Tag Archives: Open Source

Free Software Will Kill Redmond


Keith Curtis, author and former Microsoft programmer, makes no bones about his view that open source puts the software giant’s wares to shame. In this interview, he discusses what’s wrong with Microsoft programming, what’s behind all those bugs, and what’s shaping his former employer’s grim future.

Linux changes how people think about their computer. Microsoft has no response for this.

In addition, proprietary software hurts Microsoft. Google writes mostly proprietary software, but quietly leverages a lot of free software that is a key to its success.

What can Microsoft do to curb the threat of free software, and what do you think it will be willing to do?

Other than adopting Linux, there is little Microsoft can do. Even if they did embrace it, not only would it hurt their profit margins, they’d be forced to explain to customers why they should continue to pay for Office if the company believes the free OpenOffice is good enough.

Microsoft has created Web sites where developers can use free code and collaborate, and the latest is called CodePlex. While it shows that Microsoft understands the benefits of free software, this site mostly contains tiny add-ons to proprietary Microsoft products.

Microsoft has also released some software it wrote under various open licenses. While it is good PR for Microsoft, this software is being absorbed by the outside community. This doesn’t actually curb the threat; it increases it.

So I don’t really know what Microsoft can do. While the company says it doesn’t like piracy, it does allow itself to compete on price with free software. As Bill Gates wrote: “It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not.”

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Open source in a time of recession


No one questions the fact of recession any more, although we have yet to confirm a single quarter without growth, let alone two. Tech hates recessions, even though tech booms start at the bottom of them. The PC boom emerged from the bottom of a recession in the early 80s, and the Internet boom from another in the early 90s.

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KDE or Gnome? Some advice for those new to Linux


KDE or Gnome? This is the killer question that can be quite difficult to answer and there appears to be very little information available on the first couple of pages of search engine results for the new Linux user. Which one is faster? Which is more stable? Which one looks better? Some simple information for the new user on a blurry topic.

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The end run around the OS is underway


The operating system may be losing its luster. In fact, you could argue that the operating system–Linux, OS X and Windows–will become an application that just happens to boot first. And hardware vendors are on to the OS’s diminishing importance.
Let’s connect a few dots:
• On Tuesday, Dell rolled out a new line of laptops and one of the best features was the ability to get your email, contacts, calendar and other items without booting the operating system, a process that can take awhile (at least on my system).
• On Thursday, Intel talked up software that can wake a system out of sleep mode to take a PC phone call. It’s probably a security disaster waiting to happen, but it’s handy for PC calls via the Internet.
The common thread: These efforts from Dell and Intel are arguably taking away some of the tasks that the operating system would normally do. My working theory: The OS is being slowly downplayed as hardware vendors and Web developers grab more control over the user experience. The OS will never be totally irrelevant, but it will be increasingly less important. It’ll be plumbing. Simply put, the OS is being squeezed between hardware vendors that are cooking up their own applications to handle key tasks and the so-called Webtop, which will deliver programs through the browser.

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No retail channel for laptop Linux


Tommy visited chain stores in Atlanta and Columbus, as well as a small Atlanta retailer, and drew all the blank looks I expected.

One Geek Squad member suggested he go online, and said Dell is selling kit. An H-P representative he happened upon admitted they got nothing.

This is why Linux remains, in the desktop and laptop space, a hobbyist market. It only exists through the online channels hobbyists use.

This is true even though Linux is lighter in its use of system resources than Windows, and many popular applications come in Linux versions.

Of course, when Wal-Mart offered bargain Linux boxes last year they flew off the shelves. It’s not a question of demand.

It’s a question of supply. Retailers insist on higher-priced goods for the sake of their margins. Microsoft’s policies push manufacturers into putting Windows on everything they push down the channel.

Yet I’ve seen how Value-Added Resellers can up-sell hardware and capture niches for Linux, in areas like retailing and education.

For most consumers, however, there’s still a big gap between them and a Linux laptop. Stores.

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Did the big boys really kill OLPC?


The UK’s Timesonline is running a story today showing us that, despite internal strife, questionable morals and ideals, and now, the inclusion of Windows XP on a computer that was supposed to embody all that was good in open source, OLPC remains a media darling.

The article is heavy on drama:

Microsoft, makers of most of the computer software in the world, tried to kill it with words, and Intel, maker of most computer chips, tried to kill it with dirty tricks. Of course, they don’t admit to being attempted murderers. And when I introduce you to Intel’s lovely spokesperson, Agnes Kwan, you’ll realise how far their denials go. But the truth is the two mightiest high-tech companies in the world looked on Negroponte’s philanthropic scheme and decided it had to die.

Well, of course Microsoft and Intel wouldn’t take the project sitting down. Are they the real reasons behind it’s inflated price tag and lagging orders? Or was it unrealistic expectations from Negroponte, with his millions of expected sales in the first year? Or was it simply the wrong audience? Negroponte courted Microsoft for a long time and repeatedly talked about Windows support on the XO, only to have Microsoft spokespeople say, “Sorry, not yet.”

Intel targeted communities in which some degree of infrastructure and a reasonable educational facilities already existed; Negroponte wanted everyone to have an XO, regardless of whether their basic needs were being met. Intel partnered with local OEMs to create jobs and customize their Classmates for specific regions. OLPC tried to compete with the Dells and HPs of the world.

Did Negroponte create an exploding market and inspire powerful companies to address unmet needs? You bet. Did the big boys really do him in or did the XO simply fall prey to bad management and a flawed strategy?

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Will Microsoft kill Linux on ULPCs?


Obviously, Microsoft has a significant interest in making sure that users of the new breed of netbooks and MIDs hitting the market don’t get too comfortable using Linux. Many manufacturers have taken to installing various flavors of Linux on these devices to minimize footprint, improve performance, and reduce costs on low-power, low-margin hardware. Similarly, most modern Linux distributions provide features that are tough to find on Windows XP (especially XP Home); Vista clearly isn’t an option on these little guys.

ULPCs come up a lot in Ed Tech, partly because the OLPC XO, largely credited with creating this market, is an educational tool and also because ULPCs have the potential to make 1:1 computing realistic (or even to simply make any sort of computing realistic in developing markets). The OS of choice for students today will be the OS of choice in business tomorrow; hence, Microsoft’s concern over the use of Linux.

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Ubuntu + Sun = Very good idea


I had dinner with a good friend tonight from the open-source world, and we ended up having the same conversation I had with a few other friends from the open-source business community at lunch yesterday. The conversation began with Sun and ended with Ubuntu. In between, the two came together.

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Microsoft Open Solaris? Microsoft BSD? Microsoft what?


 

I wonder what would happen if Microsoft dropped the Windows NT core, making an about face, like Apple did years ago with BSD and adopted Sun’s “Open Solaris” as the core? No, I am not talking about the movie! Granted I am sure I could write an essay and make some comparisons. What if they took the rock-solid Open Solaris core and built there new Windows 7 upon it, instead of re-inventing the wheel? I doubt that Microsoft would ever consider doing this. Nor will they truly give up on the Windows NT core. MinWin looks promising; however do they have enough time? With the release of Microsoft Vista turning into such a disaster, the next version of Windows will need to be something different. One good reason for moving to a new core would be the ability to concentrate on other areas of their business. Although Windows and Office sales make up a large portion of Microsoft’s revenues, they need to look to the future as these revenue streams slowly erode due to Web 2.0 applications. I have personally tested many different Operating Systems, from Linux to BSD to Amiga (yes they still exist) and other lesser known systems. I have always been amazed on the boot time, applications installed and innovation. This is not to say that Microsoft has not done much over the years.

 

In some ways, Steve Jobs, of Apple Inc., made a smart move years ago by adopting a BSD core. Plugged in with NeXT, it allowed them to concentrate on other areas and develop their core business, and diversify. Microsoft is a large company with a lot of smart people, however they cannot continue with business as usual. Sun’s Open Solaris may not be the best choice for Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft first needs to focus their energy. Sun has lately shown expressions of a desperate company. Yes, they have Java, SPARC and Solaris, but business is slowly dwindling on the server hardware side. It would definitely be a benefit to Jonathan Schwartz the CEO of Sun. The reality is that the popularity of Linux is adversely affecting Sun Microsystems. This could explain the move towards open source along with there moves in other areas?

The fact is however that Microsoft is being attacked on all sides and history waits for no one. Microsoft executives have some hard choices to make, however they better make them soon. With everything slowly moving to the web and more and more non-Microsoft based devices they are slowly becoming irrelevant. What are Microsoft’s choices? Do they need to refocus? Are they just fine? What will Microsoft look like in 2-3 years? What will the technology trends be? Only time will tell, unfortunately time is not a luxury for Microsoft.

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The G.T.A Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario


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Google’s OpenSocial: What it means


Google’s open social networking platform play is the buzz of the blogosphere tonight. Indeed, it is called OpenSocial in that the set of APIs allows developers to create applications that work on any social network that joins Google’s open party. So far, besides Google’s Orkut social net, LinkedIn, hi5, XING, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning have joined the party.

Oracle and salesforce.com are also supporting Google’s OpenSocial efforts, which indicates that they have plans to add social networking elements to their application platforms. OpenSocial will officially launch on Thursday.

Plaxo emailed a statement about OpenSocial this evening, getting ahead of the stampede:

“Dynamic profiles redefine what users should expect in terms of how they can represent themselves in a social or business network,” said Todd Masonis, Co-Founder and VP of Products for Plaxo. “We believe that users should have full control over what they share with whom – and that the catalog of widgets that they can choose from should be as open and diverse as the web itself. We are excited to support in dynamic profiles any application written to Google’s just–launched OpenSocial APIs. ”

According to TechCrunch, which first reported on Google’s larger social networking ambitions, OpenSocial consists of APIs for profile information, friend information (social graph) and activities, such as a news feed. OpenSocial users Javascript and HTML rather than a markup language as Facebook does.

This comes on the heels of the Facebook’s dynamic growth based on opening its social graph to developers and Microsoft’s $240 million investment for 1.6 percent of the company. However, unlike Google, Facebook doesn’t open its APIs to support other social networks. The other social networking giant, MySpace, is also planning to open its platform to developers.

This openness is part of what Vic Gundotra, Google’s head of developer programs, meant when he said last week, “In the next year we will make a series of announcements and spend hundreds of millions on innovations and giving them away as open source.”

He explained the newfound openness as more than altruism: “It also makes good economic sense. The more applications, the more usage. More users means more searches. And, more searches means more revenue for Google. The goal is to grow the overall market, not just to increase market share.”

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The Windows killer — The coming Google OS?


“And with most of the OS focus this week being allocated to Mac OS X Leopard, it would be nice to take our attention away from that for a moment, and take a look at what the hypothetical Google OS would look like after the company declares war on Microsoft. This OS would take Windows for a ride!

First off, everyone knows that Google has an endless flow of cash at its disposal that effectively allows it to wipe out any and all competitors at the drop of a hat. And because of this huge sum of capital, it can afford to do things that Apple and Microsoft don’t want to do — offer an operating system for free.

That’s right, the Google OS will retail for a low, low price of nothing. And how will it support itself you ask? Through advertising, of course!

Google is the de facto leader in everything advertising. Even better, this company has always been known as the free, “nice” company that won’t do the “evil” things we have come to expect from huge tech companies. And it makes sense: why would Google want to sell its own OS? It would be entering a market with zero market share and would need to find a way to break in. Free would be a great place to start.

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Does Ballmer’s comments reflect deeper problems at Microsoft?


Steve Ballmer’s latest rant against open source, and Microsoft’s internal reaction to it, reflect deep problems within the company.Part of the problem is that, as they say, Elvis has left the building. Elvis in this case is Bill Gates, Ballmer’s one-time Harvard classmate, the drop-out whose strategic vision and intense focus made Microsoft what it is.

Part of the problem is that Ballmer has never really acknowledged this. It was Steve Ballmer who built Microsoft’s sales effort, Steve Ballmer who created its esprit de corps, and Steve Ballmer, whose chip on the shoulder attitude he’s never been without that we recall, who doesn’t understand how the game has changed.

You can’t fight open source as you would fight IBM, or Novell, or the U.S. Justice Department, the enemies from the 1990s. Those foes put their pants on one leg at a time, just like Microsoft did. Open source is not like that.

Open source is not a person, or a company, but a movement. It’s an idea. It’s like water. You fight water you drown. Each time Steve Ballmer opens his mouth this becomes more obvious to observers on the shore. Yet it never seems to occur to him. And he’s the boss.

The fact Ballmer made these remarks in England only compounds the problem. The EU still has an active antitrust case against Microsoft. The EU has not yet agreed with the U.S. policy on software patents. Bluster in the face of all this was ill-advised, yet Ballmer blustered away.

Bill Gates would have handled things differently. He would have smiled. He would have been diplomatic. He probably would not have commented at all, yet he would have left the impression that the EU is somehow working against competition in fighting Microsoft, and ignoring the interests of its own innovators in rejecting software patents.

Microsoft is going through a tough transition. It is an entrepreneurial company whose entrepreneur has left. Steve Ballmer was as close to Gates as anyone, and has long felt he could fill his shoes, but can he really make Microsoft an ad-driven company when his sense of public relations is so poor?

None of this really matters to open source. Open source, like water, will flow around Microsoft the way a stream flows past a rock in its path. But Microsoft needs a swimmer to succeed in this new environment, and its leader keeps doing cannonballs.

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