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[P]
What the Future Holds for Microsoft

By adamba in Op-Ed
Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 08:52:19 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

2002 was certainly an eventful year for Microsoft. With a new year dawning, we present this interview with Adam Barr, former Microsoft developer and occasional Microsoft pundit.

The interview was conducted by Adam Barr, former Microsoft developer and occasional Microsoft pundit.


You worked at Microsoft for ten years, then left the company two-and-a-half years ago. From your perspective, do you think Microsoft has fundamentally changed as a result of the antitrust lawsuit?

My short answer would be "No".

There were many positive things about the Microsoft work environment. But there were some negatives. People use the term "enabling environment" to mean a situation that encourages someone to act in a negative way, such as drinking alcohol heavily, by mitigating the negative impact of the behavior, and providing tacit approval for it. Well, Microsoft constructed an enabling environment for socially obnoxious behavior: it was welcomed and rationalized into positives. If you were late for meetings it meant you were busy doing important work, if you were extremely confrontational it meant you were passionate about your job, if you required subordinates to work long hours it meant you were committed to the product, if you turned down everyone you interviewed it meant you weren't soft, and so on.

So Microsoft had this system that encouraged and rewarded people who acted a certain way. And some of that behavior trickled out into meetings with customers and partners, where they were correctly seen as negatives and helped foster the anti-Microsoft attitude. But since Microsoft kept hiring and promoting obnoxious people, they kept being obnoxious.

Furthermore, some Microsoft groups have always had a bit of a bias against having too many dependencies. The idea was get it done and don't worry about other people in the company. That's why different applications wrote their own Print dialogs, and why networking between Windows NT and Windows 9x isn't a seamless as it could be. That attitude helped shipped some products sooner, but it permeated outside the company too. Now Microsoft has pushed profit and loss responsibility further down in the company, so the groups within the company should become even less likely to collaborate. So how will that increase the prospects for collaboration outside the company?

Asking if Microsoft can really change is the same as asking if its people can change, and I don't think people can change. Maybe Steve Ballmer can soften his public statements. But the rank and file will keep acting in the manner that has made them successful. It's possible that the hardass people will gradually leave the company and be replaced by kindler, gentler types, but it would take a long time.

And it's not clear that Microsoft would want to change. There have certainly been massive speed bumps on Microsoft's road to success, but the company seems to have overcome them. So the impetus to change may not be there.

But don't people at Microsoft realize that the company is a convicted monopolist?

Actually, I really don't think they have internalized that. The distinction is still drawn between having been found guilty, and actually being guilty. It is easy to blame the initial judgment handed down by Judge Jackson on a bad legal defense strategy and a biased judge. So I don't think people view the final settlement as dodging a bullet, but rather an affirmation that the previous behavior really wasn't so bad. The feeling is that whatever was done was judged to be wrong only because the company was found to be a monopoly, and since that finding of being a monopoly wasn't made until the actual trial, people had no way of knowing what they should or shouldn't have done.

Plus, I think Microsoft people view the actions that got them in trouble as the work of just a few people. Call them bad apples, or overeager employees, but in either case it is not viewed as a pattern of misbehavior that came from the top executives. When you see Disney strong-arming a competitor, you get the feeling that Michael Eisner has personally approved it and a platoon of lawyers has gone over it. When you see Microsoft strong-arming a competitor, somehow it comes across more as a couple of 23-year-old hotshots acting clever. A lot of people may view Microsoft as a single borg-like entity, but of course it's not, it's a group of 50,000 people each trying to do their job as best they see fit.

Anyway since the vast majority of Microsoft employees were not actively involved in negotiating OEM licensing deals, meeting with Netscape, or any of the other activities that came under scrutiny, there is not anything they personally could have done differently, so there's not any reason for them to act differently in the future.

You say there was no pattern of misbehavior. But certainly executives were involved. There is a famous quote where a Microsoft executive threatened to "cut off Netscape's air supply."

The prominence that is given to that quote is somewhat baffling. I suppose it's an unusual and somewhat graphic metaphor. But is it really worse than saying you are going to kill your competitor, which is a fairly typical comment in a business environment? Or that you want its executives' children to grow up poor? What do people think that Sun and Oracle say about Microsoft in private?

Or perhaps people are thinking about the meaning behind the quote, that Microsoft was trying to take away Netscape's revenue and put them out of business. Isn't that how businesses act? I mean, are other US airlines sitting there thinking, "Gosh, we must be bad companies, we competed with United Airlines and now they are in bankruptcy?" Of course not.

Right, but the other airlines are not a monopoly.

Sure, but when that comment was allegedly made, nobody knew that five years later Microsoft was going to be found in court to be a monopoly. I should point out that I don't know for certain that the quote is accurate, but given how widely it has been reported, I see no reason to doubt it.

OK, enough about the antitrust suit. What about Microsoft's future plans. The company is involved in a lot of side projects. Do you think they will all pan out?

Personally I dispute the notion that the personal computer is dead, and the future will be small customized devices. Microsoft is trying to cover all the bases by continuing to work on Windows, while also getting into all the other devices.

Many people consider Microsoft to be this all-powerful entity that always gets its way and succeeds in whatever it attempts (whether through technical ability, luck, marketing, or illegal means). But in fact, if you look back at all the initiatives Microsoft has attempted, most of them have failed. Remember Windows at Work, an attempt to unify all office machines on a network? Or TrueImage, a clone of the PostScript page description language? Or ACE, the Advanced Computing Environment, designed to replace the Intel PC architecture? If you look at all the things that Microsoft has boldly announced with a gaggle of industry partners, the success rate is maybe 10 to 20 percent. So pick any ten things that Microsoft is attempting now: Auto PC, cell phone operating system, set-top box, Xbox, electronic books, Internet Gaming Zone, Tablet PC, Pocket PC, speech recognition, MSN. The odds are that only one or two of those will actually succeed.

Not that this means Microsoft is making a mistake doing all those things. I'm sure the same debate being played out in the industry now, personal computers vs. smaller devices, is going on within Microsoft. So Microsoft can hedge its bets and see what really becomes important. I mentioned the 10-20% success rate. But I think the ones that failed basically did so because the industry wasn't ready for them or there was no competitive advantage in Microsoft pursuing them. Microsoft rarely abandons a market just because of strong competitors. So if one of those ten I listed above becomes a major industry with active competition, expect Microsoft to keep working away at it.

The only thing I worry about with Microsoft is the reason that some of these initiatives get off the ground. Microsoft is an interesting place because a lot of oldtimers have enough money that they don't have to work. Rather than retire, they kept working at Microsoft because they enjoyed it. But eventually many of them decided that it would be more enjoyable to be working on a fun, speculative, cutting-edge project rather than something dull and profitable like Office. So they went off and came up with some fancy project and then presented it to Bill Gates, and what is Bill going to say to these people who have served him so well for so long?

When I interviewed to work on an interactive television project that Microsoft was doing back in 1994, one of the guys in charge had been working on compilers and he decided he wanted to work on something trendier. He told me, "I want to work on the sizzle, not the steak." The project was basically hopeless from the start, but Microsoft worked on it for a few years, spent a lot of money, had many employees working on it instead of something else, signed a bunch of deals with partners, and eventually the whole thing just went away.

The combination of people hyping projects because they think they are cool, and executives worried about missing the next big thing, results in Microsoft funding some dubious projects. For example, one of the critical upcoming tasks for Microsoft is making the next version of Office compelling enough and useful enough that people actually want to upgrade to it. Yet within Microsoft working on something like that is generally considered boring, while helping Xbox lose $100 million or whatever is seen as cool.

How can you criticize employees who work on projects like that, when you yourself left Windows NT to work on an interactive television project?

It's true, and then I worked at Softimage for a while. I spent about two-and-a-half years away from the Windows NT team and never shipped a single product. But after that I went back to NT and spent three more years working on Windows 2000 and XP. People there used to refer to the gap as my sabbatical.

You mentioned electronic books. Do you think e-books will succeed?

Not for a while anyway. I am shocked when people claim that reading an e-book is equivalent to reading a printed book. It's a vastly different experience, just like reading a news story online is quite different from reading it in a printed newspaper. Now there may be some advantages to the electronic versions, but you can't deny that it is very different also.

Maybe at some future time when we have flexible displays with a resolution approaching that of printed pages, e-books might work for some limited uses. I picture something that is the same size and weight as a current bound book, and has 300 pages or whatever, except each "page" is actually a display that can be updated, so the entire contents of the book can be changed. There is something about being able to flip pages in a book that must be preserved.

E-books also seem to be one of the battlegrounds for Digital Rights Management, so I have a philosophical opposition to them right now.

The fact that Microsoft is working on Digital Rights Management software leads some observers to place them firmly in the "evil" camp. Is this fair?

I think Microsoft the platform company is generally agnostic about issues like this. Many people are talking about DRM, so maybe there will be money to be made providing DRM software. In a situation like that, Microsoft is always going to be investigating it and working on software to support it, in case it pans out and becomes important. If it goes away due to consumer revolt or new laws or whatever, then I think Microsoft will move on to the next thing.

Meanwhile Microsoft the content company I think has been pretty quiet on DRM issues. I don't think they feel this is a great time to be collecting arrow wounds leading the charge on an issue like that.

There was a recent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Longhorn (the next version of Windows), describing it as a "radical change" from Windows XP. What do you think?

The only real evidence presented of a "radical change" for Longhorn is the claim that "Its guts will also be radically different from Windows XP's, because they're based on XML". That sounds impressive, but I'm not sure what exactly it means. The internals of Longhorn will be based on the same NT kernel that XP was, and that will continue to be primarily written in C.

Longhorn is also supposed to have a new file system, which I predict the average user won't know or care about, and also a new unified way of interacting with data. The article states, "Obviously this means a thorough overhaul of not just Windows but also the Office software suite." To me, it seems more like a thorough overhaul of Office only.

In fact it looks like Longhorn might be a fairly minor change to the bulk of the operating system, just as XP was a fairly minor change from Windows 2000. This would actually be a very good thing, since it means Microsoft won't have as much new code to shake the bugs out of.

Microsoft is criticized for bundling applications with Windows XP, such as Media Player or Messenger. Do you think it should be allowed to do so?

I think it should be allowed to do so, to the extent that the antitrust settlement allows it to. But I'm not sure why Microsoft wants to do so. Look at Media Player. Microsoft has spent a lot of money developing it, and has never charged a penny for it. Furthermore the company has risked serious legal trouble to include it with the operating system. And I can't really see what the point is. Is there some huge advantage in having people use your media player instead of Real's? To me it would make much more sense for Microsoft to simply bundle Real Player, AOL Instant Messenger, and so on with Windows. It's cheaper, it avoids legal headaches, and everyone is still going to pay for a copy of Windows with (almost) every PC they buy.

I think Microsoft had a moment of panic where it thought that AOL or Real was going to commoditize the operating system. But I think that moment has passed.

A leaked Microsoft document was critical of Windows 2000 as a platform to run Hotmail on. How can Microsoft convince other corporations to use Windows 2000 if it can't even convince its own people?

Well, in many ways it can't. The document makes a key point, which is that Windows 2000 has a "GUI bias," and that makes it very hard to reliably manage a machine remotely. This is something that companies have been telling Microsoft for a while, and it appears .Net Server, the server version of Windows XP, will start to address some of those issues.

You could spin something like this two ways. You can laugh at Microsoft for having dissension in the ranks. Or you can point out that this is a first step towards Microsoft improving its software. If I was a competitor of Microsoft's, I would be much happier if the company was oblivious of the faults in its products.

This reminds me of companies who have rules that you have to use your own products, such as car companies that require employees to drive its own cars. That's nice, but wouldn't it be better if employees actually voluntarily avoided competitors? So if this document spurs Microsoft to improve its software enough to convince the Hotmail team that Windows 2000 is better than FreeBSD, then it makes things tougher for its competitors.

What's the story on Palladium? Is this Microsoft's latest attempt to regain control of the industry?

Palladium is evidently this year's candidate for generating the most overheated Microsoft-related verbiage. The argument seems to be that Palladium involves Microsoft and security, so it must be some nefarious plan by Microsoft to impose draconian rules on users of its software.

Palladium is at its heart a fairly simple idea, which is hardware support for storing keys and performing cryptographic operations on those keys. It's true one of the uses of this could be for Digital Rights Management, but Palladium is just one component that a DRM system could potentially use to make itself more reliable and hack-proof.

I have seen many magical abilities being assigned to Palladium. One is that Microsoft will use it to restrict access to Office documents to users running Microsoft's Office, as oppose to StarOffice or other clones. The problem is that I haven't seen any explanation of how this would actually happen. For cryptography to work you need some cryptographic secret that is shared or matched between the encrypter and the decrypter. So DVD decryption for playback works because there is some information contained in the players that is related to some information used when the DVDs are created.

So how could Microsoft encrypt an Office document so only another copy of Office could decrypt it? And how would Palladium be involved? Certainly Microsoft could simply embed a cryptographic key in the binary of Office and use it. But it could do that today on current hardware, and what would happen is someone would step through Office in the debugger and figure out the key. So the key would need to be stored in the Palladium hardware. But how would Microsoft be able to have that key available on all systems running Office, yet somehow unavailable to a copy of StarOffice running on the same machine?

I'm not saying it's not possible to construct such a scenario, I'm just saying there's been a lot of hand-waving going on by folks who are predicting things like that.

So will Palladium make Microsoft's software more secure?

Actually I really see no particular way in which Palladium will make software more secure. If you look at why software is unsecure, you have bad design (such as Outlook allowing macros to run by default), bad administration (people not properly configuring their system security settings), and genuine bugs (such as buffer overflows). Palladium doesn't really address any of those directly, although I suppose Palladium might help a user notice some of those problems (if a user tries to play a DVD on a system with the wrong security settings, it might refuse to do so).

What Palladium is doing is going after a security problem that really isn't addressed by current software, and trying to solve it. Microsoft has to fix all the other problems first: make design decisions that favor security over ease of use, make the system easy enough to administer that people actually do so properly, and cleaning up all the bugs. Then it can attempt to write a Palladium system that is trusted.

Incidentally, I think one of the steps it will have to take is releasing the source code. Not as open source, but as "read only" source.

Do you think Microsoft can accomplish those initial steps: better design decisions, easy administration, cleaning up bugs?

Well, I think the design decisions are probably the easiest. Microsoft didn't set out to make Outlook vulnerable. It's a series of steps: first thinking it would be nice to allow macros in email, then deciding they should be turned on by default so novice users could see fancy email, then wanting to make those macros more powerful for some particular reason, and so on. Eventually you arrive at a system where a macro can easily read the address book and send out mail. But it's not like any of the individual decisions was necessarily dumb, it's just that nobody ever stepped back with an eye towards security over ease of use and thought about what Outlook had evolved to. Or if they did, they were voted down.

And it isn't always easy. Look at the buffer overflow in Universal Plug and Play. That was new code and everyone said, Microsoft should turn off features like that by default. But if you require a user to select a setting to enable something like Universal Plug and Play, then it won't "just work" out of the box, which defeats the whole purpose.

Making a machine "easy" to administer is another thing that is hard to do in practice. Of course you would like to minimize the number of settings that users can select. But a lot of times you need to give the user a choice of what do do, because computers are so complex. So you have to allow two or three or ten choices for some particular setting. Then you start making assumptions like, If the user selects this, then they probably want to do this also. So do you do that for them? You may be right and save a novice user, or you may be wrong and annoy a power user.

Removing all bugs will be the hardest. There is no way Microsoft's recent code scrub removed all the remote exploits in Windows, and I don't know why executives are bothering to claim it did. The only way to remove the bugs is to stop changing the code and let them shake out over a period of years, which Microsoft isn't willing to do with its main releases (although it does continue to release service packs for older operating systems).

Personally I don't know why Microsoft doesn't just offer a bounty for bugs. Say $10,000 for each one found, on the condition that Microsoft be notified with a week's warning. Even if 1000 bugs are found, that's only $10 million, which is spare change given what Microsoft spends developing Windows. Make the offer apply to its own employees too, and the eyeballs scanning the source code will be a lot more attentive than they are during enforced code reviews.

How about the recent prediction by the Meta Group that Microsoft will offer its server products on Linux by 2004?

Well, that article seemed to be pure speculation. Still, do I think there are people at Microsoft pushing for the company to port Exchange to Linux? Undoubtedly, and that's a good thing, because the Exchange team should be thinking "What can we do to sell Exchange?" And if it turns out that porting it to Linux is the right move, then they should do so. And if the Windows team complains, the Exchange team can reply that the Windows team should have done a better job of making Windows a platform for enterprise applications (see the Hotmail memo above).

Having said that, I doubt Exchange will actually be ported to Linux. People who talk about this are only thinking of the development costs. They ignore the testing and support. I don't know if Microsoft wants to be supporting Exchange running on home-built Linux systems. How can they reproduce bugs like that in their labs? Plus I think now that Microsoft has recognized Linux as a genuine threat, it will pull its head out of its rear and make Windows a better enterprise platform.

And remember, if Microsoft ports Exchange to Linux it might not be a great thing for Linux. Microsoft's plan would be to migrate users on to Exchange on any platform, while it waited for Windows to catch up to Linux. Then it could start migrating users from Exchange-on-Linux to Exchange-on-Windows. It could remove the price issue by throwing in a free copy of Windows server with every copy of Exchange. And Exchange-on-Windows could always stay a few features ahead of Exchange-on-Linux. Porting Exchange to Linux could be more of a kick in the pants to Windows than any validation of Linux as a long-term proposition.

It sure did seem to take Microsoft a long time to realize the threat that Linux posed.

Indeed. I think Microsoft got sidetracked by the open source thing, because its response to Linux has been really bizarre. First it ignored it. Then it tried to attack the GPL. I'm having a hard time picturing a CIO who views buying software as a way to express their personal philosophy on software source licenses, but I guess that's what Microsoft was banking on.

Now Microsoft has finally decided to treat Linux like it treats other competition, by figuring out why people buy it and trying to make its software better in response. But it's been a long time coming. And with the slowdown in innovation in PC hardware, it may be too late. Linux as it stands now may be plenty good enough for people, and there may not be any paradigm shift on the horizon that is going to dislodge it.

I have often said that Microsoft has been lucky in its enemies. Novell got too focused on file and print sharing and then got Bill Gates Envy, Wordperfect and Lotus missed the shift to Windows (how much of that was due to Microsoft misdirection I won't discuss here), Netscape became obsessed with Java. The few companies that have not made major strategic errors, like Intuit, are doing pretty well. Oracle was lucky in that its mistakes came in the early 1990s when Microsoft had no competitive database product.

Anyway Linux seems to have been quite lucky in having Microsoft as a competitor. For whatever reason, Microsoft has stumbled badly in its response to Linux, and Linux has not made any mistakes. By the way I am really referring to Linux on the server. Linux on the desktop is a fairly hopeless case for the average user, and should remain so due to the lack of application and driver support.

Microsoft made a lot of noise about .Net and Hailstorm, but that seems to have died off now. Any idea what is going on?

For whatever reason, Microsoft was for a period of time obsessed with the notion of subscribers, whether for software, or Internet access, or whatever, but the idea of people paying an ongoing monthly fee rather than buying packaged software when they wanted to. Now they do have some subscription plans going, with MSN and Xbox Live. But with .Net, they tried to put the cart before the horse in two ways, first pushing Hailstorm instead of .Net, and then talking up the subscription features of Hailstorm. This made the company seem greedy and also confused developers who were trying to figure out what .Net actually was.

I think .Net could still be a useful platform for web services. But Microsoft has blown the explanation of .Net so completely that it may have to drop the whole thing, rename it, and start over.

Anything else Microsoft has to worry about?

There's an external issue, which is that Seattle might become a less desirable place to live than it has been. The highway system is terribly congested and the public transit system is inadequate, but the state is in an anti-tax mode so there is no money to fix those problems. The public education system is also running low on money, and as an added bonus has been hijacked by advocates of standardized testing, so it should crater in about ten years. All this may make it tougher to recruit people to live in the Seattle area, where most of Microsoft's product development takes place.

But still, Microsoft has some incredible advantages, in terms of the market dominance of its existing products, and the technical talent it can bring to bear. The main antitrust lawsuit has been (mostly) settled, and it looks like most of the remaining legal issues can be made to disappear with a small dip into its $40 billion cash hoard. So things are not looking too bad for the company.

OK! Thanks for your time and have a great new year.

Thanks, same to you.

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What the Future Holds for Microsoft | 178 comments (160 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmm (3.70 / 10) (#3)
by lb008d on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 03:43:51 PM EST

nobody ever stepped back with an eye towards security over ease of use and thought about what Outlook had evolved to

The attitude of "ease before security" will bite MS in the butt every time until they get on the clue train.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero

Basic Economics (4.75 / 4) (#87)
by gauntlet on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:22:14 PM EST

If your ass grows at a faster rate than the bites get taken out of it, you're still getting some ass.

I wouldn't be to worried about it if I were them. If it becomes a real issue, they can fix it, and they won't have to stop running so long that anyone will catch up with them.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

were you in redmond (3.40 / 5) (#8)
by tweetsygalore on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 04:38:19 PM EST

or silicon valley? cheers to all the free soda! :D (i drink too much Coca-cola, geez...)
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
I was in Redmond (3.75 / 4) (#39)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:13:19 AM EST

I hear they have Vanilla Coke now. Left too soon...

- adam

[ Parent ]

hahaha. (3.40 / 5) (#50)
by tweetsygalore on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:10:01 AM EST

that's funny. the yummy salmon and spanish rice for less than five dollars made by the spanish-speaking chef ROCKS! :) later, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Palladium (4.25 / 5) (#13)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 06:30:16 PM EST

So how could Microsoft encrypt an Office document so only another copy of Office could decrypt it? And how would Palladium be involved? Certainly Microsoft could simply embed a cryptographic key in the binary of Office and use it. But it could do that today on current hardware, and what would happen is someone would step through Office in the debugger and figure out the key. So the key would need to be stored in the Palladium hardware. But how would Microsoft be able to have that key available on all systems running Office, yet somehow unavailable to a copy of StarOffice running on the same machine?

The same way that it makes the encryption key for DRM music available to the DRM music player, but unavailable to the user so the user can't just decrypt it on his own. The operating system will not allow a program to use the hardware decryption functions unless the program is signed, and Star Office won't be signed in such a way. (And the OS has to be signed too in order for the Palladium-based BIOS to give it access to keys, so the user can't just hack the OS or install Linux to get around this.)

but how does that key get on the machine? (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by adamba on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 07:07:41 PM EST

The keys used to verify signing of binaries are easy to move around; they are public keys that match a hidden private key. But the magic Office decryption key is a big secret, so how do you initially put in into the Palladium secret storage area?

- adam

[ Parent ]

The same way DVD makers do (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by decaf_dude on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 09:04:36 PM EST

Palladium device makers sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Microsoft, who in turn provides the secret key (for a nice per-device licensing fee) to be inserted into the device.


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
The same way DirecTV does (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by Bernie Fsckinner on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:37:28 PM EST

Then some college student working for the document scanning contractor of their law firm will publish it on a web site.

[ Parent ]
or.. (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by Work on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:03:20 PM EST

someone pulls a DeCSS with it.

No, that idea simply isnt realistic in the long run.

[ Parent ]

heh (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Work on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:05:26 PM EST

you should read into how DeCSS came into being.

Paper thin contracts make for paper thin 'security'. This isnt any kind of solution.

[ Parent ]

I don't think it will work (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by adamba on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:15:10 PM EST

First of all, saying "the way DVD does it" is unlikely to fly given the occurence of DeCSS.

More importantly, DVDs are encrypted by people who *want* things to be secured. Office would need a way to encrypt *despite* what users wanted. So if the user has to do anything...like load a security key on the machine (even if this could be done securely)...then it wouldn't work. What if Office detects a machine with no key on it? Or a fake key (how would it know the difference anyway?). Does it refuse to run?

Anyway why would device makers pay money just to put Microsoft's key on? Is it a key for only Office apps or for all of Microsoft to use? Plus what about other manufacturers. What if Oracle or Sun or AOL or any other software company wants a key on there? And are you going to allow anybody who builds computers to get the key(s) so they can stuff it into their Palladium chips at the factory?

- adam

[ Parent ]

Hm? (none / 0) (#76)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:40:15 PM EST

The user doesn't have to do anything other than install Windows (which is probably preinstalled anyway). The hardware checks to make sure that Windows is signed, Windows in turn checks to see that Office is signed, and then Office calls Palladium functions (through Windows) to encrypt your documents.

What if Office detects a machine with no key on it? Or a fake key (how would it know the difference anyway?). Does it refuse to run?

Of course it refuses to run. (This means that Microsoft needs a way to make users upgrade and install a new version of Office, but they've had no trouble already doing that through incompatibility.)

And there's no such thing as a fake key. To make a fake key you'd have to completely reengineer the tamper-proof Palladium hardware from scratch to change the keys in it.

Anyway why would device makers pay money just to put Microsoft's key on?

Because if they don't, Microsoft makes Windows refuse to run on their hardware. Besides, Microsoft will probably pay them until Palladium is so entrenched that they don't have to.

What if Oracle or Sun or AOL or any other software company wants a key on there?

They'll probably be able to pay money and get use of the encryption functions. They could even write their own operating system, put StarOffice on it, and do exactly the same thing as Microsoft--but since keeping your competitors from reading your files isn't much use unless you have a dominant market position, it wouldn't do them any good.

[ Parent ]

so to summarize (none / 0) (#78)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:24:25 PM EST

There is one magic key for all of Microsoft, every manufacturer is strong-armed or paid to put it on Palladium chips, the key is never leaked by an exploit in Microsoft code or a careless manufacturer, and no other software company can really take advantage of Palladium?

I repeat what I said in the original article: "I'm not saying it's not possible to construct such a scenario, I'm just saying there's been a lot of hand-waving going on by folks who are predicting things like that."

- adam

[ Parent ]

Well, yes. (none / 0) (#89)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:28:48 PM EST

There is one magic key for all of Microsoft

Exactly how many keys Microsoft gets is irrelevant. It only takes one for Office, anyway.

every manufacturer is strong-armed or paid to put it on Palladium chips

Well, and how's this unlikely? If a manufacturer refuses to do it, Windows and Office won't run on their system. Do you really think any non-niche manufacturer can survive in that situation?

the key is never leaked by an exploit in Microsoft code

An exploit in Microsoft code can't leak the key--only the hardware knows the key, Windows calls the hardware but doesn't have the keys itself.

or a careless manufacturer

CSS has a feature where the keys that each manufacturer has are different, but they can all decode the same encrypted material--yet each key can be revoked separately; you can create encrypted material that only some of the keys but not others will work on.

Microsoft can do the same thing. Each manufacturer has a different Windows key in the hardware. They all work--but if one manufacturer leaks their key, Microsoft makes a little change and that manufacturer's hardware, and only that manufacturer's hardware, won't run the next Windows or Office.

and no other software company can really take advantage of Palladium?

Microsoft gains from keeping Star Office from reading Office files; Sun doesn't gain by keeping Office from reading Star Office files.

That's really not handwaving. It falls out naturally from the way Palladium works.

[ Parent ]

I can't prove it won't happen, but... (none / 0) (#106)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:31:33 AM EST

...I would be amazed if Microsoft even thought it could pull this off (let alone actually do so), requiring all manufacturers to store a key that was Microsoft-specific, and refusing to license software to those who don't. I know the antitrust settlement said it could not punish OEMs that refused to bundle certain software as a condition for getting a Windows license. Would that extend to punshing OEMs that refused to store a key? I seriously doubt Microsoft would try to find out.

That is leaving aside the technical issues. For example, how is that key identified? Is there a flag associated with Palladium keys (1 == it's the Magic Microsoft Key, 0 == it's not the Magic Microsoft Key)? Plus I don't think Palladium is designed to run a 10 megabyte Word document through the encryption engine. And with the CSS example, is it also true that content *encrypted* with any of the keys can be decrypted by any of the others (since anybody can create an Office document).

Then you have the broken backwards compatibility problem. Microsoft got nailed for this going from Word 95 to Word 97, and now may be preparing to take the same hit to move to an XML file format. The problem is once a few people in a company upgrade, everyone has to. Now with Office Pd you would say that everyone not only has to upgrade office but also get an entirely new Palladium-aware computer?

But of course I can't actually prove that this isn't Microsoft's secret plot.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#114)
by Ken Arromdee on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:29:15 AM EST

They don't need to punish the company by refusing to license software. They'll just write the software to require the key to run. The companies who make hardware without keys will end up punishing themselves because their hardware won't run Windows or Office. I don't believe the antitrust settlement requires Microsoft to make Windows compatible with any particular piece of hardware, and at any rate the settlement is pretty much useless for controlling Microsoft.

And with the CSS example, is it also true that content *encrypted* with any of the keys can be decrypted by any of the others (since anybody can create an Office document).

This is phrased as a question, but doesn't end in a question mark. The answer is that Microsoft can change which encryption keys are used any time they wish using forced software updates. Once they have changed it, any new documents can no longer be decrypted by any of the revoked keys.

Then you have the broken backwards compatibility problem.

Of course you do. Microsoft *benefits* from breaking backwards compatibility. They want exactly the effect you describe--they want people to have to buy new software in order to read the files produced by their friends. That's how they make money off of Office.

[ Parent ]

Nope (3.00 / 3) (#35)
by srichman on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:18:02 PM EST

You're not going to get a special key in a chip on your motherboard for every application that wants encryption. You're just going to have one (or a small number, perhaps, with different bit lengths) public-private key pair that Office can use to guarantee that the OS it wants to be running is running. From there, the application puts its faith in the trusted portion of the OS to guarantee that only Office reads the data.

[ Parent ]
Palladium - How do they get the key there? (none / 0) (#64)
by dirtminer on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 10:26:01 AM EST

Simple. Office runs in the "secure" side of Palladium. It sends an object to the hardware containing its key (Please! don't use an LPC analyzer, that would be a criminal offense in the civilized work!). The key is encrypted and returned. Later it wants the key, it sends the encrypted object back, and gets the nice shiny key back (what, yeah, don't sniff here either). The object is tagged with the hash of the O/S. ... and if that hash includes "Office Palladium, Copyright (c) 2005 Microsoft Corporation", Star Office will have difficulty with it, not to mention the signing in the first place. (I don't speak for anyone other than myself!)

[ Parent ]
the key is just sitting there on the Office CD? (none / 0) (#73)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:12:10 PM EST

How is not easily obtainable by anyone? Plus when does it send the key? What if it is running and determines the key is not there? What if the user removes the key by hand?

- adam

[ Parent ]

OS doesn't have the keys (3.33 / 4) (#31)
by srichman on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:04:52 PM EST

(And the OS has to be signed too in order for the Palladium-based BIOS to give it access to keys, so the user can't just hack the OS or install Linux to get around this.)
The OS does not have access to the private key(s). Ever. Even Windows. Even the part of Windows that runs in trusted mode. You'd have to break open the case and start poking and prying chips to get at them.

What is the case is that a hash of the operating system's code is stored in a special register, which applications can inspect. If an application wants to, it can encrypt data so that it is only decryptable when the current OS is running. If a different OS tried to access the data, the hardware crypto chip would refuse to decrypt it, because the register with the hash of the OS code wouldn't match.

[ Parent ]

Debugger won't work under Palladium. (none / 0) (#93)
by Kwil on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 05:27:18 PM EST

But it could do that today on current hardware, and what would happen is someone would step through Office in the debugger and figure out the key.

That's today.  From what I understand, Palladium simply won't let you run a debugger on a signed program, and if they know their stuff, the binaries will all be encrypted with the public key of Palladium, so unless you're in trusted mode, the entire Office suite is encrypted and not available for hand examination.

So, we have a document key available in Office on the Trusted side of Palladium, but unavailable to be read by be a person because of the restrictions built into Palladium. The document key is also unable to be read on the untrusted side because it is encrypted and can only be decrypted by running in Trusted mode.

Now, this leaves us with a situation where we have the ciphertext (encrypted office document), plaintext (decrypted document running in trusted mode), and public key, so there's an avenue of attack there.  However, I can see this being made more difficult simply by including extraneous non-visible information in the plaintext.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Linux on the desktop. (3.14 / 7) (#21)
by gyan on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 09:27:52 PM EST

"Linux on the desktop is a fairly hopeless case for the average user, and should remain so due to the lack of application and driver support."

 How far down the road are you looking ?

 Assuming the next major MS OS comes out in mid-2006, I think Linux will both have applications and plenty of driver support for then current hardware.

 In my mind, what remains to be seen is

 1)ease of use once OS and apps is set up.
 2)ease of installing/removing hardware
 3)ease of installing/updating software/system
 4)standardized troubleshooting

 I think point 1 is almost upto par or will be by next major KDE/GNOME release.

 The rest, I'm not sure.

********************************

Driver support (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by wytcld on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:46:44 PM EST

Admitting that Linux may lack a few games and a few program categories (programs competitive with Quark or Quicken, for instance) it does drivers better than Microsoft, at least if you go to the bleeding edge. Burn the iso from Knoppix.org and you'll find you're able to boot hardware off the CD that the latest 'dows can't identify. Granted, the standard Linux distros aren't so magical yet. But it won't take them the whole year to incorporate this, now that it's done. Ah, the beauty of open source.

[ Parent ]
what devices have no Windows drivers? (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:07:10 AM EST

What particular hardware is there a Linux driver for but no Windows driver? Even machines with no BIOS (so they can't boot DOS or Win9x) tend to have a HAL so they can boot the NT kernel.

I would be somewhat surprised if a single piece of x86 hardware had shipped in the last 10 years that did not have a driver for Windows 9x, and now that the NT kernel is the only game in town with Windows XP, and that's been out for over a year, I would be surprised if any hardware existed that did not have a driver for XP. I mean, what would the manufacturer be expecting to accomplish with it?

The Linux community may be doing a great job in keeping up with the latest hardware and writing drivers for it. But Microsoft doesn't even have to do that, because the manufacturers do it for them. Right now anyone making a USB device writes a Windows driver first and a Macintosh driver second. Linux has to at least displace the Mac as #2 for it to have a chance at desktop success.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Except there's one marked difference there... (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by WolfWings on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:32:59 AM EST

...even on Windows XP, I've routinely found a network card, or a sound card, or even a joystick port or built-in USB port require a driver from the correct manufacturer's website. While under Linux or on Mac's OS/X to a lesser extent, it's able to simply use a 'generic' driver that supports the chipset itself, regardless of the specific company that branded the device before shipping it. Mind you, this isn't any real usable edge or flaw for either side, but having to find the correctly-branded driver for a piece of hardware using the same chipset as a hundred other identical ones except in brand is sometimes an exercise in annoyance that it one of the few things I've never experienced under Linux to date, but have experienced multiple times on every incarnation of Windows from Win95 through WinXP+SP1. Also, there are some cards that have support for Linux and BSD variants long before any sembelance of Windows and Mac systems, but they are few and far between, mostly high-capacity low-cost communications equipment, such as US$400 quad-T1 half-length full-height PCI cards as an example. The high-cost stuff has drivers for everything under the sun, while the low-capacity stuff is usually a single-phone device targetted at Windows PC's. Though I do find it amusing that you point out USB devices as a point of drivers lacking, when 99% of 'new' USB devices don't need any driver at all under Linux (or WinXP about 50% of the time unless they're requiring a branded driver again) since USB has standard interfaces for a lot of things now from speakers to data gloves. :-)
"How good an actor do you have to be to play God?" - Bob Dylan
[ Parent ]
quality of the drivers (none / 0) (#72)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:07:56 PM EST

Linux may indeed have better quality drivers. It seems drivers written by hardware manufacturers are assigned to the one software guy in a company full of hardware guys, not usually the most enticing job around.

Plus the notion of having a single driver support as much hardware as possible from different manufacturers is a nice feature of how the drivers are written (an independent third-part on Linux, vs. the manufacturers themselves on Windows, who of course have no interest in supporting their competitors' hardware).

- adam

[ Parent ]

Voodoo Banshee- Linux: yes, XP: no. (none / 0) (#75)
by joev on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:14:52 PM EST

What particular hardware is there a Linux driver for but no Windows driver?

There is no "official" 3dfx Voodoo Banshee driver. This was a problem when I tried to update my 1998-era machine... The install would lock up before I even got to the "graphical" part of the install...

[ Parent ]

good point -- old hardware (none / 0) (#79)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:27:46 PM EST

I was thinking of new hardware coming out now. But it is true that some old hardware might only have Win9x drivers for it, and now for XP the manufacturers might not care to write new drivers for old hardware when they want to push new hardware instead.

And this is not only a one-time problem caused by the shift from Win9x to NT. Occasionally Microsoft will decide that its driver model for some class of hardware is bad and update it with no backwards compatibility, which again leaves some old hardware hung out to dry.

- adam

[ Parent ]

philips webcam (none / 0) (#119)
by werner on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 05:40:52 AM EST

I have a Philips PCA646 USB Webcam. It came with Win98 drivers. It would not work on Windows 2000 unless I bought 3rd party drivers. Finally, XP includes drivers for it.

All this time, while Windows support has come and gone, I have been able to use the webcam in Linux. At first I had to compile a kernel module, but for over a year Mandrake has recognised and set up the camera for me.

[ Parent ]

My joystick and scanner are useless in WinXP (none / 0) (#122)
by Yekrats on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 07:28:09 AM EST

I "upgraded" to Windows XP and lost my joystick and scanner.  

My scanner is attached to a PCI SCSI card, which autodetects in Linux and Windows 98. However, the card is totally unsupported in NT and later.

My joystick is a name-brand model, an InterAct Hammerhead 3dfx. Again, Linux has drivers, and it works great in Win98. It's unsupported in Windows XP and never will be, according to the manufacturer.

I just wish your optimistic view of WinXP hardware support was even close to accurate.

-- Yekrats

[ Parent ]

I don't see Linux working on the desktop (3.50 / 3) (#33)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:07:15 PM EST

Assuming the next major MS OS comes out in mid-2006, I think Linux will both have applications and plenty of driver support for then current hardware.

The problem is, people have been saying that for ten years. Linux is free and it has thousands of developers - how could it NOT be perfect a few years down the road? They'll just keep improving it until it's better than Windows. The problem is that's not how software development works. In 1993 Linux was plagued by inconsistent interfaces and confusing ways of configuring applications. Fast forward to today, and you'll see that it still has these problems. It's improved, but we're still a long way from Windows XP's consistency - let alone OSX, the gold standard in usability.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

Linux can be made consistent (none / 0) (#56)
by mr strange on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 07:27:42 AM EST

A free-for-all development effort will always struggle to achieve a consistent user interface. Applications developers will always have their own agendas. Trying to get them to all use the same HCI paradigm is like trying to make them all put their braces in the same place... It'll never happen.

However, that's not a fundamental barrier to Linux on the desktop. Do you really think that the organisations that have deployed Linux have just distributed all their employees Red Hat disks, and let them get on with it? No, the administrator must craft a consistent system by choosing applications that work well together and carefully configuring them. Users then just use that system, and most never realise the amount of work that's gone into making it usable.

Now, a few distros (like Lindows.com) are coming along that attempt to do the same thing for the home user.

Ease-of-use is not a decisive factor anyway. If it were, we would all have been using Apple Macs for a decade, and Microsoft would be the struggling also-ran. As long as the system is reasonably usable, purchasing decisions usually hinge on other factors, like application support or price.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Except there's a difference (none / 0) (#59)
by gyan on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:43:01 AM EST

"The problem is, people have been saying that for ten years. Linux is free and it has thousands of developers - how could it NOT be perfect a few years down the road?"

 And that difference being the critical threshold.

 Even five years ago, Linux was only a fiddling geek's toy. No longer. Today, you use them for 3D Modelling(Maya, XSI), Programming(with all the IDEs), running Win apps(Wine's MUCH better than when I tried it in 98).

 Until an OS reaches a threshold in terms of absolute userbase, relative marketshare and word-of-mouth awareness, progress is just the coders laying a few more bricks like you say. But, IMHO, Linux has crossed the first and third thresholds for critical mass, if not the second.

********************************

[ Parent ]

needs oems (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by martingale on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:39:48 AM EST

What it all comes down to, IMHO, now, is that there hopefully isn't an impediment anymore from Microsoft to OEMS bundling Linux on consumer machines.

Since the settlement proposal we've seen a few low end machines with Linux preinstalled, but real support from the big players is yet to be seen. If it happens, then the userbase will grow regardless of application support, and if it doesn't, then all the application support in the world won't help.

Nontechnical people use what they buy - only people with much computer experience mix and match, and they're in the minority.

If OEMs do the preinstallation thing, they'll also start to take care of 2) and 3). 4) isn't a problem, in fact it's an opportunity to sell internet connection packages. 1) is irrelevant. If lots of people use the OS they've bought with their machine, the apps will get written.

In other words, the path of least resistance.

[ Parent ]

sorta, but other ways possible. (none / 0) (#60)
by gyan on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:56:43 AM EST

"If it happens, then the userbase will grow regardless of application support, and if it doesn't, then all the application support in the world won't help. "

 Once the killer apps on Linux in most categories are out. Corporations, ever on the lookout for cost-measures, will consider small migrations initially and then major changes depending on the result. These employees then a couple of years down the road, if not before, might be quite adept to the idea of Linux as their OS at the homefront.

"4) isn't a problem, in fact it's an opportunity to sell internet connection packages."

 Can you elaborate on this ?
 What I meant was that if Joe User can't install sound card 'A' and can't startup DE/WM 'B', then going on the net, he should be able to find quickly find generic answers that apply to his distribution as well. It's frustating to find a solution that doesn't work on your Linux because your configuration files are located elsewhere and named a bit differently or your utilities for probing/configuring devices are not the same as suggested in the solution. Don't underestimate this deficiency of standardization. Maybe its a good deal already implemented, but it should be for Linux to prosper in the hands of Joe 'Desktop' User.

 "1) is irrelevant."

 I meant that once everything in installed, Linux should as easy to operate as OS X or whatever. How is that irrelevant ?

********************************

[ Parent ]

clarifications (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by martingale on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 10:43:13 AM EST

I wrote my comment a bit fast, so here are some clarifications for you.

You talk about killer apps for Linux, but I think they're here already. Or at least, don't expect anything revolutionary in the near future, other than incremental improvements that is. Linux can work transparently over the network (through X11, but it's perceived as Linux), it can automate tasks (even though it's some learning curve), it can seamlessly scale (beowulf + free licensing). These are tangible things which are there already, and corporations are realizing it.

However, I'm not sure that the whole focus of looking for a killer app is the right thing to aim for. A killer app was visicalc/lotus. Today's killer app is arguably email. In both cases, the "app" itself existed on several platforms (ie Apple/IBM/Commodore then, Windows/UNIX/Linux now). So I would argue that every killer app spreads quickly to all platforms (if it's a killer app, someone's bound to write his own version for his favourite OS).

You suggest later that employees will switch from Linux at work to Linux at home after a few years. I don't quite agree with this. The home market depends on cheap commodity hardware/software which sufficiently many people can afford. *That* is why people will switch to Linux, when it happens, not because they want to run the same thing at home that they also run (in future) at work. Do the employees of car manufacturers all drive the same car that they produce at work? No, it's a matter of what they can afford first, and what shape/color/etc they like afterwards. Same thing with Linux/Windows. For many years, Windows has been the cheapest widely available option, and it benefited immensely from this. Now Linux is cheaper.

Related to this, you mention at the end that Linux should be as easy to use as OSX. Here too, I somewhat disagree. By all means, make Linux as easy as possible, but people won't care. Ten years ago, people happily used DOS with its cryptic commands, terrible shell interpreter. It didn't matter one bit. People bought computers because the IBM compatible hardware was the cheapest with the most options, options mind you which more often than not required opening the box and replacing a card in a slot. People did this without complaint. The alternative was the Mac (too expensive, not enough hardware), mini computers (too expensive), the Amiga, and a couple of others I forget. PC clones were by far the best value overall. The user interface didn't matter much at all.

What I meant when I said software is irrelevant is that it's a horse before the cart problem. Software will come if enough people are interested in using Linux, and people will be interested if the price is right and it's available everywhere. (That's for the home market, which is the only one which matters for this discussion). So it needs OEM/preinstallation, or maybe AOL/foolproof installation. This is a lot easier for OEMs which can control the hardware, thereby killing the driver issue.

Ok, let me end with a brief discussion of 4). Obviously, with preinstalled machines as the norm, people won't be doing too much installing of incompatible hardware. (They'll just bring it back to the store). The incompatible hardware nightmare is an artefact of people installing Linux on hardware they have lying around. In the OEM/preinstallation scenario, this is a relatively rare occurrence. The other type of help people need is with basic OS literacy, and that's where they'll buy an internet connection because they'll be told that all the information is "there" (which is true). So they buy a connection and get pointed to a couple of information aggregator sites managed by the OEM or ISP, which contain a lot of old and new discussions with solutions, packaged to look like it's a unified OEM/ISP database. Technical content producers will love it too, because it's basically just syndication.

Anyway, my 2 cents.

[ Parent ]

familiarity is important (4.00 / 2) (#118)
by werner on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 05:34:37 AM EST

I think it will be an important factor in buying an OS for home if people have experience of one or another OS at work.

You compare it to buying a car, which it is - you buy what you can afford first, then what you would prefer. I would equate choosing an OS you don't know to buying a car with two levers instead of a steering wheel, rather than to a choice of colour. Price is primarily a factor when you are equally (un)familiar with both OSes. People will pay a lot of money to get something they know, however mediocre, note how popular McDonald's is in any tourist spot.

[ Parent ]

$0.02 (3.88 / 9) (#23)
by JChen on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:18:53 PM EST

- Linux = more hassle. For Joe User who turns on his computer to check his email and download 5 megs of pr0n, he does not want to configure anything, tweak stuff, etc.: he just wants to turn it on, dial up the connection, and go to his favorite site. Linux users may argue about the glorious uses of Linux in technolingo, of which the masses are not interested in: they just want their email, pr0n, and beer.

- RealPlayer sucks. Please agree.

- WMP is clunky, ugly, and boring, but since alternatives such as WinAmp3, which is more crash prone than drunk teenagers mutually masturbating while driving a sports car in freezing rain, and RealPlayer, which is just plain nasty, Microsoft doesn't need to make WMP better, it just needs to bundle the thing so that Windows feels complete; missing/hard-to-find multimedia functions are definitely turnoffs. So although it's not contributing to Microsoft's coffers directly, it indirectly gives Windows more value.

Let us do as we say.

they should spin mediaplayer off (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Work on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 11:01:52 PM EST

theres a goldmine there waiting to happen. Quality wise, its much better than real. I hate real..its simply crap.

But the legal liability has made mediaplayer damn expensive. They should just spin that department off into its company.

[ Parent ]

More hassle? (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by Nickus on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:08:11 AM EST

This is the same old argument that it is more hassle to install Linux than Windows. With a modern distribution like RedHat or Suse it is just as easy. The thing is that Windows comes preinstalled on all computers because of that Redmond company's monopoly. I don't think Joe User would be able to install Windows either. I don't think Joe User could care less what kind of OS he is using as long as he can read email and surf p0rn. Joe User perhaps cares about the beer part but it is still unsolved in both Windows and Linux but at least the Linux crowed seems to believe it should be free :-) (well, since I live in Germany the beer is basically free).



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
[ Parent ]
Install Windows, perhaps not (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by Control Group on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 09:49:32 AM EST

It's the inability to just quickly download and install application software - or, for the "just enough knowledge to be dangerous crowd," the difficulty involved in downloading drivers and installing them. Windows' greatest achievement from the POV of the home user is the .exe install files for drivers and software.

Joe User doesn't want to compile code to run that new ad-laden Tetris clone that everyone at work is wasting time with. When Joe User buys a new video card, he doesn't want to worry about when kernel modules are loaded. Joe User doesn't have any idea what glibc does, much less why his newest version isn't good enough for older software. As it stands most home users who have gotten past their unreasoning fear of the magic box are capable of installing most hardware on a Windows box with a very simple set of instructions. The same cannot be said of Linux.

Until Linux can completely hide code compilation, dependency resolution, and module loading from the user through a simple (and by simple, I mean absolutely no more complex than "double click me to start") interface, it simply won't do for most home users.

RPM was a nice try, but doesn't go anywhere near far enough in hiding dependency problems. Apt-get is fantastic, and might be the future of Linux on the dektop, but Debian isn't the distro known for its user-friendliness.

Come to think of it, there might also be an issue of people being used to the convenience of an insecure system and being unwilling to put up with more work in the name of "security" which they really couldn't care less about. This is why Windows so limits what you can (easily) do to the system - everyone's a superuser, so they have to put constraints on the superuser. Linux, on the other hand, assumes that you run as a standard user, and so gives complete authority to the superuser.

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

What about Mandrake's URPMI ? (none / 0) (#160)
by mickwd on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 05:57:44 PM EST

"RPM was a nice try, but doesn't go anywhere near far enough in hiding dependency problems. Apt-get is fantastic, and might be the future of Linux on the dektop, but Debian isn't the distro known for its user-friendliness."

Mandrake really have got some work to do to get the "urpmi" utility more widely-known. It installs RPM packages, but like apt-get, it automatically detects and installs dependent packages (downloading them from configured software sources when required). A single command is usually sufficient to install the package you want (including all its dependencies).

[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#164)
by Control Group on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:32:13 AM EST

I hadn't heard of URPMI - of course, I don't by any means consider myself a Linux aficionado. I'm at best a dabbler...

At any rate: would you happen to know when that became a part of the distro? I have a couple versions lying about, but I don't believe they've got it. Although I suppose I could just be that dense....

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

Since at least Mandrake 7.0 (none / 0) (#165)
by mickwd on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:26:37 AM EST

Mandrake 7.0 contains the urpmi-0.9-38mdk.i586.rpm package, so it's been part of the distribution since at least then. But I'm not sure how the capabilities of urpmi then compare to its capabilities now.

[ Parent ]
Yes, more hassle (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:07:05 PM EST

Dear *god* Linux is harder to install. I've set up a few dozen systems, two or three of them Linux, and Linux installations have never gone as smoothly as Windows ones. No, I haven't tried in the last half-year or so. Maybe it's improved (a *lot*.) I doubt it. With Windows, I put the CD in, wait an hour, then start downloading utilities I want. With Linux, I put the CD in, wait an hour, then start trying to decipher why my utilities don't compile (last time I tried, I had to debug two makefiles from actively maintained programs. In their favor, I did send them both emails and they said they were aware of the problems and it would be fixed in the next release - but still.)

It's just not as easy.

[ Parent ]

Somewhat outdated (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by Tsuraan on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 11:35:47 AM EST

I have no idea why your utilities would fail to compile, or even why you would be compiling them as part of an install. Most installers (Debian, SUSE, etc) have rather huge lists of software that comes pre-built; all you have to do is select what you want to be installed. I have never had a debian install take more than about an hour and a half, and usually suse will not take nearly so long. Both give me systems that are far more usable than a fresh (off the CD) windows install.

[ Parent ]
Not an install issue (4.00 / 1) (#137)
by reid on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:50:18 PM EST

With Linux, I put the CD in, wait an hour, then start trying to decipher why my utilities don't compile

Sounds like after the hour (which is surprisingly long), you had successfully installed linux. As the other reply stated, there are tons of utilities and packages included with most distributions in binary form, and they would almost certainly work fine. If you're having problems building some esoteric utility, blame the utility, not the distribution. (Yes, I realize you did blame the utilities, but then you used it as ammo to attack the install process.) Would you fault the Windows install process if you couldn't get some Windows 95-only doodah to install in XP?



[ Parent ]
hmm? (none / 0) (#65)
by pb on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 10:29:54 AM EST

As opposed to on Linux, where Joe Hacker uses his computer to check e-mail and monitor the 500 megs of porn his perl scripts downloaded last night?  Linux may be more hassle initially, but ultimately it can mean far less hassle in the long run.

Yes, RealPlayer sucks.

Alternatives like mplayer (on Linux!) are simply amazing.  Video playback was the one thing I missed on Linux, that Windows did better, back in the days of XAnim.  This has changed, and I am very happy about it.

Microsoft writes all sorts of software that they could bundle instead.  Yes, it gives Windows more value, but so would bundling or licensing other people's software.  It also puts other companies out of business.  Do you think that is intentional, and contributes to Microsoft's coffers directly?  I sure do...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#85)
by jforan on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:15:13 PM EST

<rant>

What kind of media player requires 3M of memory  when it is not running?  What the hell is it doing all the time?  QuickTime does the same crap.  How utterly annoying.

Does media player have an enqueue option yet?  Until it does, I am stuck with the lessest of 4 pieces of crap, WinAmp.

</rant>

Jeff
I hops to be barley workin'.
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#117)
by werner on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 05:22:06 AM EST

Linux can be more hassle. I think with the latest versions of Mandrake, SuSE etc., checking mail and downloading a bit of pr0n is just as simple with Linux, though soon enough you will have to use the command line.

On the other hand, when you get to grips with the shell is when you start to realize the real power of Linux.

It is also a fact that RealPlayer sucks big time. Their new player is even worse. Probably the most intrusive software ever made. I still welcome its use, however, because it is cross-platform. As for WMP, it does add a certain functionality to Windows, making it marginally useful out of the box, though you can hardly compare it in terms of functionality to any Linux distribution containing several thousand programs. The sad fact about WMP is that they should have stopped at 6. Like Windows since 2000, it has just got fatter, slower and gained pointless features.

As Windows and WMP become clunkier, fatter, slower, Linux is becoming slicker. Was a time I longed for WMP on Linux (back in the WMP6 days), now I want mplayer on Windows.

[ Parent ]

Seems a bit odd... (4.33 / 6) (#24)
by John Miles on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:23:15 PM EST

... to interview yourself without making that fact clear.

Stephen King once remarked that he found it amusing as a neophyte author to imagine himself the subject of a Playboy interview, posing questions to himself in the shower and throwing off bon mots in response. It seems that adamba is indulging a similar impulse, albeit more publicly.

Adam's article makes for an interesting and informative soliloquy, but it ought to be described up-front as a vanity piece.

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.

Second and third sentences? (4.25 / 5) (#40)
by rusty on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:50:48 AM EST

Or did you mean it ought to be in the very first sentence?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Mmm, subtlety! (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by John Miles on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 02:51:08 AM EST

Well, the second sentence stated, "...we present this interview with Adam Barr, former Microsoft developer and occasional Microsoft pundit." Since it was followed by "The interview was conducted by Adam Barr, former Microsoft developer and occasional Microsoft pundit," I guess I mentally substituted 'granted' for 'conducted'. :-P

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]
Actually, I think most of us were blindsided (4.66 / 3) (#92)
by floydian on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:47:30 PM EST

Seeing how this story got to the Front Page in only 200 votes or so, I suspect most of us (myself included) thought this was an actual interview, you know, an exchange between two different people. I think the confusion lied in the use of the word "interview"; and I even believe that if from the beginning everyone had been crystal-clear on the fact that this story consisted entirely of a rather long monologue, it wouldn't have made section, let alone FP.

And yes, I know that Adam sort of explained the situation in the second and third sentences, but, hey, if you weren't careful enough and just glossed over the intro text, you'd be very likely to miss it. And a final disclaimer, before I'm flamed for voting on a story without reading it thoroughly: no, I didn't vote on the story. I just happen to think that it was very easy to miss the fact that this was a monologue, not an interview.

[ Parent ]
Can Palladium make Microsoft's sw more secure? (2.87 / 8) (#27)
by srichman on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:53:45 PM EST

I have to disagree a bit with your analysis here. Palladium does put more security power in the hands of the consumer (in addition to the added power it affords other parties).

I like the idea of having the user interface be locked down (via secure input and the highlighting of "trusted" windows on my display), so I know that I'm really typing my credit card number into the window I want and not into a spoofed window from a virus.

I like the idea that I can have data on my hard drive that is (mostly) guaranteed to be accessible only to particular programs, and not to the spyware du jour.

You're right, the biggest problem with security is that software is teeming with the scars of flawed code and shitty design choices. Microsoft has been pushing for a culture change to redress this, to start putting security ahead of marketing, usability, etc. But these scars are part of what Palladium is trying to address. Microsoft realizes that applications and the NT kernel are very large and complex (particularly with device drivers slipping in privileged code from third-rate third-party programmers), and not realistically auditable for secureness. Palladium gives Microsoft and application developers a chance to start anew, by only having small, secure, auditable pieces of code run in trusted mode. And, last I heard, Microsoft will release the source to the portion of the kernel that runs in trusted mode (the Nexus) so that it can be audited by everyone.

what code runs in trusted mode (3.66 / 4) (#38)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:12:17 AM EST

Actually I don't really know if there is a "trusted" mode. Can some drivers be walled off from the rest of the kernel-mode code? It's not clear...as far as I know it the plan is more like you identify a trusted set of drivers and then run with them...but if a new untrusted driver is needed, you can't wall it off and still use it -- you just can't use it at all (and still have the system be "trusted" by whoever wants to trust it).

But if you know otherwise, then please explain further.

- adam

[ Parent ]

My understanding (3.50 / 4) (#43)
by srichman on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:14:03 AM EST

At the Palladium talk in October, Brian LaMacchia presented the trusted part of the kernel as a completely separate piece of code that runs in addition to the untrusted kernel. The four-quadrant diagram he kept using looked something like this:

untrusted applications  |  trusted applications
---------------------------------------------------
    untrusted kernel    |  trusted kernel ("Nexus")

Trusted applications (or, rather, the trusted portions of applications) cannot communicate directly with the untrusted kernel or the untrusted applications; all communication between the left and right halves occurs between the kernels.

There should be very little code in the trusted kernel, including no third-party device drivers, and it should not need to run most of the time. When an untrusted application requests to communicate with the trusted side, the untrusted kernel can call into the trusted kernel, similar to a system call.

Mr. LaMacchia didn't go into detail about what happens if, for instance, an interrupt occurs while the trusted kernel is running and the interrupt needs to be handled by a device driver on the untrusted side. My guess is, since the trusted side's work would almost always take too long to delay the interrupt, the interrupt traps back to the untrusted side if the trusted kernel decides it doesn't want it. This privilege deescalation is okay, since the untrusted kernel can't read the memory pages of the trusted kernel, etc. But, yeah, this last paragraph is just me talking out of my ass.

[ Parent ]

Trusted mode (3.50 / 4) (#45)
by srichman on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:40:19 AM EST

Oh, if I didn't make it clear, there definitely is a "trusted mode" that is enforced by the hardware. This trusted mode is a new bit in addition to existing hardware protection levels (e.g., on x86, you can be in any of the four old protection rings with trusted mode on or off). Memory pages are tagged with a bit to indicate whether or not they are trusted (with trusted pages obviously inaccessible when the processor is in untrusted mode), and there's some magic on the bus and with your human interface devices to prevent untrusted instructions from accessing the special trusted features of the display and keyboard.

[ Parent ]
trusted mode (none / 0) (#71)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:00:47 PM EST

OK, that makes much more sense, thanks for the info. Still what if you have one set of code trusted to play back an HD-DVD and another set of code trusted to play back some DRM-protected audio and you want to run them at the same time? Makes my head hurt (the technical challenge, not the auditory dissonance).

I agree with what you wrote elsewhere thet Palladium should not be a repository for a huge set of random symmetric encryption keys. More like a few public keys that it can enforce OS signing of, and one private key, burned in at the factory, that it can use to prove identity (yes, the unique CPU ID that was kicked off the Pentium makes its triumphant return).

- adam

[ Parent ]

hmmm (3.50 / 5) (#46)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:40:43 AM EST

That diagram leaves out device drivers, which are key since currently they can stomp all over kernel memory. For something like playback of DVDs there may be several classes of device driver that have to touch the secured bits. Plus, what do you do with a current driver that misbehaves and accidentally (or intentionally) reads some "trusted" memory (not the memory on the Palladium device itself, but some kernel memory that is owned by the trusted side). Meaning, will there be some piece of the Palladium hardware or the kernel or some new feature on Intel microprocessors that lets you protect the trusted memory? Because right now the drivers all run at ring 0 so I don't think you can use the processor memory protection to keep them out of each other's hair.

If you read my older article on the genesis of Palladium, the trusted kernel sounds like a hypervisor, which I thought had been ruled out.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Reply elsewhere (3.00 / 3) (#47)
by srichman on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:44:01 AM EST

This comment should answer your question. Unforunately, I posted it a few seconds before you posted your comment.

[ Parent ]
Forget Palladium - how about this........... (none / 0) (#88)
by lb008d on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:25:57 PM EST


c:\msdeveloper>grep -r gets windows_src
c:\msdeveloper>grep -r strcpy windows_src
c:\msdeveloper>grep -r strcat windows_src
c:\msdeveloper>grep -r sprintf windows_src
etc...
etc...

I wonder ... has this been done? Replace all unsafe string functions with safe ones?

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Unicode (none / 0) (#91)
by Peaker on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:18:23 PM EST

Microsoft has transitioned to an all-unicode system pretty much, so these functions are probably not used at all.

Also, gets is a bad example, since Windows is not really using the stdin/stdout idea much.

Other string functions are probably replaced by SomeWin32NameConventionFuncEx function :)

[ Parent ]

Unicode! (none / 0) (#104)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:22:10 AM EST

Right...so now in addition to having "string length off by 1" bugs and "left off the terminating \0" bugs, Unicode introduces the "whoops I only allocated half the storage I needed" bugs.

I think it's silly to depend on strncpy (or whatever it is called -- and equivalent functions do exist for Unicode) to save you. If you have to do that, your code is probably broken anyway.

- adam

[ Parent ]

What's your point? (none / 0) (#123)
by Peaker on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 08:20:50 AM EST

Right...so now in addition to having "string length off by 1" bugs and "left off the terminating \0" bugs, Unicode introduces the "whoops I only allocated half the storage I needed" bugs.

The point wasn't that Unicode is less prone to bugs, but that unicode has a different set of functions.

I think it's silly to depend on strncpy (or whatever it is called -- and equivalent functions do exist for Unicode) to save you. If you have to do that, your code is probably broken anyway.

I don't really see your point here. strncpy doesn't "save" you, it is simply a "safer" way to copy strings than strcpy. If you use strcpy from a string that doesn't necessarily have a limit on its length, than it is unsafe, while strncpy would be safe. In general, strncpy is always safe when knowing the minimum of the allocation limits of both strings.

Code that uses strncpy does depend on it, and may be perfectly correct, and I don't understand why you're claiming it must be broken anyway.

[ Parent ]

strncpy (none / 0) (#126)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 11:07:28 AM EST

I didn't mean that using strncpy was always bad, just that if you were depending on it to handle an unterminated source string, you were broken. Because what that means you are saying is, well heck, I don't know if this source string is terminated or not...so I'll just party on with strncpy! Is that any way to write code? Plus what are the chances in that case that you will actually get the 'n' parameter (the total length to copy) right? I also think that the exact function of strncpy is hard to remember (does it copy n or n-1? Does it put the final '\0' if the string hits the limit?) but that may just be me.

Strncpy should be used when you are concerned that the TARGET string may be too short and you don't mind blind truncation. But claiming that if everyone just used strncpy instead of strcpy there would be no buffer overflows is wrong. If you have strings floating around and your code doesn't know if they are terminated or not, your code is broken.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Disagree with your definition of broken (none / 0) (#139)
by Peaker on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 05:51:36 PM EST

The code does know the strings are terminated, its just that termination is achieved by not only NULL, but also max-len.

If you forget the exact semantics of strncpy, just open the man :)

[ Parent ]

yes, but... (none / 0) (#141)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 07:52:48 PM EST

...what is max_len? C uses NULL-terminated strings, that's the standard. There are no semantics for passing a string to a function that expects a NULL-terminated string and indicating "if it's not NULL-terminated, then it is length X." And if you really want to use length-based strings, you should be using the memcpy() functions.

If you're worried about the input string to a function not being NULL-terminated, well heck the string could fault on the first byte, long before whatever max_len you assumed. If you are being lazy and trying to use a fixed-length local string for work space instead of allocating the proper length, then that is broken. Even MAX_PATH, which I guess is considered acceptable, is bad because if you actually get a truncation on a strncpy(target[MAX_PATH],MAX_PATH,...) you might wind up with some random error instead of the actual "path too long" one you want to return.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Exactly... (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by William H Gates on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:57:06 PM EST

I mentioned the 10-20% success rate. But I think the ones that failed basically did so because the industry wasn't ready for them

Can anyone say, "Microsoft Bob?" Maybe in a few years...

---------------------------
Where do you want to go today?

Don't pick on Bob! (3.50 / 3) (#37)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:08:37 AM EST

As I like to say, if Bob had stuck around and eventually had Internet access and a browser built in (as it would inevitably had), then it could have been AOL. Imagine that scenario.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Imagining..... (none / 0) (#69)
by bADlOGIN on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 11:42:51 AM EST

/me shudders
Sigs are stupid and waste bandwidth.
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, (none / 0) (#74)
by odaiwai on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:13:39 PM EST

Whatever happened to the project manager of Bob?  Wait!  Didn't she marry the boss?

dave
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]

damn (5.00 / 2) (#86)
by JahToasted on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:16:35 PM EST

They dish out some pretty harsh punishments for failure at microsoft.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
making a rumor (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:08:29 AM EST

I heard that the name of Whistler (Win XP), Longhorn (the next OS) were so codenamed because of what they represented. Whistler was a mountain to climb, while Longhorn is the saloon at the bottom. They're taking a little rest before climbing the next mountain. Also, aren't they basing a lot of the code on Longhorn on the soon to be released .Net Server?

-Soc
I drank what?


code base (3.66 / 4) (#44)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:34:26 AM EST

The basis for all of those is Windows NT. NT shipped 4 versions, numbered 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, and 4.0. NT 5 was renamed to Windows 2000. Up until that point, every version shipped with the desktop and server versions at the same time. With NT 6, the desktop version shipped sooner and was called Windows XP. The server version of NT 6 is going to be called .Net Server and has not shipped yet. NT 7 is codenamed Longhorn.

Now, since it has been so long since Windows XP shipped and .Net Server is not out yet, the underlying code has changed somewhat from what is was when XP shipped. So .Net Server will really be more like NT 6.5 (and I have some vague memory that Microsoft is planning to ship an update to Windows XP based on that "NT 6.5" code, but I could be wrong). Also, Microsoft recently announced that they won't ship a server version of Longhorn (NT 7), but instead try to get back in sync with NT 8 (codenamed Blackcomb) and ship desktop and server versions of that at the same time.

- adam

[ Parent ]

I'm confused (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by Edwards on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 10:43:17 AM EST

I thought 5.1 was XP. Was it originally destined to be 6, or is my system info misreporting my version?

[ Parent ]
I wasn't referring to version numbers (2.00 / 1) (#68)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 11:21:01 AM EST

XP may indeed return 5.1 when asked its version number. When I said "NT 6" and so on I meant "the sixth main version of an operating system that was shipped based on the NT kernel". So the version that returned "3.1" as the version was the first one, 3.5 was the second, and so on.

- adam

[ Parent ]

I see (4.00 / 1) (#158)
by Edwards on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 03:42:36 PM EST

That's the first time I've seen someone refer to version numbers that way.

[ Parent ]
Bounty for bugs! (3.66 / 4) (#51)
by Herring on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:05:15 AM EST

Go for it. Goodbye mortgage!

Seriously though, that would be a way to harness huge resources out there in the same way that Open Source tries to do. Except, seeing as there's money involved, it could well be more successful. The other side effect would be that most sane people would prefer money to the "thrill" of changing a web page to "s4d g33k 0wN3z j00".


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
Disagree with you regarding Linux on the desktop (4.25 / 8) (#54)
by ocelotbob on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:36:25 AM EST

The pieces are falling together for Linux to be a serious contender on the desktop. ATI's finally directly providing driver support, nVidia's done the same for several years, though their licensing still makes it a pain in the ass to create a fast nvidia-based system. Application support is definitely getting there. Redhat's making fairly decent bounds in unifying Gnome and KDE, Mandrake's a pretty slick system as well, and debian has a software installation and updating system that, IMO, blows Windows out of the water in terms of power and expandability; why should you have to go two 3 different websites to get updates for your computer? Mozilla is providing a much better browser platform than IE; I don't use IE, even on my windows machines for I find the interface to be clunky and not provide many of the nice features mozilla does, such as popup blocking and tabbed browsing.

Driver support, though an issue, is a less major one than you make it out to be. Many hardware manufacturers already provide linux drivers; it's almost mandatory for a NIC maker to provide linux drivers. Multimedia is pretty much hit-and-miss. Certain makers will provide drivers that are just as good as they are in window. I can only see vendor support as rising as Linux makes inroads into such fields as sound editing and video production.

I definitely feel that MS is going to feel pressure on the desktop front as well as on the server front. Much of the functionality of a Windows machine can already be achieved by a well-designed linux desktop, at least for day-to-day business usage. Like anything, the push is going to begin in the boardroom - we're already seeing signs of that. Programs such as Evolution are going to lead the way to make such transitions easier.

Is there going to be a total reversal in MS's marketshare? Of course not. At the same time, however, there is going to be a fairly significant change in how the software market operates. Most likely, we will see combination Linux/Windows versions of most software.

Why... in my day, the idea wasn't to have a comfortable sub[missive]...
--soylentdas

I pray for a quality out of the box debian desktop (none / 0) (#58)
by truffle on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:37:21 AM EST

For now I'll live with OSX + Fink.

meow
[ Parent ]

'Fraid not (3.50 / 6) (#77)
by Obiwan Kenobi on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:49:07 PM EST

Do you honestly think that because ATI is now releasing linux drivers that Linux is ready for the desktop?

The Linux desktop success needs one thing: Games

It can't run Warcraft III. It can't run any MMORPGs. It can barely run games in WineX (Warcraft III will run, but dog ass slow).

Linux needs a unified graphics library ala DirectX. This is one thing that MS got right from the start, the realization that DirectX was needed, something that could be globally accepted as a solid codebase across lots of videocards.

The Linux desktop is a joke right now. You've got the two desktop camps fighting for desktop space, ie Gnome and KDE and a dozen wannabes.

Sure Debian's got a damn fine installer. But how do you teach a newbie what aptget is? Where is the sweet gui that shows you what is installed in your system and provides a basic "Uninstall" button? Would your mother know how to "make uninstall"? Only Evolution has a nice GUI installation program, but nobody notices, and that's a damn shame.

I mean, seriously, Linux on the desktop is a plodding and long-running joke that hasn't really recovered from its dead-set determination to be like Windows. KDE and Gnome and all the rest are trying as hard as they can to clone Windows so the transition would be easier. How about creating a new interface, with the new smooth fonts and a better alternative to that butt ugly GTK+ and keep it standard and simple?

Can you imagine if KDE and Gnome got over their egos and just created the Best Damn Desktop ever?

Can you imagine a Linux DirectX alternative?

Without games you have no desktop. With the silly library hunting that comes with installing anything in linux thats .tar.gz'd, you're always being held back.

And, gasp, do I even have to mention the train wreck that is printing in Linux?

So we've got a damn fine office program (OpenOffice). So what.
-----------
Obiwan
misterorange.com - The 3 R's: Reading, Writing, and Rock & Roll...
[ Parent ]

DirectX... (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by pdw on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 02:06:44 PM EST

Linux needs a unified graphics library ala DirectX. This is one thing that MS got right from the start, the realization that DirectX was needed, something that could be globally accepted as a solid codebase across lots of videocards.

Erm, Microsoft first tried with something called WinG, which was a spectacular disaster. Then it took until the fifth version of DirectX before they had something that worked reliably and that game developers wanted to use. Before that, everybody used their own drivers (Glide, Quake's mini-OpenGL, ...). If you want to call that "getting it right from the start"...

[ Parent ]

They did get it right... (3.50 / 2) (#100)
by MyrddinE on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:09:05 PM EST

What they got right was the determination that graphics were important. So they worked for 5 years before they got something nice and usable. They had the right idea from the start, it just took them 5 years (in typical MS fashion) before they got it usable enough that game programmers finally stopped using DOS to build games in, and instead did them in Windows.

[ Parent ]
Silliness (4.00 / 2) (#90)
by Peaker on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 04:14:56 PM EST

Do you honestly think that because ATI is now releasing linux drivers that Linux is ready for the desktop?

No, he was addressing the lack of drivers issue. Linux doesn't have a serious lack of drivers.

The Linux desktop success needs one thing: Games

A big chunk of the market indeed wants games, but another big chunk of it doesn't require them.

It can't run Warcraft III. It can't run any MMORPGs. It can barely run games in WineX (Warcraft III will run, but dog ass slow).

Yes, Linux gaming is weak.

Linux needs a unified graphics library ala DirectX. This is one thing that MS got right from the start, the realization that DirectX was needed, something that could be globally accepted as a solid codebase across lots of videocards.

No, Linux gaming is not weak because of a lack of a platform. Linux has SDL, OpenGL, OpenAL, and many other graphic/audio libraries, with the afore-mentioned being able to well-compete with Direct X. Perhaps they're a little weaker on cutting-edge hardware feature support and a little weaker in some other aspects, but they're definitely good enough to create games with. Loki have ported games to Linux using these libraries, and they run fine.

The Linux desktop is a joke right now. You've got the two desktop camps fighting for desktop space, ie Gnome and KDE and a dozen wannabes.

Oh, multiple choices are a bad thing?

Sure Debian's got a damn fine installer. But how do you teach a newbie what aptget is?

I've done so multiple times, its not that difficult.

Where is the sweet gui that shows you what is installed in your system and provides a basic "Uninstall" button?

Try aptitude, gnome-apt, kpackage, apt-find, or any of the various GUI's that provide this functionality above apt.

Would your mother know how to "make uninstall"?

No, but that's what Debian's apt system avoids.

Only Evolution has a nice GUI installation program, but nobody notices, and that's a damn shame.

Writing installation programs on a per-program basis is a waste of developer time, as it is better done centralized in the Debian way. That's why Windows, where each program has its own installer is so far behind when it comes to package management.

I mean, seriously, Linux on the desktop is a plodding and long-running joke that hasn't really recovered from its dead-set determination to be like Windows.

Many ideas were taken into GNOME and KDE from Windows. However, many ideas were also taken from KDE and GNOME to Windows. The launch bar and other taskbar applets, as well as multiple-desktops, and a bunch of other features found their way from the *nix desktop into the Windows one.

KDE and Gnome and all the rest are trying as hard as they can to clone Windows so the transition would be easier. How about creating a new interface, with the new smooth fonts and a better alternative to that butt ugly GTK+ and keep it standard and simple?

Saying "Gtk+ is ugly" is proving ignorance, because Gtk+ (and other toolkits) are all themable and don't really have a look. As such, they cannot be ugly or pretty, only specific themes can be. I am sure that one of the hundreds (thousands?) of Gtk+ themes will look pretty to you.

Can you imagine if KDE and Gnome got over their egos and just created the Best Damn Desktop ever?

Heh. You prove ignorance yet again. The people at both KDE and Gnome both respect each other, but think that their idea for a desktop is better. KDE and Gnome are different in more than UI and appearance. Uniting the two will not really increase development power (Because many people would lose interest), but it will discourage competetive innovation and reduce choice. The more successful desktops, the more people are attracted to writing code for it.

Can you imagine a Linux DirectX alternative?

SDL, OpenGL, OpenAL, and other libraries as mentioned above provide such an alternative, yes.

Without games you have no desktop. With the silly library hunting that comes with installing anything in linux thats .tar.gz'd, you're always being held back.

As someone mentioned, package management in Linux resolved the dependency problems much better than any Windows solution, and there's no library hunting required. No .tar.gz'd either, just clicking search, typing a few keyworks, and clicking install.

And, gasp, do I even have to mention the train wreck that is printing in Linux?

I am quite ignorant about printing in Linux, but my tiny experience with KCUPS (KDE Cups system), it seems that the situation has vastly improved.

So we've got a damn fine office program (OpenOffice). So what.

So yet another gap that kept Windows ahead in a field has disappeared, or at least narrowed.

I shall also add, that Windows had fine Right-to-left support for a while, and KDE/Qt 3 has just recently added support for this, which eliminates yet another reason for Israeli/Arab users to use Windows.

[ Parent ]

Linux game libraries (3.00 / 2) (#98)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:01:28 PM EST

Linux has SDL, OpenGL, OpenAL, and many other graphic/audio libraries, with the afore-mentioned being able to well-compete with Direct X. Perhaps they're a little weaker on cutting-edge hardware feature support and a little weaker in some other aspects, but they're definitely good enough to create games with. Loki have ported games to Linux using these libraries, and they run fine.

I gotta admit, I'm skeptical. SDL provides basic 2d graphics and a basic interface. OpenGL provides a large amount of 3d stuff, and it's missing a lot of the newer features - especially in standardized form. (I don't think it even provides for the new stuff dx9 does, though I could be wrong.) I don't know anything about OpenAL except that it's audio, and obviously there's still a lot missing on the graphics front.

I write games for a living. Our company makes games for the PS2, which has great hardware support and an enormous user base. Our company ports games to the XBox, which has good hardware support and a large user base. Our company gets other companies to port games to the Gamecube, which has good hardware support and a large user base. We're considering porting to the PC, which has good hardware support and an enormous user base.

Linux has mediocre hardware support and a small user base.

Sorry. It's just not a viable gaming platform right now, and until it is, it's not getting on my computer. There's probably a lot of people who feel the same way, too (most of my friends for example).

I think Linux *can* be a good desktop platform. But it's got a long way to go - for a user computer, it has few (if any) advantages, and many disadvantages. It's just not economically feasible, and won't be for quite a while.

[ Parent ]

Re: Linux game libraries (4.00 / 1) (#115)
by benDOTc on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:32:06 AM EST

Well, as a game developer under Linux, and a follower of the latest and greatest in graphics technology, I can tell you a little bit about this from my perspective.

OpenGL 1.* really just isn't equiped in any standard way to answer to dx9.  dx9 adresses the latest and greatest in graphics features.  This is done because DirectX is determined by fiat, and has a version iteration cycle much, much shorter than OpenGL's.  OpenGL 2.0 will be coming out in the next few years, and will address much of this in a standard way.  This is the standard tortoise vs. the hare competition, in library versioning.  Each has its advantages.  If only the standards mattered, DirectX9 would be much, much nicer for developing nv30(GeforceFX)-level graphics applications today.  But OpenGL extensions exist to get to all of the new functionality.

At least on the nvidia side of the fence, there are extensions under both Windows and Linux (sometimes cross-platform, sometimes different for each platform) that allow you to access all the new hardware features of your video card.

Not only are SDL, OpenGL, and optionally OpenAL sufficient for cutting-edge game development, but you also end up writing less set-up code when using SDL (though on the not-Linux-PS2, or on Gamecube, SDL wouldn't work out of the box).  It's really quite easy to write portable, feature-rich code, as long as you start with that intent.

Now, as far as being a comercial platform for game deployment, well, it has nothing to do with hardware support.  Most of the gaming world uses nvidia hardware, which works splendidly under Linux, and the sound support is just fine.  It has everything to do with the size of the market.  The market is just too tiny for commercial Linux games right now.  It's a classic chicken-and-egg problem.  That's why lots of people dual-boot.  However, the answer to the problem is to develop in a cross-platform manner (which can be done with a minimal amount of extra code, within the PC platform) then make the Linux binaries available.  Of course, i don't suggest this only as an altruistic act, nor just because there's absolutely no reason that 99.9% of game code needs to be platform-specific, but because Windows was not built to be a development environment.  Many people like IDEs; i don't, but even if you do, there are a couple good ones for *nix.  I do develop on both platforms, and Windows development just seems like a huge, terrible mess.

But then, the whole point of portable coding is to allow people to use their computers as they find most fit.

Sorry, that got a bit off the path,
ben.c

[ Parent ]

Games (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 07:09:43 PM EST

I suspect that many CIOs will see the lack of games as a positive feature. Not only do game-playing employees waste time (minor issue) but in a software audit a few widely pirated games can cost the company a lot of money (major issue).

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

RE: 'Fraid not (4.50 / 2) (#108)
by LeibowitzN on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:44:16 AM EST

Speaking of instalation.

For sure installing apps on linux sucks.  I've never seen a single app that would install cleanly.  Unless you're using apt-get it boils down to visiting various websites and installing lots of dependencies.

The funny thing is that you think MS's way of installing programs is the holy grail of all methods.  Take a look at apple's new Mac OSX.  To install an app you drag and drop to where ever you want and run it.  When you're done you delete it. Done!

Don't wory about dependencies, various files/dlls spread through out the computer, it just works.

[ Parent ]

'Fraid So (none / 0) (#161)
by mickwd on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:53:10 PM EST

"Linux needs a unified graphics library ala DirectX."

I think SDL comes close here, though I'm not sure how 3D is supported.

"Would your mother know how to "make uninstall"?"

Why would she need to ? All the big Linux distributions (Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, Debian) support package-based software (excluding source-based distros liked Gentoo, which are deliberately aimed at "hobbyists"). And I bet a significant proportion of windows users (particularly the types you're talking about) never uninstall anything.

"I mean, seriously, Linux on the desktop is a plodding and long-running joke that hasn't really recovered from its dead-set determination to be like Windows."

But surely you think Windows is "ready for the desktop" ? Why not keep the things that are good about it for Linux - and just improve on the weak areas ?

"How about creating a new interface, with the new smooth fonts..."

Anti-aliased fonts are now available. Although they were pretty crap at first, they're now much improved with the latest freetype2 libraries, and the latest Xrender/Xft/fontconfig infrastructure (not that the end-user will have to know about all of these). Many distros have anti-aliased fonts now, and I believe Red Hat 8 is using the new Xft/fontconfig infrastructure. Mandrake packages are also available, but not as standard until the next release. Most other distros will follow. Yes, this might sound like yet another case of "jam tomorrow", but I believe the worst problems with fonts on Linux have now been fixed. Another round of distros (6 months at most) will see the new font infrastructure in wide circulation.

"...a better alternative to that butt ugly GTK+..."

This could be GTK+2.0 "with the new smooth fonts". Or perhaps QT for those who prefer KDE.

"Can you imagine if KDE and Gnome got over their egos and just created the Best Damn Desktop ever?"

Can you imagine if the software industry got over its ego and just formed one big company which created the One Big Desktop ? We could call them something like "Microsoft".

Why don't people ever suggest that Microsoft and Apple get together to create a single desktop ? Or perhaps a bit of competition is a good thing sometimes ?

There is a valid point about the duplication of effort between Gnome and KDE, and the need to have two different toolkits which work in slightly different ways. But if there are sufficient applications for each, an end-user may only have to use one environment or the other, so the problem may not arise. For example, evolution may currently be the best email program on Linux. However, a "KDE Linux" end user may have to use kmail instead (and the KDE calendaring facilities, as far as they exist). That solution may be "good enough" that missing out a few "best of breed" programs may not matter. We're not there yet, and it may take a long time to get there.

The big killer here, of course, is office applications. With StarOffice/OpenOffice so far ahead of other Linux office suites, will there ever me a "good enough" free KDE office suite ?

"Can you imagine a Linux DirectX alternative?"

SDL.

"Without games you have no desktop."

But games, and the "desktop" are two completely separate things. Games do not use the "desktop". But I do agree that support for games is currently a weak spot or Linux (and likely to remain so for some time, in my opinion).

"And, gasp, do I even have to mention the train wreck that is printing in Linux?"

Much improved with CUPS and the latest version of KDE. But you're right - there's still work to be done here.

"So we've got a damn fine office program (OpenOffice). So what."

So we've got software which does a damn fine job of what, say, 50%, of people use a computer for at work ? So Linux is now feasible for 50% of corporate desktops ? And represents a significant cost saving in each case. So what ?

[ Parent ]

Just one thing (none / 0) (#167)
by OddFox on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 02:27:48 PM EST

I won't bother responding to anything other than your statement that Linux doesn't run any MMORPG games. WineX has been running EverQuest very well for over 4 months now, I believe. For you can get binary packages for your Linux system which will let you run EverQuest (5$ more per month if you'd like to keep up-to-date, which isn't real necessary for someone who just wants to get the product legitimately and play) and a fair amount of other games. Hell, Transgaming even has a database of games with information on how to get them working if they do work, and how they mess up if they don't work.

--------------------------

"No escape from the mass mind rape
Play it again jack and then rewind the tape
" - RATM


[ Parent ]
Linux to be a serious contender for the desktop. (1.14 / 7) (#82)
by Tom Brett on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 02:19:17 PM EST

hahahahahaha ROFLMAO.. not in a million years j00 fool. ATI and nVidia providing support? so fucking what?!?! the problems that plague linux are far more deep than interface and UI problems. Linux on the desktop as a serious contender, get fuckin' real.


Outwar thugbuilder! get 500+ thugs a day! click here
[ Parent ]
Elucidate (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by ocelotbob on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 05:27:49 PM EST

Would you care to expand your brilliant feelings on the fundamental flaws of Linux? What needs to be done? What do you feel hasn't been done that hasn't been answered elsewhere in this discussion? Hell, what has been discussed that you'd like to see improved?

Why... in my day, the idea wasn't to have a comfortable sub[missive]...
--soylentdas
[ Parent ]

no. (1.33 / 3) (#131)
by Tom Brett on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:32:46 PM EST

Because in all honesty no-one really gives a shit enough for whatever I say to make any difference. Yes, I could tell you the core source of ALL of linux's problems. But it wont make fuck all difference. Cos everyones got blinkers on and don't give a crap. (rightly so).


Outwar thugbuilder! get 500+ thugs a day! click here
[ Parent ]
Then why are you wasting your breath? (none / 0) (#157)
by amarodeeps on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 02:53:48 PM EST

Save it.

[ Parent ]
Well, let's see now... (none / 0) (#144)
by MrMikey on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 01:04:40 AM EST

I've been running Linux on my desktop for over four years now. I see that my uptime - the time during which my machine has been up and running 24/7 with no reboots - is now at 181 days.

So, what are the problems I'm supposed to be having? Everything seems to be working so far... Please, enlighten me.

[ Parent ]

Another M$ waiting to happen. (4.66 / 3) (#57)
by vwX on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:01:58 AM EST

"Anyway Linux seems to have been quite lucky in having Microsoft as a competitor. For whatever reason, Microsoft has stumbled badly in its response to Linux, and Linux has not made any mistakes. By the way I am really referring to Linux on the server. Linux on the desktop is a fairly hopeless case for the average user, and should remain so due to the lack of application and driver support."

So you are saying that Microsoft is going to repeat the mistake it made with Linux on the server by dismissing Linux on the desktop?  

Guess what, Linux on the desktop is here today and getting better and better.  RedHat recently had a tour to get feedback on 8 in order to make Linux better on the desktop.  Debian is sponsering a desktop effort.  

Furthermore, I have all the applications and drivers I need and run Linux on my desktop(s).  

interesting point (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by adamba on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 11:56:28 AM EST

"So you are saying that Microsoft is going to repeat the mistake it made with Linux on the server by dismissing Linux on the desktop?"

That's an interesting point. However there are a couple of differences (plus, just because I personally dismiss it doesn't affect what Microsoft thinks of it).

When Microsoft was first dismissing Linux, it was doing so for the wrong reasons: "oh it's just a bunch of college kids hacking around in their spare time, it can never become a real OS" [NOTE TO FUTURE FLAMERS: that was 1999-era-Microsoft talking, not me]. Now, when Linux on the desktop is being dismissed, I think it is based on a more rational analysis of the products current abilities and where it is going.

Now when I say Linux will be hopeless for the average user, I don't mean that it can't be a great solution for any particular user. I am thinking more like Microsoft does. When Microsoft goes after a market they don't aim for 5% or 10%. They aim to get the whole market.

So do I think Linux on the desktop will ever actually gain a higher market share than Windows (to pick one benchmark of the type Microsoft uses when analyzing markets). No, I don't. To make headway on the desktop, you need users to be able to assume that *any* random app and *any* random piece of hardware that they want to use will work. It's a huge task to overcome the lead Windows has. Even if Linux starts to emulate every Windows app and driver so they can run on Linux unchanged out of the box, it will still lag when new classes of hardware comes along, which of course will be synchronized with a new release of Windows that supports the new class of hardware. The planning of the future direction of Windows is a huge proactive effort on the part of Microsoft/Intel and I don't think the reactive, scratch-an-itch, designed-by-geeks-for-geeks process used by Linux can ever work the same way.

You could compare Linux to the Macintosh. The Mac is cool, people can use it exclusively, all classes of apps and hardware are supported, etc, etc but is it a threat to displace Windows? No, I think few people seriously believe this.

- adam

[ Parent ]

I respectfully disagree (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by tonedevil05 on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:00:43 PM EST

The reason the "Like a Mac" argument doesn't work is because of one thing, a Mac. If you are going to run a Mac OS you need one. They are more expensive than a comparable PC, if you get accessories those are more expensive as well. The Mac got it's market because they just freakin work, out of the box work. But that working is possible because they control the hardware and that makes it cost more. Linux, on the other hand, runs on standard hardware and every time I install a new distro it finds more hardware easier. Now that Wal-Mart sells computers preloaded with Linux for under $500.00 complete, I think inroads will be made.

[ Parent ]
Mac (4.00 / 1) (#134)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:26:56 PM EST

It's true as you say that Linux can run on the PC you already own (and you make an oft-overlooked point that the ease of use of a Mac and the cost of a Mac are related). But then of course many people are upgrade-averse, and would just as soon buy a new computer as install an upgrade, so that may not be a huge advantage (and Macs are getting closer to the PC in price).

But my main point was that you can't use one example to refute a general claim. When choosing a PC and OS people evaluate the tradeoffs involved. And I don't think the majority of people will choose the tradeoffs that come with either Linux or a Mac. And one person saying, "I chose Linux" or "I chose the Mac" won't change that.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Hardware support is becoming more of an issue (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by jbuck on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:55:13 PM EST

Some trends I'm seeing in hardware support are worrying, though. Increasingly, products are shipped with no printed manual, only a Windows-only CD-ROM with just enough info to load the windows driver and maybe some instructions on how to download the Mac version from the net. Information that a Linux user will need (e.g. what chip the product is based on) does not appear on the box, and the company frequently changes the chips without changing the model number of the product. Information can be found on the web, but it is frequently out of date. The situation is particularly bad with laptop hardware.

The result is that people like you and me can figure this out and get new hardware working with Linux, but it's far too intimidating for even intelligent people whose specialty is some other area than computers.

Even companies that have been given an "A-" grade for cooperation with free software, like HP, for its printers, won't put any information on their packaging indicating that a product works with any flavor of Linux. I don't think that we can expand the desktop market to the general user until we can enlist a manufacturer to support it, at least for some specific vendor's Linux flavor.

[ Parent ]

Linux on the desktop (2.00 / 1) (#110)
by Stick on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:45:40 AM EST

Sorry, Linux currently has some major fundemental problems and until they're solved it doesn't even have a hope of overtaking apple macs.


---
Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
[ Parent ]
major fundemental problems (none / 0) (#116)
by werner on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:53:03 AM EST

"some major fundemental problems"

Could you be a little more specific? Quite a criticism to make without offering any evidence.

[ Parent ]

Thank you (1.00 / 1) (#129)
by tonedevil05 on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:24:39 PM EST

For pointing that out, I can't believe no one has ever made that brilliant obsevation before.

[ Parent ]
*THE* fundamental problem (4.50 / 2) (#133)
by 8ctavIan on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:57:43 PM EST

... is that Linux is not 100% ready to be used by lazy, want-everything-done-for-me types. This is, unfortunately, a large segment of the population. Microsoft caters to this type of person by creating an illusion of ease. I'm willing to bet that most Windows machines out there had the OS installed in the factory and runs the hardware that came with it. What percentage of Windows users actually sat down and installed the OS, new hardware and configured this. You'll find it to be small.

Linux is actually fairly easy if you look at it from this perspective. Install a distribution like Mandrake, and you'll get all your hardware detected and it'll be up and running in pretty short order. Is this well-known? No. Why? Because that would mean the death of Microsoft in a medium-range time frame. Sound unlikely? In 1980, everybody thought that the USSR would be around forever. In 1990, it was gone.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

*THE* fundamental problem (2.00 / 1) (#147)
by sgposs on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 03:42:16 AM EST

I fully agree with your comment about it not being well known that Mandrake makes it easy to install Linux on an Intel system (at least as easy IMHO as a Windows System (and perhaps easier now that MS has adopted various hardware certification schemes). I have been using Mandrake since 6.0 largely because it is so easy to install and virtually anything Linux can be made to run on it, with limited effort. With Java from SUN I'm really having fun now. That way I don't have to spend a lot of time on installation issues. Perhaps other distributions are just as good now, but this was just a personal choice after trying Slackware, RedHat, Suse. All without spending money (I used to spend $2-5,000 per year on software upgrades in the MS environment). Its just most people don't know they can get incredibly useful software so easily and for free. However, the consequence of our's being a society of passive TV watchers will likely remain true. Its a lot easier not to think (or have someone think for you) than think for yourself. Microsoft, like so many companies, helps those who would rather not have to think for themselves. If you really want to see Linux become the number 1 OS, then you have to address the ease of use issue and the marketing issue. The first is hard, but getting easier. The second requires Linux users to communicate more with others in a positive way that encourages them to make the transition. We may in many cases be technically more knowledable but beating MS OS users over the head with that doesn't encourage them to explore open source as an alternative. However, it all takes perserverance. I have been trying to teach myself linear algebra and matrix theory and I can honestly say that it is a painful experience. However, after 4 years and about 20 books later, some of it does begin to make sense (even if its only the first few chapters of each). Installing operating systems or working with unfamiliar applications is similar. Persistence is a critical part of being a computer enthusiast. Obviously, Bill Gates wisely learned this lesson, though I doubt he secretly uses Linux. I've personally found that one gets more help, if one is earnest and positive, as well as appreciative of the efforts of others. One way to overcome Microsoft's advantage of making things easier for "lazy" (busy?) is to be as helpful and as encouraging as possible, when on-line. We need to do more to develop a friendly community of users to encourage the more uncertain at heart. This has to come from each individual in the community and can not be expected of the community as a whole. For those more technically capable, it means joining in at least a few efforts to enrich the open-source infrastructure. However, technically capable users shouldn't loose sight of the benefits of increasing everyones technical expertise by being as helpful on line as practical. To this end Linux really misses out by not developing and spreading the word of even more reasons (apps and ease of use/good help/good community links) for encouraging those in high school and higher education to adopt Linux (not meant in anyway to slight those already doing so). It is from those users, particularly in higher education, where there is considerable technical talent that one could see most rapid expansion of cutting edge applications. Some good peer to peer Java (JXTA) apps on Linux/Unix would, in my opinion do a lot to turn the light bulb for those who do tend to think for themselves. Peer to peer is an area where Linux could really shine, particularly now that JXTA is available for community Java. In my opinion the SUN desktop effort is also extremely good way to develop and implement apps for and on the desktop. Should more Linux users adopt such an approach, particularly now Java is a "must carry" for Microsoft, the open source community could really develop the means to improve Linux as a widely used desktop environment. I suspect that the Microsoft stranglehold on the desktop could disappear shortly, as another writer has indicated. I believe it may happen quickly if the bridge Java can provide becomes more widely traveled. It will give Microsoft users an oportunity to look at what is going on in the open source side of the bridge. I think they would like what they see, particularly if they compare the price and like me, find they cross back only occasionally (I wouldn't go back at all if someone can show me an an open source app, preferrably in Java, that reads from a serial port and plug it into the keyboad buffer so that I can get data from my serial device directly into my database). I think the driver issue is well taken. It is hard to find Linux drivers. Although this situation has dramatically improved, more linux users need to be more vocal about demanding that Linux drivers be available for all hardware (just taking the time to let vendors know that they lost a sale, because they didn't have a Linux driver would provide considerable benefit. Since for most vendors, whose drivers are written in C or a mix of C and assembly there is little technical reason not to port the driver to Linux. The fear they have is that they might loose their competitive edge should their drivers fall into the open domain. However, my own view is that as Linux becomes more popular their fear of loosing sales would tend to balance this out. Its time for Linux users to be more vocal and demanding of service if vendors want their business. Also, more information and online help on how to write drivers would be very helpful here. Yes there are sources, but its not as readily available to users with differential fluency in Linux (anyone know of a good source for info on writing a driver for a video capture card?). Also, Linux users, especially those in the US, need to be more internationally aware. Linux is big in Germany and Japan. We need more apps that permit multilingual users to communicate. The new Mandrake 9.0 is great in that it has news readers built in. This kind of app helps build community and open source is all about community. I'm even getting a chance to learn more German, as many interesting stories are to be found among those of our German colleagues. By banding together our momentum is greater than, if we always resort to always choosing the total freedom and assuming that individual approach is always better. Live and learn is a good Linux philosophy. Sometimes you can learn most from those most unlike yourself, but you have to be an active participant. Linux users would do well to accept a wide range of ways of doing things. We really don't need to "resolve the KDE/GNOME issue. Its best to see users make the choices, sometimes different, that they find most useful. I use KDE rather than GNOME. But I've heard many good things about GNOME and have used it in the past. The nice thing about Linux is that you can do it your way, while also joining with others to help them do it there way too. To be comfortable and successful with Linux you must be willing to be tolerant and learn from others. Live and learn its the Linux (open source) way!

[ Parent ]
Excerpt from MS-approved biz plan for .NET Svcs (3.80 / 5) (#61)
by fruscica on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 09:37:31 AM EST

Hello all,

Not long ago I received the following e-mail from Randy Hinrichs, the Manager of Microsoft Research's Learning Sciences and Technology Group:

"Frank, you are a good man. Have you thought about joining this team? Your only alternative, of course, is venture capital. But their usual models require getting rid of the 'originator' within the first eighteen months. With Netscape it took a little longer, but you get the idea."
Randy sent this after he and I met and he circulated internally a Microsoft-specific adaptation of my business plan for a provider of lifelong learning and career services (the kind of .NET-enabled services provider my research suggests Microsoft should try to become). Find below the opening paragraphs of the Microsoft version.

In June 2002, Microsoft introduced its updated Mission: to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.

So Microsoft can be expected to seek high-growth opportunities that enable more people to realize their full potential.

More precisely, opportunities that promise high growth on a risk-adjusted basis.

Risk is reduced by building on existing growth assets -- the higher their growth potential, the better.

"[Web services] is a long-term thing, but it's big, big, big, big, big, big, the biggest thing that's going to happen in the industry, and we're committed to it."

Steve Ballmer


"By the late '90s, growth of PC sales was slowing, and the market for Microsoft's most profitable PC application, the Office suite, was becoming saturated.

So Microsoft's top brass did some deep thinking...One of the things that Steve Ballmer and [Microsoft senior vice president] Jeff Raikes thought about when they looked at the Office business was that statement that Jack Welch had made at GE, which is if you think your market share's too high, you've defined the market too small. What if Office was integrated with server applications for accounting, human resources, customer relations, and supply-chain management? Suddenly, the potential market for a played-out productivity suite ballooned.

With that idea, Microsoft...aims to deliver a suite of business applications based on .NET, a set of Microsoft technologies for connecting programs over the Internet, by 2005."

Red Herring

So, even more precisely, Microsoft can be expected to seek high-growth opportunities that:
  • increase demand for the .NET platform, broadly conceived (.NET-enabled Office, server software, development tools, etc.)

  • enable more people to realize their full potential
Research indicates that dramatically increasing -- if not maximizing -- demand for .NET requires establishing a new division of the company that will:
  • achieve competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations

  • make it easy for other companies to emulate these practices

  • focus primarily on the development, marketing and support of information workers -- starting with .NET technologists and .NET-savvy managers/organization designers
"I want to grow the information worker business...For the growth we can achieve this decade, about one-third will be from continuing to grow and enhance Office, while two-thirds will come from creating new categories of application value and services to support information work."

Jeff Raikes
Microsoft Group Vice-President,
Productivity and Business Services

Recent research by the McKinsey Global Institute and others identifies complementarities between IT consumption and managerial and organizational innovations. In one example, McKinsey reports that "when the technology that went into what Wal-Mart did...was combined with the firm's managerial and organizational innovations, the impact was huge...Competitors reacted by adopting many of Wal-Mart's innovations." A columnist for MIT Technology Review elaborates: "Consider Wal-Mart's $4 billion-plus investment in its Retail Link supply chain system. What's intriguing is not the multibillion-dollar nature of the company's IT infrastructure initiative, but the fact that it had at least an order of magnitude impact on its suppliers own supply chain innovations. That is, Wal-Mart's own $4 billion expenditure has likely influenced at least $40 billion worth of supplier investments in systems and software. Of course, these supply chain innovations are also eventually emulated by competitors, further amplifying the multiplier effect."

Hence, the importance of identifying or giving rise to a for-profit entity that will achieve competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations.

Of course, Wal-Mart has sought competitive advantage through its innovations, not through their dissemination, so would-be emulators (who have not been Wal-Mart suppliers) have received no support from Wal-Mart -- and, at times, Wal-Mart has sought to obstruct their efforts. McKinsey's research indicates that emulation lagged by several years as a result: "In 1987, Wal-Mart had just 9% market share, but was 40% more productive than its competitors. By the mid-1990s its share had grown to 27%, while its productivity advantage widened to 48%." Only after competitors caught on and adopted many of Wal-Mart's innovations did the productivity gap narrow: "From 1995 to 1999, competitors increased their productivity by 28%, while Wal-Mart raised the bar by further increasing its own efficiency by another 20%."

As a result, for a given product or service, an IT vendor who sold to Wal-Mart in the late 1980s may have had to wait until the second half of the 1990s to book sales to Wal-Mart competitors.

Hence, the importance of identifying or giving rise to a for-profit entity that achieves competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations -- and makes it easy for others to emulate these practices.

"As part of its effort to sell more of its server products, Microsoft has been expanding its solution offerings and document sets for solving particular business problems."

Directions on Microsoft
September 2002

Research by MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson et al. and others indicates that demand for qualified information workers increases in proportion to the amount of such emulation. So a for-profit entity would benefit most from facilitating emulation if its primary focus is developing, marketing and supporting information workers.

Hence, the importance of identifying or giving rise to a for-profit entity that achieves competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations, makes it easy for others to emulate these practices, and focuses primarily on developing/marketing/supporting information workers.

Research by Dean of the Harvard Business School Kim Clark et al. indicates that when a new opportunity fits an organization's values but not its existing business processes, the organization should develop new processes to pursue the opportunity, rather than pursuing it through a separate company.

Hence, the importance of giving rise to a new division at Microsoft that achieves competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations, makes it easy for others to emulate these practices, and focuses primarily on developing/marketing/supporting information workers.

"With the huge technical dice the companies are being asked to roll on adoption of the .NET development framework and the new .NET line of servers, CIOs at major corporations are demanding that Microsoft put more skin in the game.

If Microsoft wants to win corporate hearts and minds, it has no choice but to build an infrastructure within the company that will allow it to take the lead in all major accounts.

But with only 12,000 employees, Microsoft will have to beef up the group quickly. Existing employees are primarily technical consultants, analysts, and customer service representatives with little or no management consulting, account management, or enterprise sales experience. So how can Microsoft compete in the consulting space with bigger rivals like IBM and EDS?"

Techrepublic.com

So, as posited above, dramatically increasing -- if not maximizing -- demand for .NET equates to giving rise to a new division at Microsoft that achieves competitive advantages by employing the .NET platform in combination with complementary managerial and organizational innovations, makes it easy for others to emulate these practices, and focuses primarily on developing/marketing/supporting information workers -- starting with .NET technologists and .NET-savvy managers/organization designers.

This division can also deliver high -- if not unsurpassed -- growth and enable Microsoft to do all it can to enable people to realize their full potential.

Research detailed below indicates that lifelong learning and career services (LLCS) -- already a multi-trillion dollar global market -- will be among the fastest growth markets of the coming decades. As the new division would be primarily focused on developing/marketing/supporting information workers, competing in the LLCS market is a natural fit.

This research also shows that, in the mature market, access to LLCS will be democratized (or as nearly as may be) through the loan program(s) of one or more LLCS providers. Competing in a market is the extent to which any one company can expedite the market's maturation. Hence, competing in the LLCS market is precisely how Microsoft can enable (directly and indirectly) the largest number of people to realize their full potential -- thereby achieving the full potential of the company's updated Mission.

All told, then, giving rise to this new division is an ideal opportunity for Microsoft.

-----

Thoughts?

gobbledygook (none / 0) (#111)
by slur on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 03:11:57 AM EST

If Microsoft thinks they have what it takes to revolutionize the way that information is shared, collated, and accounted they're building an edifice too high for themselves and their target enterprises to scale - especially now in a downsizing climate. .NET by itself is just another platform and a set of information sharing standards. Every enterprise has its own way of doing things, and it seems unlikely that Office is capable of providing a very useful front-end for creating or sharing data. Excel is a glorified spreadsheet, Word a glorified word processor.

Who is going to build all these super-enterprise-savvy server applications, and who is going to adopt them, when it's so simple now to email a document to the individual who needs it and make a tape backup for the historical archive? Considering the volatility of information and the speed of its obsolescence I think Microsoft is fantasizing if they think they're going to be able to make the universal killer widget before everyone has moved on to the next small, simple thing.

Smart enterprises should simply build themselves the sharing tools they need on their Linux-based and BSD-based intranets and take advantage of the small, secure, tightly integrated single-purpose architectures they provide. Microsoft's solutions have always been too fat, required too much upkeep, and been too insecure and non-standard. In tight times like these it just makes more sense to go with OSS for serving and leave Windows on the desktops of tech-illiterate typists and accountants where it belongs.

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| slur was here
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[ Parent ]

gobbledygook (none / 0) (#113)
by slur on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 03:13:19 AM EST

If Microsoft thinks they have what it takes to revolutionize the way that information is shared, collated, and accounted they're building an edifice too high for themselves and their target enterprises to scale - especially now in a downsizing climate. .NET by itself is just another platform and a set of information sharing standards. Every enterprise has its own way of doing things, and it seems unlikely that Office is capable of providing a very useful front-end for creating or sharing data. Excel is a glorified spreadsheet, Word a glorified word processor.

Who is going to build all these super-enterprise-savvy server applications, and who is going to adopt them, when it's so simple now to email a document to the individual who needs it and make a tape backup for the historical archive? Considering the volatility of information and the speed of its obsolescence I think Microsoft is fantasizing if they think they're going to be able to make the universal killer widget before everyone has moved on to the next small, simple thing.

Smart enterprises should simply build themselves the sharing tools they need on their Linux-based and BSD-based intranets and take advantage of the small, secure, tightly integrated single-purpose architectures they provide. Microsoft's solutions have always been too fat, required too much upkeep, and been too insecure and non-standard. In tight times like these it just makes more sense to go with OSS for serving and leave Windows on the desktops of tech-illiterate typists and accountants where it belongs.

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[ Parent ]

Pheeeuw! (none / 0) (#128)
by epepke on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:18:02 PM EST

"Frank, you are a good man. Have you thought about joining this team? Your only alternative, of course, is venture capital. But their usual models require getting rid of the 'originator' within the first eighteen months. With Netscape it took a little longer, but you get the idea."

Man, this just makes my eyes water! Praise Bob I only have to put up with Microsoft's software.

It reminded me of a recent experience. I had worked for many years at Florida State University, most of it on the faculty. This was a state job, not as bad as a state job outside the university, but still with many of the same characteristics. I then went off for a couple of years in industry and found it in many ways refreshing. Then I went back to Tallahassee. I got to talking with someone and had mentioned that one of the things I had done was write a contract tracking system. She started to enthuse about how the State of Florida was looking for something like this, and was I interested. OK, I listened. She went on about how it was a state position that paid $35,000 to $45,000 a year, but it was great because you got benefits and it was ultra-secure and you could work there 'til you retired and so on and so forth. I just smiled and slowly shook my head.

But when you're in the system, they train you, trying to make you feel that you're worthless all the time, that the state is doing you some kind of favor by deigning to allow you to draw a paycheck from them. And I remembered how every new governor called the state workers lardbricks, how every cost-of-living or negotiated yearly pay raise (usually less than 3%) went down the tubes when it turned out all the state money had gone up the governor's nose.

I thought that was the worst, but you've topped it. If a so-called business associate ever, ever talked or wrote to me like that, well, I'm not even sure how I'd respond.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
comment (none / 0) (#135)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:38:17 PM EST

Microsoft has always been eager to "eat its own dogfood" and try to serve as an example of how to deploy Microsoft solutions. In fact its own IT organization has been one of the drivers of the design of its software (which is not always a positive, since the Microsoft IT organization enjoys unrivaled tech support from the Microsoft development teams, plus all the free software it wants, so it has a bit of a warped perspective on how well Microsoft's software meets the demands of other IT organizations outside Microsoft).

And Microsoft recognizes that getting all of an IT shop's business running over an intranet (and maybe even doing it for them) is an opportunity for growth, that's why it bought Great Plains.

I would dispute the notion that LLCS is the primary business opportunity here. I think just linking the accounting systems on the network is what most companies would pay $$$ for -- this is what Oracle is touting, and what Microsoft has made some progress achieving internally (the occasional $9 million employee theft notwithstanding). If they can get that all working, it will be a great example they can show to other companies.

Finally, I think you are using the term .Net when you really mean web services, not that either term is well-defined. .Net is a platform, you are talking about a potential application that could take advantage of it (but similar things have already been implemented without .Net, although theoretically with more work than would be required under .Net).

- adam

[ Parent ]

I'll reply if you're still reading this thread (none / 0) (#171)
by fruscica on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 09:23:10 AM EST

Adam,

Thanks for your comment. I'll reply if you're still reading this thread.

Frank

[ Parent ]

still here (none / 0) (#172)
by adamba on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 11:48:31 AM EST

I'm just ignoring BerntB's posts.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Agreeing to agree, etc. (none / 0) (#173)
by fruscica on Fri Jan 10, 2003 at 08:49:18 AM EST

Adam,

What's up?

You wrote:

>I think just linking the accounting systems on
>the network is what most companies would pay $$$
>for

Pay for today, that is. Agreed. That is why increasing organizational transparency is at the core of LLCS 1.0, as is made plain in this excerpt from my biz plan:

So the 1.0 LLCS customers who will create the most valuable spillover benefits are the enablers of transparency within and across companies.

Transparency implies modularity, which creates 'sufficient information' for an efficient market to emerge for a particular component or subsystem. (source: Christensen)

Modular companies take shape atop modular, standards-based, internet-worked IT architectures. (source: Clark and Baldwin)

So going forward, Web services-based IT architectures.

Also, you wrote:

>I think you are using the term .Net when you
>really mean web services, not that either term
>is well-defined. .Net is a platform

I wrote (in my original post):

Microsoft can be expected to seek high-growth opportunities that:
  • increase demand for the .NET platform, broadly conceived (.NET-enabled Office, server software, development tools, etc.)
So again, no disconnect. Which is to say: 'XBRL over Great Plains' works for the MSFT variant of LLCS 1.0.

What the LLCS model adds is a treatment of the new scarcities that organizational transparency will induce, and an approach for serving this demand. Of course, Microsoft is hard at work on this research and design challenge:

"I want to grow the information worker business...For the growth we can achieve this decade, about one-third will be from continuing to grow and enhance Office, while two-thirds will come from creating new categories of application value and services to support information work."

Jeff Raikes Microsoft Group Vice-President,
Productivity and Business Services

From Microsoft's standpoint, then, LLCS is just an approach to getting at the desired two-thirds of growth from increased i-worker services.

According to my research, for MSFT this will require, at minimum, the development of a core competency in developing comedy programming for television and the Web. (The Web programming will function as a kind of living corporate newsletter for a for-profit (i.e. fee-based) internship program.)

Pursuing this growth may also require an embrace of open source software. (I know, I know.)

Of course, much depends on how the early market takes shape.

Regards,

Frank

[ Parent ]

kind of lost me there (none / 0) (#174)
by adamba on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 12:23:15 AM EST

with the comment about comedy programming?!? You're saying Microsoft should have people pay them to live their lives inside a Microsoft lab where they beta test these productivity enhancements while they perform "real" jobs, under the watchful eyes of a national TV audience?

Hmmm. Not sure it will play as a comedy. Where's the through line? What's the B story? Is there a third act?

Maybe you should allow the audience to vote interns out each week.

- adam

[ Parent ]

I will explain (on Monday or so) (none / 0) (#177)
by fruscica on Sun Jan 12, 2003 at 12:15:53 PM EST

Adam,

I really shouldn't have mentioned the comedy component so out of context. Too much of an intuitive leap, to be sure.

But I will properly motivate the comedy programming in my follow-up to this reply.

But this follow-up will have to wait until Monday at the earliest.

Best,

Frank

[ Parent ]

Soon, soon (I hope) (none / 0) (#178)
by fruscica on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 11:04:27 PM EST

Swamped right now, but hopefully by the weekend I will be able to follow up. Sorry about the delay.

Frank

[ Parent ]

DRM, ebooks (3.00 / 3) (#63)
by dirtminer on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 10:19:32 AM EST

It seems that all Microsoft's DRM solutions end up getting cracked - whether it is the WMV one (freeme.exe), the XBOX (TEA bug on the firmware) or ebooks (clit.exe). Is there any internal penalty when this happens? Finger pointing or just acceptance? And is this part of why Microsoft is so desperate for Palladium?

I doubt there are penalties (none / 0) (#103)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:16:30 AM EST

Microsoft's review system is explicitly set up so yearly goals are self-contained, that is they can be completely evaluated within the year. So if you write some code and two years later it turns out to be cracked (or has a buffer overflow), you are home free. I suppose someone could be fired if true intentional negligence was shown, but in terms of getting a lower raise or something, that couldn't happen the way it works now.

- adam

[ Parent ]

my favorite part (4.25 / 4) (#83)
by ironfroggy on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:02:14 PM EST

My favorite part of the article is when he mentioned how Microsoft needs to "favor security over ease of use" and "make the system easy ... to administer" in the same sentance. Sounds like an oxy-moron to me, but I love watching Microsoft attempt it anyway.

Also, I think part of the problem is the meaning of security. Sometimes it seems that in Microsoft's mind, "security" means a system doing what they think it should do, with the software they think it should do it with.
-- Question

Microsoft culture (4.60 / 5) (#84)
by cleo on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 03:04:43 PM EST

Your description of the negative aspects of Microsoft's culture is spot on (and enough to make me shudder at the thought of returning to work from vacation on Monday).  I've worked in the Windows division for 2.5 years and have grown weary of the hyperaggression and lack of professional respect.  It's tearing my team apart because the best and brightest are departing for places with a less hostile working environment.  

I believe that the culture could change if enough managers wanted it to happen.  The people working at MS aren't that different from those working at other tech companies.  We've just learned a very different pattern of acceptable behavior than most workplaces would tolerate.  If employees were actualy held accountable on their performance reviews for behaving professionally, within a year there would be substantial cultural improvements.

Don't be so optimistic (4.66 / 3) (#96)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 06:33:30 PM EST

If employees were actualy held accountable on their performance reviews for behaving professionally, within a year there would be substantial cultural improvements.

I rather doubt it. I've been doing an MSc on "International Technology Management". Its a kind of hybrid MBA with a lot of technology stuff added and the management stuff stripped down to make space.

Anyway, one of the courses was on "Company Culture". The main point was that changing company culture is hard, especially in a big organisation. An ingrained culture has massive inertia, so to change it you need to push hard, and keep pushing for a long time.

So in Microsoft: the first requirement is for Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer to recognise this as a major problem, at least as big an issue as Linux or anti-trust. Without that, nothing will happen. They have to talk about this culture change, and they have to do it loudly and often. Then, as you say, the company incentives need to be re-aligned. But before you can get people to act professionally you need to explain to them what constitutes "professional" behaviour in a way that makes them realise that 1) they are not behaving like that and 2) the company will do better if they behave like that and 3) they personally will do better. The last point is the sticker, because Mr Peon is not going to change unless his boss shows that the new behaviour will be rewarded and the old one will not. And the boss won't change unless his boss shows a similar incentive. And so on up the tree. Ultimately the personal management style of Mssrs Gates & Balmer has to change, and that is going to be personally difficult for them to achieve. Personal change always is. Then you've got to wait while the new behaviours trickle down the management tree to get to you, which is likely to take years.

Simply putting "Behaves professionally Y/N" on the performance review form isn't going to cut it.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Changing culture from the ground up (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by cleo on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 03:13:17 AM EST

Yep, I totally agree that changing the cultural course of a large organization is no easy prospect.  I read a really good book to this effect a while back - "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter.  I wouldn't expect new performance review criteria to change the way everyone in the company does things overnight.

I would like to start changing the culture of my team of ~60 people via this method.  On this smaller scale it's much easier for managers to coach their reports on the cultural elements they'd like to change.  I've seen really good leads join the team and completely change their reports' approach to their jobs (for the better) within 6 months.

This wouldn't change the entire company but it's something I can realistically work on from my current position.  As an added benefit, it would make my work life a little saner.  Eventually I hope the change will spread far beyond my group, but as you point out this would take years.

The key to success is getting all of the managers on my team (a group of roughly 10 people) to agree that creating a more respectful work culture is a necessary goal.  This has been an uphill battle because the managers are often the people who thrived best in the in-your-face environment.  However, we've started losing really good people because of purely cultural reasons so I hope that will be seen as reason to take change seriously.


[ Parent ]

My experience (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by StephenThompson on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:41:04 AM EST

I worked in the windows division for several years (till 98).  It was always fairly aggressive and messed up.  It definitely got much worse in the later years, and I finally bailed.  Just couldn't stand it anymore.

It was so ugly I cringe to recall it.  When you say the best and the brightest are departing, umm....that happened a long time ago.

[ Parent ]

Another perspective (4.00 / 1) (#140)
by cooldev on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 07:00:32 PM EST

While the negative aspects of Microsoft's culture are unquestionably true, it's not all bad.

As a relatively quiet developer that hates office politics I haven't been promoted up the management ladder as fast as my brash, arrogant colleagues, but I've been recognized and rewarded appropriately, and probably more so than I would have at most other companies.

The good and bad is that Microsoft is very tolerant of just about everything -- race, religion, sexual preference, disabilities, personality style/quirks -- so long as you're "smart" and "get stuff done".  The problem is that many of the most visible, vocal, and ambitious people are also overaggressive, arrogant, and unprofessional (like politicians) and those flaws are overly tolerated (and even twisted into good attributes, as Adam mentioned) when it comes to hiring and promotions.  

Different teams can vary wildly in this respect, so someone's experience with the Microsoft culture will be different between any two parts of the company.  I would venture that the problems mentioned are much more pronounced in the groups that create the flagship products: Office and Windows.

On a random note, I've personally found a very high correlation between the arrogant assholes and people with BS degrees from Ivy League or other big name schools.  Interestingly, people with their Masters or PhDs -- particularly the ones in Microsoft Research -- are usually a joy to work with, as are people from ordinary colleges and from other countries.

[ Parent ]

Two points: (2.50 / 2) (#95)
by DeadBaby on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 06:16:00 PM EST

1) The only difference between print & e-books is bias. I don't know how often I hear the "but what's wrong with paper" argument. If you accept that e-books are just as good as print books there's very little difference. I've read hundreds of books over the last 2 years, a mix between paper & e-books, and I probably couldn't even tell you which book was on which medium. It makes no difference to me. Lots of younger people who've grown up reading CRT/LCD's for years have no bias towards paper.

2) Linux hasn't stumbled? Please. The Linux desktop is a mess. Releasing a poor quality product that no one uses is a stumble. Major Linux companies have gone out of business. That's not a stumble? Various distro makers are now resorting to begging for money to stay afloat. How exactly isn't that a stumble? Saying Linux hasn't stumbled is pure fantasy -- which makes me suspect of all his other answers.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan

He specifically mentioned Linux on the server (nt) (none / 0) (#124)
by hesk on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 10:38:03 AM EST


--
Sticking to the rules doesn't improve your safety, relying on the rules is
[
Parent ]

Ebooks (none / 0) (#125)
by bugmaster on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 10:43:28 AM EST

The only difference between print & e-books is bias. I don't know how often I hear the "but what's wrong with paper" argument. If you accept that e-books are just as good as print books there's very little difference.
Actually, I have tried ebooks and, so far, they have some major shortcomings:
  • Paper books are portable, ebooks less so. I can read paper books at my desk, in my bed, on the toilet, whatever. They don't run out of power and are always available.
  • Paper books are cheap. I can afford to buy them, give them to my friends to borrow, etc. Ebook readers are expensive.
  • Paper books are universal. Everyone who can read has the ability to read them. Few people have ebook readers, so if I actually do want to let someone borrow an ebook, I usually can't.
  • Paper books have high resolution. Ebooks are just painful to read. This is not so much of an issue with desktop monitors, but portable readers are still a pain.
That said, ebooks can be searched, hyperlinked, annotated, bookmarked, and copy/pasted much easier than paper books, so they have major advantages too. But, so far, I feel as though the disadvantages outweigh them.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Linux != Linux companies (4.50 / 2) (#132)
by 8ctavIan on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:43:44 PM EST

The biggest mistake made is to say that Linux (the operating system/kernel) and all the companies that are making money, trying to make money or didn't make money and died are all "Linux". So I don't see the rationale for saying that Linux has "stumbled". There was a 50% increase in server placements using Linux in 2002 and they are expecting the same numbers for 2003. It's like saying that air travel has stumbled because United has filed for bankruptcy. There are a lot more companies out there engaged in air travel. Linux is a very generic thing and that's one of its strengths.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is *losing* server market share, has lost an anti-trust settlement and a couple of other minor judgements (re: Sun/Java) and will probably lose desktop quota over enforcing licensing requirements. The difference is that when this stuff goes on for Microsoft it weakens their whole world.

How many Linux companies went broke in 2001 and 2002? A lot. Is the Linux world weakened. Not in the least.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

weakening of Linux (none / 0) (#136)
by adamba on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 04:43:07 PM EST

I agree that a few companies going under is not the end of the world for Linux. However I don't think you can deny that the situation is less optimistic than it was in 1999 when Red Hat and VA Linux went public to huge acclaim. At the time it looked like Linux shops could basically make money selling their stock and give away the software. Now the stock is not worth much and they do need a competitive business model, which just makes things a bit harder, but not necessarily insurmountable.

Because if you want issues like the KDE/Gnome split to be resolve, I think you need someone like Red Hat to step in and do it because there is money involved. And unresolved issues like that are hurting Linux on the desktop.

- adam

[ Parent ]

e-books (3.50 / 2) (#101)
by DJBongHit on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 08:23:02 PM EST

I picture something that is the same size and weight as a current bound book, and has 300 pages or whatever, except each "page" is actually a display that can be updated, so the entire contents of the book can be changed. There is something about being able to flip pages in a book that must be preserved.

You know what I think is stopping e-books from being accepted? The fact that you can't take an e-book into the tub and read it while drinking a cold beer. Once they come up with a waterproof reader, then it's on.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

or alternatively... (3.00 / 2) (#109)
by izogi on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 01:07:33 AM EST

...a very inexpensive disposable reader, which I think could be just as likely.


- izogi


[ Parent ]
Uhh... (1.00 / 1) (#121)
by leongold on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 06:47:10 AM EST

You mean like paper ?

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#138)
by izogi on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 05:09:10 PM EST

Ordinary paper can't be dynamically updated.

Cheap or not, a digital reader can still extend on paper (and save some trees at the same time) by storing data digitally and only displaying it on a limited surface area when the reader wants to see it.


- izogi


[ Parent ]
MYSTERIES OF THE SEA! (5.00 / 2) (#120)
by leongold on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 06:32:21 AM EST

Place your PDA or whatever into a ziplock bag, and you'll have created a waterproof reader.

[ Parent ]
SOGGY PROBLEM (none / 0) (#143)
by bigchris on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 10:11:37 PM EST

Yeah, that's right. Paper is waterproof and won't turn into a soggy mess when you accidently drop it into the tub.

---
I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
[ Parent ]
So don't drop it in the tub (none / 0) (#145)
by DJBongHit on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 01:32:49 AM EST

I was thinking more along the lines of electronic equipment and steam not getting along terribly well. A book will get crinkly and ugly after being exposed to steam for extended periods of time, but it will still work.

Also, ruin a book and you're out ten bucks. Ruin an e-book reader and you're out a whole lot more than that (unless you spring for a Best Buy service plan :)

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
my comment (2.33 / 6) (#102)
by anonymous pancake on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 09:00:52 PM EST

Microsoft got where it is because it is just a better company. Compare WindowsXP to X windows or aqua. X windows is a sloppy, hopeless mess. Aqua has only a handful of apps compared to windows and needs a fast, propreitary computer to run. Even after 20 years, nobody has caught up to microsoft in usability.


---
. <---- This is not a period, it is actually a very small drawing of the prophet mohhamed.
usability (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by slur on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 12:24:58 AM EST

Mac OS X Aqua is more usable than Windows XP from my perspective. But as we all know usability is a largely subjective factor. If you're used to the Windows way of doing things you may find it difficult to get used to the Aqua way of doing things. You'd probably find it just as easy to use KDE or Gnome (Two popular Linux GUIs) because they tend to emulate the Windows look and feel, both in window gadget placement and file navigation.

As for your assertion that Microsoft is a "better" company, I think everyone knows that "better" is a very vague and subjective term also. Are they better coders? Better "innovators"? Better marketers? Better people? Better lobbyists? They certainly aren't better at providing security or preventing email-based and document-based viruses.

Having used all the popular windowed desktop environments over the past 25 years (Amiga's Intuition, Windows 3.1, X-Windows, Mac OS 6/7/8/9, Mac OS X...) I believe Apple has done the most to innovate, improve, and simplify the desktop. Since for me "better" means "more elegant" I choose Apple.

|
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[ Parent ]

I mostly agree, mostly... (none / 0) (#151)
by Lord Snott on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 09:10:47 PM EST

You're spot-on. Everything you said was right. For me, "better" means "more elegant", too.
But...

From my subjective point of view, Windows (2k and up) win the useability award (IF you understand the underlying technology). KDE and Gnome blow hard. They bag-out MS for n reasons, then try to mimick the MS style of desktop/interface, but completely mess-up the feel. Anyone who says KDE or Gnome have a Windows feel, haven't used Windows since 3.1.

Mac is better. Apple definitely has the whole interface thing down-pat. Most people who have no understanding of the underlying technology can still use a Mac with ease (I can't use the interface, I find it stifling - I have a three button mouse on my Wintel machine, for Chrissakes!) But where Apple excels in interface design, they suck at everything else. It's only with the introduction of Mac OS X that they finaly have protected memory! An finaly get away from "co-operative multitasking" (Win95 got rid of that mistake). And did Apple programmers do this? Nope, Copeland failed miserably. They had to take a Unix and put their (superior?) interface on it.

I know the MS 2k and XP kernel is based on OS/2, but it has been from the start. The interface is (slowly) catching up. You can learn to do a lot with an awkward but powerful device, however you can't do a lot with an easy to use but weak device, no matter how much you learn.

Thank god Apple had Mach and FreeBSD to lean on, or it might not still be around today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

No NDA? (4.00 / 1) (#142)
by BerntB on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 09:51:12 PM EST

  • This surprised me. I remember reading elsewhere that Microsoft employees has to sign a NDA not to talk for a few years. Is that wrong or gone?
  • No comments on that competing products to Microsoft tends to run badly on any Msoft O/S? ("DOS ain't Done 'til Lotus won't Run!")
  • And a present day question (after going back more than a decade in the last one), what about these new dirty tricks?


One more thing... (5.00 / 1) (#146)
by BerntB on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 02:09:16 AM EST

I'd love to ask a question -- when there is a Microsoft person around who doesn't seem to be under NDA(?) and doesn't speak marketing speak ("innovation" is bolting copies of the competition's products into the monopolist O/S).

Is there any company in the history of mankind that has raped almost all cooperation partner so regularly?! (Not competition -- partners.)

Is "lunch" the internal Msoft slang for CEO:s that start a common development project with Microsoft ? :-)

Another last thing...

I've always wondered about what is up with Microsoft and the computer press?

The integrity in the computer press might not exactly rival NY Times. With large enough advertisement budget, newspapers tend to not give bad reviews. It must have helped that because of the monopoly, very large companies were unvilling not to do what Microsoft wanted (how many hundred percents did IBM's Windows licenses go up?). But still...

Let's take an example of what looks strange.

Word 6 on the Macintosh. It was the worst lemon in Mac history. It was literally faster to run Word 6 in a Windows emulator then to run the "native" version on the same Mac. Then the bugs, etc, etc.

I know of departments that had to throw out all Macs because of Word 6. A graphics guy I know claimed that the sales VP for Microsoft here in Sweden had to go round and apologize at the ad companies. I've never seen so much anger on the net before or after. The columnists in the Macintosh magazines also screamed bloody murder (they had contracts that allowed them to write anything they wanted).

But the first reviews in the Mac magazines where positive...

Now, I have trouble believing that happened. If I had ever done anything much stronger than good coffee I'd believe it was the drugs. It was surreal. The last shreds of my innocence disappeared when that POS got positive reviews.

[ Parent ]

and the answers are (none / 0) (#148)
by adamba on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 11:22:16 AM EST

NDA: You sign an agreement not to release proprietary information or trade secrets, and also a non-compete not to work with competitors for a few years. But beyond that, the company can't stop you from talking about what happened. Heck, I wrote an entire book about working there and haven't heard a peep from the legal department.

Microsoft hampering competing products: Well, *if* this ever happened, which I'm not sure of (after all the FYIFV t-shirts turned out to be a myth), it was a long time ago, and now Microsoft realizes that such rumors hurt the OS more than they help the apps. IMHO of course.

New alleged dirty tricks: Don't know the details. Bad contract or evil Microsoft? Who can say.

Have there ever been companies that treated partners like Microsoft does (however you feel that treatment may be judged)? Yes.

The press: Well, I think the computer press is pretty spineless in general. How many "reviews" are barely-modified press release? I complain about this more in my book actually, starting on page 265 (about halfway down).

- adam

[ Parent ]

Everyone else are wrong! (none / 0) (#149)
by BerntB on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 01:41:14 PM EST

So the Justice department, the whole computer industry and everyone else are wrong -- Microsoft is not particularly more unethical than anyone else? (-: No wonder the NDA is no problem for you! :-)

Must be really bad luck for Microsoft getting that reputation. Especially since Microsoft had a really large advertisement budget and most PC manufacturers had to support them or the cost for Windows would go up so much they lost market share. A very, very large pulpet. Poor Microsoft, so misunderstood.

I'm not certain I buy that.

Could you give a reference to a company that has as bad track record with screwing over partners as Microsoft? (And also has the reputation that if you start a project in common, that company always tries this).

It would have to be another monopoly outfit, since that company would otherwise soon be too hated to work with anyone.

But yes, I do buy that it is no different to just work as a developer at Microsoft. Don't tell me it's not different for a lawyer, though... :-)

[ Parent ]

not much point in arguing this... (none / 0) (#152)
by adamba on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:49:27 AM EST

Microsoft has had deals with so many people in the industry that there is ample ammunition to prove that it is either 100% pure evil or a misunderstood benign force for good.

In the cell phone case, it looks like a typical story: small company in new market talks to Microsoft, signs deal, knows that deal heavily favors Microsoft, signs it anyway because otherwise a competitor would, things go wrong, recriminations and lawsuits fly. Did Microsoft act in good faith? Was the small company naive? Not having been directly involved, it's impossible to say, so why bother since either side could use it to further their case.

But this is how business works. That's why there are contracts. If you don't like it, join a monastery and make artisanal cheese. Obviously Microsoft has many partnerships that have been good for both sides -- every piece of non-Microsoft code in Windows attests to one. But they don't make good press, so nobody talks about them.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Um, no (none / 0) (#154)
by BerntB on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:52:13 AM EST

signs it anyway because otherwise a competitor would
Uhm, no. Microsoft had been trying hard to get deals with Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola et al -- but they wouldn't touch Microsoft. Only a startup would, with the expected end result.

I'm sorry... I just can't swallow that Microsoft is a standard company that happens to get such a bad rep. (Despite a very, very large ad budget -- and having such a grip on all PC manufacturer's cohones that they would probably also do a "favor" and move their ad money around.)

That position sounds more like the classic Microsoft definition of "innovation" as the right to bolt any of the competition's main product into our monopolist O/S. Marketing.

You are right, though, this doesn't go anywhere. I could drag up and study in all my pet peeves (varying standards, etc) and others -- but if you had any interesting answers you couldn't give them because of NDA.

Mine and other's list of peeves is very long so neither of us would have the time anyway. :-)

[ Parent ]

Hmm... you can't answer, really? (none / 0) (#150)
by BerntB on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 07:53:37 PM EST

NDA: You sign an agreement not to release proprietary information or trade secrets, and also a non-compete not to work with competitors for a few years.
...
Microsoft hampering competing products: Well, *if* this ever happened ...

Giving out new information on the subject of making competing products work badly on a Msoft O/S would certainly be proprietary information or trade secrets!

(And you couldn't e.g. discuss the background of APIs kept local to the Microsoft application department so they had an edge, which Msoft has denied...)

So, you can't answer the interesting questions, really. Pity. (I thought that "DOS ain't done 'til Lotus won't run" was well documented?)

[ Parent ]

OK, here is the secret (none / 0) (#153)
by adamba on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:54:17 AM EST

Microsoft has a plan to rule the universe! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Was that better?

On the subject of the Microsoft APIs, what is the issue? Yes there were APIs used to communicate between user-mode parts of NT and the kernel. No they were not for consumption outside the NT group. So? It wasn't like Excel was calling them either. I actually read the pages you linked to and the ones that purported to show some alleged performance issue in fact did not do so at all, they didn't even address that.

As for "DOS ain't done," if you say it is well documented...well, document it!

- adam

[ Parent ]

You missed the point on NDA? (none / 0) (#155)
by BerntB on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:53:20 AM EST

I'm not that well read and I'm not going to start, since the list is very long and (a) below. My opinion is that (even noncriminal) monopolists are bad for the business area they are in.

(a) you don't deny that you can't give out any new information negative for Microsoft that you might have -- because of your NDA.

(b) any company that regularily screws over any cooperation partners would be a paria soon -- unless they were a monopoly. I can give a name of a company that was as hated as Microsoft -- the local telephone company (while a monopoly).

You seem to argue that Microsoft never screwed over any companies with common projects?

[ Parent ]

aarrgghh (none / 0) (#156)
by adamba on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:10:55 PM EST

I can give out all kinds of negative information about Microsoft. Plus, anything I learned after I left is fair game. The problem is, I just don't have much negative information of the type you seem to want. I could make some up if it would make you happy.

Of course Microsoft has screwed over companies working on common projects. So have AOL, Sun, Oracle, IBM, etc. In fact, I would wager that almost every deal those companies have signed with Microsoft has been an attempt to screw Microsoft over.

They're just not very good at it!!

- adam

[ Parent ]

OK, varying standard implementations (none / 0) (#159)
by BerntB on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 04:21:24 PM EST

BTW: You still haven't commented on your position that it is strange that everyone are wrong!? (Despite that the majority of the press not echoing this because they know where the ad money are!)

Can you give an answer that doesn't sound like a conspiracy theory? What I'd say, living in a country with many historic monopolies, is that at least a large minority dislikes many of them. It is natural -- "we're the phone company, we don't care -- we don't have to".

Let us take one specific point on the long list of complaints:
Varying implementations of standards.

The Samba team is still complaining (after every Microsoft release) of varying the implementations and what goes into the protocol.

NFS has been documented since the eighties, I think. The Sun implementation even follows their own standard.

So here you will have a hard time arguing that everyone else is as bad as Microsoft!

I can, from my own experience, what I've read and from people I know, say the same thing regarding Office document formats (rtf, etc) even between different versions of Office. (I'm not even going to think about rfc:s over the years...)

You could argue that all companies with a monopoly in a market varies protocol and document standards to lock in users. Your point would, as far as I know, be correct, since only monopolies have an interest in doing that.

I would answer that all those monopoly companies are hated, because varying those data standards are giving users pain in our daily lives.

And don't get me started on Microsoft arguing security through obscurity; it's too cynical for words. (Mention another company that has done that the last 20 years!)

(Yes. Companies make razors that only work with company blades. But there is no specific benefit in moving blades between razors -- as it is with data in protocols/formats. The only one gaining by non-interoperation there is the monopolist company.)

[ Parent ]

a camel loaded with oats (none / 0) (#162)
by adamba on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:38:04 PM EST

I think Microsoft is certainly at least as ethical as the average company. If everyone disagrees with me, as you claim, then yes, I think everyone is wrong.

I could probably give answers that don't sound like conspiracy theories -- but why?

I could also explain why I disagree with your comment on SMB and NFS, but I'm not going to.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Ah, open protocols did it :-) (none / 0) (#163)
by BerntB on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:16:11 PM EST

If everyone disagrees with me, as you claim, then yes, I think everyone is wrong.
I do believe you have worked at Microsoft! :-)
I could also explain why I disagree with your comment on SMB and NFS, but I'm not going to.
I can't see how a difference could be clearer, but sure... maybe you could.

And certainly you could do the same on everywhere else I mentioned where Microsoft have non-documented file formats and protocols ("embrace, extend and extinguish").

Even variants of open rfc:s like Kerberos!! Or doesn't follow themselves what they had documented.

The fact is that:
(a) only monopolists are interested in varying protocols and file formats to make interoperability worse and
(b) badly cooperationg standards hurt users and programmers trying to get their work done!

So your argument that Microsoft is no more unethical than anyone else (-: which might make a misantrope out of anyone if true :-) fails here.

[ Parent ]

SMB history (none / 0) (#166)
by johnpur on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 11:59:31 AM EST

NFS has been documented since the eighties, I think. The Sun implementation even follows their own standard.

For the record, the SMB protocol has been documented "since the eighties" as well. MS, HP, and SCO submitted the SMB protocol to the OSF and provided reference implementations on Xenix and HP/UX.

Look at the XPG v4 for historical reference.

jrp

[ Parent ]
Less than complete :-) (none / 0) (#168)
by BerntB on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:31:10 PM EST

the SMB protocol has been documented "since the eighties" as well.

That was before Microsoft varied the implementation so much, of course... I do believe the Office document formats have been "published", too... :-)

By the way: Is anything happening with software patent attacks on Samba from Microsoft? And also on allowing the Samba team to read the CIFS specificiation published after the trial -- without signing the NDA making it unusable for free software developers?

Monopolies do vary communication standards to keep competition from easily work with their products, ignoring that it brings pain to users. Don't hate just Microsoft.

[ Parent ]

CIFS and Samba (none / 0) (#169)
by johnpur on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 07:54:14 PM EST

That was before Microsoft varied the implementation so much, of course...

Of course, the primary file sharing protocol in Windows has evolved over the years. However, your point was apparently the initial publication of the standards. BTW, SMB was published simultaneously with Sun's PC/NFS protocol.

By the way: Is anything happening with software patent attacks on Samba from Microsoft?

Check this out: Samba Response

This indicates that the Samba team has no concerns over the sabre rattling Microsoft attempted last spring.

Monopolies do vary communication standards to keep competition from easily work with their products, ignoring that it brings pain to users.

I don't know about the correctness of this statement, but I do know that Microsoft has spent a lot of time and money to allow its OEM partners to create compatible server and client network software. As far as OSS implementations, I guess we have seen how happy they are about this :)

Don't hate just Microsoft.

Life is too short to spend emotions on faceless corporations.

[ Parent ]
Hmm... not relevant, is it? (none / 0) (#170)
by BerntB on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 03:15:52 AM EST

However, your point was apparently the initial publication of the standards

No. (SMB wasn't even from Microsoft in the beginning?)

The background was that the Msoft guy argued that Micrsoft is not less ethical than other companies -- hard to argue when he wouldn't give examples of other companies that almost always rape cooperating companies.

I pointed out that the openness about the network file systems from Sun and (that used by) Microsoft was day and night. He didn't argue against it. (I could have taken some other point on the long list regarding Microsoft, but this was easy and I needed just one.)

You seem to agree with me on the Microsoft point.

I don't know about the correctness of this statement

I brought up the examples of Kerberos and how the Office document standards varied in implementation over the years. There are lots of examples re Microsoft.

Generally, the only advantage in hampering data integration with other's products is lock in. That means monopolists have the most motivation, since there is no advantage in working with the insignificant competition's products.

Those strategies hurt me personally. I do believe enough in game theory to support the competition of things that hurt me -- to lessen the value of those strategies. (The term hate is a simple description of a complex standpoint.)

[ Parent ]

Netscape's Air Supply (none / 0) (#175)
by egoebel on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 12:31:08 AM EST

You didn't really answer your own question Adam.

What makes the Netscape comment so interesting is that MS could cut off their air supply via noncompetitive strategies such pressuring hardware manufacturers to not bundle Navigator while tying Explorer to Windows.

I guess if Continental had managed to force airports to turn away US Airlines' planes or if Lufthansa had intimidated travel agents into not selling their tickets, US Airlines would serve as a valid example.

airlines (none / 0) (#176)
by adamba on Sat Jan 11, 2003 at 10:52:33 AM EST

are a terrible example of supposedly well-behaved companies. Airlines regularly and publicly manipulate their prices to overcharge consumers, run flights at a loss to drive competitors out, monopolize gates at hub airports to prevent competition, and overprice one-way tickets to force people to buy round trips. What goes on in the airline industry makes anything Microsoft did or allegedly did look like snack time at preschool, and the pressures that United faced were much more severe than anything Netscape faced.

As you point out of course Microsoft was convicted of anticompetitive behavior towards Netscape. But I really think people are just acting shocked -- shocked! -- that a company would dare to a) say such yucky things about another company or b) actually try to take revenue from another company.

- adam

[ Parent ]

What the Future Holds for Microsoft | 178 comments (160 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
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