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Microsoft Linux

Jeremy Allison Calls Microsoft Dangerous Elephant 306

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the tell-us-how-you-really-feel dept.
oranghutan writes "At the annual Linux.conf.au event being held in Wellington, NZ, one of the lead developers for the Samba Team (and Google employee) Jeremy Allison described Microsoft as 'an elephant that needs to be turned to stop it trampling the open source community.' Allison has been an outspoken critic of the vendor since he quit Novell over a deal it did with Microsoft that he saw as dangerous to open source intentions. And now he has evolved his argument to incorporate new case studies to explain why Microsoft's use of patents and its general tactics on free software are harmful.
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Jeremy Allison Calls Microsoft Dangerous Elephant

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:21PM (#30846996)

    It wouldn't be a problem if the FLOSS community would stop stealing from legitimate patents holders. I know you FLOSS developers are busting your ass, writing code, and what not and not getting paid for it, but.....God! What a bunch of losers!

    How about inventing something of your own instead of stealing ideas from others!

    If you were any good you'd be getting paid for what you're doing.

  • by jgardia (985157) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:32PM (#30847152)
    sorry, there are no European elephants....
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    by ClosedSource (238333)

    I wish I could talk trash like him.

  • by johndiii (229824) * on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:37PM (#30847238) Journal

    A. A. Milne saw this coming. :-)

  • by Toreo asesino (951231) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:38PM (#30847246) Journal

    "Microsoft produces software that competes with FOSS" is basically the headline. Well who knew?!

    Something they're also learning is that the above statement doesn't necessarily mean they can't work with FOSS in areas that are mutually beneficial. This, believe it or not, is happening too.

    • by PsychicX (866028)
      Yeah, I think this might actually be the literal definition of FUD. We could just go over to UrbanDictionary and add an entry with a link back to this story.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      And who knew that a Google employee and FOSS advocate would bad-mouth MS at a Linux conference?!?!? When I read this I was so shocked that I dropped my monocle AND did a spit-take! That's the fourth monocle I've broken this week.
    • by RulerOf (975607) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:28PM (#30848022)
      I can think of a few people off the top of my head that I know who would take a Windows based solution from Microsoft for the cost of licenses + support, over a Linux based FOSS solution with a similar or lower cost of support, and I'm sure all of you all do as well. Microsoft would be downright foolish not to court that market segment.

      My favorite part though, as per TFA:

      "We have a system that is absolutely free that we can do anything with, so why are we so obsessed with picking on Microsoft? ... Shouldn't we leave the elephant alone and stop poking it with sticks? Well, the problem is they aren't going to leave us alone."

      Of course Microsoft is going to compete with your solutions. They're a god damned software company that makes every type of application they can produce without getting [successfully] sued by their competitors. I've never actually said this before, but...

      Nothing to see here. Move along.

      • I can think of a few people off the top of my head that I know who would take a Windows based solution from Microsoft for the cost of licenses + support, over a Linux based FOSS solution with a similar or lower cost of support, and I'm sure all of you all do as well. Microsoft would be downright foolish not to court that market segment.

        Sadly, certain governments are part of this segment.

    • by ComputerInsultant (722520) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:41PM (#30848238)
      No, the headline is "Microsoft bullies FOSS with patents and conspiratorial coersion."

      When Microsoft patents obvious things, then uses those patents to threaten law suits, that is a threat.

      If Microsoft was competing by building great software, we would be having a different conversation. This conversation is about Microsoft competing without building software.
  • Is this some new cleric ability in D&D 4.0? Back in my day clerics could only turn undead.
  • A rebuttal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:39PM (#30847278) Journal

    And I - being no one of significance, am going to call Microsoft a small, fluffy, harmless kitten that needs to be petted.

    Take THAT.

  • by headkase (533448) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:40PM (#30847296)
    Want Open to win? Stop being bloody purists. See, Ubuntu Software Commercial Survey [google.ca] for a pragmatic approach. Ubuntu is a bridge, get the Windows people over first and once they know what they're doing they can compile their own Gentoo. Commercial software on Linux is also such a bridge, let it in: as long as the core operating system is Open who gives a crap. If the commercial is amazingly good compared to the Open then it will survive while the Open matures. But don't deny your users the commercial because you're being a dick about it. Follow the Linux philosophy: Openness, including commercial. Then work with it yourself, I have converted two of my family-members desktops over to Ubuntu within the last month, not including my own. If I wasn't using a "stupid" distribution it wouldn't have happened because I have no idea of the required options while building your kernel. Support the bridges, they all lead into Open.
    • by JonJ (907502)

      Commercial software on Linux is also such a bridge, let it in

      There is no one stopping you or anybody else from making closed source applications on GNU/Linux, if you want to.

      • by headkase (533448)
        That is correct. The issue I am referring to is the fragmented beliefs throughout the Open community. That is where the appropriate tools for the appropriate people are poo-poo'd because of relative expertise with the systems. Also there is the matter of priorities, Open development does not lead where specific individuals would always like, as a concrete example: Photoshop alone would draw many more users to the Open sphere than the GIMP is capable of at this time. And if Adobe does not see fit to port
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        There is no one stopping you or anybody else from making closed source applications on GNU/Linux, if you want to.

        There's also nobody making it easy, or even pretending to make it easy.

        Everything from cross-distro compatibility to installing commercial apps right now is a giant pain in the ass. Sure, distros have a great and revolutionary software respository-- seemingly designed from day 1 solely to exclude commercial software.

        So yes, you're right: it is possible. That's not enough. Make it easy.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> get the Windows people over first and once they know what they're doing they can compile their own Gentoo.

      I was in Dennys at the weekend and couldn't help listening to a conversation that was taking place on the table behind me. Some woman was proud of her new netbook that she had to buy because her old laptop had too many virusses to boot any more.

      She represents nearly all people. Most people have already been conditioned by companies like Microsoft, Dell and Apple to view laptops as appliances. T

      • by headkase (533448)
        Functionality is king. Like you say, it just needs to work. From there you just don't tell them. A lot of new products are coming with cores based on Open and this is a good thing because it does spread the good. Most individuals fall into the thought trap of: "The devil I know is better than the one I don't." And will reject even something that is better in the actual simply because it saves thought. Those people you don't worry about giving the choice to, as a device maker you just use what is good
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:14PM (#30848682)
      Having read TFA, the principal objection of Jeremy Allison is not over use of commercial software in Linux per se, but rather over offensive use of patents, creating "walled gardens" which favor one implementation over another regardless of merit, to quash or demand ransom from open source projects. Mr Allison is wise in his conclusion: namely that open source projects should ignore these agreements and continue to produce software freely because, as others have pointed out, (Richard Stallman being prominent among them) patents remain a threat to free software which cannot be avoided at this time. In fact, it is not worth even searching existing patents because willful infringement, or infringing a patent that you know about, carries heavier penalties than simply infringing a patent of which you had no knowledge. The patent holder may decide to file a lawsuit in either case so it doesn't pay to risk more than necessary by being proactive with regard to software patents. Therefore, the open source community should accept the risk and continuing moving forward, for now, while working against software patents on the legal and political advocacy front. This is essentially the same conclusion that Richard Stallman arrived at many years ago.
      • by headkase (533448)
        You read the article?! That's a cardinal sin, shame on you! To myself, this story fit enough for a comment that was pre-existing in my mind so it was wedged in to share what I could. You are right, patents are dumb. Physical things you can perhaps see a logic to patent but when you are in the abstract the issue is much less clear because at a fundamental nature is boils down to do you allow a patent on: 2 + 2 = 4? The abstract, or ideas, are not as tangible as machines and therefore should not suffer t
        • To continue, while I'm here ;), Some things are: too important to patent [google.ca] if you believe Mr. Jefferson. And as a matter of fact in the founding of the United States of America it was a close call whether patents should be allowed at all. The promoting the progress bit won out narrowly. Today, I believe this should be re-examined. We have reached the critical mass where if someone does not do it, someone else will. Therefore, the promoting the progress bit is not as valid. But stagnation rules the day,
  • Well... duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:43PM (#30847340)

    Microsoft is a software company, selling proprietary software, with a business model based around lock-in and obscurity on file formats and the like. Open source is the complete opposite of what MS's business model needs. Now obviously MS's business model is (was) a pretty good one considering they got very very rich with it (one of the richest companies in the world, if not the richest). Business wise they're a winner, no contest. Open source is breaking that.

    Absolute winners for MS are of course Office with their doc format lock-in (slowly being eroded by OOo), and the Windows/Exchange/Outlook combo for which I don't know of any true competitor. Plus the many windows-only games of course. MS needs to keep their sources closed, their standards theirs and theirs alone, and needs to keep competitors out of their network. The network situation is improving but it is still very much everything except Windows talks easily to everything except Windows, and Windows talks easily to Windows alone.

    When I'm at it, I was thinking of their two most high-profile competitors.

    Apple: they couldn't care less about open/closed source and will likely go with the wind. Except maybe iTunes but then that contains DRM which requires the closed-source obscurity to not be cracked before it's released. OS-X is largely open-source even. Apple is a hardware company, after all. They make software to sell their hardware.

    Google. Google appears to love open source: they are all about interoperability. Everyone on the Internet, everything on the Internet, the browser is the platform. Which browser? Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari? What would they care. Operating system? Irrelevant. Hardware platform? The cheaper the better, whether it's a laptop, phone, desktop or "slate". As long as the device understands standards. And open source is pretty good at exactly that: standards.

    Yahoo is likely in the Google camp, being an Internet company. Though I don't hear much of any software developments coming from there. And they are quite friendly with Microsoft.

    Then there is Microsoft's Bing. Gaining market share rapidly, got some positive comments a few stories ago here on /.. Makes me wonder where that stands really, as Bing just needs a standards-compliant browser. I haven't used the site, but I understand from the comments that it is pretty standards-compliant at the moment. And with the current market share of non-IE browsers, they will have to. You can't afford to lose 30% or so of your market, especially as that 30% will tell their friends "Bing sucks, doesn't work properly, use Google, that works good". People don't tend to try again later.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Then there is Microsoft's Bing. Gaining market share rapidly, got some positive comments a few stories ago here on /.. Makes me wonder where that stands really, as Bing just needs a standards-compliant browser

      Bing is a 'weapon' product. They're only producing it to compete with and ultimately defeat Google. If and win Google is hobbled, they will be able to pay less attention to Bing and more to their lock-in product lines.

    • Then there is Microsoft's Bing. Gaining market share rapidly, got some positive comments a few stories ago here on /.. Makes me wonder where that stands really, as Bing just needs a standards-compliant browser.

      It boils down to revenue (i.e. money). The AdWords program, which is built upon the foundation of their successful search engine, is responsible for 90%+ of Google's present revenues; AdWords pays the bills at Google. This revenue stream is tremendously lucrative by anyone's estimation; indeed, there is a river of advertising money flowing through Google via AdWords. When one looks at the issue in this way, it is not difficult to understand Microsoft's interest in search and their substantial investments in

  • Map Reduce? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:44PM (#30847350) Journal
    Mr. Allison, What is Googles software patent policy in regards to things like the recent map/reduce patent?
    • Re:Map Reduce? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:32PM (#30848082) Homepage Journal
      This is what I was thinking. The biggest threat to OSS is not forms of less open and more closed software, the two can coexist, but patents. Look at what is happening with phone and media devices. A patent to show a telephone number on a screen? A patent to let the user choose a TV show. How can OSS be written in this environment? Anything is going to violate a patent.

      Google does not yet have a huge number of patents, but that will change in the future, and they will become likely become more general. Already, IIRC, they have patent on in game advertising. I can see a time when we might a OSS game engine that allows in context game advertising. I wonder if Google would sue.

  • by Entropius (188861) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#30847468)

    I teach a computational physics class for freshmen.

    When I was going over our syllabus, I said: "Email your homework here. Don't send us Microsoft Word documents. My TA and I don't have Word, we're probably not on a computer that does when we grade your homework, and we can't be arsed to go find a decoder for whatever the newest obscure Microsoft format is."

    The students were shocked -- you don't have Word? Really? How is this possible? (Answer: LaTeX.)

    (Except for the one guy with the Ubuntu laptop, in the back, who chuckled...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by captaindomon (870655)
      Yeah, that doesn't work in the real world, in F100 companies.
    • by rwv (1636355)

      Don't send us Microsoft Word documents. My TA and I don't have Word, we're probably not on a computer that does when we grade your homework, and we can't be arsed to go find a decoder for whatever the newest obscure Microsoft format is.

      The sad truth is that you can read Word files in OpenOffice as long as you aren't using the version of Word from 2007, but you can't open OpenOffice files in Word unless you install some extra plug-in.

      This seems backwards to me that Open Source Software supports proprietary formats better than Proprietary Software support open formats. Que sera sera.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So what obscure file format do you have them use? For you to call the basic .doc file format obscure is asinine. If you were to ask most people on the street what a .doc file was, they would be able to tell you that it is a document file. If you were ask most people on the street what a .ooo file was, they would look at you with a blank stare. Who is using the obscure file format?

      Perhaps, if using anything associated with .doc is that distasteful for you, you should have your students print out their
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Obscure is relative. I've have had to deal with word documents maybe once or twice in the past two years. For me, that's enough to qualify for the label "obscure".

      • If you were ask most people on the street what a .ooo file was, they would look at you with a blank stare.

        I would hope so, since OpenOffice documents are .odt files.

        • That was my mistake. I have too many things going on at once. Perhaps I should pay more attention to my responses before submitting and potentially making a fool out of myself. Consider me duly chastised for my mistake.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 0123456 (636235)

        For you to call the basic .doc file format obscure is asinine.

        Microsoft's 'newest obscure format' would presumably be .docx, which I've seen about twice in my life... compared to thousands of PDFs and hundreds of .odts and .docs in the last year. So obscure sounds like the correct word.

        And I would imagine that submitting as PDF would be the best solution for student assignments, since they are a standard and presumably not intended to be edited after submissin.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tolkien (664315)

        Actually, a lot of folks don't even know what a .doc file is because of Microsoft's file-name extension hiding. They think of documents as the files with the "W" on the piece of paper.

    • I'm participating in a computational physics class this year (Germany) and guess what? About 25% of the students were already using Linux. We all got a Linux introduction (quite a lot of bash stuff, but pretty easy) and a requirement for our C/C++ programs was that they had to compile and run on our lab computers that are running Linux, of course. I've seen quite a lot of new Linux installs and VMs over the course of the semester.
    • Re:Random anecdote (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:36PM (#30848938)
      It may be different now, but when I attended University in the late 90s most incoming freshmen did not know how to use LaTeX and some hadn't even heard of it. So unless you want to turn your computational physics course into "Introduction to LaTeX", it probably isn't reasonable to expect that incoming freshmen are immediately productive in LaTeX (which definitely has a learning curve). In fact, you will be lucky if they have had any formal training in Linux or Unix use let alone LaTeX (most US high schools , if they offer computer courses at all, invariably use Windows and Word).
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      More instructors like you are sorely needed.

  • He just made himself a powerful enemy, and the elephant never forgets!

  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @12:59PM (#30847620) Homepage

    "So you see this especially in the appliance market where Microsoft will go to a company — off the record as this is never ever done in public — and say 'this product you have there, shame if someone brought a patent suit. So you have two options you can re-architect — here is Windows — or the other thing is why don't you give us a cut on all the free software you are using?'.

    This is very common business practice in the U.S. not exclusive to Microsoft. Bigger companies want two things from the smaller companies they intimidate, revenue and market penetration information. If they don't get it privately, they certainly get it with patent/trademark litigation.

    I'm not calling Microsoft out exclusively on this, but it should give the average /. an idea of how fundamentally frozen the American economy is by patent and trademark law.

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:06PM (#30847718)

    I have no love for Microsoft.

    But in the last decade I've seen Linux on the Desktop split between two different competing environments and API's, usability experts not being able to get any meaningful traction early on in FLOSS projects, newbies being flamed on IRC for asking questions, legitimate criticism of user experience issues being written of as FUD, billions of FLOSS company dollars going to enterprise systems buyouts and kernel hacker salaries instead of high quality user testing labs (and then saying FLOSS has no money for such things like evil proprietary companies do), etc.

    When I look at Microsoft, I don't see FLOSS's greatest enemy; I see a boogeyman and a scapegoat used to explain FLOSS' lack of success at getting outside of a server room.

    • Much of what you're saying is probably true, but there has been some movement. Ubuntu is overall as easy to use as Windows. Some things (like repositories and their associated application installation system) are definitely a lot better. I say this as a Mac user who will almost certainly never switch to either.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Movement? Was it a spasm, a twitch or a tic?

        As a Mac user you would know that OSX got so much more marketshare in a shorter time.

        You can say part of it was due to Steve Job's reality distortion field, but, fact is desktop linux got better up to a point then stopped getting better and remained "not good enough" and some bits even got worse (I actually switched from KDE to GNOME because KDE got so crap recently).

        Sound doesn't work well.

        And NetworkManager seems to be neither great for the "pros", nor great for
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hellraizer (1689320)

      newbies being flamed on IRC for asking questions, ...

      that is the truth .... not to mention being mocked when they do not know "the unix way" of doing things .... like the other day when a colleague os mine asked how he could access the D: drive on a linux server, that question , got us on a talk that lasted 2 hours just to explain him "the unix way" :P

    • by msimm (580077) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:11PM (#30848640) Homepage
      Boogeyman? Microsoft routinely does bad things (tm) that in no way can be used to explain the usability issues Linux-based operating systems face today. But none-the-less their patent trolling, anti-competitive and generally litigious nature still makes them a serious threat to freedom and innovation.
    • Absolutely. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jensend (71114)

      My first Linux install was RH 5.1; it was a bit of a bumpy ride getting X to work, and there were some other issues, so I didn't do much with it- just stuck to Windows. I tried again a year later, and RH 6.x was much better- the 2.2 kernel series made a big difference, GNOME was new and exciting, most things just worked, etc. I did more dual-booting and thought that surely the pace of improvement would make it so after the next release or two I'd always be booting into Linux. But from my point of view the p

  • ...Allison described Microsoft as 'an elephant that needs to be turned to stop it trampling the open source community

    That's a great description of Microsoft. Slow to get up to speed, difficult to turn once they get rolling. The real problem with elephants on the battle field is once they got a head of steam they would charge through the enemy lines, then turn around and charge back through the lines and trample their own people. Not exactly a smart bomb.

  • Oh yeah? Well, so's your mom!
  • So, if Microsoft is the elephant, does that mean that Open Source is the mouse that scares the elephant, and Google is the sneaky snake that convinces the mouse to scare the elephant before said snake eats the mouse?

    I don't know about you, but I'd rather deal with the evil I know rather than deal with the treacherous snake that pretends to be my ally one week (Mozilla / Android) and is my enemy the next (Chrome / NexusOne).

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:37PM (#30848950)

    I was in Dennys at the weekend and couldn't help listening to a conversation that was taking place on the table behind me. Some woman was proud of her new netbook that she had to buy because her old laptop had too many windows virusses to run (fast) any more. Clearly she was one of those people that surf everywhere and click yes to everything.

    I had the revelation that she actually represents nearly all 'normal' people (us techies definately aren't normal). Most 'normal' people have already been conditioned by companies like Microsoft, Dell and Apple to view laptops as appliances, not something user-maintainable. Many people can't even differentiate between hardware and OS.

    Also, most people are already familiar the windows environment, and also don't like change. Even a slightly different desktop menu layout or whatever is enough to make them feel uncomfortable enough to not want to go further. Just a new version of Windows represents a significant learning curve to these people. I mean most people still use IE for christ sake even after all the warnings and free alternatives one mouse-click away. They just want their PC to plug and play. When it runs slow, in their ignorance they prefer to throw it away and blow $1500 on another laptop rather than change their behavior or just learn about their PC.

    These are most consumers, and if we want them to adopt Linux we have to take their natural behavior and all their preconceptions into account.

    The only way to get desktop Linux to the majority is to beat Microsoft at being able to plug in any hardware or application and have it just work, which means getting hardware manufacturers and app developers to stop blindly developing stuff for Microsoft-based OS only. As long as hardware suppliers don't provide Linux drivers and, for example, games developers still use DirectX and not OpenGL, Linux will never be in a position to reach the public consciousness, even though its technically and intrinsically better. Linux has clearly already won that war but obviously thats not enough as still no mass migration from Windows to Linux desktop that we'd all like to see.

    The thing is, most people still have never heard of Linux. We need to stop hoping people will join our community just because its technically better, and start spending money on advertising.

    Linux needs to be shoved into the public perception through the TV and media at least as hard and frequently as Microsoft do with their products. Advertising is the only way that desktop Linux will ever get to critical mass, which it needs to do so that its obvious to all HW and SW manufacturers that they will quickly loose out if they continue to only target Windows. Furthermore 'Normal' consumers need to at least know that Linux exists before they can try it.

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