By Brian Proffitt
First off, some clarifications are in order. Last week, I
ran a column partially based on the presumption that Novell was
contemplating making SUSE Linux Pro a community-based distribution
in the same manner that Red Hat created Fedora.
Well, after an e-mail conversation with Kevan Barney from
Novell, I learned that the initial premise, gleaned from an eWeek
interview with Ted Haeger from Novell, was incorrect. When Haeger
made the comparison to Fedora, he was not making a direct
one-to-one association. He was, instead, making a reference to
Fedora’s customer base. Not the Fedora methodology. Barney must
have contacted the eWeek reporter, Steven Vaughan-Nichols, too
because Vaughan-Nichols, like the good reporter he is, posted a new
story that corrected the earlier misinterpretation.
So, like a game of telephone, a simple statement gets
repeated slightly incorrectly, and then it was off to the races.
For my own contribution to this error, I apologize. It changes the
motivation for last week’s column, and some of the particulars, as
well. But, I am still worried that there is a duality of
motivations where the Linux desktop is concerned. But I made that
point last week. Time for something new.
Halloween is coming this weekend, so it’s a scary, scary time.
Steve Ballmer got the ball rolling early with his booga-booga memo
to his customers. Linux is bad, bad, bad (I paraphrase) and it will
steal your children and give you IT cooties, the message said. I
read the missive, penned by Wagg-Ed–er, Ballmer, and thought to
myself “does Pepsi ever do this to Coke?”
I mean, seriously, if Pepsi wants to increase market share, do
they write big, weighty memos to their customers detailing all the
things that are wrong with Coke? No, they hire a celebrity and run
a commercial. Or put some coupons in the mail. Coke would do the
But Microsoft has done none of these things. Instead, they have
strut out bought-and-paid-for analysts reports, made vague
accusations about TCO and security, and written big, long, scary
missives that tell their own customers (their own customers!) how
bad Linux is.
Is this working for them? I am beginning to suspect not. If you
have to try to convince your own customers not to try another
product, I really wonder how strong a hand they think they
It is probably not a coincidence that Ballmer’s message was sent
one day before the announcement from the United Kingdom’s Office of
Government Commerce that identified open source software as a
better, cheaper alternative for public use. A company with the
resources of Microsoft surely knew that report was about to be
released. I wonder if they knew that it was a report that was
toned-down from its original form.
Regardless, Ballmer’s message was a preemptive strike to keep
more customers from bolting when they heard that Microsoft’s No. 1
non-US customer was strongly questioning the value of the US
There may be a lot of these sorts of messages coming out of
Redmond soon. It won’t be just a scary Halloween thing. It’ll be
response after response to governments, major corporations, and
small businesses coming to the conclusion that this Linux thing
might be a better deal than filling Microsoft’s coffers.
And that, my friends, will be the most scary thing Microsoft can
Booga booga, Steve.
Even more scary this coming week–no, not the US elections–is
the debut of the ProSCO.net Web site. Some of you have asked if we
plan to cover it or even link to it. My pat answer is, I’d have to
wait and see what they put up, just like I do with any article that
appears on Linux Today. This is, no doubt, disquieting to some
readers, as they liken SCO to the next coming of the Plague.
Whatever they say on their site is no doubt going to be biased
towards SCO and thus should not be printed here, is one argument I
That is certainly true, but if we’re not linking to biased SCO
stories, then I suppose I would have to stop linking to Groklaw,
too. While I think Groklaw is a great site, it is very evident that
by the editorial choice of its webmaster, Pamela Jones, the
information provided and analyzed is definitely pro-Linux. That’s
certainly cool with me, because that’s her site. I link to articles
there because they offer an alternative to SCO’s press releases and
So, if ProSCO.net has something interesting to say, will I link
to it? It seems likely. I have just this week pointed to
Microsoft.com to show Ballmer’s e-mail, undiluted by press
analysis. Does this mean I agree with Ballmer or endorse Microsoft?
Hello? Did you not read the first half of this column? Linking to
ProSCO.net seems no less fair–if they have something interesting
Several times this week, readers have asked me in public and
private not to link to articles from certain sites or containing
comments from certain analysts. I don’t see that happening. I am
fully aware of the fallacies in some of these articles, even as I
post them. But just because I disagree with them does not mean they
don’t get posted. An article gets posted if it deals with Linux
and/or open source in a unique and coherent way.
Have I made mistakes with this policy? You bet. Last week I
posted an article from ONLamp that discussed open-source gaming…
on Windows. If I had been paying more attention, that one might not
have gone up. I chalk it up to being human, admit the error, and
resolve to do better.
To me, censoring content just because it is not pro-Linux is a
scary proposition. Where does it stop? Should I start deleting
talkbacks because I don’t agree with them? Posting only happy,
happy stories? Ignore all those big, bad proprietary software
Thanks, but that’s a nightmare I’d rather not have.