Op-Ed


I was eating lunch with a partner the other day and he related to me that a colleague of his had reported that a friend of his sister’s fiance’s father’s lawyer’s second half-cousin (or something more confusing) had said that Microsoft would have a version of Microsoft Linux next year, no fooling.

I thought (didn’t say, thought) “Bull” and we discussed the problems and logistics of such a thing happening with the GPL and all the restrictions that occur with such an environment and the likelihood of Microsoft so changing it’s spots as to have this be likely.

It was only later that I suddenly thought about FreeBSD, which Microsoft has a much more close relationship with, historically running large pieces of Hotmail and MSN on that platform.  What would happen if Microsoft were to come clean about Vista, what a stinker it is and decided to base the next version of Windows on a core of FreeBSD?

Ok, so before you send email flaming me to an absolute crisp, just think of the possibilities.  Who else has been successful with such a pairing of extremely-open licensed underlying OS and a Pretty GUI front-end?  Right, Jobs-san and his happy bunch of coders have been wildly successful with such a setup.

Why not have a branded version of SLED?  See the previous discussion about the GPL, whereas the BSD licenses are basically “Give credit and don’t pretend you wrote what you didn’t” and they can use BSD code in any commercial product they want to.

Makes you think, hmm?

I won’t bore you with my analysis, TechTarget’s Jack Loftus gives an impassioned report of Ron Hovsepian’s Linux World Expo keynote and the slightly-less-than-controversy surrounding the press reaction to it.  A good read, and some great points.

RossB

In a rare method-acting appearance, Tim O’Reilly gave his best shot at Chicken Little’s famous refrain, telling the world that he thinks:

“I will predict that virtually every open-source company (including Red Hat) will eventually be acquired by a big proprietary software company.”

Sure, there have been a few acquisitions by large companies of Open Source companies and the founders behind projects, but Tim, you’re a very smart man, surely you remember that all that CODE is Open Source, right?

This is just the market making sure that the right people get to buy houses and put their children (ok, developers, so maybe child processes???) in the schools of their choice, if someone bolluxes up an Open Source company, the braintrust of developers and such will just move to make another one.

This is not the emergency you’re looking for, move along.

RossB

Well, unfortunately I did not get to personally attend Linux World in San Francisco last week, but fortunately for me – there are tons of outlets for me to get details on what the buzz was all about last week. If any of you happened to be there, and have additional comments/insights to share, I’d love to see some comments posted…

SearchEnterpriseLinux’s Jack Loftus posted a blog entry which links to several other articles and interesting summaries… as good a place to start as any.

Then of course, there’s the official LinuxWorld 2007 conference website which has links to several major industry announcements and even promises to have videos of all the keynotes – although they aren’t posted quite yet.

If you’re interested in seeing some of Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian’s keynote where he discusses how we can accelerate adoption of Linux (in general), you can read a summary from Jack Loftus here, a summary from CNet here and watch the entire keynote via Flash here or even download Ron’s slides here. Personally, I think he did a good job of conveying the message (yes, I’m probably a bit biased, but I think his points are generally right on for enterprise Linux), and yes I truly think his points (if followed) would help Linux in general and SUSE.

Here’s a link to Novell’s press kit for Linux World – we had several exciting press announcements to share last week… definitely check these out!

You can also check out Novell CMO’s video blog entries from the Linux World show floor here and here.

Novell’s Russ Dastrup video guru also created a couple of videos for the show… here and here.

Finally, I’m one of those “visual” people… so I love multimedia. BIG THANKS to the folks at TechTargetTV for putting a series of videos together on YouTube which show some of the highlights/reflections of the conference. My favorite, has to be their video of the “Bag of Schwag” – pretty funny!

What is a Desktop?

When we think about a desktop, various things come to mind, a mini-tower machine sitting next to a monitor on your actual desktop, a set of applications running on an Operating System that you use to get things done, and (if you are me) either GNOME or KDE on a Linux System.

Will Google Do _____ ?

Rather all or any of the above come to mind when you heard Desktop, it’s important to note that there have also been long-standing rumors that someone like Google will be doing A) Google-branded Linux Distribution (Googlix, anyone?) B) Giving out free desktop machines with someone’s distribution on it all branded neatly with Google or C) Google somehow putting all the apps that one could ever need into the browser experience and taking over the Desktop market by neatly snaring everyone the moment they want to do something.

I’ve often wanted to know if there is a correlation between Google product announcements and the amount of people who experience severe heartburn at Microsoft’s various consumer-focused divisions. Perhaps a Google Maps mashup of the Seattle area and the sales of Pepcid AC at the local convenience stores would be informative….

The Community Gets Involved

Recently the GNOME developers were presented with the idea of an Online Desktop, not a “WebTop” where everything is run off the web, but something that could be a desktop replacement in every important way, you could boot off a Live CD/DVD or just get access to the web from any machine that can load a browser and supports open protocols.

This really opens up a lot of ideas, questions and suggestions, such as what if all we had to do was get to the web, and when we logged on to our “Online Desktop” we had access to an initial template desktop framework, and all sorts of good and useful plugins and addons were just a few clicks away? We already have this with tools like Flock, albeit in a browser context, or some of the flash-based online desktops such as Magix, DesktopTwo and Goowy.

Asking the Tough Questions

So the concept might look good, but some real questions need to be answered or considered for this to even begin to be useful:

Q) Will you be able to use any machine and browser that has broadband access to start and use the Online Desktop?

Q) Where will the data that you generate reside, who will back it up, and what happens if something needs to be restored?

Q) Will you have access to only the resources of the Online Desktop, or will you be able to use local machine resources too?

Q) Will there be P2V tools, or how do I get all my local data into the Online Desktop (Cloud), will there be tools or just HTTP uploads like Flickr/file attachments?

Q) Who is the real target market for the Online Desktop? Emerging Markets would seem to be one, but the very fact of it being an emerging market (low or no bandwidth available, extreme conditions, power issues, legacy or incompatible machines) makes that a tough sell.

Q) How about a disconnected mode? Does the very fact that I have a laptop and want to work on the plane or sitting in a deck chair next to the hotel pool mean that I would have a more complex arrangement than what I have now?

Q) How will apps have to be designed and to what specs must they adhere to be a part of the Online Desktop that we eventually get? Hopefully this will happen cross-vendor and cross-community, that way we get extreme interoperability, and not the impending Train Wreck that I see happening with Microsoft’s Windows Live scenario.

The REAL Question

Would you do it? Do you think the ultimate market is as a secure-protocol thin client that lets you access your corporate applications from literally any system in your or other environments? How much data (files, email, MP3’s etc.) do you treat as your “Daily Data Set” and would you ever trust a vendor or set of vendors to house that data, given that crackers/hackers will begin to try to get access to it?

Bottom Line

Is the concept of an Online Desktop the real goal, or would you rather have seamless data synchronization across all platforms and all flavors of operating systems?  Then would it really matter what you used?

Enjoy,

RossB

Paul Murphy posted a ZDnet blog entry entitled “Leveraging Linux to sell yourself” which describes his plan and ideas around using Linux to help climb the corporate ladder from low-level tech to a higher level engineering job.  It was an interesting read, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. I did note that he suggested using Linux as the differentiator for you to get noticed at work.  He could have said Vista or some other hot technology in our world, but he specifically called out Linux… and Linux on the desktop at that.  Why do you think that was?

Linux is clearly one of the hot topics in the IT industry these days, and is being adopted by organizations of every size and varying levels of experience. So while it may be challenging to change your Windows environment to an all-Linux environment over-night, introducing Linux “gently” certainly couldn’t hurt. When getting started, you don’t need to focus on replacing established servers with Linux, start with “new workloads” instead. If needed, get some training/self-study, and consider these low-risk ways to give Linux a try:

  • Set up a departmental file server with Samba, maybe just for the IT group
  • Set up a small LAMP server for a company intranet (don’t forget AppArmor)
  • Set up a utility server using Linux (e.g., backup, monitoring tool, gateway, etc.)
  • Set up a new (incoming) application on Linux
  • Give Linux on the desktop a try
  • (Any other ideas?  Post a comment below.)

It’s certainly one of the hot topics of discussion in OSS circles… should video drivers be open source or proprietary? Ideally two of top three major video chipset manufacturers (namely ATI and Nvidia) could be convinced that they should fully open source their video drivers for the benefit of all. ATI info is here and here.  Nvidia info is here.  Intel already releases open source drivers for at least some of their chipsets, if not all. The general reply to those requests has always been that they won’t because it would expose their secret sauce to their competitors and they would lose their performance edge. I don’t know enough about the techie details to comment on the validity of those claims, but one thing is certain – end users don’t really care. Typical end users just want their video cards to work. That’s why you’ll find SLED 10 offering support for both proprietary and open source drivers out of the box.

Will the proprietary and open source drivers offer the same features and performance? In a word – No. An interesting review (a bit dated now, but still interesting) from Phoronix directly compared the open source driver to the proprietary driver for an ATI video card. Check out the results here to see what they found out.

Clearly, pressure is mounting as Dell and Google have been ramping up the requests/pressure on ATI to get more open drivers for these chipsets. Hey, the more the merrier! This will be an interesting space to watch as things develop…

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