Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the month “June, 2007”

Is Red Hat the pot calling the kettle black?

My my. Who would have thought that Microsoft actually would dominate the discussions in the world of Linux and Open Source. In a fascinating article at Reuters Red Hat’s Matthew Szulik admitted that a year ago he and Microsoft were discussing some sort of patent deal. Yes, a similar deal that Novell and Microsoft agreed upon. Wasn’t Red Hat the company crying “foul” when that happened? Didn’t they put themselves forward as the rallying point against patent-based deals with Microsoft?

Mr. Szulik’s current position is reassuringly clear:

The developer of Linux software, has yet to sign such a deal which could see Novell, its biggest rival, woo customers away from Red Hat and work on product development and sales with the world’s No.1 software maker.
In an interview with Reuters, Szulik declined to say whether his company is now in negotiations with Microsoft over signing such a patent agreement.
“I can’t answer the question,” he said.

He can’t answer the question…. What reasons could there be for it?
(1) He wants to but some evil witch has cast a spell and now he can not say the words “patent agreement” and “Microsoft” anymore.
(2) He has absolutely no clue what is happening in his company. For all he knows, most of the people working for him already signed up with Microsoft Technet or MSDN, in effect having signed patent-based agreements already. Don’t forget, he’s just the CEO. You can’t hold him responsible for not knowing.
(3) He thinks we and all other Linux afficionados wouldn’t understand a thing about business, making money and delivering quality service to business customers and decided it is best if we were left out of the loop on this.
(4) Matthew and Steve are already practicing a duet version of “developers, developers, developers”, but want to keep it a secret untill Bill’s birthday.

Is there anyone still out there that wants to call my articles about Mandriva FUD? Who will be next out of the closet.

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Is Microsoft turning open source friendly?

We already now that Microsoft has it’s own open source software blog. We know that the Redmond Mogul is dipping it’s toes in sharing open source software. And after the deals with Novell, Linspire and Xandros we also know that something is brewing at Microsoft headquarters.

But a Microsoft that is actively promoting the use of competitive open source software, I guess that is kind of new. Groklaw reports that the Microsoft Marketplace offered a download of Ubuntu Linux for a short while and that at least 10.000 users actually did that.

So, thanks to Microsoft we might have about 10.000 extra converts to Linux. If the majority are actually Dutch speaking our book could be a bestseller.

And the internet has more good news. Microsoft is a Gold Sponsor for the FOSS-ed for Windows convention in Sri Lanka. You can see the familiar logo at the bottom of the page. A quote:

While there is a trend in the industry moving towards GNU/Linux and Free and Open Source Software – FOSS – Microsoft Windows is still a dominating force. Many applications have been developed around it and many continue to do so. Most of this software is also proprietary and includes heavy license fees. Proprietary software may cost anything from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars for licensing fees alone. As a developing country, most individuals and even companies cannot afford such prices and resort to using illegal copies of software. Pirated software may cost only a fraction of the actual price but the implications can be far greater.

So are there viable alternatives to be used in the Windows environment? The answer is YES! Alternatives that don’t have exorbitant licensing fees and will not result in intellectual property violation lawsuits being slapped against you! Alternatives that do not involve high maintenance costs either, are customisable, regularly and quickly provide security fixes in response to feedback and also have community driven support. What are these wonderful viable alternatives? It’s Free and Open Source Software that run on Windows too! A large and wonderful catalog of FOSS applications exist for Windows users today. From Web browsers and mail clients to graphics software and content management systems, it’s all out there ready to download and use! If you want to know more come check out FOSS-ed for Windows: THE event for all you decision makers to find out how YOU can benefit from FOSS while still continuing to use Windows.

Yes, you read correctly. Microsoft is supporting a convention that wants to fight the piracy of (Microsoft) software by promoting the use of open source alternatives. Maybe my argument that Microsoft is no longer the evil company it once was has some validity after all. Next: Microsoft open sources Office 2007.

Ubuntu W2L Renaissance RC

We are working on a book about Ubuntu Linux that aims at Windows users who want to migrate to Linux or are considering it. The book is a step-by-step migration guide, but also want to provide a wide overview of what Linux has to offer for office applications, multimedia (audio, video, graphics and webdesign) and communications (chat, blogging, e-mail, newsgroups, peer2peer, voip and browsing). We made the decision not to use the default Ubuntu CD or create a multiboot Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu DVD, but to integrate the three desktop environments and add about 80 more programs. In this way no install or download is needed to follow all that is discussed in the book. We use the perspective of the Windows user (the graphical interface) as a starting point and go deeper into the system from there on. We don’t shun the commandline, but introduce it gradually and provide more information later in the book. Sorry (and I don’t want to spoil things here) but the book will be in Dutch and it will be in the stores late August, early September.

Why “Renaissance? For some time I am attracted to the concept of the ‘Renaissance man‘. No, I am not talking about the movie with Danny Devito, but the concept that describes someone who is educated in multiple fields. I truly believe that developing multiple skills and gain wide and deep knowledge makes someone more complete. Linux is about empowering people in the field of computing, but it also gives them access to a wide collection of specialized software to develop other abilities, only being hindered by their own choices. The Ubuntu W2L edition comes with a wide variety of software, so the nickname “Renaissance” seemed appropriate.

Between the beta 2 and the RC a few things have changed. We cleaned up some errors and annoyances in the sources.list, removed just about everything that would give the publisher possible heartaches (mostly because of license issues) and updated all packages as to June 22, 2007. Reconstructor 2.6 was used to build this custom version Ubuntu Feisty Fawn.

What will you find:

– the following repositories in the sources.list: universe, multiverse, restricted, medibuntu, canonical commercial, seveas and opera
– kubuntu-desktop, xubuntu-desktop, edubuntu-desktop and ubuntustudio-desktop
– ubuntustudio-audio (without the low latency kernel), ubuntustudio-video and ubuntustudio-graphics
– ubuntu-devel (metapackage from the seveas repository)
– language packs (Dutch)
– koffice, korganizer, gnome office, gnucash, kmymoney2, grisbi, amsn, kmess, blogtk, drivel, gnome-blog, azureus, skype, banshee, exaile, streamtuner, streamripper, kstreamripper, lastfm,, kaudiocreator, lame, wine, amule, pan, knode, liferea, mplayer, mozilla-mplayer, istanbul, gtkpod-aac, acidrip, p7zip-full, rar, unrar, zip, unzip, amaya, anjuta, gnome-art, beryl-manager, beryl-settings, beryl-settings-simple, bluefish, bum, krusader, gnochm, devede, dosemu, gcompris, etherape, firestarter, gdesklets, hubackup, jpilot, multisync, libmultisync-plugin-all, kerry, kpilot, kwifimanager, bcm43xx-fwcutter, ntfs-config, planner, qcad, quanta, kompare, kxsldbg, kimagemapeditor, cervisia, rawstudio, rsibreak, scite, screem, taskjuggler, ttb, ndisgtk, xaralx, xchat, abiword-plugins-gnome, tuxpaint, gnumeric-doc, gnumeric-plugins-extra, msttcorefonts, beagle-backend-evolution, vlc, mozilla-plugin-vlc, googleearth, ffmpeg, lives, smbfs, opera
– Picasa, Kompozer and Frostwire (installed via dpkg -i)
– OpenOffice.org for Windows added (which you will see when mounting the DVD under Windows)

Since “Renaissance” is tied to the book that aims to be an introduction to Ubuntu and Linux in general we didn’t change the Ubuntu artwork. You will find the default Human theme, with the default Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu and UbuntuStudio themes close at hand. For those who wish to play: in the examples folder you find GNOME2Vista, which contains all you need to change the GNOME desktop into a Vista look-a-like (only cheaper, faster, more stable and -combined with Beryl- much better looking). Of course, kudos and thank you’s to all developers, maintainers and artists that made the materials available which make up this customized version of Ubuntu. For questions concerning “Renaissance” there is a forum on my website.

From this point forward there will be one final release of “Renaissance” for the book. Then it will serve as a basis for another version of “Renaissance” as part of the OpenSourceLearning project. In that project we want to create rich content, multimedia e-learning materials. Those materials are to be integrated into “Renaissance”.

The DVD can be downloaded via bittorrent through LinuxTracker.

Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon: expected features

Tectonic has a brief overview of what Ubuntu 7.10 will bring to the Ubuntu world. Personally I am curious about KDE 4.0 which will be added as an optional package and the Ubuntu Mobile edition. I do have a Windows Mobile 2003 equiped iPaq 3850 and wouldn’t mind playing with Ubuntu on that. Other than that it looks like a nice evolutionary release.

Mandriva will say no to Microsoft, it just needs some time to do so.

Adam Williamson was so kind to give us an early notification of a coming statement by the Mandriva management

This is the basic statement. It’s being cleaned up (language wise) for official publication.

“As far as patent protection is concerned, we are not great fans of software patents which we consider as counter productive. We also believe what we see, and until we see hard evidence from, say, SCO or Microsoft, that there are pieces of codes in our software that infringe existing patents, we will assume that any other announcement is just FUD. So we don’t believe it is necessary for us to get protection from Microsoft to do our job.”

(that’s from Francois Bancilhon)

I am curious to see the final statement.

Added later:

The Mandriva Wiki already has a somewhat longer statement about Microsoft and Mandriva not partnering. Edit: I am sorry. Adam Williamson pointed out that this is not the official Mandriva Wiki, but a member’s blogpost on the Mandriva Club pages. Thank you for claryfing that (JS)

Adam has already unofficially dismissed rumours on François’ part, but still I feel like pointing out the obviousness everybody with some real knowledge of Mandriva should’ve spotted..

Let’s summarize arguments against silly speculations about Mandriva wanting to consider any Microsoft deal seen from my perspective:

1. Mandriva is europe based, not such big pressure in the ~only location where such agreements would hold much relevance

2. Mandriva has no proprietary components with any concerns of Microsoft

3. ALL of Mandriva’s software published is free and has been released under the GPL, proprietary software is none of Mandriva’s concerns, only proprietary software relationships is through partners

4. Mandriva has no patents for Microsoft to buy. Some speculations has been about icrosoft buying out companies through these deals, so far from what I’ve seen this isn’t really the matter, Microsoft has paid huge sums for patents (ie. m$ paid novell several times more than the opposite). Mandriva has no intelluctual property for sale nor would it be possible in the Europe.

5. Mandriva has already declined invitations to “similar” partnerships like United Linux in the past. United Linux consisted of Conectiva, SCO/Caldera, TurboLinux & SuSE which was a collaboration on a common base with too commercial approach. (ie. binary-only, short summary; it’s dead with only SuSE & TurboLinux left..) It should give enough indication about Mandriva not joining such this time either. Speculations about TurboLinux & MS might be more interesting though since they already do ship some proprietary software as well it’s previous participation in United Linux. Still I wouldn’t expect though it as TurboLinux is a japanase company, not US..

6. Mandriva has one of the strongest communities among the Linux distributions, especially with regards to the commercial vendors, signing such agreements with Microsoft could very fell cause a fallout with the community.

So in conclusion from my ramblings, Mandriva would have nothing to gain while everything to loose by signing such an agreement.

By reading the speculations about this so far, it all seems like 99% FUD to me while the only valid reasoning behind the speculations being the fact that a few other vendors has already done so..

Edit 2: The official statement has been released here. For your benefit I have added the text to this post.

Novell, Xandros and Linspire have signed well publicized agreements with Microsoft.

Rumors on the Web have hinted that we might be next on the list. So we would like to clarify our position.

At Mandriva, we believe working in heterogeneous environments is essential to our customers. So, interoperability between the Windows and Linux world is important and must be dealt with, and anything that helps this interoperability is a good thing.

We also believe the best way to deal with interoperability is open standards, such as ODF which we support strongly and we are ready to cooperate with everyone on these topics.

As far as IP is concerned, we are, to say the least, not great fans of software patents and of the current patent system, which we consider as counter productive for the industry as a whole.

We also believe what we see, and up to now, there has been absolutely no hard evidence from any of the FUD propagators that Linux and open source applications are in breach of any patents. So we think that, as in any democracy, people are innocent unless proven guilty and we can continue working in good faith.

So we don’t believe it is necessary for us to get protection from Microsoft to do our job or to pay protection money to anyone.

We plan to keep developing and distributing innovative and exciting products and making them available to the largest number in the true spirit of open source.

François Bancilhon

BSD revisited

It’s been a few years since I dabbled in BSD. I was enthused enough about it to help out with a new project that aims at creating a BSD certification. Due to some health problems I had to let that go. But why is BSD appealing?

I am playing with Linux for somewhat more than five years. Soon after I ran into BSD as it was mentioned in newsgroups by some who didn’t like Linux anymore, as it became too userfriendly and GUI-based. Led more by curiosity than by knowledge I dove into the world of BSD.

Linux has it’s roots in Unix, but BSD is Unix (though it would be better to say Unix-like) and proudly carries it’s torch. The hard work of a team of developers removed all proprietary code from the original Unix in the early 1990s. The BSD license differs somewhat from the GPL, which allowed for instance Microsoft to use parts in it’s Windows operating system. Binary, closed source redistribution is allowed under the BSD license.

I also found the BSD playing field refreshingly simple. At that time you had three big names. OpenBSD with a very very high focus on security, NetBSD aiming at maximum portability and FreeBSD as the accessible BSD. OpenBSD is hardly a fringe OS as it is the backbone of a serious part of the internet infrastructure. In terms of security it is unparallelled.

At that time FreeBSD was the only one I could really do something with. I was still working mostly under Windows and was glad the then current Linux distributions had a graphical installer. FreeBSD had some features that made it “easy” to install, like the autopartition option and the exemplary FreeBSD Handbook, which is something Linux distributions might take a look at. Once installed it looked similar to your average Linux desktop, which should not be surprising since the KDE and GNOME desktops are available for yours truly.

A few years ago Distrowatch decided to incude BSD in it’s listings. As I recall that didn’t happen without some criticism as some were determined to focus more on the differences between BSD and Linux than on seeing two major open source movements with widely shared goals and methods. If you like to know more about the differences and similarities of BSD and Linux this article might interest you. A quick look at the Distrowatch website will also reveal that there has been some change in the BSD world. Currently it lists twelve active BSD versions of which FreeBSD as the highest ranking, followed by PC-BSD and DesktopBSD.

You won’t find many articles or references in mainstream IT magazines and most of the Linux crowd wouldn’t know where to start either. Two interesting starting points would be the BSD section of Slashdot or the BSD dev center pages with O’Reilly. Dru Lavigne, front woman for the BSD Certification Group, established author for books on BSD and BSD advocate keeps a blog at ittoolbox. Once you start digging you will find that BSD has very active and involved communities, an example of which can be found at BSDForums.

Back to the original question: “What makes BSD appealing?”. First, it is firmly rooted in decades of Unix history, even more than Linux, with a very strong focus on security and stability.  In recent years FreeBSD tried to follow a more Linux-like release pattern resulting in more buggy and unstable releases. A nuisance and accepted custom in the Linux wolrd, but a mortal sin in the BSD world but the FreeBSD team seems to be back on the original track again. Second, many BSD features have found and are finding their way into Linux distributions. One example, the methods you can use to install software. FreeBSD offers two systems, via the ports collection (installing from source) and via packages (pre-built binaries). Gentoo’s Portage ows much to FeeeBSD. And don’t think you are restricted in your choice of software. At the time of writing there were 17.300 ports, which is slightly less than the Debian repositories.  This means that you won’t miss much when you use FreeBSD instead of your Linux distribution. Third, BSD support various hardware platforms. NetBSD has perhaps the widest support, but FreeBSD is holding it’s own with support for Alpha, AMD64, i386, IA64, PC98, PowerPC and Sparc64.  Fourth, it is highly educational to get acquainted with BSD. Digging into OpenBSD will definitely enhance your security awareness. Personally I learned some hardcore skills for Linux via Unix and BSD. Fifth, we all want to be geeks right 😉 . Within our own Linux circles you can enhance your standing by casually dropping into a conversation that you use BSD on your server. Some might not agree with your choice, but at least you are the centre of attention and carry geekdom one step further.

My next question would be whether FreeBSD is a good choice for the desktop or if one of the other BSD’s might be a better choice? How do they handle the problems with codecs and drivers? And software management? Those questions will be dealt with in three articles, about FreeBSD, PC-BSD and DesktopBSD, to appear in the coming weeks.

Tags: BSD, Linux

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on your USB

The Xubuntu blog has this very nice workaround to restore the feature I liked in Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake, the ability to use a USB drive as a persistent /home/user directory. The articles gives credit where credit is due. You have to love those thinkerers. Kudos to y’all

Ubuntu says no, but will the Mandriva management follow suit?

On the Mandriva Cooker mailinglist there was the following request based on my earlier article that made the case that Mandriva and TurboLinux might be next to partner with Microsoft.

It is a speculation, but I think that it would be good to get a clear
statement from the management on where Mandriva stands, especially
regarding the alleged Microsoft patents.

After some words about the article referring to a non-event (true, it didn’t happen yet) and focusing more on the patent issues than on the idea of Mandriva partnering with Microsoft the original writer returns with words of concern

My point is not about giving importance to the patents, but about Mandriva taking a stand and saying clearly that they are *not* going to participate in such a scheme. Even more so because these patents are most likely not valid in Europe. That would quench these speculations.

The problem with the game Microsoft is playing is simple – even if the patents are bogus, if sufficient critical mass of distros and vendors
plays “cover your own ass” and sells out, it will be simply impossible for the rest not to join. The corporate customers will demand it,
helped, without any doubt, by Microsoft’s saber-rattling. Remember the copyright indemnifications which were unheard of until SCO came?
Everyone agreed that they have no case, but customers demanded it (and Microsoft made it a big point in their FUD), so now RedHat and Novell (AFAIK) offer it.

Even if we stay out of the ideological issues (GPL, free vs. not-free, …), this whole thing could have disastrous financial consequences
without Microsoft actually revealing the patents or spending a dime and suing anyone. For Microsoft it is a win-win situation – they get their racketeering money via the contracts, divide the community and make commercial exploitation of Linux unviable without essentially getting a cut out of each installation.

Mandriva is in a more vulnerable position that e.g. Novell or Linspire due to the fact that it is a lot more dependent on its development
community. I have no doubt that if the management decided to sign such contract, many people would leave, crippling the distro. That is why taking a clear stand is important.

The next contributor appears to be more open to the idea of cooperation:

Why should Mandriva say no before even knowing the terms of this contract ? Because it’s Microsoft ?

Of course, it is always interesting to see how your articles are being read and interpreted. Another contribution to Mandriva Cooker says the following:

For what its worth this article seems to wish for Mandriva to join MS in a patent protection pact as did Xandros & Linspire. I for one dont believe there is any merit in these so-called patent protection pacts and such a strategy short-sighted.

Me? Wishing for Mandriva to partner with Microsoft? I don’t think I wrote that. I did write that Microsoft was less of an evil company than some in the Linux community seem to be comfortable with.

But… I did not see a clear statement from the Mandriva management along the lines of Mark Shuttleworth yet. 😉

Edit: The idea of Mandriva partnering with Microsoft isn’t considered that farfetched by some Dutch Mandriva users.

Ubuntu won't be next. Won't it?

It seems few people are discussing the Microsoft-Linspire deal, the focus goes to “Will Ubuntu be next?”. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is burned on the stakes by the Ubuntu community for implying that their favorite distribution might be next.

I personally found this quote in Mark Shuttleworth’s blog interesting:

I have no objections to working with Microsoft in ways that further the cause of free software, and I don’t rule out any collaboration with them, in the event that they adopt a position of constructive engagement with the free software community. It’s not useful to characterize any company as “intrinsically evil for all time”. But I don’t believe that the intent of the current round of agreements is supportive of free software, and in fact I don’t think it’s particularly in Microsoft’s interests to pursue this agenda either. In time, perhaps, they will come to see things that way too.

I thought this was a balanced and clear position on the issue of a possible partnership with Microsoft. Sad to say that my comment in hist blog is still held for moderation whereas more “Good for you Mark” comments are already accepted. Edit: This has changed, the comment has been accepted, which is appreciated.

Anyway, Steven wrote another article on this subject. He still clings to the argument that Ubuntu is also a distribution that might jump ship sometime this year. I don’t think so. Mandriva and TurboLinux, yes. Mandriva because of it’s financial problems and TurboLinux because it already dealt with Microsoft a few years ago when paying for the Windows Media codecs. Ubuntu has little to gain from a partnership with Microsoft, but much to loose if it would partner. The community of Linux users is -in general- hardly diehard longterm loyal to it’s distributions (with exceptions a plenty, of course 😉 ). A move like this would push Ubuntu to the bottom of the Distrowatch charts and into a footnote in Linux history.

Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux

Microsoft is on the march. Novell, Xandros, Linspire, hiring Tom Hanrahan straight from the Open Source Development Labs. There should be no doubt that Microsoft has a strategy to….. Yes, to do what to Linux? Did the Redmond Mogul finally realize that Linux is a worthy partner for the future and is it now investing in strategic partners to guarantee a slice of the future market? Or is this a repetition of the old browser wars with the embrace, extend and make extinct strategy and will the Linux world end up empty handed?

The first agreement with Novell was met with mixed feelings. Novell will have the honor of being embedded in the GPL 3 with it’s own clause. The agreement with Microsoft provided mutual protection against patent violations, coöperation in order to improve interoperability and it gives Microsoft the opportunity for Windows 2003/Suse Linux package deals to it’s own customers. Not a few expected Microsoft to use this agreement to repeat it’s own patent claims against all the other Linux distributions, which it did. The agreements with both Xandros and Linspire are quite similar, albeit that Microsoft won’t be offering the two distributions to the longing desktop users. Maybe I am wrong but it does feel that the uproar has become a lot less. Xandros and Linspire are distributions that are the most focused on current Windows users and they use a graphical interface that resembles the Windows desktop as close as possible. Linspire was also one of the first distributions to pay license fees in order to ship with MP3 playback on board. Linspire and Xandros can be considered very pragmatic distributions from commercial companies that focus more on user experience than on philosophical purity and have no qualms on adding proprietary and closed source software if that benefitted their market shares. Two other distributions that fit this profile are TurboLinux and Mandriva. So it wouldn’t surprise if one or both of these companies are next on the list of Microsoft’s Linux partners.

In the last few years I have become impressed with Microsoft. The company, not the operating system. Not everyone might have noticed, but Microsoft has really made some effort to become a friendly and strong communicator. Most of it’s products have been made available as public beta’s. I am about to start some tests on the third release of Windows Home Server, the release candidate. If you want to get your feet wet in coding you can download and use the Visual Studio Express products for free. Both the Technet and MSDN websites are packed with high quality and sound information that are really educational. The CD/DVD trial packages are free or cheap and often come with surprise goodies, like free versions of Outlook and Frontpage with the Windows 2003 Small Business Suite trial package. What I am trying to say is this: Microsoft is changing into a company with more coöperation, more transparency and more community development that ever before. Of course it didn’t invent it. To call Microsoft the most innovative company would be way to much honor, but it has been and still is a company that could learn from it’s mistakes and rectify them with a vengeance.

If you look back and see what has happened in the last couple of years you can see a strong strategy. Microsoft settled with Novell and Sun and build new strategic partnerships in return. It still has some problems in Europa, but those are simply a matter of time. Suppose Microsoft does partner with Mandriva. That would give it the support of the French government that can flex it’s muscle and make sure that the EU’s stand will be more pallatable. Redmond pays it’s dues and from then on Microsoft can do what it wants in Europa. Bill and Steve are also getting more buddy buddy, which means that already now Microsoft has solid footing in three operating systems (Windows, Linux and Mac OS X) with clear agreements and partners to improve the interoperability.

Meanwhile the other side of the arena is way too quiet. Where are the initiatives of Red Hat and it’s strategic partners like IBM, HP and Oracle. The strongest initiative for Linux interoperability seems to come from Linspire and the CNR warehouse. Dell is carefully testing the waters with a few meagre Ubuntu PC’s. It’s writers are trying to position the GPL 3 as the first and last line of defence against the proliferation of Microsoft-Linux partnerships. Well, I seriously doubt whether the so-called Novell clause with it’s historical date as a judicial watershed holds up in court, especially since no software has been released under the GPL 3 as yet. But will the GPL 3 get any teeth at all? Since we are looking into a crystall ball anyway, let us suppose that the Samba team decided to migrate all of it’s code to GPL 3 and that GPL 3 would prohibit Microsoft and it’s Linux partners from using Samba because it would force Microsoft to open source Windows at the same time. Victory! Yes, but a Pyrrhic victory at most. What would prevent Microsoft and it’s partners to develop an alternative under their current agreements? Nothing. And what would prevent Microsoft to release that alternative under an open source license or a “promise not to sue” license? Nothing! And how long will it take for other distributions to embed that alternative in it’s own releases? Well, Ubuntu won’t be the first but certainly not the last. Red Hat will refuse and Debian will do what it does best, ignore the whole thing. But there will be plenty of other distributions that won’t shed a tear and remove Samba. Besides it would do miracles for the case against Microsoft in the EU and shift the blame of frustrating Windows Linux interoperability to GPL 3 and it’s supporters.

If and when Microsoft allies itself with Mandriva and TurboLinux it will also get serious other benefits. At that point it will have strategic Linux partners whose key markets will encompass various important continents: the USA, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Mandriva is cash strapped -again- and can definitely use a multimillion infusion with Microsoft dollars. Suppose it would take $ 500 million to get Mandriva into the fold. It’s petty cash for Microsoft and a small price to get a solid foothold in the European and Latin American Linux markets.

Red Hat has some very rich supporters. IBM, HP and Oracle may be among the few companies that have the resources to come up with an effective strategy against the march of Microsoft. Sad to say, but these companies haven’t succeeded in doing exaclty that in the past. If history is to be used as a yard stick I would put my money on the Microsoft strategy, for better or for worse.

Tags: Microsoft, Linux, Mandriva, TurboLinux, patents

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