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To read comments to this article, go here
DeFUDding LinuxInsider's Latest on TCO
Saturday, July 02 2005 @ 04:00 PM EDT

I think LinuxInsider has been misnamed. Clearly they hate Linux enough that they scour the world looking for anti-Linux material. Consequently, I think we should come up with a new name for them. My offering is LinuxBasher. That is at least accurate. Or how about Linux"Insider"? If you can come up with something more elegant, go ahead.

Today's Exhibit A is a masterpiece of FUD, titled: "Open Source: High Costs Mean Low Uptake for Linux." It's a reprint from China Daily.

Oooh. Sounds bad, no? But let's read the article and examine what it really says, and what it doesn't.

First, it's talking only about China, and there are some local factors there that factor in. Also, the same research firm found:

  • Linux TCO is lower than Windows on web servers.
  • TCO is the same on network servers.
  • Linux is projected to grow in China by 35% this year, "creating a big opportunity for the country's software industry."

All of that is in the same research report. Why isn't any of that headline-worthy in an entity calling itself LinuxInsider? Where does the choice of the headline they chose come from, then, if not anti-Linux bias?

The TCO is higher currently for Linux than for Windows, because "unlike Western countries, the cost of buying operating systems accounts for a very small portion of the total costs in China, at only 8.3 percent." I believe you can figure out what that means for yourself. The word starts with a "P", if you are the BSA. So the headline could be:

"TCO Higher for Windows Than for Linux Even When Comparing Linux with Pirated Windows".

Doesn't sound so bad for Linux now, does it? It's just as accurate as the other, meaning it isn't, because it doesn't tell all the story but just cherry picks what is pro-Linux, just like Linux"Insider" picks only what is anti-Linux.

Anyway, the only person I know who thinks the most important thing about FOSS is "free as in beer" is Jonathan Schwartz, and you *know* when it comes to Linux and "free as in freedom," he doesn't have a clue. Studies I've seen indicate that what people care about the most is security and not being stuck with Microsoft. Some folks don't trust them. Go figure. What I care about most is freedom, meaning I can do whatever I want with the code, that I "own" the software if it is GPL code, in the sense that no one can tell me what I can and can't do with it on my own computer. It's the difference between owning your own home and just renting.

That reminds me. I'm sure I'll be getting apologies from everyone who said I was mistaken when I said Sun was not a friend of Linux a couple of years ago. Was I "biased"? Or was I just right? I have heard from a lot of readers on this point, actually, which I appreciate. Same with the recent big win for IBM against SCO on SCO's attempt to amend the complaint to add claims about Project Monterey and AIX on Power. I called that one too. Was I "biased" when I did so? Prejudiced against SCO? Or was I just right? In both cases, I called it like it was. Seeing something clearly and having solid, fact-based reasons for your opinion isn't prejudice, despite SCO's antiGroklaw FUD.

The point of the article is that there is a worry uptake could slow down if the universities in China don't start teaching Linux. It seems they don't, so it is harder there than in the US or Europe or elsewhere to find qualified engineers. By all means, they should teach Linux.

Here are some more points I see in the article:

1. The higher TCO is mainly from a lack of applications available for Linux, they claim, so users have to pay engineers to write them for them. I can't imagine what those might be, because the article doesn't say, but it may be specialized apps or it could be lack of awareness of what is available. That is a valid issue, the lack of specialty apps, which is why I want to do a Knoppix distro for lawyers. We're setting up a Wiki for that in due time. Lots going on behind the scenes, trying to get it off the ground. By the way, there is a nice article on using Knoppix and Mandriva Move in an article, "Scaredy Cats' Introduction to Linux," written by a Windows using guy who gave it a try and liked it and was nice enough to write down carefully everything he did.

The point is this: because of GNU/Linux licenses, you can write whatever you want, and once it's written, that is the end of the expense for you. It's a one-time expense, and then you are free forever from the upgrade cycle and the license hustle proprietary software likes to keep running on you. Well, it's more like you are running, like a gerbil on a pet wheel, because you never actually get anywhere.

If you wish to keep your code in-house and secret, you can, as long as you don't distribute it merged with any GPL code you might have used. But if you are smart, you can donate your code back to the common pool of GPL code, if you wish, so the community can tweak it and extend it for you, and that is how development rapidly solves problems in FOSS. One should never underestimate the benefit the GPL provides of ensuring that code, once written by anyone, is written for everyone, so if one person writes speciality code and releases it under the GPL, no one else ever has to write it again, unlike in the proprietary world where you have many programmers imprisoned in secret vaults all over the place reinventing the wheel over and over again, because they aren't allowed to share knowledge.

2. Windows is cheaper on mail servers and file/print servers, they say. They claim that the TCO is 41.3 percent higher on application and database servers. *Database* servers? Puh-lease. This can only be ignorance. Ignorance is a fixable problem.

3. Another reason costs in China are higher, they say, is because users are not yet as familiar with Linux as with Windows, which is also a fixable problem in short order, and so for now they have to hire support services to keep their Linux systems running "stably". That too is a one-time cost. Once you learn, you have it solved. They have no blue screen of death issues in Windows? No need for support? No issues with viruses and spyware and malware of various kinds in Windows? No costs associated with having to buy firewalls and antivirus and antispyware applications? They did figure that in, didn't they? No? And no matter what you do, do you ever get those problems permanently solved? There is an article on security issues in Linux and Windows, showing that Linux is by far superior. Of course you can't find it on Linux"Insider". But you can find it on OSDir.com's Spoolfeed. It has this:

Recent U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) vulnerability metrics reported 250 episodes for Microsoft Windows, 39 of these having a severity rating of 40 or greater. With Red Hat Linux there were only 46 episodes, of which only with only 3 scored over 40. There are thousands of reports that compare the two operating systems but reports like this by an independent government body, on the relative number of critical flaws between them, should be given greatest consideration.

No one in China has spread the word that there is free support on the internet for GNU/Linux? Maybe the Internet scares them. It could explain why there is such a low level of skills in GNU/Linux systems there. But on the point of support, I suggest you read Brian Proffitt's report on Linux Today, Microsoft Support? Ha! Better Use Linux Instead , on his experience trying to fix a Windows box and a Linux box. They both went out on him at the same time. It's instructive.

4. The results reported come from one analyst house in all of China, CCW Research. I haven't had time to check yet, but let's look for ties to you know who. They are certainly on message, on Microsoft's "Get the Facts" message. Excuse my paranoia, but I just read Joe Barr's latest on Microsoft paying journalists after the fact to use their FUD on their website, "The facts behind the 'Get the Facts' ad campaign". It seems any journalist or researcher can cash in by writing something Microsoft might wish to display on its web site. Pay for journalism being what it is, that is quite a temptation, I would imagine. Here's what Barr found out:

Not long ago, a story and subsequent discussion on Slashdot revealed that one of the latest additions to the GtF -- a biased "study" which supposedly shows disinterest in Linux in the enterprise -- was being taken at face value, exactly as Microsoft intended it to be. Never mind that study's author had twisted the facts and inserted his pro-Redmond bias at every opportunity, as was revealed in a story right here on NewsForge several weeks earlier. The study -- which in fact shows Linux is continuing to penetrate deeper into the heart of Microsoft turf -- was cited on Slashdot as evidence that the GtF campaign was working, and that Linux was losing.

What I didn't know at the time that story was written was that the Info-Tech report was paid for by Microsoft -- just not up front, as in the "funded" reports Microsoft has used before. . . . They paid for it after the fact.

How? I queried Microsoft about that very thing, via their public relations people at Waggener Edstrom. Spokesperson Ted Roduner told me:

Microsoft paid Infotech their standard reprint fee to post their study to the "Get the Facts" site. To be clear, Microsoft did not participate in the creation of the Infotech study and only contacted the firm after the report was made public.

Earlier I had learned that the payment was an "industry standard" reprint fee. But like most Microsoft "industry standards," it was secret, and Microsoft won't reveal it, referring me to Info-Tech for the answer.

Repeated queries to Info-Tech as to the amount of money they earned by having the "study" included in the GtF campaign have gone unanswered. The same firm that originally contacted us about the report, and offered to make its author available for an interview, and which was quick to point out that the report had not been funded by Microsoft, had no comment whatsoever on the amount.

If you haven't noticed, Microsoft has locked in on the erroneous conclusion that Linux has peaked and is now receding in the marketplace. The company will be beating the drums about this for as long as they can.

Remember the hilarious CapGemini "independent" research report it turned out Microsoft paid for, that Newham, a borough of London, relied on to decide they'd go with Windows instead of Linux, based on that study's conclusion that Windows was cheaper than open source and more secure? When Newham made the announcement and said that, the room full of journalists spontaneously burst out laughing. If you want to read any of CCW's reports, you have to pay $2,000 and up, but that is where it is, if you are so inclined. They are based in Beijing, but I see a Hong Kong number listed too. On their About Us page, they say they do their analysis "from perspectives of manufacturer, service provider, investor, government."

5. They don't mention in the article that the Chinese government has already decided to support Linux uptake. No doubt Chinese businesses will be interested in that. I believe it will have an impact on continued uptake in China. Don't you? Remember the story last November about the government scolding Beijing for buying Microsoft?

The Beijing municipal government has come under fire for damaging China's nascent software industry by giving United States software giant Microsoft the lion's share of a large software purchase order.

Unsuccessful domestic competitors and some central government officials say the city failed to respect China's law on government procurement, which stipulates that when a local product is available it should receive preference over foreign products.

According to the official Beijing Times, Microsoft last week won a 29.95 million yuan (HK$28.14 million) contract which licenses the Beijing municipal government to use all of its software products for three years.

For Microsoft, it is the second major China procurement victory in less than a month. It concluded an office software agreement with the Tianjin municipal government at the end of October.

Li Wuqiang, vice-director of new and high technology development in the Ministry of Science and Technology, accused some local governments of ignoring the law's buy-Chinese-whenever-possible stipulation. Saying that he was expressing a personal view, Li strongly urged the authorities to "check the unhealthy tendency" of local governments to buy large amounts of foreign software.

Not only were they flouting the law, he argued, they were also hurting the Chinese software industry.

This Linux"Insider" article is silly FUD. No one sensible or clued in will believe such nonsense. And no one will believe that Linux"Insider" is anything but FUDding. More proof: Here's their list of stories for today:

High Costs Mean Low Uptake for Linux
Red Hat Gets Mixed Financial Review
PalmSource Linux Phone Promised for Next Year
Linux Gets Black Eye in Chinese Report
Judge Won't Throw Out SCO Slander Lawsuit
Software Knight Kapor Takes Up New Quest
Microsoft Swats at Open Source in Latin America
IBM Offers Middleware Support for Solaris, Renews Java Pact
Open Source and the Legend of Linksys
Sun Bolsters Java With $387 Million Acquisition

The article "Linux Gets Black Eye in China" is, believe it or not, the exact same info from the same research group saying the same thing, but this time they highlight the 41.3% higher TCO on applications and database servers. They not only did not highlight the figures from the same study that showed Linux cheaper on network servers, they publish two stories, one from China Daily and one from UPI, saying the exact same thing. No headline on IBM's huge win in the courts against SCO, but they do mention Novell not winning a dismissal. Natch.

They probably don't even read this junk before they publish it. It looks like they just grab any headline that sounds negative. You shouldn't read this junk either. When we read it and send them emails complaining or correcting them, they probably like it. They probably collect it, and show their positive numbers to their advertisers. No, I think the best strategy is just to correct it once, as I have just done, and then ignore them utterly.

The legend of Linksys article, by the way, is based on "facts" from a very old Dan Lyons' FUD piece in Forbes on the FSF. And as for their Red Hat headline, everyone else has headlines that read "Red Hat Revenue Surges 46%." It's all about what you *want* to say.

They do seriously need to change their name. Whatever they do, it's obvious that they publish all the negativity they can on Linux, so whatever they call themselves, we know now who they really are. And who they are not. They are *not* Linux Insiders.

They need to fix their page too. If you go to the page url I was sent by a reader, there is a message saying the article doesn't exist:

"We're sorry...

The requested document: /story/spQHdeHBhs9iyX/ is no longer archived or does not exist. You may wish to use the search box below to locate articles on a particular topic.

The article is right there, though. And it's the right URL. Maybe they are using Windows database servers?

Just horsing around. I don't know what they are using, but whatever their problem is, they need to fix it.

My all-time favorite headline on TCO studies is this one:

"If Microsoft's Cheaper Than Linux, The Earth's Flat."

Now that's a headline. But the truth is, even if it did cost more, I'd pay more for it, gladly. But of course you can lower your costs by switching to Linux, and that shows up in studies that look at more than just the first month or so after you switch. Here's one study that did that, looking at a 3-year time frame, just to clear our palates:

"Companies with at least 2,000 employees can reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO) by as much as 26 percent over three years by using Linux servers over Windows, and 12 percent on open-source office applications over Office products from Microsoft Corp., said Soreon, an IT researcher who focuses exclusively on European markets."

The savings come from reduced operating costs and because you've made a clean getaway from license fees, including, I might add, the costs of tracking them and monitoring them and BSA visits, etc. Even Gartner has told the world, "You'd be stupid not to use open source as part of your application management strategy." Duh. Get the facts. That's my advice. By that I mean, look beyond the spun headlines and the slanted FUD. And think about where you get your Linux news.


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