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The Patent Ploy

© November 2006 Anthony Lawrence

Microsoft to Offer Sales Support for Novell's Suse Linux.

Huh? Did I hear that right? Yep, there it is again: Linux to work with Windows. A lot of people are wondering what Microsoft is up to, what possible motivation drove this. I'd ask the same of Novell: lying down with the lion is not usually a good strategy for smaller animals.

Novell CEO Ronald Hovsepian explained that it's all about you: (link dead, sorry)

The impetus for the arrangement was to make it easier for software buyers to run both Windows and Linux-based systems, Hovsepian said. "We came together to focus on giving you, our customers, the choice," he said.

Oh, sure. I hadn't thought of that.

Bruce Perens is skeptical and so am I. I think Novell is standing at this altar after having had a long talk with someone holding a shotgun. The language in the agreement about not suing Novell is what makes me think that: I think Microsoft is doing a "divide and conquer" plan and using patents as its tool.

Bruce Perens is on that same thought and suggests that Microsoft's next move is to:

crack down on "unlicensed Linux", and "unlicensed Free Software", now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path.

Quoting Bruce again:

This entire agreement hinges around software patenting - monopolies on ideas that are burying the software industry in litigation - rather than innovation. If we've learned one thing from the rapid rise of Open Source, it's that intellectual property protection - the thing that Open Source dispenses with - actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agremeent stands as an additional impediment.

Right. Novell is selling everyone else down the river, or at least hoping to. As Hovsepian said, it's all about you.

All about you and your money, that is.

Previous rantings in this area:

Internet Access is not a right

Illegal Linux

Complacency and bravado

Licensed Operating Systems

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Fri Nov 3 14:33:04 2006: 2588   BigDumbDinosaur

It's interesting that this Novell-Microsoft collusion came about when it did. I have a client who wants me to convert seven of their servers (out of 10 total) from Windows 2000 to Linux, using Novell's SUSE distribution. The rationale behind using Novell over other distros is that Novell has been around for years and knows the server-oriented world of computing.

With them apparently throwing off their clothes and leaping into bed with Microsoft, I'm inclined to think that they won't be around much longer. It seems to be another "embrace, extend, extinguish" move on Microsoft's part.

As for the server porting project, I've mulled over the idea of perhaps switching to a different distro, rather than possibly end up with an orphaned package. It's too soon to tell, of course, what will happen to Novell, now that they've apparently played Neville Chamberlain to Microsoft's Adolph Hitler. However, I have an inherent dislike of recommending and/or implementing any technology that ultimately benefits Microsoft. So perhaps I need to sit down with my client and explain this turn of events and what it might mean in the future.

Sat Nov 4 18:22:00 2006: 2590   drag

My personal preference in Distro is Debian. Largest comminuty-driven distribution, probably the only one commonly used in servers and such. Legalistic to be sure, but it ensures that you won't run into licensing issues with it.

The things I like about it is the high level of quality control and quality of packages. I like the fact that it supports many different architectures. I like the massive number of packaged software aviable, that are supported officially btw.

For example for different purposes you may want to run Apache 1.3.x or Apache2. So you can get both along with php packages for both or perl or mod_python or whatever you want to use. It's all aviable. It's pretty much to the point nowadays that if there isn't a package aviable by default for Debian it pretty much means the software isn't realy mature.

The other thing I like is how flexible the isntallation system goes. You have the official cdrom sets, of course. But they have 'business-card sized cdrom images' for those cdrom disks that fit in wallets, also they have regular net install images that you can use. So for single installs it goes quicker then burning a cdrom set, and for large amounts of installs you can use apt-proxy. Also you can do debootinstall for installing from other linux distros, such as knoppix live-cd or a existing redhat install or whatever. This is nice because then I don't actually need to be near a machine that I want to install on. All of that stuff is documented in their installation manual.

Then there is usefull FAI (fully automatic install) from a third party project that you can use if you have a large number of machines to install. Ties install Cfengine (avaible by default in Debian) and stuff like that.

Then I also like how stable version is realy stable. Only major bug fixes and security fixes. It's on the same level in terms of life span as you get from something like Redhat enterprise stuff.

The other distribution I like a lot for real world use is Slackware. It's package management system is very primative, almost non-existant compared to something like Debian. It has much more focused view on operating system. It can best be described as 'no frills' and they concentrate only on the most proven, most usefull software. Their latest release was just a while ago and it still defaults to Linux kernel 2.4 and it's Apache version is 1.3.something. They have a dislike of package management system and how it is viewed as a solution to the dependancy issues that Linux has.

On the tllts podcast they have a nice interview of the creater of slackware in episode #164
www.tllts.org/dl.php (link dead, sorry)
but enough of that.

I think that Novell made a mistake personally. The dirty little secret about them is that Novell management is very pro-software patents. They like em a lot. So from their point of view these sort of cross-licensing agreements are only natural and positive.

But they don't realise that Microsoft only cares enough about compatability to make it easier to migrate software off of Linux and Novell's products and onto Windows servers then it is to run Windows and Linux mixed environment.

Oh well.

What this will probably do that is positive is make it much easier for OEM hardware makers like Dell or HP to pre-install Suse on their machines and sell consumer-style linux desktops.

Mon May 25 15:24:11 2009: 6401   TonyLawrence

There's a new book "Burning the Ships", reviewed at Ars Technica : (link)

That says there's nothing sneaky here: "If Microsoft hoped to compete in the New World of Mexico Collaboration, it had to get serious about partnerships, it had to patch up its relationships with governments around the world, and it needed to stress interoperability"

I don't know that I can believe that.


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