[TriLUG] LG Joins Microsoft's Open Source Protection Club

sholton at mindspring.com sholton at mindspring.com
Tue Jun 19 17:16:12 EDT 2007

Marc   <linuxr at gmail.com> writes:

>By the way -- I highly recommend that Richard Stallman *NOT* be the
>spokesman, since he makes open source software advocates look like a
>bunch of loonies.

Richard Stallman is *NOT* an open source software advocate, and 
probably thinks most open source software advocates already look 
like a bunch of loonies. ;-)

Stallman advocates *free software*. However, there is still much 
confusion over the distinction between "free software" and 
"open source software", so if you have misspoke, you are forgiven.

>2.  This team must, with the aid of the greater linux community,
>basically prevent the opponent from 'defining' us, and our software.

I whole-heartedly agree, but must note that the whole point of
Microsoft's patent attack is to do just that.

Microsoft, as the predominant desktop provider, would love to 
have Linux agree to play on their home turf. So they have effectively
re-defined Free Software as a debate over whether it's better to 
use Vista or whatever brand of 'other operating system' happens 
to be running on the x86-based IA32-architecture grey box on
a persons desk. 

It's not about patents they would like us to believe *Linux* 
infringes, but instead about the desktop metaphor, email clients,
office applications, etc. which run on Linux.

Similarly, when they sign deals, it's with companies selling 
desktop computing implementations using free software and 
selling primarily to businesses--their home turf. 

Possibly, Microsoft is suffering from a blindness they don't 
comprehend, and cannot see the world of computing beyond the 
desktop. Alternately, they can see it but realize they haven't 
even got a patent foothold in those other areas; it's all they
can do to defend their own desktop monopoly.

As a community, then, it is important to remind people that 
Linux is about much more than just the desktop. And that 
Free Software extends beyond just Linux.

>3.  Magnus has some great points too, I agree that this is not limited
>to just a tech conversation but points to bigger issues for the US as
>a corporatocracy.  For the sake of sanity I am only focused on the
>tech and specifically Linux aspect.

Which, IMHO, is correct. We (both as members of the FLOSS community
and as citizens of a democracy) cannot afford to spend any more 
time locked into the 'computers are only good for running MSOffice"

To this end, if we can highlight the areas where Linux rocks
and Windows is pretty-much unthinkable (DVR's, PDA's, server room,
cell phones, embedded applications, lab instruments, medical 
appliances, etc)  we de-value Microsoft's desktop monopoly, as
well as force them to spread themselves thinner. 

The world moves-on without them. We need to move with the world 
rather than sticking around to fight over that played-out turf.

Which is why I have to disagree, somewhat, with your first assertion:

>1.  LEADERSHIP must emerge from SOMEWHERE - kernel.org, Red Hat inc,
>the Debian folks, the Ubuntu/Shuttleworth people, IBM etc. -- and
>probably some of all of the above.

That's just leadership for the battle in the desktop skirmish.

Important points:
1. We don't need to win, we just need to hold and delay. 
2. Even if we were to lose (Microsoft gets an injunction preventing
   distribution of some version of Desktop linux) it would be 
   a desktop loss, not a total loss for Free Software.
3. We *do* need to make them spend time/money to defend their 

The one thing to keep in mind: Business that deploy desktop 
computers never make use of the 'free software/open source' nature 
of the software even if it does happen to be free and open source. 

Few business which deploy a Novell Linux desktop make their own 
in-house modifications to it; rather they deploy it exactly as 
delivered from Novell, patches are provided by Novell and Novell 
provides the support. Same for RHEL, etc. 

The ones which *do* make in-house modifications wouldn't be 
deploying such an operating system for the purpose of gaining 
patent protection from Microsoft, because there's no guarantee 
any modifications they make wouldn't trigger a lawsuit anyway. 

Effectively, people who use Open Source software, but agree
to a license which prevents them from making use of the Free
Software nature have meerly deployed another y-a-proprietary 
software solution. They are still locked into a single source.

These types of free software users may be of interest to the 
Open Source community, but they are of little interest to 
Free Software developers.

So the desktop battle becomes one for Businesses to fight on 
behalf of Free software, but less a one that Free Software 
developers need to care about. Microsoft will not be selling-
to or engaging with individual developers, nor suing them, nor
does it appear their threats are getting much more than chuckles
from them.  

Business, however, need to keep the Free Software developers 
on-board in order to keep getting community updates.

The Free Software community, on the other hand, is not going to 
waste time developing modifications which encumbered Business are
prohibited from using. No point. 

It might mean that business which sign-on for patent protection 
find themselves embargoed through such a natural mechanism.
Maybe that's Microsoft's hope; stagnate desktop linux down to
a speed they can keep up with.

And while I agree most Business wouldn't want to choose Stallman 
as the 'leader' of the /their/ Open Source movement, they also
don't want to alienate the Free Software developers they are 
dependent upon.

So maybe it will mean that companies like Novell have to hire 
more free software developers to ensure the fixes to open source
software are the same ones their customers are demanding. Which
could work to Microsoft's disadvantage: they've found a way to
make Business pay for software developers which the free software
community couldn't come up with themselves.

>If we continue to let Redmond define the battle, the terms, and who we
>are and what our software is, we are finished.  The 'good guys' team
>needs to do things like proactively sue for hypothetical lost sales
>projections based on damages from the Redmond '235' threat.

Which is why I greeted Microsoft's latest "Mission Accomplished"
announcement with a sense of 'is /that/ all you've got?'.

Steve Holton
sholton at mindspring.com
"Convenience causes blindness. Think about it."

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