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MandrakeSoft Files for Bankruptcy Protection 495

Posted by michael
from the goodwill-not-enough-to-live-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's official: MandrakeSoft has filed a 'declaration de cessation des paiements' - the French equivalent of a U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. From a statement issued by the company: 'This reorganization of liabilities enables MandrakeSoft to continue its current operations, which are showing increases in revenue and significant decreases in expenses. MandrakeSoft's strategic partners are supporting the company in this process and the MandrakeSoft team is focused on continuing to deliver high quality services and products to its customers.' Best wishes to MandrakeSoft as they work through this process."
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MandrakeSoft Files for Bankruptcy Protection

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  • by Maeryk (87865) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:11PM (#5088876) Journal
    If Mandrake dies a horrible and ugly death, it will not just be one more dead distro, it will be proof to all the closed source liscensing junkie corps. that "free" (as in beer) software cannot survive.

    Now is the time to contribute to MandrakeSoft and help them out. If you have ever used it, if you use it now, if you have ever found it useful, now is the time to contribute.

    I run it, I have contributed. I even saved them the money by d/ling my copy from linuxiso.org and then sending them the money.

    But think for a moment, how much a license for Windows costs, and how little it costs to shoot five, or even one, dollar to Mandrake as a "thank you" if you use their software.

    "Free" is a misnomer.. nothing is "free".. but "user supported" is probably as close to "free" as we can get, with an important distinction between "user purchased" and "user supported".

    I would hate to see what is a rather good distro tank now, because of money woes.
  • rumors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:16PM (#5088920) Homepage


    This is all rumors so please take it with a grain of salt.

    From what I understand during the dot-com boom Mandrake signed contracts regarding e-Education with many bankrupt / troubled dot-com companies. Mandrake has pulled out of those contracts and is now in the penalty phase. These companies want to collect their penalties from Mandrake and Mandrake cannot make the payments.

    Under French bankruptcy law these penalties would be voided and the remaining company (the company that sells a Linux distribution) would be viable. So by threatening bankruptcy all they really mean is walking away from their e-Education related debts. This may or may not be a tactic to get the e-Education creditors to be willing to take 10 cents on the dollar rather than the nothing they would get under a bankruptcy.

    In any case a bankrupt Mandrake my not mean the end of the Mandrake distribution.

    Just to throw in a person note I hope its not the end. Mandrake has a great niche as the desktop distribution for the computer power-user who is not necc. all that knowledgeable about Linux. That's very different from the current crop of easy desktop distributions which are much more power limiting and very different than the server / corporate based distributions. I think its an import niche and one that gets filled regardless of what happens to Mandrake.
  • Don't worry! (Score:0, Insightful)

    by PhysicsGenius (565228) <physics_seeker&yahoo,com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:18PM (#5088935)
    Remember, their only valuable asset was the code and Linus owns that. He's a man of principle and I'm sure he'd never sell out, so we are probably safe. What we need to focus on is making Linux stronger than ever. It doesn't matter if 1 or 5 or 10 or a million Linux companies go out of business, because Linux isn't about making money, it's about making choices. Apparently Mandrake made some wrong choices and I hope RedHat avoids the errors Mandrake made, such as a reliance on bells and whistles instead of hardware compliance.
  • by SenatorTreason (640653) <senatortreason@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:21PM (#5088954)
    I use Mandrake Linux on my laptop, and am very happy with 9.0. They have a good,solid product, and I think that ultimately this is a good thing. A rebirth of sorts. They made some very poor business decisions early on, but they are on a better track. Unfortunately, this better track could not make up for the past decisions financially quick enough. So they file for bankruptcy, reorganize, refocus on their key advantages, and come back out swinging. Look for a K.O. in a couple of months when come out of their financial corner. Good luck, Mandrake.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:22PM (#5088961)
    If Mandrake dies a horrible and ugly death, it will not just be one more dead distro, it will be proof to all the closed source liscensing junkie corps. that "free" (as in beer) software cannot survive.

    But doesn't it prove just the opposite? The company dies, but the software lives on. I expect that the vast majority of people who use Mandrake will have no problem moving their setup across to another distro. But imagine what would happen if a traditional, closed source company died. Then you'd be screwed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:23PM (#5088974)
    This has nothing to do with free software, it has everything to do with mis-management and not knowing how to run a software company.

    Get real, if they can't run a business then they should fail, it has nothing to do with Linux or free software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:25PM (#5088988)
    First of all, consider the amount of debt you have to be in to file for Bankruptcy protection.

    Now, think of how many people run linux, and have the cash to donate.

    You will need a VERY SERIOUS movement to keep Mandrake alive. And by serious, I mean big enough to grab media attention. Then what are you telling commercial software companies? We can help our companies when they are down. But what happens when they go into debt again, then a third time...

    I love linux, don't get me wrong. And Linux isn't going to die, even if all the 'company distros' go out of business, but to think that you can save it to prove a point to proprietary software is, well, its a sad dream that will, most likely, not come to fruitation.
  • Sad to See (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:26PM (#5088993)
    It's not only sad to see Mandrake having to declare bankruptcy, but it is also sad to see some of the nasty comments that have already been posted.

    At my LUG, whenever a newbie asks, "What distro should I install?" A bunch of techies respond, "Debian." To which I now point out (after having spent over a week trying to get Debian Woody to work with my ATI Radeon) that newbies have no idea how to handle the module config and that I've had a post on the local LUG board for almost a month now and NOT ONE Debian fan there has been able to tell me how to get Woody to support a common video card (I did get it working - that is not the point -- the point is that it wasn't supported.)

    At this LUG, Mandrake has become a dirty word. I've noticed, overall, that programmers (and I used to be one -- used to program a LOT in Assembler on my Apple //e AND made money at it!) and techies tend to hate Mandrake. I cannot see why. They may not want it, but it seems to me the more technically oriented a person is, the more disdain they show on those who are not "as smart" as they are in that particular field. I think this shows a fundamental lack of understanding that comptuers are made for people, not people for computers.

    If computers and all OS's stayed as difficult to set up as Debian or Slackware, there would not be many computers in offices or homes. As much as I hate M$, Windows is easy enough for even my 80 year old mother to use. That ease of use is a large factor responsible for the omni-presence of computers.

    Mandrake has brought Linux to thousands, probably tens of thousands (or millions, for all I know) of users and computers. This is the distro that dared to explore the desktop years before Redhat introduced Bluecurve. This is the distro that is easy enough to use that it is pre-installed on computers at Wal-Mart. While those of use who think we know better act like snobs and talk with disdain over any distro that does not play by our rules, Mandrake has done a better job of any distro (except maybe Lindows) at spreading Linux aroudn the world and making it more popular among people other than programmers and techies.

    If you want to talk ugly about Mandrake, go on. It just shows an elitist side that does not realize that without users, programming is just writing utilities and tools so we can write more utilities and tools. In short, without users who need easy to use distros, all we're left with is writing code and making systems for ourselvs. I don't know about you, but to me that is a bit much like masteurbation.

    I hope Mandrake pulls out of this.

    I also hope those who keep ragging on Mandrake take a step back and realize if it weren't for the easy to use desktops, computers would not be popular, would cost MUCH more, and far fewer of use would have jobs in computers (and these jobs are getting rare enough already).
  • by Skyshadow (508) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:26PM (#5089000) Homepage
    MandrakeSoft is a business. When it became fashionable to start shilling for "contributions" or "donations" to businesses, I'll never know, but it's a stupid, unrealistic idea which needs to be killed and buried in the unmarked grave it so richly deserves.

    For-Profit businesses exist for one reason and one reason only: to make money. If they cannot do this, it's their own fault -- especially if they are expecting people to whom they give away their product to send in "contributions", as you call it.

    MandrakeSoft is going the way of the dodo because they haven't successfully created a way to make money. End of story. God willing, they'll be replaced by a business which can do so, but don't expect me to send my hard-earned bucks to save 'em.

  • by Pac (9516) <paulo...candido@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:26PM (#5089001)
    It will be just another dead distro.

    The so-called closed source junkies can say whatever they wish, Red Hat and Suse are proof enough that free software can entail viable business. And Debian, Apache, OpenOffice and Mozilla are proof enough that it does not even has to be a business.

    So, if Mandrake can't survive, either because there is no room for another distro or because its managers are not good enough, too bad. Business die every week for those and many other reasons. Something supposed to be profitable opperation can not rely on custumer donnations...
  • by chewtoy-11 (448560) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:27PM (#5089009) Homepage
    One has to wonder why everytime a Linux distro company has problems, everyone pipes up with the slew of "That distro sucked" messages. Personally, I don't think it's fair to bash them based on their feature sets.

    However, I have to say that for a company to successfully market Linux, it would seem most logical to use a minimalist production schedule, keeping the boxed copies to a minimum, just enough to fill orders anyway. Everytime I go to Best Buy or Wal-Mart, there's 100s of Mandrake boxes sitting around with price tags a bit on the heavy side (for a free OS anyway).

    Perhaps eliminating the fat manual would have saved a bundle. Maybe a better question now is: How could they adjust their marketing/business practices to recover from such a blow? Perhaps we can tell them what we expect from a Linux distribution, and what is useless (or unnecessary).
  • I call: Bullshit. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:27PM (#5089010)
    One compound noun: RedHat.

    Mandrake isn't, never was, and never will be a contender in the business sector of Linux usage. How could it? It's the distribution famous for referring to Microsoft as 'Micro$oft' on their website.

    Children's games such as that don't impress suits. Neither does the game of asking people to 'donate' to a for-profit corporation.

    Nothing is free, by the way? That's funny. I could've sworn that air was free. Freeware is certainly free, and so is public domain software.

  • by Maeryk (87865) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:31PM (#5089033) Journal
    But doesn't it prove just the opposite? The company dies, but the software lives on. I expect that the vast majority of people who use Mandrake will have no problem moving their setup across to another distro. But imagine what would happen if a traditional, closed source company died. Then you'd be screwed

    Not sure. I would think from the "us" level, yes, that would be true. Most of us can do that without too much trouble. But from the "them" (read: big business, small business, etc) perspective, no, its catastrophic.

    This is a pretty big name distro, at least in the eyes of Joe Buying Software Off The Shelf. He has seen it. If he is thinking of moving his small to mid-sized business to it, he wont if he sees this and realizes the company could tank on him at any time. We all know Microsoft Support is often less useful than the 17 year old next door when a problem crops up, however one of the major selling points is that _it is there._. If one of the "larger" (figuring RH, SuSE, Mandrake as "large presence" distros) tanks, then Joe Consumer will lose even more faith. What RedHats stock did after the IPO put a hurting on the reputation, because most of the people approving these things spend time looking for the enter key and watching stocks, not having a clue about software.

    Im not looking at this as much from a personal standpoint, as from a "company X is seriously thinking about moving to a cheap alternative to MS, which would be Linux.. what can I show them to point out a GOOD reason, with a solid company behind it."

    Maeryk
  • by Apreche (239272) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:34PM (#5089047) Homepage Journal
    you know what. Free as in beer software can survive. But you can't make money off of it. In fact its not just software. You can't make money on anything, if you give it away for free. And if someone else is giving it away for free you can't make money either. Who is going to pay you for product X when joe will give it to me for free (legally). I like Mandrake, a lot. I'm using 9 now in fact, I just rebooted from win2k to do some work. But I never paid them. Not because they don't deserve money, or because I can't afford to (which I can't).

    If you open a grocery store and give apples away for free outside. But inside you keep slightly shinier apples inside the store and charge money for them. As long as the ones outside aren't rotten (iso downloads are far from rotten) nobody is going to come in and buy, unless they are really rich. And if someone across the street is giving away shiny good apples for free, you lose. I might like your apples a lot, or the most even, but I'm not going to pay for them unless I'm rich and I don't care about money.

    So yeah, free as in beer software can't survive, as a profitable business. But it can survive as in people will use it. Look at winamp its been free beer forever, and its #1. A well deserved #1 at that. Free speech software can survive as a profitable business, as long as it also isn't free beer. The problem is that most OSS is often both. You might really like ford. But if they start giving away ford foci(focuses), you aren't about to buy a mustang. If they give away the plans for the focus, you aren't about to build your own, unless you are a nut(read geek).

    Yeah, I think I made the same point like 10 times already, this post is done.
  • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:34PM (#5089051)
    I have to admit I don't understand this post. I figure it is either a troll, or someone is just venting his/her anger.

    Obviously this is a person who knows something about OSS, since he's complaining about what Mandrake did to SYSLINUX, but his last statement: how was MandrakeSoft expecting to make money? Anyone? Anyone? seems to be a clear declaration that he does not understand the open source business model.

    People may not like Mandrake -- I've noticed the more someone pisses and moans about Mandrake, the more technically oriented they are. It's a generalization, but it's something I've noticed.

    While most of use doing development work realize that without users who need easy-to-use UI's, we would not have jobs, it seems that there are always those who are willing to go on a rampage and complain about anybody or any company that tries to make Linux easier to use.

    While you may not like what Mandrake has done in their distro, I dare say they've introduced more people to Linux and have created more happy Linux users than you have.

    Personally, I think the more users that are on Linux, the more opportunities there are for those of use doing development work to sell our Linux products. I know some people feel the opposite, and want to keep everything pure and clean and pristine -- all technical, all perfect -- just a haven for techies. We can do that, but if we do, it means VERY few jobs for Linux developers.

    Without the users that need easy-to-use systems like Mandrake, (whether they use Linux or Windows or Mac or anything else), there would be far fewer jobs for developers, since computers would remain in the hands of the technically elite.

    If you don't like it, don't use it. If you hate it, then it seems only fair that you make sure you never take advantage of what Mandrake has brought to the Linux world -- which is many more users and more opportunities for developers to sell their products and make money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:42PM (#5089092)
    Don't be a schmuck. Nobody should buy something just becasue it would be good for the cause. When Loki went/was going under, People said the same thing: By from them, they are a Linux company that desereves to survive.

    Bull. This is a case where the market is working. Companay spends a large amount of money developing a product. Nobody (or not enough people) likes the product, and don't by it. Company dies the death it deserves. Fortionatly for us, the consumers, unlike most company deaths, if there is anything of value for the Linux community in Mandrake, chances are that it will be incorporated into another distribution.

    But DON'T BY JUST TO KEEP THE COMPANY ALIVE. Buy becuase you like it. Buy becuase you use it. Buy because you think it is a good deal. JUST DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY BY BUYING SOMETHING "JUST BECAUSE"
  • by Arjuna Theban (143564) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:44PM (#5089112)
    RedHat survives because of their corporate strategy and partnerships (with IBM etc). Apple's survival has absolutely nothing with the free software projects, it's an absurd example.

    Mandrake is mostly a Joe User distro, and as much as I don't like it, I can see that the people maintaining it (even if it was 3-4 people) need to get paid. When everyone goes and downloads the iso in under an hour with their broadband, they see no money in their hands. THAT's the problem.

    -bm
  • by robson (60067) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:48PM (#5089132)
    I "donated" in the most natural way I could think of -- I pre-ordered Mandrake 9 on DVD. Somehow that seems like the way it should work, doesn't it? I gave money to this business in return for their product. They got paid for their work, I got a good distro in a convenient format.

    That seems so much more natural than downloading their ISOs for free, then donating as if they're a charity. I suppose the PBS [pbs.org]/NPR [npr.org] funding model might work if things were more centralized, but it can't work for 30 different distros. Those are marketplace conditions.
  • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:54PM (#5089166) Journal
    And Debian, Apache, OpenOffice and Mozilla are proof enough that it does not even has to be a business.

    I don't know about debian but Apache, OpenOffice and Mozilla are funded heavily by corporate interest. Heck most of OpenOffice is still code bought by Sun, and they have the most full time programmers on OO.

    Mozilla is still run by Netscape/AOL, and I'd guess more than half of Mozilla's code is still being done on AOL's dime.

    Apache group gets money from all over.

    The linux kernel has more paid fulltime hackers than any other projects have known. You think all those redhat guys work for free?

    Open source projects are no different from other projects. They need substantial resources to grow.

  • by ikewillis (586793) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:56PM (#5089182) Homepage
    "If you don't like it, don't use it. If you hate it, then it seems only fair that you make sure you never take advantage of what Mandrake has brought to the Linux world"

    Well, had you actually read my post instead of blindly replying to it you would've seen that my frustrations with Mandrake are due to being forced to use it on a deployed network of Mandrake systems. Many of these users are happy with their current desktops and do not want their systems reinstalled, even if the Mandrake scripts have gimped to the point that they can no longer shut down cleanly. I'm living in the "real world" where I'm dealing with administrating more systems than just my home box that I can do whatever the fuck I want with.

    "seems to be a clear declaration that he does not understand the open source business model."

    Oh, and you do? Well, let's assume you actually know what you're talking about and your statements logically flow. Therefore, your next one should explain the "open source business model." Let's have a peek, shall we?

    "People may not like Mandrake -- I've noticed the more someone pisses and moans about Mandrake, the more technically oriented they are. It's a generalization, but it's something I've noticed."

    Oh wait, that has nothing to do with the "open source business model" and neither does the rest of your post.

    And if I'm the one who doesn't understand the "open source business model", then why is Mandrake filing for bankrupcy?

    You know, the funniest part is you get modded up to 4, Insightful for that bullshit while I get modded to 0, Troll. Way to go /.

  • Re:Sad to See (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hoop33 (585222) <[moc.laitapsretni] [ta] [renrawr]> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:56PM (#5089184)
    . . . the more disdain they show on those who are not "as smart" as they are . . .

    You seem to be forgetting that the tech industry is dominated by people whose only socially redeeming quality is their intelligence. I'm not trying to troll--it's an observation that has been borne out repeatedly. Anytime the "unwashed masses" or "Joe Sixpack" figures out something in technology, too many in our industry scurry to raise the bar in order to maintain an intellectual elitism. As soon as regular people figure out bash and vi, those will suck, too.

    As much as Linux users preach about how much better Linux is than Windows, if the desktop market suddenly rushed to Linux, Linux users would rush out.

    One of the biggest obstacles to widespread Linux adoption is the Linux community.

    P.S. I use Linux
  • Bottled Water (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PineHall (206441) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:13PM (#5089287)
    someone else is giving it away for free you can't make money


    People bottle free water, and sell it. You can actually make money on free stuff.

  • Re:Sad to See (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gregRowe (173838) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:16PM (#5089302)
    Somehow I think the Debian you use isn't the Debian I use. Debian has been *by far* the easiest and most logical distro I have ever used (mandrake included). I love Debian and don't understand why people complain about the install. I had no problems, and I have installed debian on at least a dozen different machines. ...And to say that you couldn't get your video card to work in "Debian" makes no sense. You couldn't configure Xfree86 properly perhaps, but that isn't "Debian". I have more debian installations that don't even have X on them.

    Greg
  • Re:Sad to See (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lunenburg (37393) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:19PM (#5089337) Homepage
    If you want to talk ugly about Mandrake, go on. It just shows an elitist side that does not realize that without users, programming is just writing utilities and tools so we can write more utilities and tools. In short, without users who need easy to use distros, all we're left with is writing code and making systems for ourselvs. I don't know about you, but to me that is a bit much like masteurbation.

    I wonder how many Mandrake fans who feel like this turn right around and talk shit about Red Hat being "The Microsoft of Linux" or say "Red Hat sux0rz! Mandrake is 31337!!!11" or try to score cool-points by fighting against "the man"?

    Pot, kettle.
  • Re:Loki (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Synn (6288) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:26PM (#5089389)
    I'm questioning the chance OSS has without making much money off a product (mandrake) and and how it kills its market for closed source apps (Loki)

    The problem isn't OSS, it's bad business models. We had a TON of those in the dot com era, people throwing money at technology as if it'd just magically create profit.

    A lot of OSS businesses got their start in this era, so it's natural to see a good deal of them die off horribly.

    Loki died, and yet http://www.linuxgamepublishing.com/ lives on.
    Mandrake is in trouble, yet Red Hat seems to be doing fine.

    Also TrollTech seems to be doing okay, MySQL has been chugging along, the PHP folks started up Zend and are doing alright... probably all because they have sound business models or just happened to find the right market.

    What is it, 1 out of 10 businesses actually succeed? A few OSS companies folding doesn't reflect on OSS has a whole.

  • New Business Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhsx (458600) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:31PM (#5089419)
    I love Mandrake. I'm a (voting) member of MandrakeClub. I buy silly hats from them. I'd like to see them survive as a for-profit company long into the future.
    That being said, they won't make it by staying this course. I fell a little (more)tweaking in their business model is necessary for their growth/survival:
    1) I'd like to see them concentrate on a single-CD distribution. Cut costs by consolidating efforts, making the single-CD a simple desktop with the framework for significant pre-configured updates from MandrakeClub-only rsync servers.
    2) Provide MandrakeClub-only rsync and ftp servers.
    3) (AND HERE'S THE KICKER) Stop releasing downloadable ISOs before the Box Set arives in stores. Even further, stop providing free downloads of the latest/greatest version, putting the ISOs on MandrakeClub-only ftp servers. If you want Mandrake GNU/Linux 9.1, you'll have to buy it, or become a club member. Keep the free downloads one release behind, when 9.0 became available, you can download 8.2 for free, when 9.1 is ready to ship to stores/club members, then you can get 9.0 for free and so on.

    I know a LOT of people will disagree with me; but even those slight changes could put Mandrake in the black by the time 9.2 is ready.
  • by Apostata (390629) <apostataNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:35PM (#5089439) Homepage Journal
    Though this will undoubtedly provide much entertainment for the Linux elitists in our crowd in the short term, I cannot help but wonder what the long-term effects will be.

    There are so many people out there who cut their teeth on Mandy, some who have become like the aforementioned zealots, but many like myself who still respect and support Mandrake the distro, and Mandrake the company. It's important that we separate those two things: the distro has always been user-friendly and remarkably scalable, whereas the company has been less stable than a beta-release.

    Still, it would be a shame to see it go.
  • Re:Sad to See (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:37PM (#5089447)
    At my LUG, whenever a newbie asks, "What distro should I install?" A bunch of techies respond, "Debian."

    Sad. My first year with Linux was a matter of endless frustration. It was only because I desperately wanted to get off the Microsoft treadmill that I stuck with it. I'm glad I did, because I love Linux, and the process of clawing my way to competence taught me a lot. (And made me a lot of money, since I went from selling furniture to being a sysadmin over the intervening eight years. Not everyone wants or needs to be a sysadmin, however.

    I tried installing Debian recently. Frankly, I was appalled at how primitive it was and how many common packages (including some I depend on) were not included because they were not "free" enough. I would recommend Debian to someone who likes tinkering with their OS, just as I would (perhaps more strongly) recommend Slackware or the highly educational Linux From Scratch. I wouldn't recommend any of the above to a newbie unless I hated their guts and wanted them to stick to Windows.

    Mandrake is quick and painless for inexperienced users and, in my experience, autoconfigures more hardware than any other distribution. Nor would I say it's just for newbies -- the experienced desktop user shouldn't have to manually configure anything unless the defaults don't suit him or her. Ever. It's just plain asinine to suggest that there is some kind of moral virtue in using unprofessionally packaged software.

    Mandrake is also nice for certain server applications. Their Advanced Extranet Server project bundles pretty much every commonly conceivable Apache-related package in a series of modular RPMs. (Yes, I can compile it myself, but I get paid for producing results, not my hard-won understanding of the poorly documented and often poorly designed dependencies between the necessary packages.) Mandrake's install disk functionality means I can do one install and have some newbie intern roll out dozens of machines for the web server farm without a hitch and without working out the networking issues in advance.

    Easy is only bad when it comes at the expense of power and flexibility, a la Microsoft. Mandrake delivers the full power of a feature-packed Linux distribution and manages to make it easy to use as well. I hope Mandrake manages to come through their current difficulties for the simple reason that they make good product that actually helps people get real work done, and they are to be commended for doing a much better job than the other commercial distributions which have had much larger resources to draw from.
  • by CommandNotFound (571326) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:40PM (#5089472)
    This is a pretty big name distro, at least in the eyes of Joe Buying Software Off The Shelf.

    I never like to see a company with a decent product go under, but frankly, Joe User and Aunt Tillie will just have to wait about 8-10 years to get Linux on their home PC, although they will likely be surrounded by Linux in embedded units. And that's OK: that's not where the real opportunity for Linux lies. Large businesses are the real consumers of Linux, and they weren't even looking at Mandrake (hence the bankruptcy).

    Joe User will buy a home PC to match his work system, not the other way around. Make sure he has a Linux box at work and in a few years he'll want one at home to stay compatible in case he "has to take some work home one day". The Quickbooks-oriented small business market is as tough to crack as the consumer market.

    It doesn't matter anyway; while the naysayers say "see! I told you so!" and the cheerleaders wring their hands and wonder if the sky is falling, Free/Open Source Software will continue to march along at its own pace, blissfully unaware of the uproar surrounding it.
  • by _|()|\| (159991) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:41PM (#5089477)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't the GPL mean require them to release the source code freely? (As in publicly downloadable?) So a user could compile Mandrake free of charge?

    No, if Mandrake distributes source along with binaries (you know, those three CDs you never use), they have fulfilled their GPL obligations. The GPL does not require that you host an FTP site for the whole free-loading world.

    You can charge as much as you want for a CD, but you have to accept that someone can turn around and distribute GPLed programs from the CD. Note, however, that the CD itself (i.e., the compilation) is not necessarily GPLed. The proprietary installer and configuration tools on SuSE CDs prevent you from sharing them with your friends. The trademarked icons on Red Hat ISOs prevent you from selling them.

  • by Blimey85 (609949) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:54PM (#5089550)
    Actually, if I understood everything that I read on their site, they aren't losing money on the distro. They lost money (lots of it) when they had problems with idiocy in management. They have since gotten rid of those people and have tried to turn the ship around. I think at this point the ship has already reached the rocks and water is rushing in to the hull but whether or not the ship sinks is yet to be seen.

    I like Mandrake. I've used it for several years and it has just finally gotten to a point where I don't have any problems with it... or maybe my knowldege about Linux in general has matured to the point that I can take care of problems as soon as they arise... either way, as time goes on, Mandrake keeps getting better. I would hate to see it fail after so much time and energy has gone into such a wonderful project/product.

    They have a lot of good people working there and a lot of good ideas, but like anyone else, they need to be able to eat and pay their bills at the end of the day and they may end up having to find other jobs or other ways to keep their company going in these tough times.

  • by nusuth (520833) <(oooo_0000us) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:58PM (#5089581) Homepage
    Pick two: 1- High quality (low support requirement)

    2- Open source

    3- Profitable.

    There is NO profitable completely open source business model. Noone ever came up with one. If you have one, do share it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:11PM (#5089693)
    All you trolls can bite my ass.

    Mandrake make a great distro. It's easy to install. It just works.

    The company might have been hijacked by MBA-toting muppets (les kermits?) who cooked up a "strategy" to provide e-learning products - one that would last just long enough for same MBA-toting kermits to cash in their stock options and move on. That's kakked up the company, but the distro kicks ass!

    And it's open source! Doh! We still have it! It's alive!

    Having said that the last thing I want to see is yet another bloody linux distro (dorkLinux, this is a distro what I made), but if Mandrake don't survive (and I really really hope they do) we still can build on what they did.

    Good luck MandrakeSoft!

    phew, I feel better now...

    Julian.
  • by aquarian (134728) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:15PM (#5089722)
    A common target of ridicule here on Slashdot is the MBA with little or no techcical knowledge trying to run a tech company. But the armchair MBAs in this discussion, trying to second-guess Mandrake's business operations, are pretty ridiculous themselves. It's like listening to a bunch of twelve year old paperboys criticizing the business strategies of the New York Times.
  • by Evan927 (15553) <evan&canonical,org> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:17PM (#5089739) Homepage Journal
    The GPL does not require them to let you download the source.

    The GPL requires you to offer, for an at-cost charge, the source on the same format you offered the binaries. Thus, if Mandrake only sold the CD's, then they would be required to put the source on a CD and offer that to anyone who bought the binary CD

    Offering ISO's on the website is a long-standing tradition of distros, but it isn't required. In fact, Lindows [lindows.com] doesn't.

  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:21PM (#5089755)
    You rant on about how Mandrake fails to live up to the traditional business model. Let me give you a hint: Free software is not a traditional business model and, in fact, the correct model if there is one had not been fully defined.

    Mandrake puts out a good product and God forbid that they should ask for donations! Oh horror! The assumtion is that people who contribute use mandrake so it's not really wealfare!

  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:37PM (#5089859)
    Companies who distribute GPL'd software will have a hard time surviving if the community keeps it's 20th century mentality. You expressed it quite nicely. Thank you.

    We are entering a new age. An age where technology can enrich our lives. In the case of GPL'd software we need to donate of our own free will to companies who support us. It doesn't mean that we whip out our checkbooks and start writing out drafts to every GPL software company. It means we choose a few every month and help them out.

    The wonderful thing about this new business model is that even the poorest need not go without. As in your case, you still gain the benefits of people who are risking it all to make your life and my life a little better.

    We can either embrace this new age and help it flourish through voluntary donations or we can keep the 20th century way of doing business, grab the free software for as long as it's there and watch the GPL'd software companies fold one by one. Sure more will pop up to replace them for a while but eventually, if we are not willing to make the business model work, there will be fewer and fewer and then none.

    If we fail to shake the old way of thinking then be prepared to fall back into the proprietary world where only those with money can run leading edge software. The choice is ours. Choose wisely.

  • by HanzoSan (251665) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:44PM (#5089909) Homepage Journal

    YEah so Mandrake shouldnt relesse Mandrake 9.1 until they get their donations. They shouldnt provide any free services until after you pay for them.
  • by quasi_steller (539538) <Benjamin...Cutler@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:09PM (#5090065)
    Mandrake is quick and painless for inexperienced users and, in my experience, autoconfigures more hardware than any other distribution. Nor would I say it's just for newbies -- the experienced desktop user shouldn't have to manually configure anything unless the defaults don't suit him or her. Ever. It's just plain asinine to suggest that there is some kind of moral virtue in using unprofessionally packaged software.

    This is one thing that I could never understand about some linux users. I personaly don't have the time to go around "reinventing" the weel by configuring my system to some common setup. I have programs, papers, and other assignments for all of my classes, so why would I want to spend several days working hard at getting my system configured just so I can get to work?

    Mandrake was my first experence with a UNIX(tm)-like operating system. I now work comfortably on the Sun systems at my school, and really enjoy programming in the UNIX(tm) enviroment. I don't care to manually configure my own system and hope I never have to. There is no real benifit to manual configuration that cannot be manually modified on a automatic system such as Mandrake.

  • Re:Sad to See (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:17PM (#5090115)
    Maybe so. But, a year from now Debian will still be around, and Mandrake most likely won't be.

    I wouldn't be so sure of that. Right off, the best example I can think of is Chrysler. They went under bankruptcy protection, but came back strong and even paid off loans and debts early.

    If you don't like something about Debian, join up and change it.

    Good point, but, to me, the computer is a tool. I use it in business. I'm not a programmer and, frankly, I don't have the time to sit around debating or going against the grain to try to improve.

    If you spend some time and learn how Debian/GNU programs operate, you can work wonders.

    Like I just said, to me the computer is a tool. Like a hammer. I'm in business, which means I produce products. I have to focus my time and efforts on producing products that make money, not on playing around with Debian and learning what it does.

    Different people have different needs. I'm glad we have a lot of distros. I don't like seeing ANY distro go under.

    My only complaint, in my original post, is that so many Debian fans keep talking about how wonderful it is, but seem unable to understand the basic fact that if you're interested in productivity, you don't have time to sit around learning a new system. You have to go with what works. Again, different people have different needs.

    Oh, and whether or not one distro is around in a year and another is not does not prove anything. Betamax was better than VHS. When is the last time you saw a home betamax for sale in a store?
  • by rodgerd (402) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:12PM (#5090482) Homepage
    Which is fine - Mandrake don't have to pay for the bandwidth for people to get things for free, though.
  • by jasonditz (597385) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:34PM (#5091320) Homepage
    It seems to me you're missing something about the "free market", I think we lost you before we finished "free".

    Things have a specific value, yes.
    Things also have a specific cost.
    These are two distinct concepts.

    That cost is not always equal to its value to you, and getting something at an agreed upon lower cost than you perceive it to be worth is not some terrible sin.

    If you buy a bag of potato chips on sale does everyone call it welfare for the chip eater? If the company is selling the product for below its cost are you obligated to pay them the difference?

    Mandrake made a business decision to give away its product for free. Many people took them up on that offer, and somewhere along the line they noticed that they don't make money doing that. So now we're supposed to go back and pay them extra? Sorry, it doen't work that way.

  • by shellbeach (610559) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:59PM (#5091460)
    Charge for the source (see above), but no more than you charged for the binary. That means that if you charge $50 for the binary, you may charge up to $50 more for the source, for a grand total of $100. Charging more for the source would not be considered giving free access to the source (free as in speech, again)

    As far as I can gather, from www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html, this is incorrect. The GPL states that - as far as distributing source code goes - you may do one of the following (quoted from above):

    • a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    • b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    • c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

    In other words, you must either accompany binaries with source code at no extra charge, or offer to provide source code at only the cost it takes to send it to someone (i.e. the price of a blank CD, the price of postage). So you cannot charge an extra $50 or whatever for access to the source code - you can charge all you like for the binaries and only give out the code with those binaries, but you cannot charge any extra for the code (excepting the costs of physically distibuting it, as mentioned above)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:17PM (#5092167)
    You people who say that free software can't compete are simply wrong. One of the oldest examples of a "free" product is the King James (English) version of the Bible. There is no copyright on that manuscript; literally anyone can produce a copy.

    There are dozens of other examples, old works from years gone by which are now in the public domain. People make MONEY on these things.

    How?

    It's simple: by providing them in a form that satisfies the buyer. I rarely download ISO images because I'm on a slow internet connection; I buy CDs. Likewise, I'm not interested in downloading an e-text version of a Dickens novel; I'd rather buy a nice convenient book.

    I agree that Mandrake (and ALL commercial Linux vendors) should stop making complete ISOs available for download. The GPL only requires that the *source* be made available. This, combined with Mandrake's excellent *drake tools, would make it quite desirable for the end user.

    But the idea of selling a "free" product is perfectly sound. Want one final example? The next time you pay $1.00 for a bottle of water, tell yourself: "you know, I could have downloaded this from the faucet for nothing!"

Algol-60 surely must be regarded as the most important programming language yet developed. -- T. Cheatham

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