A couple of days ago, I had occasion to go to lunch with some old chums from grade school through high school. One of them, as it happens, married a theoretical mathematician who ended up in investment banking, a VC guy. I took the occasion to pick his brain a bit.
We talked about GNU/Linux being able to survive long-term. He was thinking from a US perspective, so his initial reaction was that MS would surely kill it off, because "they have to". Nobody, he told me, can win against Microsoft, because they have too much money.
Well, that was not pleasant to hear, but I always take seriously all opinions, whether I like them or not, considering carefully as to whether they might be correct.
Actually, I'm especially interested in opposing opinions, because you can learn things your own brain hasn't thought of and probably can't think of. So I asked him if his analysis would be the same if you thought internationally, since we are talking about an internationally written and used product.
Then, his analysis was a bit different. He said, "China is the market of the future now. Whatever China decides to do will determine the market. If China goes Linux, Linux will win." Even against Microsoft, I probed? "Yes," he said. I have no idea if he is right or not, but I certainly know he knows more than I do about such things.
So, I started looking around for some info on China. Red Flag Linux is, apparently, the big one, and some government agencies already use it in China. But here is the important nugget I found. Back in 2000, Compaq was helping Red Flag Linux scale, according to this press release:
"Providing full support for multiple operating systems, including Linux, is key to Compaq's continued development of eBusiness solutions," said Enrico Pesatori, senior vice president and group general manager, Enterprise Solutions and Services Group of Compaq Computer. . . . I know Compaq got swallowed by HP, and I don't know yet how far this work got or if HP is continuing with it. I also note the press release says that Red Flag Linux was supported by "leading local and overseas software vendors and system integrators such as NEU-ALPINE, Oracle, Informix and IBM Software." All I know is, IBM is accused of putting high-end code in the Linux kernel, at around this time or a bit later, and here we have another possible way it could have gotten in, no? It mentions IBM, but it says the 64-bit code was coming from Compaq, not IBM. I don't want to sound breathless or anything, but did I just find what I think I did?
"Compaq is totally committed to the development of Red Flag Linux," said Dr Philip Yu, president, Compaq Greater China. "Compaq's Intel-based ProLiant servers and AlphaServer platforms are capable of introducing the world leading 64-bit computing technology into the brand new Linux environment. With the new Red Flag Linux Verification and Support Programme, Linux users are now in a better position to benefit from NonStop eBusiness solutions."
Could Compaq have done this work without US government approval? If nothing else, they had to know, because the press release let the whole world know the work was going on. So, where does it indicate the code Compaq donated came from? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
SCO's alleged worry about other countries getting this high-end functionality sounds a little odd now, doesn't it? From this article, it appears China already has 64-bit, and they didn't get it from downloading the 2.4 or 2.5 kernel off of kernel.org. China got it from Compaq, a major US company, which couldn't conceivably have been acting as a rogue entity. You don't put out press releases about that. And isn't it too late to block countries overseas from getting this, once China has it? Shutting down Linux in the US wouldn't be sufficient. Does this information not put SCO's charges once again into the FUD bucket? And a shout out to HP. Why didn't you tell us about this project, hmm? Not that I blame anyone for not wanting to end up getting SCO's attention. It must be a bit like being at roll call in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. You probably try to avoid making eye contact or drawing attention to yourself in any way.
I wonder if those trying to restrict GNU/Linux to low-end functionality, just to make a quick UNIX buck, or whatever motivation they may have, have considered the consequences if the whole world has 64-bit GNU/Linux capability but the US can't, thanks to SCO types? Maybe GNU/Linux needs to be declared an essential utility?
And, hey, if you didn't already have this information, IBM, this is for you.