Shadows over Linux

Shadows over Linux

Summary: It's the same strategy sports teams use to sell more seats: create an Us Vs Them worldview and pretend that somehow a bunch of jocks with no loyalties beyond dollars and careers represent a community.

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TOPICS: Linux, Open Source
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Do you know what NexentaOS is? It's an example of things to come, things that scare IBM and Red Hat: a complete ZFS bootable openSolaris distribution combining the Gnu and other open source utilities with a Solaris kernel -and it's downloadable free of charge from opensolaris.org.

Right now it's an early beta (ISO here ) but it's a harbinger of things to come: multiple special purpose Solaris distributions, apparently including a PPC product set that should eventually run on Power6!

In an ideal world the Linux community would greet this kind of thing with enthusiasm because we're all pushing the same interests, we're all up against market indifference, ignorance, and the power of Microsoft's checkbook, and the multiplicity of Unix variants naturally reflects both the power of diversity and the complexity of the market.

That's why I consider myself a Unix bigot, not a Linux, Solaris, or BSD/MacOS X bigot: the enemy outside the Unix tent is cost, complexity, ignorance, and mob rule - all the things Microsoft makes money on - not people pursuing other versions of Unix.

Sadly that's not how a lot of my Linux enthusiast friends see things: to them, I'm outside their tent - and they get very unhappy when I tell them that, from here, it's easy to see some oversize shadows pulling the strings they're dancing too.

That anti-Sun thing they've got going? Sure some of the heat is a natural response to seeing stuff like nexentaCP hitting the market - but it's all based on the mistaken perception that market competition equals technical and personal competition. That's simply not true - and in fact it's possible to trace one of the many roots of the Torvalds rant I quoted on Monday to a deliberate Red Hat marketing strategy. Here's something Red Hat's Mark de Visser said during a 2003 interview with newsfactor's Joe Brockmeier:

"Our CEO has said that the path to Redmond is through Mountain View. We focus on Unix now, and once we gain the upper hand ... we believe we can ultimately displace Microsoft, even on the desktop.

So you know what's going on? It's the same strategy sports teams use to sell more seats: create an Us Vs Them worldview and pretend that somehow a bunch of jocks with no loyalties beyond dollars and careers represent a community - it's pure marketing manipulation and when they get someone like Torvalds to spout off an anti-Unix rant it diminishes him while profiting companies like IBM and Red Hat; because don't kid yourself, this stuff is in their interest - not yours, not the product's, not the community's, and certainly not that of the players involved.

Topics: Linux, Open Source

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  • Self interest is a wonderful thing

    People tend to back whatever they have an investment in. Murph has a lot of time and history invested in Unix (and Sun in particular). As a result, the last paragraph of the story could have been written as

    [i]"... an Us Vs Them worldview and pretend that somehow a bunch of jocks with no loyalties beyond dollars and careers represent a community - it?s pure marketing manipulation and when they get someone like Murph to spout off an anti-Linux rant it diminishes him while profiting companies like Sun;"[/i]

    The fact is that that paragraph will work for any company or product because that is how we generally market things these days. The Unix horse that you're happily flogging may not be dead yet, but it is increasingly becoming a niche product.
    bportlock
    • Except there's no anti-linux rant here

      So why do you see one?
      murph_z
      • Anti Linux enthusiasts, then.

        Quoting:

        Sadly that?s not how a lot of my Linux enthusiast friends see things: to them, I?m outside their tent - and they get very unhappy when I tell them that, from here, it?s easy to see some oversize shadows pulling the strings they?re dancing too.



        You're right, of course, that open sourcers are being manipulated cynically for profit by companies like IBM and Red Hat. But those being manipulated recognize it well enough not to want to add to the crowd of exploiters.

        Remember that Mr. Tiorvalds complained that Sun was hanging onto the good stuff, the software on which the company might make money. While sticking the "community" with a near-irrelevance like Solaris.

        A company which truly wants to join the community must foreswear profit. And Sun is still showing a reprehensible interest in survival.
        Anton Philidor
      • You were the one who introduced the word "rant"

        It is in your original posting. All I did was cut'n'paste your words, change Linux to Unix, IBM to Sun, etc. but I never touched the word "rant". That is all yours Murph - nothing to do with me. You put it in there.

        What I was trying to prove was that the words you were using are true of any OS including your own beloved Unix. There is nothing unique about the Linux, Windows, or Unix community. They all have self-interests and they all attempt to perpetuate their self interests because that's what people do.

        There is no more of a shadow over Linux than there is over Unix or Windows.
        bportlock
      • Oh, come on.

        [i][b]Except there's no anti-linux rant here. So why do you see one?[/b][/i]

        Define "here". "Here" as in this post? Maybe. "Here" as in your blog? It's pretty common.

        Here are some perceptions of your views that a reader of this blog may be justified in forming.
        1. Licenses: GPL = bad. BSD = better (it can be incorporated into more restrictive licenses). WHATEVER license Sun happens to propose = good.
        2. Operating Systems: Windows = blank spot on map. Linux = bad (it has that nasty GPL). BSD = better. Solaris = perfection on a stick. Don't bother asking why, it's a religious discussion full of hocus-pocus and incense.
        3. "Unix" == "Solaris". That is, unless we're talking about SCO, which is only relevant in the context of destroying Linux (Be afraid! Be very afraid!). When it comes to Unix generally, though, SCO is irrelevant. Sun rules: then, now, and forevermore.

        (Number 3, BTW, is the reason Roger Ramjet has to explicitly point out that the success of Linux is a response to Unix fragmentation (see [b]"The bad old days"[/b]). AFAICT, in Murphyland Unix fragmentation is irrelevant because the history of Sun [i]is[/i] the history of Unix.)

        [i][b]That?s why I consider myself a Unix bigot, not a Linux, Solaris, or BSD/MacOS X bigot: the enemy outside the Unix tent is cost, complexity, ignorance, and mob rule - all the things Microsoft makes money on - not people pursuing other versions of Unix.[/b][/i]

        Well, according to your track record you're a Solaris bigot who looks on BSD as some sort of family pet. There are some signs that with a little introspection you can live up to your self-image, though. For instance, the remainder of the quoted statement is spot-on.
        dave.leigh@...
  • The bad old days

    The entire reason Linux exists today is because of the "Large Shrinking Hrung Disaster" - i.e. the forking of UNIX. Every large computer corporation took UNIX and changed file names (fstab,vfstab,checklist), locations (/etc/rc,/sbin/rc), added organizing softwares (rc.config.d), changed file formats (fstab-filesystems,exports), and worst of all changed the actual "helper" apps with customized parameters (grep,awk,sed i.e. gnu stuff). These actions added up to making UNIX proprietary and sounded the death knell for UNIX in the "real" world.

    Other than Debian, most Linux distros look very similar so Linux has avoided forking. This is the one thing that gives Linux its "power" over UNIX - consistency.

    Now you are complaining that Solaris has to COMPETE in the marketplace - and that there are market forces against it. You also say that IBM is "stealing" Linux for free, but what about creating consistency? Would you rather administer an IBM running AIX and a Sun box running Solaris - OR both machines running the same OS? I know which one I would take.

    TGFL - Thank God for Linux. It gave me a UNIX to run at home, and it represents consistency across all platforms (except Debian that seems to be stuck in the old UNIX forking mindset). Sun had their chance to rewrite UNIX history with Solaris, and they fell into the same old trap of doing things THEIR way.
    Roger Ramjet
    • No knows what a "Hrung" is ...

      ... or why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse V!

      [i]"You also say that IBM is "stealing" Linux for free,"[/i]

      Some years ago IBM set up an organisation to do nothing except work on the Linux Kernel under GPL. They set aside $250m IIRC to fund this. They have also helped with other projects

      http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/69766/open-source-not-running-short-of-developers.html
      http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39168667,00.htm

      and then there are the excellent resources at DeveloperWorks

      http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/linux

      So Murph, they are giving back plenty and it is costing them cash. Lots of cash. That is hardly "stealing" is it?
      bportlock
      • How many of IBM's contributions...

        ... have not been directly to the company's own bottom line(?). Or as useless as the 500 patents the company gave away. IBM may have pushed Sun to surrender revenue from and control over Java, but I haven't seen the company doing the same with AIX.

        And when you consider criticizing Microsoft for its efforts to protect and profit from its IP, you might remember IBM's use of IP for income and intimidation. Microsoft had to hire an IBMer to teach the company ruthlessness.
        Anton Philidor
        • So...

          ... you would rather that they did not bother doing anything? The contributions they have made may be tiny in terms of IBM's turnover but they are significant nonetheless. Certainly neither you, nor I, nor Murph, nor all 3 of us could afford to fund the contributions they have made.

          What if they have contributed to their bottom line? The beauty of GPL is that they have to hand those benefits back.


          [i]"but I haven't seen the company doing the same with AIX."[/i]

          Nobody wants AIX. It has never been popular - like Solaris.


          [i]"And when you consider criticizing Microsoft for its efforts to protect and profit from its IP, you might remember IBM's use of IP for income and intimidation."[/i]

          There is a big difference. Microsoft's patents are software-based. IBM's patents have largely been hardware based although in recent years software patenting has increased. That is more about the crazy US legal system.
          bportlock
          • "neither you, nor I, nor Murph nor all 3 of us"...

            ... will ever receive in our lifetimes as much money as the profit IBM has already made from its manipulation of open source and its believers.

            And the beauty of it is, from IBM's point of view, is that much of their contribution cannot be taken advantage of without reliance on IBM products, with the potential for more and more profit.


            IBM recently announced greater emphasis on software sales because the high markups (fewer staff than the company might need without open source, for one thing) make software the most profitable part of the operation.

            Yes, producing software is cheaper than providing the fluent conversationalists also called IBM consultants.

            I wonder if all the software IP money and financial gain from intimidation using the threat of expensive legal talent and large stocks of IP is included in that total. Probably not.

            IBM is the company you always thought Microsoft to be.
            Anton Philidor
          • Which makes liars out of...

            ...everyone who claims that you can't make money with open source software.

            And there's nothing to prevent you from "exploiting" the code yourself. Not even the poor trod upon programmers who wrote the code and put it out there with the express purpose of allowing you to exploit it. At least not so long as you play by the same rules everybody else does. Ain't life grand?
            dave.leigh@...
        • Pandering to the penguinistas...

          ...is not done by serving up red herring. Yet here you are again.

          [b][i]How many of IBM's contributions have not been directly to the company's own bottom line(?).[/i][/b]

          It doesn't matter. The way Open Source works is that you work on the things that matter to [i]you[/i] and you release your improvements to the community. Nobody is forced to work on things that they don't want. If IBM is doing Open Source correctly then 100% of their contributions should be directly related to the company's own bottom line.

          Thanks for asking, though. And thanks for all the fish.
          dave.leigh@...
          • Serving the penguinistas... Poached.

            So implication is that IBM uses open source as a way to cut costs and so increase profits. The results are of value primarily to the company itself; others will have to use IBM products to benefit.

            You rebut my argument by saying that IBM uses open source as a way to cut costs and so increase profits. The results are of value primarily to the company itself; others will have to use IBM products to benefit.

            I have tried to find a flaw in your rebuttal. I can't see any. I agree with you. Okay, you win, I was right.
            Anton Philidor
          • It was dolphins, not penguins...

            ... that said [i]"So long and thanks for all this fish"[/i]

            Now that we have cleared the major matter up, let us proceed to the minor point in Anton's post.


            [i]"So implication is that IBM uses open source as a way to cut costs and so increase profits. "[/i]

            Exactly! That is how it is meant to work. At you've got it!!


            [i]"The results are of value primarily to the company itself; others will have to use IBM products to benefit."[/i]

            Err.... what?!??

            I use Eclipse every day and that was started by IBM. No other IBM products are required. I make extensive use of Alphaworks - lots of code and tools in there all free for use.


            [i]"I have tried to find a flaw in your rebuttal. I can't see any"[/i]

            That is because he is right


            [i]"Okay, you win, I was right."[/i]

            Swap the last word in that sentence for its negative. Humility is so much more appealing.
            bportlock
          • And the dolphins left...

            ... when they knew that the Earth experiment was doomed to be disrupted just before completion. I'm not sure why the course of events here could be considered constructive toward the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. But then, I'm not a lab mouse.

            Difficult to find an IBM analogue in the story; few life forms act like IBM, solely on the basis of ruthless greed. Even the Vogons are only acting out their disappointment at the response to their poetry. And the need to survive by destroying creatures far more attractive than they. Would probably be extenuating circumstances at trial, no?!

            Douglas Adams would have had as little understanding of the motives and effects of IBM's malevolence as any open sourcer. Though I will give him credit for imagining the effects of IBM's success in his alternate Earth, a wet and miserable place in which creatures bit woundingly and hopelessly as the only expression of affection they could devise.
            Anton Philidor
          • "so much more appealing"

            But.... humility is a bitter pill to a
            loser.
            Ole Man
          • To Serve Man...

            ... was the title of a Twilight Zone episode, the one which ends with the human elite triumphantly boarding an alien spaceship while a translator of written alien materials runs forward shouting "It's a cookbook!"

            The title of my post is a reference to reflect the relationship between IBM and its unpaid helpers.
            Anton Philidor
          • re: To Serve Man...

            Actually, it doesn't end that way. There's a bit afterward aboard the ship, during the flight, where the aliens are trying to fatten our protagonist up. But then again, accuracy was never your forte. I see that your choice of analogies continues this trend.
            dave.leigh@...
      • Please read what I wrote, not what I get misquoted as saying

        I have said that:

        1 - IBM is taking over Linux from a control and direction perspective; and,

        2 - that IBM's contributions have not amounted to much relative to those made by key kernel developers.

        I've not said they're stealing Linux, nor that they're not giving anything back.
        murph_z
        • Huh?

          [i]"1. IBM is taking over Linux from a control and direction perspective;

          2. that IBM's contributions have not amounted to much relative to those made by key kernel developers."[/i]

          Where are these in the original article? None of the posted comments you have made say these things. The original article does not say these either.

          The article is about ZFS has IBM quaking in its boots, like there is anything new in ZFS. IBM has been flogging the ZFS core features for nearly 20 years.
          bportlock