more than yesterday. However, I still have my Minolta DimageII film scanner that Linux won't recognize, a Neo45 MP3 system Linux cannot talk to, and my Voodoo 3500 that Linux cannot reliably control the tuner on (although I DO get damn good framerates with XFree 4.01 DRI).

    If RH were to assign a programmer to making V4L support the V3500 tuner, a programmer to making the USB->SCSI driver work reliably on the Minolta, and getting the USB->IDE interface in the Neo working, they could have that in about three man-months each. Plus, with a good framework for SCSI->USB and IDE->USB, then other people could add support. RH could act as a catylist.

    (Before you say "Stop talking and start coding" - I'd love to, and I plan on it. However, I have a new house to pay for, so I have to work for a living. I cannot devote the 10 hours/day it takes to make good progress on this sort of project. Perhaps in my younger days in college... but not now.)
  • Well 70 years after the death is long.
    I understand allowing the copyright to remain with the author for their entire life. It is theirs and as far as they are concerned it will always be theirs.
    I don't think extending it for their heirs is fair, or beneficial to society.
    However if it expired with them, unethical entities may choose to expire particular individuals prematurely to get at their valuable IP. I think by having a sufficiently long after death period we are preventing certain nasty things from happening. Murdering a popular muscian to sell copies of their highly popular work today could be an easy way to get a lot of money. Having to wait 70 years wouldn't have much benefit at all.
  • I have to disagree -- conditionally. While I wouldn't want ALL my software existing on the Net, there are some things that people already have no problem with running off the Internet. AIM Express is the main example that comes to mind; it exists completely as a Java applet, downloaded off the Net to use remotely.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, while users may not like having their word processor on some central server somewhere, maybe they'll embrace it when dealing with small to mid-sized applications that are most convenient when accessible from many locations.

    Of course, I could be totally wrong.
  • Das Wienerschnitzel
    Der Schweinebraten

    are both correct because the definite article (das or der) must agree with the gender of the noun. In these cases, the noun is compound, ie. "Wienerschnitzel" is made up of "Wiener" and "schnitzel" -ie. the schnizel from Vienna, and "Schweinebraten" consists of "Schweine" and "Braten" - ie. the porc roast.

    So, since "schnitzel" is masculine and "braten" is neuter, we have "das Wienerschnitzel" and "der Schweinebraten".

    Lesson over.
  • by FattMattP (86246) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @09:51AM (#298797) Homepage
    Why don't you read their financial statements? They'll detail exactly how they made their money and how much.

    http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ti cker=RHAT&script=2100&layout=-6 [corporate-ir.net]

  • 1980s legacy OSes


    Marketing hype is a Bad Thing, whichever way you cut it. If any derivative of an OS invented in the 1980's is considered a "legacy OS", then I'd fully expect all current OSs to be "1960s legacy OSes" to some degree or another. How "1960s Legacy" Red Hat Linux is is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • Wow, Bob's been entrenched in Linuxland for quite a while. Aldus Pagemaker has been Adobe Pagemaker [adobe.com] for years now.
    --
  • I have always kind of wondered how much linux distro's help each other out. Obviously they can all see each other's sources, but do they try to compete with each other or take the attitude from Rounders - pirana's don't eat each other. It seems that it would be in their best interest to work together, the bigger linux gets, the better they all do. I should have asked it when I got the chance I guess. Also, Bob Young seems really cool.
  • I think at this stage of the game, the mass appeal of new PCs are because of "OS-independent" applications, such as ... ICQ/AIM

    Whose terms of service and client connection protocols rule [slashdot.org] out [slashdot.org] connection from Free clients to their servers. s/AIM/Jabber [jabber.com]/g and you'll be fine.

  • Yeah yeah yeah...but let's try for Peter Molyneux...!!!

  • Tell them (politely) if that's their attitude, you will purchase your next printers elsewhere until Linux is a supported OS. If they feel it in the pocket book, they'll pay attention.

    Really, I can understand that attitude - they don't know what a crappy driver might do to something. Just give them a financial incentive to support it.
    .
  • What will that tell 'em if you've already bought
    the product?

    "cool, they buy our stuff anyway, why bother
    writing drivers?"...

    The Master Of Muppets,
  • Comparing this "interview" to the Microsoft one last week reminds me of a field trip I took in high school. We toured a nuclear power plant and a gas-fired power plant. The nuclear plant was unbelievably clean, with a well laid out visitor center, plush conference room, and a company rep dressed in a suit.

    The gas-fired plant, by contrast, was incredibly noisy, had a meeting room with missing roof tiles, and our tour guide was wearing overalls.

    I see the same thing in comparing this Interview to the Microsoft one. One is slick, well-presented, clean. The other is rough around the edges, not as polished, but overall, a much better neighbor.

  • But you don't need the whole of Windows 98 merely to play games. An easy to upgrade console would make a great internet appliance/games machine/DVD player. I'm surprised this hasn't occurred to anyone apart from Indrema.
  • by zorba1 (149815) <[zorba1] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:18AM (#298834)
    The real answer to your question goes like this: No one (other than maybe some Slashdot reader) buys operating systems. People buy applications and then chose the operating system that best runs those applications.
    I think at this stage of the game, the mass appeal of new PCs are because of "OS-independent" applications, such as browsing the WWW, e-mail, ICQ/AIM, etc. A combination of market pervasiveness, familiarity, and majority exposure drives these customers to pick a Windows PC over a Mac/Linux box.
  • by connorbd (151811) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @08:05AM (#298837) Homepage
    No, oft-failed is correct. The dumb terminal's run is the closest anyone's ever come to a viable network computer, and these days it's easier (though maybe not necessarily cheaper?) to buy last year's PC to do the job. And then there was Minitel, but that never saw the light of day outside France.

    Since then we've seen Videotex, X terminals, Diskless Workstations, Network Computers (aka thin clients), email stations, and Audrey, all failures. Not to mention dedicated word processors, which were useful for a while as portable typewriter replacements but now have zero visibility on the market. You take this all back to the beginning of the whole Videotex thing and you realize that it hasn't happened yet, and it ain't going to.

    The thin client market has always thrived on necessity. You can't give everyone their own PDP-11? Get a shopping-cart-full of VT100s and put one on every desk in the office. You can't afford that new Compaq/Commodore SX-64/Osborne (or just can't fit it on your tray table)? We got these nifty dedicated word processors (but even then you had the Tandy 100, the first great laptop). When the PC became sufficiently cheap, the thin client market became rather meaningless for most people. (Note I say most -- while a dedicated word processor is probably more trouble than it's worth, there's something to be said for an email station in the kitchen, and of course let's not forget the ultimate thin client, the PDA.)

    No doubt the computer industry wants to see the thin client model back -- if nothing else it's a way for IT departments to feel important and yet give them less crap to deal with (after all, since when does an Xterminal come with a cupholder :-) ). But the fact is that it simply doesn't seem to be worth most people's while today, and until a point comes where an absolutely essential service appears but happens to be financially bottlenecked, we won't see network computers succeed.

    /Brian
  • "KDE and Gnome does hurt Linux more than it helps"

    I am sorry, but having lots of window managers does not "hurt Linux". It is quite emotionally stable. Maybe your goal is for Linux to become a popular desktop operating system for home users or for people who aren't too into computers. In that case window manager diversification hurts your goal of what Linux shold be. That is not everyone's goal. It is not "Linux's" goal.

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @03:41PM (#298840) Homepage
    At The Ohio State University, the computers in our computer labs are like this. Well they, from what I can figure out, are some kind of HP Xwindow terminals. So I am sure they are a breeze to admin! And from them we can either log into our accounts on the solaris server or log into NT4. All this is done over the network. I had never heard of using NT4 over an X terminal but it works great! They dont have to buy hundreds of full computers this way.

    I think Bob here's got a point that this will become much more popular in the future.

  • by FortKnox (169099) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:07AM (#298843) Homepage Journal
    Can you guys attempt to get a game designer (richard gariott, or warren spector, or sid meier, etc...) for a future /. interview. There's been good interviews lately, and I'd like to ask some questions to the gaming gods.

    Just a suggestion :-)
  • Hardware is my biggest concern, especially on my new Dell laptop (fortunately, RedHat 7.0 had the proper XFree86 to run my special Mobility chip).

    But what about wireless networking? It'd be nice if most 802.11b cards worked right out of the box.

  • One can only hope that the balkanization of the internet contributes to the balkanization of the OS market. This would contribute to the growth of all of the small time players.

    Although this has it's downside as well.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • Everyone complains about web content they can't view without Windows IE but I never encounter any.
    I don't come across much which requires IE and won't work at all with Netscape 4, but I do come across sites which won't work with Netscape 6/Moziila. Qantas has one [qantas.com.au].
  • He totally missd the questions - or, in his words:

    [his] arguments are red herrings thrown to distract the debate from the real issues. The real issue is not standards or technical compatibility with specific pieces of binary-only software....

    Actually, the real issue IS standards, as anyone who's followed the rise of Windows and the web should know. Standard APIs and operating environment -> more developers, more customers, positive feedback loop. Fragmentation -> confused customers, confused developers, fewer customers, fewer developers.

    Imagine the internet before the www became the most popular application. You needed a whole book just to understand the six different applications (ftp, telnet, archie, veronica, gopher, news) that people commonly used to publish stuff. No wonder nobody used it until Mosaic was invented!

    We're in a similar place with Linux now. KDE vs. GNOME is something that Joe User doesn't understand IN ANY WAY. Not until there's a common, standard operating environment (obviously with other alternatives out there) will the positive feedback loop described above really take off. Until then, bye-bye Linux on the desktop.

    Which makes me wonder: why don't execs like this spend more time trying to drive standardization OF SOME KIND instead of just bitching about Microsoft?

  • So we had Win95,98,ME versus NT,2000. Did that kill Micros**t?

    No, but I would argue that it's hurt them. The fragmentation caused user confusion, higher support costs, and less user adoption.

    Example: I'm using Win 98. Do I upgrade to Me or 2K? Or do nothing? The latter choice wins because of my laziness and the complexity of upgrade issues (will my XYZ work on this vs. that? will I have more crashes? etc). Result: Microsoft loses revenue. So they are, in my view, leaving money on the table by tolerating fragmentation.

    Ditto Linux.

  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:27AM (#298857) Homepage
    The future of the desktop will be using Internet appliances where the applications will sit out on the net (or your corporate Intranet) and you just download the small pieces that allow you to use those applications without having to take responsibility for them.

    Does Bob really believe what he's said above?

    Does this remind anyone else (other than me) of the oft-failed concept of the network computer? This seems to come up every few years -- it's back to the future time, as companies try to restore the days of dumb terminals and mainframes. Sure, the processing is now distributed, but the fundamental problem remains: People simply aren't comfortable with having their software residing on another machine. The idea has failed several times under various guises; what makes Bob Young and Microsoft (as in Hailstorm) think this idea is going to work now? Maybe Red Hat needs to find a scheme for making money, since selling a free product isn't working all that well.

    Okay, I can see the MIS director loving this idea, and (as someone who managed a couple-hundred PC network) I see advantages to centralized application distribution and data storage on a corporate intranet. But such a scheme simply doesn't work for the Internet, where privacy and data security are very important to individual and otherwise disconnected people.

    And who wants to run software via a browser? Sheesh, these damns apps are slow enough as it is... just how is he planning in distributing a word processor, or a powerful drawing package? Perl scripts?!? Java ?!? The general death of applets should have proven that the "apps via the web" concept was a loser... and let's not forget issues of bandwidth and security...

    Linux is the antithesis of central control, especially for those of us who value our independence and privacy. I don't wish Red Hat ill, but I don't expect them to find success with "apps that sit on the net."

    --
    Scott Robert Ladd
    Master of Complexity
    Destroyer of Order and Chaos

  • by Monkeyman334 (205694) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:47AM (#298858)
    On this paragraph, talking about choices and compatability (ex, KDE and Gnome):

    On one thing Doug Miller and I agree: serving your customers is how you build great companies. I just don't see how locking your customers into inflexible binary-only proprietary technologies over which they have no control can be defined as serving them. I guess we still have some work to do getting the word out that there is a more robust, reliable and economic way to use technology, it's called open source.

    He kinda missed the point. It's obvious that choices are good. You got vanilla, you got strawberry. But the point the MS guy was trying to make was that it's not cost effective, from the MS view. And not worth it to develop the same thing twice for KDE and Gnome. Do you guys think that it's worth it?
  • the questions you have ducked.

    That's not to say, that I am not very pleased and relieved with with the answers Bob Young gave to the question of "Standardization" by "milo_Gwalthny"

    I especially agree with him on these:

    This control over future innovation is being assisted by the trend in our legislatures worldwide to expand Intellectual Property (patents and copyrights, otherwise known as government granted monopolies) rights. These enable corporations to maximize their profits at the expense of the citizens in our society and are not just bad for our democracy, it is bad for business.

    and this

    Giving the major global publishing and technology companies ever-greater government granted monopolies on vast definitions of technology (think "one-click" patents on a website) is inconsistent with how free-market democracies are supposed to work. Then arguing, as Miller does, that any alternative model cannot be legitimate because it does not generate the monopoly profits his employer collects would be a joke - if were not for so many of our legislators buying this line of reasoning.

    and this

    The cool thing about free-market democracies is that the citizens are the consumers. So you can sometimes solve societal problems in the marketplace. This is where Red Hat's and the rest of the open source suppliers opportunity lies.

    and this:

    Matthew Szulik and his team have driven Red Hat from revenues of less than $15 million when we went public 21 months ago, to over $100 million today with gross margins in excess of 55%.

    And if your pledge to serve your customer better is honest, Mr. Young, get Matthew Szulik out and answer the rest of the questions you didn't wnat to get into. :-)

  • The reason for extending copyright after its holder's death is really simple: Most people who are holding copyrights when they die have a spouse, or children, or other beneficiaries. Extending the copyright lets them continue to benefit for a few years.

    (Of course, this could just be written into the law, as well...)

    IANAL, but, as I reacall, copyright of 70 years + author's life is only for works that are held by a natural person--so Microsoft's copyright on Windows won't last until 70 years after Bill Gate's death.
  • by update() (217397) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:36AM (#298864) Homepage
    I have to admit, I was expecting some nonsense about how AbiWord and Kspread are superior to MS Office that I could snidely dismiss. The answer was more interesting than I would have thought even if I don't really buy it.

    The real answer to your question goes like this: No one (other than maybe some Slashdot reader) buys operating systems. People buy applications and then chose the operating system that best runs those applications.

    True.

    If you work as I do: on the net (Netscape) including all the net-based apps that I can run from my browser, reading email (exmh), and printing the occasional Word file (Applixware), you can do all these things on a Linux box every bit as easily and a great deal more reliably than on any of the 1980's legacy OSes.

    I dunno about that - do people really do significant amounts of office work with net-based apps? Maybe they do. Everyone complains about web content they can't view without Windows IE but I never encounter any. Maybe I'm just a Luddite.

    Of course, there's also the usual insinuation of "Windows crashes every five minutes." that is untrue (especially compared to doing heavyweight work in Netscape or Mozilla in Linux) but you can't really hold that against him. ;-)

    The part about "the future of the desktop" is a bit more plausible, although it doesn't address the question of "Why would my grandfather want to use Linux today?"

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • 'Insightful'?

    Open Source != GPL.
    Besides, you could pay for the source code provided you sign non-disclosure agreements.

    Dark side ... Bob is not a normal anti-MS zealot. He just use this phrase to feed the slashdot audience.

    He knows about business. He knows about marketing. He is now facing MS (or any other big businesses) normal tactics and when he was asked of his opinion on Doug's comments he used some rather agressive languages to offer a different point of view, i.e. IP vs author vs corporations/publishers vs users.

    He is just smarter, from a business point of view, than many of us.
    He is also greedy. If he is less greedy, he would work in other businesses or work in the traditional shrink-wrap software business, and i speculate that he would be successful. He sees an opportunity/risk, and want to create a new empire.

    But i guess he now believes he could not fight with MS + Sun + IBM combined. So he changes his plan. Sell y * $89(?) to rich stock speculators. (No one would buy RH stock at $89. Right?) He aims for smaller scheme of success in RH. And works on something as a hobby, i.e. IP, that he thinks are important.

    I wish i were him...

    (I am not a Bob/RH fan)

  • I got into linux with Red Hat. The installation was easy although learning it was a bitch. I took me a while to get it and I can say recently that I am getting at least adequate. I downloaded Mandrake 7.2 a few weeks back and whoa. The installation was simple. The setup was simple and system administration is a snap. Dont get me wrong I like the command line NOW. But to learn graphically, at least the concepts and the ideas is awesome. It makes it so much easier using linuxconf and drakconf than using command line arguments on other distros. I believe Mandrake will dominate the Desktop market while Red Hat goes after the server market.

    Here is the thing. Microsoft doesnt have to worry about Linux for the time being. The reason is that Linux is an operaing system + apps etc. One thing that Linux companies need to do is start consolidating to become a more effective way to promote ( which lacks the most ). Mandrake Single User Basic installation is a step in the right direction. It sets up a single user, and doesnt really offer many options during install. It is perfect for someone to get into Linux. Add a simple linux book and they are set. I currently use Progeny RC2 which is also a simple graphical installation and basic setup. Linux will one day be a strong force and will dominate MS. Patiance will pay off in the end. As the kernel and the apps slowly evolve and become less bug free, when the Linux craze hits, and it will, it will be huge. Red Hat will go after the server market as they do now. The desktop market I think will go to Mandrake. Although the coolest part is, no matter which distro you buy ( consumers right now dont know WHICH one to buy ) each distro will run the application.

    I remember using Windows 3.0 on a 386, 5 years later, Windows 95 comes out, and recently Windows 2000. Give the linux companies a few years and soon software companies will start developing for every OSout there because they will lose money if they do not.

    Arathres


    I love my iBook. I use it to run Linux!
  • by dodson (248550) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:52AM (#298882)
    If Linux will profit from a economic downturn I would expect the concept of network computers should see a resurgence for the same reasons.

    Projects like the Linux Terminal Server Project http://www.ltsp.org/index.php are already providing similar solutions.

  • [thin client] computing restricted to just the corporate setting.
    Think of 5,000 employees coming in at 8:30 am, turning on the computer, and starting to download MS Word across the network. Two hours later, the boss starts to wonder why everyone is _still_ sitting around drinking coffee. "We're waiting for the computers to boot up." Or if by "thin client" you mean the software runs on the servers and they send screen-shots across the network several times a second, then you've invented a way to keep GHz ethernet overloaded all day.

    True, it would be possible to write a good word processor that wouldn't hammer a 100MHz LAN. I used to write term papers in LeScript, on a TRS-80 Model I with 48K of RAM. I wouldn't want to go quite all the way back to that (monospaced font, and little choice of which font), but you could get the essential parts of a good word processor in less than 1/2 Meg, then download the extras later, only for the few people that use them. Don't expect to see that soon, because you could not get from MS Word or any other bloated product to there -- you would have to make a fresh start.

    A more reasonable approach might be to use a "medium client." The desktops download the application once, then cache it on their local hard drives. Once a day, they check whether the cache is still current. It doesn't save on harware cost at all, but in theory the tech support guys never have to come back after installing the computer. But you either have to make all desktops identical, or make the programs handle all variations in hardware transparently. And I think then you are back to bloatware -- and unreliable bloatware, too.
  • It's not paranoia. It comes down to one's philisophical disposition... some people *actually* believe in the GPL. They feel that it is a user's right to recieve source.

    I don't think that this was an odd statement coming from someone who owes the GPL so much. He's just being true to his ethics.

    If you believe that the GPL is the correct thing to do, is it so strange to view working for a non-GPL company the wrong thing to do?

  • by CyberDawg (318613) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:59AM (#298888) Homepage

    I think it's great that he recognizes who is and who isn't significant competition for RedHat.

    Let's do the math here. Let's say he finds a RedHat competitor that makes $10M per year selling a Linux distro. Through targeted, aggressive marketing, he takes away half their business. He's just increased RedHat's sales by 5%.

    Now let's say he targets Microsoft. If he takes away just a tiny fraction of Microsoft's business, he can increase RedHat by 100% or more.

    Never target the little competitors (unless you're the big guy and you want to prevent them from challenging you). Always target the big guys. As Willy Sutton might say-- that's where the money is.

  • by fantastic (398233) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @07:43AM (#298894)
    Bob answered most questions except the standardization issue. That KDE and Gnome does hurt Linux more than it helps. Microsoft knows this which is why Doug Miller mentioned it and if there is one thing Microsoft has experience with its gui toolkits and how ISVs use them.

    We do not have the resources at my company to test KDE *and* Gnome. Its one or the other, current status is that we will not support KDE but its been a very difficult decision.

    This is reality, hopefully someone else can point
    out how they can develop for both toolkits and
    support them and be successful at it

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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