The Technocracy

Who will win the Battle for your Desktop?

Would MS linux help or harm? codeplex gives us clues to their plan.

The immediate usefulness of Linux running under Windows is obvious. You can use all the Windows drivers for all the peripherals that don’t run under Linux. Drivers have always been an issue with Linux as PC users have gotten spoiled with Windows driver support. Today’s user wants to grab just about anything and not worry about installing it and making it work. It would be great in one  way if there was an MS-linux vendors and hardware manufacturers would take linux seriously and driver support would  be much better.The idea here would be to cut the driver layer out of Windows and attach it to Linux directly. This would become MS-Linux. But the drawback would be that If Microsoft actually produced an MS-Linux that was the standard Linux attached to the driver layer of Windows, giving users full Plug and Play (PnP) support of all their peripherals, nobody would buy any other Linux on the market until the said drivers filterd down to other distros. Well, except for the fact that Microsoft would be unable to produce such a product without allowing the other vendors access to the driver code as part of the open-source Linux license arrangement (GPL). You can be sure that Microsoft lawyers are studying this as closely as possible to see if there is any way they could market a dominant Linux distribution without having to be a fair and noble company. So how could they do this?

Microsoft has been leery of doing too much with Linux because with all the freedom of the licenses and the possibility that one false move would make a Microsoft product public domain(which would be good for users they say they care about) at worst, or subject to the GPL at best. As far as old-school software companies are concerned, the GPL—the GNU General Public License—is a ridiculous pain to deal with, especially if you have a unique invention that you want to bring to the party—and want to make money doing so as oppossed to making your money via support like redhat or ubuntu’s parent company canonical.

microsoft has been playing with various ways to avoid bumping into the GPL while using Linux in proprietary applications. Thus evolved the concept of a shim. Anyone who has done anything mechanical is familiar with the shim. It’s usually something that is jammed into a space to shore it up or make something less loose, such as a matchbook jammed under a table leg to keep the table from wobbling.

With software, the idea is to create some sort of code that is jammed into Linux and whose sole purpose is to let some proprietary code run under Linux without actually “touching” Linux in any way that would subject the proprietary code to the GPL. This would include mechanisms that alter the internals of Linux without having to publish the code and changes as open-source or allow them to be used by others, as is required by the GPL.

Everyone in the business has been trying to cheat the Linux GPL for years, and this shim idea seems to have the earmarks of something that might work. Microsoft knows this, Oracle knows this, everyone knows this.

There is also codeplex.com, a project hosting site, whose list of allowed licenses excludes GNU GPL version 3. Perhaps this reflects the fact that GPL version 3 is designed to protect a program’s free software status from being subverted by Microsoft’s patents through deals like the Novell-Microsoft pact. We don’t know that the CodePlex Foundation will try to discourage GPL version 3, but it would fit Microsoft’s pattern.

That comes from the backwards  mentality that open software cant be commercial(ask redhat if their software is or is not commercial). Every business is by definition commercial, so all software developed by a business–whether free or proprietary–is automatically commercial software. But there is a widespread public confusion between “commercial software” and “proprietary software”. (See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html.)

This confusion is a serious problem because it falsely claims free software business to be impossible. Many software companies already contribute to free software, and these commercial contributions are quite useful. Perhaps Microsoft would like people to assume these facts are impossible.

Based on these facts, we can see that CodePlex will encourage developers not to think about freedom. It will subtly spread the idea that free software business is impossible without the support of a proprietary software company like Microsoft. However, it may convince some proprietary software companies to release additional free software. Will that be a contribution to computer users’ freedom?

It will be, if the software thus contributed works well on free platforms, in free environments. But that is just the opposite of what Microsoft has said it seeks to achieve.

If Microsoft is serious about CodePlex.org’s task and charter, they need to start eating their own dog food and embrace open source in its whole, allowing people outside of Microsoft to contribute to code inside of Microsoft. Until Microsoft releases a version of a high-profile piece of software developed in collaboration and in a dialogue with the Open Source community, they won’t get any credibility with regard to Open Source

So why is Microsoft helping sponsor a new Open Source foundation? The lessons Microsoft has learned over the years working with open source are valuable for any commercial company to benefit from. The CodePlex Foundation, unlike other open source foundations like Mozilla, Apache, Eclipse, etc. is focused on enabling collaboration among commercial companies and open source communities in a license and technology independent way. CodePlex Foundation is complementary to these other foundations, as well as a competitor. I’m hopeful that the Foundation will enable more participation by Microsoft and other commercial companies in the many existing and new open source projects that are coming down the road but i doubt it.

I  have  one particular community or space in mind source forge has done a good job keeping the opensorce movement going. It just seems to me the creation of the codeplex foundation was done w/o itself being an open project. Maybe I am suspicious but it seems too often MS is too self-serving when talking open source or so it appears.

I also keep hearing the phrase “commercial” used which is not in the spirit of open source. Sure, folks make money with OSS but the groups the projects come from are not created to be commercial. It would seem to me the foundation would get going better if this was not a principal goal.

Windows is feeling the preasure from the nix family

I hope this works out well but being open in the development of this will be needed along with support from as many outside MS OSS projects and communities as possible.

And the last thing to ask is  why would M$ even try to make a linux distro? well 78% of the  net sits on top of some member of the nix family. and microsofts share of that market has been slipping since  the NT days. In Web-server software, Microsoft has 20% of the fast-growing market, while the free Apache program, a Linux variant, has 70%–worth $6 billion in revenue had Microsoft gotten the sales.

Microsoft is also facing a number of long-term threats to its business, including Google Inc.’s (GOOG) online Apps, which perform similar tasks to Microsoft’s Office suite. And as many move to linux to cut cost they would rather give them THERE linux than let them go to  redhat.

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April 24, 2010 - Posted by | License wars, Os wars, Tech Watch | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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