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Mandriva Businesses

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 @02:11PM (#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.
    • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:22PM (#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 Maeryk (87865) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:31PM (#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
        • Actually, there was a study [google.ca] which showed that Microsoft Support was actually less useful than the Psychic Friends Network. The 17 year old next door is miles above either of those two.
        • 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 Geekenstein (199041) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:22PM (#5088963)
      Sorry buddy, but the Sally Struthers approach didn't help your cause.

      I'm a capitalist, and I firmly believe that any business must make money through the sale of goods and services to turn a profit and survive. Look at RedHat. They took the same product, spent large amounts of capital developing a product, and sold not only that product, built on freely available technology, but support services and add-ons that people want to buy.

      The difference between them and Mandrake? They created a business model that works. Mandrake was built on top of RedHat, with most of the work already done for them. If Mandrake has been unable to attract investors in a Linux-crazy world, something must seriously be wrong with their fundamentals.

      So sorry, Sally. I won't be giving a failed company a handout. I'll continue to purchase products that warrant it. This is Darwin's theory of Capitalism at its finest....the strong survive.
      • by Khalid (31037) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:56PM (#5089181) Homepage
        In fact Mandrake Did ! attract investors, but they have hired very bad (at that time they called it experienced management) which has adopted an inceredible cash burn rate, they suddenly doubled the number of people working for them, then hired a very expensive office, and adopted an e-learning strategy nobody was able to say what it was really. That was during the dot come craze. They have been slowly recovering since they have fired their management, but I don't know if this will be enough for them to avoid banckrupcy.
      • Mandrake makes a really nice desktop ditro. I wish RedHat would buy it for chump change and sell it that way (get rid of the name Mandrake) or incorporate it into its own distro. That way all the newbies would go/get pointed to that distro. Never going to happen, but it would be nice.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:23PM (#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 @02:25PM (#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.
      • It's only about 2 million Euros of debt according to the article, which is only around $2,000,000: you don't have to be Ted Turner to bail them out.

        Personally, I think a better reason not to do so is the same issue that everyone else raises: Mandrake obviously has a poor management model. It's not as if there aren't viable alternatives. If we're not prepared to build a charity to keep Commodore alive, we certainly shouldn't be pulling out all the stops to save Mandrakesoft.

        I think when this is over, there'll only be two operating systems left: RedHat Linux, and OS/2.

        (OS/2 will succeed because nobody realises it's still alive. It's laying there on the battlefield pretending to be a corpse. Once there's one person left, it'll jump up, hug the survivor, and yell "Yeah! Woooo-wooop! We beat them! Let's go have a drink and celebrate.". And a very confused RedHat will stagger to the bar thinking "Who is this person? I can't remember him. Well, he seems to know me...")

    • by BoomerSooner (308737) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:26PM (#5088996) Homepage Journal
      Hate to tell you this but free software can survive just fine. It's a bloated company based on free software that cannot.

      Why the hell should I give my hard earned money to a company that isn't doing enough innovative stuff to be able to sell their product? RedHat and Apple don't seem to have these problems.

      Realistically how many people does it take to make a distribution? Patrick V of slackware probably doesn't do it alone yet I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

      If you really want to contribute just write free code. Otherwise stfu about "contributing" to a bad business model.

      To say it in french, "Je m'en fiche".
      • by Arjuna Theban (143564) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:44PM (#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
        • MandrakeSoft is under no obligation to make thier software freely downloadable. They can choose to only distribute thier software in either boxed form, or on servers that you pay to access, or whatever other distribution method they choose. Any losses incurred from makeing the software freely downloadable are due to thier business decisions.

          If they did remove free downloads public mirrors would still exist when the software started showing up on peoples doorsteps, however Mandrake could save money on bandwidth this way. Cost reduction is smart business, and typically the only people affected are the ones that wouldn't buy the software anyway.

          Asking for charity and having a donations page is hardly the way to run a successful for profit business. If they want donations they should change to a not for profit organization.
          • 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? I'm not sure about this, but it seems to me that Free-as-in-GNU is a superset of free-as-in-beer. When you have to release your source under the GPL, how do you have to do that? If you CAN release it on a CD, how much can you charge for that? $5? $50? $500? Where does it cross the line?

            However I guess that would negate the essence of Mandrake - user friendliness.

            • 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 sweetooth (21075) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:55PM (#5089558) Homepage
              You have to make the source available, there is no requirement to make it free (no cost), though many people believe you should.

              See the following for examples.
              http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.h tml
              http://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/standards/ORDERS
              http://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/standards/DISTRIB
            • by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:58PM (#5089584) Homepage Journal

              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? I'm not sure about this, but it seems to me that Free-as-in-GNU is a superset of free-as-in-beer. When you have to release your source under the GPL, how do you have to do that? If you CAN release it on a CD, how much can you charge for that? $5? $50? $500? Where does it cross the line?

              Now, it wouldn't be free as in freedom if you weren't allowed to charge a fee, now would it?

              I couldn't find a link to give you, but I have read documentation written by Richard Stallman about this exact subject. Basically, what it comes down to is that you can:

              • Charge for free software (it's free as in speech, not free as in beer)
              • 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).
              • Prevent people from acquiring a copy of the software through your own distribution channels until they pay your requested fee. This includes things like holding the box until they pay at the register, or using authenticated servers to prevent them from downloading until your credit card clears.

              However, you can *not*:

              • Prevent someone who has bought the software from copying it for their friends, provided they make the copy available under the same license (GPL) under which you gave it to them.
              • Prevent someone who has acquired the software by copying it from their friends from passing it along as well, including posting it on a website for free (as in beer) download, or even charging a fee themselves!
              • Prevent someone who has acquired the software from viewing and/or modifying the source code.
              • Prevent someone who has modified the source code from distributing it with their modifications. You may require them to notate that they modified it somehow so as to distinguish it from your "genuine" product.
              • This isn't a complete list of cans and can'ts. The important thing to remember is that the purpose of the GPL is protect freedom. It's not about making software available non-gratis, it's about making software available without sacrificing the end-user's rights to protect corporate interests. When a company decides to make/distribute free software, they have to make a serious commitment to protecting their end-users' freedom, or they will fail somehow.

                As far as mandrake is concerned, they have worked damn hard to stick to the GPL, and have had a LOT of problems besides that. I love their distribution, and I'd hate to see it go (although I'm willing to try out something besides just switching to RedHat), and I really want them to pull through. However, I agree with some of these other posters, that if they failed they've failed. We should move on.

                But filing for bankruptcy protection doesn't mean disappearing completely. They may still have a chance and make a comeback, so I'll be watching for that. :)

            • 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.

          • Donations are an option for die-hard fans who really don't want to see Mandrake go under, or for people who really really appreciate their work.

            I think buying a boxed set every once in a while is enough help from an average user. If everyone who uses Mandrake yet never purchased a boxed set goes out and buys one now I think Mandrake would be in a much better shape.

            -bm
      • by johnlenin1 (140093) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:59PM (#5089197) Homepage
        Not everyone who wants to support open-source software is a coder. And I wouldn't dream of recommending Slackware or Debian to such types.

        Distros like Mandrake give the typical user a useable-right-from-the-box alternative to Windows, and this is a good thing.

        And Mandrake not innovative? Please. Multi Network Firwewall, MandrakeClub, letting the users pick the packages they want in the distro, all the Drak tools that make administration easier for a newbie, an installation easier and quicker than Windows...every bit of this is innovative. All this while maintaining a commitment to GPL sofware. I am happy to support a company like that.
      • OK, I have an opinion. I imagine it is an unpopular one, so mod me as troll for flamebait if you like.

        I don't think companies can make money selling completely open source software. I think selling completely open source software IS a bad business model.

        I haven't seen any examples of corporations making a profit doing this. RedHat makes it's money from selling services, right? How much of their revenue is from shrinkwrapped boxes? I'd be surprised if it was over 1%. Apple uses open-source software such as Darwin but they don't try and sell it by itself. They add their proprietary code such as Quartz/Aqua/Finder/etc and sell the whole package as OS X. It's great for them because they saved a lot of money on kernel development, however they aren't trying to sell their kernel. And Safari is free-as-in-beer.

        Are there any companies making money from selling a completely open source software product? To me the point is this: the GPL requires you to release your source code, essentially for free (as in beer). I say essentially because you can release it at cost of distribution. People don't pay for things when they can get them free-of-charge - it's human nature.

        Sorry if I grossly misunderstood the GPL or something.

      • That's precisely what I ask in the OpEd piece that I had been writing for a while and just finished this morning before this news broke. I've included a lot of details that aren't generally clear without a lot of digging or without being really active in the Mandrake community as I myself am.

        You can read the piece here:
        http://ben.reser.org/rants/invisible.cgi?month=01& day=15&year=2003&t=00 [reser.org]

    • by Skyshadow (508) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:26PM (#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.

      • MandrakeSoft is a business.

        You're exactly right. The parent of this post needs to be modded up and it's parent modded down... way down.

        I'm still trying to understand why I should donate money to a for-profit business. Why don't I just give my money to Microsoft? Or the government? Oh that's right, because I don't "give" money to a business, I "invest" money. And I expect a return on my investment, or I'll take my money elsewhere...

        If you feel bad for Mandrake, get over it, and donate some money to the EFF or Debian. Or if you don't like their social contract, donate to a local LUG.
      • by Blimey85 (609949) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:54PM (#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 mickwd (196449) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:00PM (#5089602)
        "MandrakeSoft is going the way of the dodo because they haven't successfully created a way to make money. End of story."

        MandrakeSoft is in the current financial situation because of their former management team (now sacked) who tried to turn them into some sort of e-Education dot.com company - increasing their operating expenses 400% in the process.

        They've sorted out the worst of the mess, and they're doing much better now, but they have a big financial hole they can't fill. This is the reason for the Chapter 11-like filing. Without huge debts to service, I believe they can easily be profitable (although they might have to be a little less generous with how much they give away for free).

        If you're going to say "End of story", make sure you've read the book, not just the covers.
      • by Eric Damron (553630) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:21PM (#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!

    • 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 Kunta Kinte (323399) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:54PM (#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.

    • "...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. "

      Errr, here's a secret; The closed source liscensing junkie corps just might read slashdot and figure out what we're up to!

    • by Apreche (239272) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:34PM (#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.
      • So why does prostitution exist if people can get sex for free?

        Why buy fish if you can just get them for free out of a lake?
      • Bottled Water (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PineHall (206441)
        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.

    • 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.

      I disagree.

      However, the fact that the user community will be able to resurect or continue supporting the project will prove that that "free" (as in beer) software can survive. This may prove to corporations that it's better to rely on these open-sourced projects as a result and benefit everyone in the long run.

      It still is a shame to see Mandrake fold, though.
    • New Business Model (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bhsx (458600) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:31PM (#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 MeanMF (631837)
        Provide MandrakeClub-only rsync and ftp servers...Even further, stop providing free downloads of the latest/greatest version, putting the ISOs on MandrakeClub-only ftp servers

        According to the GPL, ANYBODY can freely post any version of the Mandrake ISO's on their ftp server if they want to, and there is nothing Mandrake can do to stop them. There is no real way to make money selling GPL software.
      • 8.2 updates almost outweigh the distro itself now.

        Mandrake did a faux pas when they hired that management team a few years back which defocussed them. Their current business model is working fine, and but for that mistake they'd be way profitable. All they need is to survive to about June and the rest will be easy.

        The problem is not that their business model can't fly, the problem is that their business model had about 20,000 feet lopped off the altimeter not so long ago, and its nose pointed at the ground. Now their nose is pointed up, they have flight speed, everything's going nicely except for the minor detail that the ground is much too close.

        Kicking something back in for what you've used will push the ground down a bit for them. Mandrake pay for hackers to fix stuff (KDE, for example) that everyone uses. Mandrake GPL all of their packages. RedHat 8.0 has software (entire packages) in it from Mandrake (as they should). If Mandrake goes kerplonk it will cost all of us developers, and credo, and the UnitedLinux pound-of-flesh business model and LindowsOS source-what-source business models will reign supreme, and who wants that?
  • by Guiri (522079) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:14PM (#5088901) Homepage
    Here is a link to the story in The Register [212.100.234.54]

    This is bad news...

    Cheers

  • Given that Mandrake has been begging for money [slashdot.org] I don't think this really should surprise anyone.

  • This seems awful quiet for MandrakeSoft. Most of their releases contain a lot more info than that. I'm curious as to what else they might be hiding. Some deals with the devil might be in the works (By devil, I don't imply Microsoft).

    This really makes me wonder about what their plans are for the near future, or if they have any significant plans. It will be interesting to see...
  • rumors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:16PM (#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.
  • Translation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Telastyn (206146) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:21PM (#5088953)
    ...and significant decreases in expenses.
    We don't have to pay employees smart enough to get off our sinking ship.
  • by SenatorTreason (640653) <senatortreason@g ... .com minus punct> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:21PM (#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 sfraggle (212671) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:25PM (#5088992)
    This is kind of ironic conisdering the recent newsforge article, "Mandrake: Rumors of our imminent demise are just that [newsforge.com]".
  • Sad to See (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:26PM (#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).
    • Well I'm a very green Linux newbie who has been playing with a Debian box at home for about 2 weeks now and I LOVE it.

      It was no harder to install than DOS, and I'm finding it extremely easy to use. Key things that I like: GREAT website and documentation, dead-simple to find configuration data, easy package management.

      Now, the disclaimer. It's a headless server, and will stay that way. I never *once* considered using Linux on the desktop. I looked at RedHat, Lindows and Knoppix and thought they were all a joke. IMO linux in general has a loooong way to go before being a desktop OS, but is absolutely wonderful as a simple server OS. I already have dhcpd, samba (as a PDC) and apache running on my box and am about to tackle mail. Nothing but port 22 will face the public until I know more of what I'm doing.

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

      by hoop33 (585222)
      . . . 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
    • Re:Sad to See (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gregRowe (173838)
      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, Interesting)

        Actually, I copied the config file from Knoppix at one point, since Knoppix is Debian based and worked perfectly. I spent a LOT of time working with the X config files.

        That was just one of MANY things I tried. Not one of the local Debian fans or anybody else I contacted had a good suggestion that actually worked.

        My experience is that many Debian people have forgotten the install because updates are so easy. That's the reason I wanted to change over. If/When I can get Debian working on that machine, I'll probably switch. In the meantime, it's Mandrake, which I got up and running quickly and even got all the extras (like firewire) working easily. It's my first Linux video workstation!
    • Re:Sad to See (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lunenburg (37393)
      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:Sad to See (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:37PM (#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.
      • Re:Sad to See (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JohnFluxx (413620)
        I'm just going to play the devil's advocate here..

        You complain that debian was hard to install.
        This is good! Because:

        *) Like you said, you learned a lot in the process.
        *) It forced you to realise that some packages aren't totally free, and made it just that tiny bit harder to get them - that's a good thing.
        *) If you weren't smart/compentant/knowledgable to install debian, then what use are you to us?
        *) You used the new found knowledge to make money, and so I assume helped someone else move/use linux, and possibly develop for it - definetly a good point.

        Over the years of helping on a chat channel, I've noticed questions have gone from "How do I check dma is on on my hard disk" to "How do I use kmail?","How do I add a bookmark?", "".

        I've noticed more than one person complain/comment on this. If you feel I'm being elitest, just imagine all those AOL'ers suddenly using linux and clogging up the irc channels with really dumb questions.

        At the moment, the linux community wants people that will help and develop. Even if that is in translating docs, writing docs, doing art, etc.

        Having said that, there are some useful points to having the general AOL'er using linux:
        *) More people = hardware companies taking linux seriously.
        *) More people = games companies taking linux more seriously.
        *) More people = UI considerations taken more and more seriously. (Good as long as the UI only becomes easier to use, not dumbed down and reduce efficency of those who know how to use it)

  • 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).
  • ...in contrast to the article on Newsforge where Gael Duval says (paraphrased) "There is really no problem, but we're working to fix it". And to the guy whining about this being bad for Open Source and Free software...you're a bigger doofus than Gael Duval. To succeed at becoming the primary Server/Desktop OS/App/whatever, OSS doesn't have to make money for companies trying to modify and sell it based on a pretty install or nice out-of-box configuration....it just has to work as good or better than its commercial brotheren. I design and install Linux based systems for my customers. I make a lot of money doing so. I have bought maybe half-a-dozen commercially packaged distros in my life (only in cases where the customer wants the crappy books). Odd...I use free software and yet, I make money. Why you ask? Becuase I am adding value. Mandrake, RedHat, etc. are all in the business of adding value to the software in terms of "polishing" it. If people want what Mandrake did/does in terms of "polishing" and can't manage to do it themselves then they'll buy it. This would lead me to believe that either people don't want it or are doing it themselves.
  • by 2ms (232331) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:33PM (#5089043)
    It's as easy as could be: Mandrake donations page [linux-mandrake.com]
  • by sireasoning (576345) <si@minds[ ]ng.com ['pri' in gap]> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:35PM (#5089055) Homepage
    People are reading too much into this. Chapter 11 will just allow them to restructure their debt. Mandrakesoft is approaching profitability and are expecting to reach that this year. Once that barrier has been crossed, then they begin to eat away at the debt accumulated mostly from their American CEO that was brought in to make Mandrakesoft look attractive for an IPO.
    • Exactly. Maybe most of Slashdot doesn't know what Chapter 11 really is? Mandrake Club has been a success and is helping them towards profit. Lots of other structural changes are also helping out. This is just a proccess that is going to be used to get them back on their feet. Mandrake is in better shape than they were in '99 and '00, so people need to look on the bright side of things. I seriously doubt that anything will happen to Mandrake Linux.
  • I keep reading comments about "may the fittest survive" and how capitalism doesn't include giving a company charity money. I don't think the same rules apply here.

    Remember, this is still Linux vs. Windows on the desktop and MS has a huge lead. No matter how good it gets, the only way that Linux will ever make a push on the desktop is if Linux users start a grassroots movement to get it there. Well, folks, donating money for a cause is grassroots. Given the quality of Mandrake Linux, it might be the one that will eventually crack the desktop.

    If you don't agree with charity, then by all means do nothing. But if you want to see Linux succeed on the desktop and are willing to be part of the solution, then buy the distro and join MandrakeClub.
  • by robson (60067) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:48PM (#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.
    • If you pre-ordered and they have not shipped the product, you are now a creditor. I don't think they'll do this, it would be stupid, but they don't really have to ship you the product. They could refund your purchase at cents on the dollar.

      So, And no, this is not a way to screw the creditors. It's a way to get the creditors something back.

      I recommend that everybody just sit tight until the bankruptcy distribution is done.

      Bruce

  • Merde!

    (Offtopic moderations and/or flaming commences in 5,4,3...)

  • Before this news broke I published an OpEd piece on my site this morning about this. This breaking only confirms my belief we should make a break for it.

    The piece is available for viewing here:
    http://ben.reser.org/rants/invisible.cgi?month=01& day=15&year=2003&t=00 [reser.org]

  • What about HP? (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:01PM (#5089207) Homepage Journal
    HP recently announced that it would include, ceritfy and support mandrake on its new PCs.
    I submitted that story to /. but it probably won't be accepted. OTOH if it is accepted, you will probably see it twice!
  • by rsidd (6328) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:05PM (#5089223)
    perhaps submitters could either take the trouble to write things in their own words, or save space on slashdot and simply link to the word-for-word-identical original news item [lwn.net]. Or at the very least, credit the source.
  • is happening over at Arstechnica in the Battlefront section: http://arstechnica.infopop.net/OpenTopic/page?a=fr m&s=50009562&f=48409524

    You may wish to join in and set some of them straight.

    I personally don't use Linux on my machines (I prefer BeOS) but I'd hate to see a good *nix company go down.

    (Posted as plain text because I prefer it that way)
  • by bstadil (7110) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:11PM (#5089269) Homepage
    There is a few comments urging for donations at this juncture.

    This might be a mistake. If you donate now the money might go into the distribution fund available to the creditors. Please email Mandrake (I did) asking them to set up a separate untouchable account that only becomes available once the appointed Judge has approved the bankrupcy distribution and reorganization plan.

    The fund should be earmarked for development as well.

  • Okay, the last thing you want to do right now is send them money. If they're filing for bankruptcy, it's too late to help. Better to donate to whatever emerges afterward. If you give them money now, it might just be doled out to their creditors. After the bankruptcy is determined (whether the assets get sold, or whatever), then the company can keep the money you give.
  • I dunno about the French equiv, but very few companies that file for chapter 11 protection in the USa survive for much longer. Its like becomming that guy with the smashed credit record, no one loans you a dime after that, now imagine an entire company with one giant bad credit record.

    I had hopes for Loki when they did this, and while I do not use mandrake, I do wish them the very best, because I respect what they do.
  • by cp5i6 (544080) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:23PM (#5089367)
    I don't know about French law's but with the cessation of payments it doesn't necessarily sound that bad.

    Judging by the readings I think alot of people have a misunderstanding of what bankruptcy really means.

    Bankruptcy is not necessarily a bad thing. Alot of times a company will go bankrupted because it made alot of stupid payments, it's staff is overbloated or a bunch of various different reasons.

    When a company files for chapter 11 (in the states) That specifically states they are free from all previous date for a protected time period. (ie they dont have to pay for any debts they accumulated) During this time period a company will then restructure it's business, ie. change of CEO, switch over of board of directors so on so forth to hopefully bring the company out of bankruptcy.

    Bankruptcy is actually just a protection from the creditors coming in and "cleaning house" ie selling all assets of the firm and completely dissolving the company (that's a bad thing). So it's very well possible that if Mandrake sticks in a better business model that they can pull out of their bankruptcy (however I'm not too fluent with french bankruptcy laws).

    For those of you who think .. well bankruptcy is great.. I should just decalre bankruptcy and have all my debts forgiven.. yes well that works to an extent. Companies need to borrow money to operate (unless you're microsoft who is one of the ONLY companies in the world that never runs on debt or Bonds for those of you more financially inclined) if you declare bankruptcy you're bond rating goes below a Triple B rating (moody's rating agency) which puts it below investment grade. (Junk Bonds) That means you'd have to pay a MUCH higher interest on the money you borrow.

    Simply stated you need to make sure you have a damn good business plan to pull out of bankruptcy which usually entails cutting alot of "fat" from the company.

    Somtimes you have a realyl good business plan in place after bankruptcy and you're very close to pulling out but the deadline approached and yer still not quite there. A company can then file for a chapter 22 or a second bankruptcy. You can even go for a third bankruptcy.. but that doesn't happen too often.


    Here's an interesting fact tho... in all of US history I believe there has only been 1 successful company coming out of chapter 11 and I think that's Texaco Chevron. (a little tidbit for those of you who care about stupid facts).
  • by _|()|\| (159991) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:28PM (#5089401)
    Maybe Joe will get one right [linuxworld.com], this year:
    Mandrake will merge with another firm looking for a way to stay alive. Users can help keep the company afloat for only so long. Maybe it will cut expenses by joining United Linux. Maybe it will get together with its Latin language sister firm Connectiva. Or maybe Microsoft will step forward with a smile to offer the struggling distribution much needed cash in order to get in the game.
    While I wouldn't miss Mandrake too much, I think it has had a positive influence on other distros, and it certainly gave KDE an early boost.
  • Chance of Survival (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NeoMoose (626691)
    This is the version of Ch. 11 bankruptcy and it does stand a chance of coming back. Unfortunately, not many companies come back from any bankruptcy filing.

    Really this news is trying to sound optimistic, but let's be honest... Mandrake doesn't have any real good sources of income. They are like a .com still surviving off of advertising. They are most likely destined for failure.

    This comes to me as very unfortunate news, my Linux distribution of choice is Mandrake. I like how it improves on Redhat. It's really too bad that it is in danger of ceasing to exist. Especially considering that it's possible failure will leave a gargantuan opening for open-source software's opponents to throw down as evidence for how open-source software can not succeed, despite how untrue that statement is.
  • With closed-source software, you go like this
    • Have a nice idea that you think is useful
    • Develop the software, spending loads of money
    • Sell the software until the money is back.
    • start profit
    With open-source software you have to go like this:
    • Find people/company that need to solve a problem and are willing to pay for it (or to co-work on it)
    • Look if someone had the same problem and did already some open-sourced work on it.
    • Solve the problem, investing only as little money/effort as needed. As a side-effect you have now some newly developed software (not much, and only as good as needed).
    • Release the software as open-source. You can do that because your software is not an 'investment': it already payed itself by solving the problem.In this way, you don't have to maintain the software alone.
    • See your little software grow and get better as other find it useful and contribute to it.
    • Start selling support for the software. Don't mount large-scale operations, but start local.
    • As your(and now others') software gets popular, enlarge the support area. If possible, stay away from the corporation model. A co-operations of coordinated small/medium companies (franchising-like) might be a better idea.

    Of course, it only works if your idea and your software are good, and recognized as such by others.

    MandrakeSoft, maybe, did not stick to this logic. In the hurry to bring Linux to the masses, they invested too much. But, not developing closed-source software, they cannot recover what they invested.

  • by Apostata (390629) <apostata@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:35PM (#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.
  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:36PM (#5089446)
    Given how widely used and well liked Mandrake is, I wonder if they would be better eliminating free (as in beer/herpes/cost) ISOs as several other distros have done before them. I am a paying member of MandrakeClub, because I use Mandrake 9.0 and generally find it to be a great Desktop Linux. Urpmi is awesome, finally addressing the biggest weaknesses of RPM vs. DEB/apt-get - at least it's a lightyear better than where RPM was a few years ago. The Mandrake install is pretty smooth even for a newbie. And Mandrake gives you pretty much everything you need for a power user (well, I still take some issue with some of their default RPM choices, but they are correcting these issues as we speak).


    Mandrake has done a fabulous job with 9.0 - amazingly good for a .0 release. The biggest weaknesses as I see it are that they still don't seem to release that if you are selling and marketing a desktop Linux distro, you MUST ship decent fonts and good anti-aliasing support built in. I had to download the Texstar RPMs to get Xft support working well and get my distro looking pretty. They are a company - they ought to license some damned decent TrueType fonts and ship em out of the box. Red Hat has a much better looking default desktop install, and it's not newbie-compliant to require two to three hours of tweaking a fresh install to get a decent looking desktop (the fact that their tool to import Windows fonts breaks ruggedly if you try to import from an NTFS filesystem - i.e. 80% of Win2k and WinXP installations is also unacceptable in a release-quality piece of software).


    I feel like if they just went not even an extra mile, but an extra 100 yards they'd have a fabulous distro. I've finally migrated back to using Mandrake much of the time, which I abandoned a few years ago (for my day-to-day desktop work) for Windows 2000 since desktop usability was just not there yet, and because I needed Outlook and Word on a daily basis for work. Thank god OpenOffice.org has solved the Word issue for me, and Ximian mostly addresses the Outlook issue (though thankfully I no longer need the Outlook calendaring features that everybody at my old company fucking loved).

  • This is not some sort of mind-numbing disaster. This is just basic economic reality. When you take a valuable and limited resource (investors' money, employees' time) and produce something which the free market finds less valuable than what you started with, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" strikes. This is one of the benefits of a free market- it discourages losing enterprises and thus helps to ensure economic health. Other distros are doing just fine commercially (RedHat, SuSE, Slackware) or are nonprofit organizations (Debian). With RedHat targeting the desktop with recent releases and the releases of Lycoris, Xandros, and Lindows, Mandrake has failed to give people a compelling reason to use it.

    If you want to see Linux on the desktop survive and have some cash you want to use for that purpose, don't throw it onto a sinking ship. Invest in a company which holds some promise. Or you could donate to XFree [xfree86.org], Gnome [gnome.org], or KDE [kde.org], all of which are nonprofits (though only Gnome is currently recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit).
  • by vondo (303621) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:50PM (#5089518)
    Let me start out by saying that I've used Mandrake for years, I still do. Nothing I've seen comes close in terms of ease of install and automatically detecting and setting up my desktop hardware.

    But, unless they fundamentally change the way they do business, I don't think they can survive. Their primary products seem to be a boxed distro that you can download for free and MandrakeClub, which as far as I can tell is paying $60 a year to feel good about yourself. The subscription adds nothing of real value, at least to me. I don't really want the free but commericial software they have there (and if I do, I can download it elsewhere). I don't care to "vote" on which RPMs get packaged up next, etc.

    Here's what I want from a linux disto: The ability to use the OS. To not have to tinker with it. To not have to spend a week updating it just because I want to run a more up-to-date version of some program (GNUCash 1.6 comes to mind.) To not have to update the OS every year because the company drops support (and some here bitch at MS for dropping Win-95 support!).

    Simply put, I think Mandrake would be better off concentrating on making less versions of their OS, supporting them better, and helping people move forward without updating the whole system. They could easily charge for access to their servers, etc. a. la. the Red Hat Network.

    With Red Hat's recent decision to only support their Linux distros for 12 months, I think the market is ripe for something with real support for the end user at a reasonable cost. Move away from the hacker market who DOES like to reinstall every few months chasing the latest and greatest.
  • by aquarian (134728) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:15PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:17PM (#5090513)
    Okay... It's time to explain this to people who are saying Mandrake is going to die, or that it is non-competitive, etc.

    Follow the logic, pls:
    1. Mandrake at this point is potentially profitable. Sales, consultation and other activities are doing well.
    2. In the .com boom days, they had a bad admin staff who bought into the hype.
    3. Aforementioned staff got them into a lot of bad contracts in the name of accessing new markets. Very classic case of corporate over-extension.
    4. The .com bubble burst leaving them with expensive monthly contracts to pay and no profit returning from.
    5. Mandrake at this point has made cut-backs, re-organisations, etc. That make all other parts profitable; except that these contracts weigh them down.
    6. The contracts have expensive fees to break them, but Mandrake needs to get rid of them in the long term, otherwise they will never be able to use their current profitability.
    7. Contracts are broken, demanding huge sums of cash, right now to pay off the fees. Hence the request for support before Christmas.
    8. Options are: a) Raise cash, pay off debt. OR b) File for chapter 11, etc. which effectively gets rid of the liabilities. Not fun to do, but a) didn't quite work, so this is the other option.
    9. Once the debt is dropped, Mandrake essentially is left with their current operations when they come out of that protection. At this point, they can turn a happy profit, because their day to day business actually is profitable.

    The End.

    It's simply a neat tactic to remove debt and improve the situation of the company, which now looks more healthy than ever. It's a good thing; a very good thing!

    Don't worry... There will be a 9.1 and 10 and so on... Everaldo is already getting set up to work on the new artwork for 10, in fact.
  • by egghat (73643) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:06AM (#5093151) Homepage
    OK, you can download the ISO for free. Fine. Fair.

    You can buy the box, but weeks (!) after the ISOs are ready.

    So the time the box gets available, I (or some friend with broadband connection) has downloaded it already. Why the heck should I buy the box (unless I want to support Mandrake)? I don't need a manual. I don't need the CDs.

    Mandrake has to change this.

    Full ISOs are fine, but I would give them to Club members exclusivly at least for 4 to 6 weeks.

    Then the box has some weeks to get into the stores and then you can add a free download for everyone.

    Remember that a normal club membership (bronze level) isn't more expensive than one box one time a year. So at least for me it's a bargain.

    Bye egghat.

    (silver level MandrakeClub member).

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