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LinuxWorld San Francisco 2005 - A Report by Groklaw's Douglas Burns
Friday, August 12 2005 @ 08:40 PM EDT

I asked Groklaw's News Picks Editor, Douglas Burns, to go to LinuxWorld and be our eyes and ears there. He has filed his first report, and I hope those of you who wonder if a patent commons is useful or who don't see the point of other legal strategies friends of FOSS have been coming up with to try to deal with the SCO's and Microsofts of this world will note that he reports from attending Daniel Egger's speech that Microsoft has apparently been telling people that they have patents being infringed by the LAMP stack, Wine and Samba. I've heard rumors they were doing this too, for some time, from other sources, but I have yet to hear what specific patents they were hinting about. Egger comments it might be all a bluff, a sophisticated form of FUD. If any of you are at companies that have been approached that way and know what patents they are allegedly hinting about, I'd surely like to know about it.

To those who say, instead of a patents commons, just publish, because the US is a first-to-publish, not first-to-file country, please note there is a patent "reform" bill working its way through Congress as we speak that intends to reverse that. And to other gainsayers, I would suggest you consider this:

  • Are you a lawyer?
  • Do you have all the facts?
  • Have you considered that there is strength in numbers? No individual FOSS programmer or even vendor can negotiate a patent cross-license. But if there is a place where everyone puts their patents, then you have something to talk to aggressors about.

Sometimes folks are negative because they feel something isn't a perfect solution, and they argue in effect that there's no use in a slingshot when your enemy is coming at you with a sword. But when you are in a fight for your life, you use what you have, and as you may remember, it worked for David against Goliath, after everyone told him he was nuts to even try.

Speaking of FUD, I have a copy of the email Microsoft sent out to journalists inviting them to lunch.

Here's a snip:

Why spend 10 bucks on a burger at Moscone when you can have a slice on Microsoft? Come join the Microsoft Embedded group at Moscone Pizza (across the street from the Moscone Center) on Tuesday, August 9 from 1pm - 4pm for lunch and discussion on the Windows Embedded operating systems. Product managers Mike Hall and Dan Javnozon will be available to provide demos of Windows Embedded developer tools and answer questions about Microsoft's strengths in the embedded space.

For instance, did you know... .

Microsoft embraces shared source, and makes more than 2.5 million lines of source code broadly available to customers, partners, developers, governments, academicians and other interested individuals. In fact, more than 275,000 developers have downloaded Windows CE Shared Source

Microsoft offers a shared success model that translates to low up-front investments for device makers, in addition to faster time-to-market. The Windowsembedded motto? "We don't make money until you do."

Windows Embedded designs, on average, get to market 43% faster, on average, than embedded Linux designs - 14.3 months with embedded Linux vs.. 8.1 months with embedded Windows; 14.2 engineers with embedded Linux vs.. 7.9 engineers with embedded Windows (Embedded Market Forecasters, November 2003)

Windows Embedded designs, on average, cost 75% less to bring to market than embedded Linux designs. (Embedded Market Forecasters, November 2003)

I'll be in touch to gauge your interest in setting up a one-on-one briefing with Mike or Dan during the lunch.

A little nauseating, don't you think (love the carrot -- a one-on-one -- which is hard for journalists to turn down), to set up camp across the street and trash talk Linux at LinuxWorld?

Burns also mentions that the Microsoft Linux Lab session was well attended. I believe that falls into the category of keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. If I had been there, I'd have attended that session too, even though I would prefer that Microsoft never be given a platform at any FOSS conference, personally. Shared source is not Open Source even, and it for sure isn't Free Software, and don't ever kid yourself about it. It's Brand X, and there is no reason to settle for so little.

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

LinuxWorld San Francisco 2005 Aug 8-11
~ by Douglas Burns

You may have noticed that the News Picks section of Groklaw has not been updated much this week. I have been at LinuxWorld all week. I had a great time, met a lot of very interesting people from around the world, and learned some interesting things about Linux and the open source community. The only complaint I have was that WiFi at the show was very slow and localized, leading to a lack of posting.

I attended five keynotes, two tutorials, eight conferences, and two birds-of-a-feather sessions. I visited scores of booths and talked with hundreds of people. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was totally exhausted each day. :)

There was an interesting keynote by Mark Webbink, Deputy General Counsel at Red Hat, and a conference session by Daniel Egger, Founder and Chairman of OSRM, that talked about patents and related legal issues. Most Groklaw readers would have been very familiar with the arguments.

Webbink talked about how patents are no longer being used for innovation, but instead are used as ammunition for companies to maintain monopoly. He cited Microsoft's recent attempt to patent the insertion and removal of white space in documents as two different patents and their twelve current and two pending patents on mouse cursor positioning.

He strongly praised the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) and MySQL for their efforts to defeat the Computer-Implemented Innovations (CII) Directive in Europe. Sun's and Red Hat's efforts in its defeat were also mentioned. The power of the pharmaceutical industry in the current debate on patent reform in the US was talked about. It seems that the industry has succeeded in having the second comment period stricken from the current bill. He encouraged us all to get involved to help restore it.

Egger talked about the legal landscape of open source. It was mainly from the point of view of legal risk. He said "there is a risk, but there is not a technical risk." He said more than once that "it's not that bad" and "the risk is worth it." He talked about the OSRM business model and how he is developing the insurance offerings OSRM provides to companies. He presented his insurance offerings as just another type of business insurance, like auto insurance.

He talked about people sharing with him that Microsoft is saying to its customers that they "have patents on some parts of the LAMP stack, Wine, and Samba." He also said "Microsoft has been very careful to not show the patents and thus they are probably bluffing." This will be an interesting area to keep ours eyes on.

Microsoft presented a very interesting session on their Linux/Open Source Lab. It was by far the best attended session I saw. It was standing room only. Bill Hilf, Lead Program Manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy organization, gave the presentation.

The Lab is running almost every Linux and BSD distribution (some UNIX's and Windows too) and a wide variety of open source software. He talked about the building of the lab in arguably the most Microsoft-centric organization in the world. He was given a large room and a strand of fiber to the campus network pushed through the wall to start with. Because there was only a limited understanding about Linux networking within Microsoft, the lab was left mostly to itself to figure out how to interface to the campus network and to navigate the corporate proxy/firewall.

Hilf talked about the educational work his team is doing within Microsoft. He and his team visit each of the product groups to help them understand how Linux and OSS work and are developed. He talked about the extensive collection of Virtual PC disk images that the lab provides, which are loaded with Linux and OSS that can be downloaded for testing and use.

One of the main purposes of the lab is the testing of interoperability. He talked about how the lab built a web front end to Samba Torture (smbtorture) so product teams within Microsoft could use it for testing. He mentioned finding a bug and submitting a fix that was accepted. He also talked about providing a fix to GAIM to enable it to work with MSN via their HTTP proxy.

He also mentioned their Windows products and how they are improving interoperability and support through the adoption of standards. It did look somewhat like things might get better for shops where Linux and Windows must coexist, but I have heard this story before. A free (as in beer) copy of Virtual server 2005 and a 180-Day limited use version of Windows Server 2003 were handed out to all in attendance. Very few people turned the offer down.

There was no mention about changing the rhetoric and/or FUD coming out of Microsoft. While Bill Hilf and his team seem to have some respect for open source and the community, I did not see anything that indicated Microsoft is changing its anti-Linux views.

Microsoft did not have a booth on the main floor. They had a competing event across the street, for the media, at a pizza restaurant on Tuesday, August 9 from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM for lunch and discussion on the Windows Embedded operating systems. I did not go; I had better things to do.

I attended several sessions that talked about Xen and virtualization. The differences between VMware and Xen were also discussed. While most of the information was very technical, two points stood out. First, there is a large effort by many of the main commercial interests in the open source community to standardize on a core set functionality and interfaces. A lot of discussion was about how to bring virtualization support into the main kernel. Second, while not all management software is fully developed, a large number of people see it as the future of enterprise server management. Many people see virtualization as a good way to increase uptime of servers (software) and to reduce the number of servers (hardware) needed.

One of the cool things you can do with virtualization is to move a running server to a different hardware system with little or no noticeable down time. This will be very helpful for systems that must run 24/7. The other great thing about virtualization is that server provisioning only takes a few minutes. If you need a server for testing or some new functionality just start another instance.

One of the interesting things to me will be to watch how virtualization will affect software licensing. The development of multi-core CPU's is putting a lot of pressure on software companies to relax licensing and I predict that virtualization will increase that pressure. If they do not respond in a favorable way, I also predict that an ever increasing number of people will move to OSS to get away from per server licensing silliness.

I enjoyed the birds-of-a-feather session on Windows to Linux Migration. It was well attended and it seemed we all had a good time. One of the main threads of discussion was about whether the migration to Linux on the desktop should be fat clients or server centric. There were those with the big enterprise view who did not see fat clients as the way to go. They mainly saw this as a ROI issue. Others saw the Linux fat client as needing to be on par with MS Windows for migration to happen. In the end we mostly agree that both ways were important if the desktop was going to migrate to Linux.

Two announcements stood out that are worth mentioning. The first was from the Debian Common Core (DCC) Alliance. The members of the alliance are creating a new distribution/standard (repository) of Debian, to be named DCC 3.0. The Alliance wants Debian to be seen as an enterprise distribution and not just for hackers. They made the argument that Debian should be seen as the number two most popular distribution. They plan to upgrade a subset of Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (aka sarge) it to be LSB 3.0 compliant.

The other announcement was from Novell about SUSE Linux. Novell has started a new project, called openSUSE, to help improve SUSE Linux 10.0 with greater community involvement. As a long time user of SUSE Linux I think this is a great idea. Greater transparency of the development process will not only help Linux in general, but will also help Novell to become more fully a part of the community.

It was very interesting to see the mix of people at the show. While there were a lot of suits, there were also a good number of average folks, and a noticeable number of traditional geek types. I am not sure about the numbers, but it seemed well attended. Everyone looked like they were having a good time. I encourage you to consider going to at least one of the LinuxWorld's shows sometime, if for no other reason than to see how far Linux has come. You will be impressed. I was.


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