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To read comments to this article, go here
An Open Letter to Microsoft: Don't Bother
Friday, August 22 2003 @ 11:58 AM EDT

Dee-Ann LeBlanc reports that Microsoft is saying they will fight Linux with "rational truth". I take it they wish to distance themselves from the SCO fiasco. Well, who wouldn't want that now? But, as she points out, MS funded them with millions, and we remember. And they still want to fight.

MS evidently still has not learned the bigger lesson from the SCO soap opera, which is that fighting GNU/Linux is a losing proposition. Here's why. People all over the world love the software. And they don't love you, Microsoft, so barring martial law and Bill Gates or his best friend as Emperor, you can't kill it or taint it or coopt it or buy it or give your own products away or sell them for less or any other trick that worked for you in the past. Stumped? Maybe you are thinking patents. Don't bother.

What you think is your biggest gun, and it is, is just another work-around issue to GNU/Linux coders. If you come up with one, they'll rip it out and write something else. Then you'll pull out another. Same solution. Speaking for myself, I'd even do without certain functionality if necessary. I'm not crazy about that .NET concept anyhow. As for Palladium and "trusted computing", well, thanks but no thanks. I prefer to control my own computer. You can forget your forced security updates too.

Meanwhile, while you are attacking Linux, your name is mud and more mud. Don't care? You will when the anger against you leads to an overhaul of the IP laws. I do predict that if this nonsense keeps up, because the anger ordinary mortals like me, who ordinarily don't get involved in anything, are feeling is so huge they are willing to do whatever is in their hands to ethically and legally do. That's the difference between us, that last part. You might try adding "ethical and legal" to "rational truth" and see how it works for you.

That isn't even going into the likelihood that an IBM will pull out some of its patents to protect Linux if you attack with your patent portfolio. You know, Bill, there isn't a company in the world that isn't violating somebody's IP. You know why? Because software code is math. Complicated math, but math just the same. There are only so many ways to say 1 + 1 = 2. I know you know this.

One of these sweet days, enough people will finallly understand this, and they will say to each other, "Patents aren't a good fit with software. Why did we let Microsoft and other large software companies land grab like this? The only result is a restriction on innovation by the rest of us." You know how much you believe in innovation, huh? That'll be a PR challenge you can't win. And that'll be the end of the patent hussle.

Law is based on what people think is fair and appropriate. In a democracy, at least, that is the idea. And when you get so many people so mad, it's trivial to predict the result to you if you attack the GNU/Linux community in your typical smarmy way.

One last thing: it's too late. You waited too long, just like you missed the internet and never caught up as a result. If you had attacked GNU/Linux a couple of years ago, you might have won. But it's too late now that Unilever, and IBM, and Merrill Lynch, and the city of Munich and the government of China have "gone Linux", not to mention that anti-trust spotlight shining on your every move. All you can do now is offer a better product, behave yourself so people won't hate you so much, actually innovate, and try to win fair and square. What a concept.

And Bill, one last thing. You know what else we're getting sick of? Corporations making money or trying to gain a competitive advantage from lawsuits. Consumers take a look and realize: what does this do for me as a consumer? Jack up prices to pay for the attorneys. That's it. These lawsuits you proprietary folk think of as normal business are a disgrace and show us all that companies that do this aren't thinking about their customers one bit. Here's one customer telling you: I won't buy from a company that acts this way, given free will. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

You know one of the many things that we love about GNU/Linux? They just keep coding and innovating and acting decently and they don't sue each other. I don't see Red Hat suing Mandrake. Does that mean problems never crop up? No. But they tend to get worked out without going to court, because the entire emphasis in the community is on getting the job done while retaining integrity as a company and as individuals. The worst that normally happens is a flame war. You're welcome to try that.

Oh, I forgot. You already do that, only you have to pay people to post on Slashdot, pretending they aren't employees, or at least that's the impression we get. Still not quite on the same page, are we? Well, work on it, or go out of business. Those are your choices. No. Really.

Speaking of rational truth, here's its evil stepsister, the claim by McBride that their code adds up to more than a million lines of code:

"Earlier statements by McBride indicate that SCO code didn't begin showing up in Linux until the 2.4 version. According to David Wheeler's analysis of the total lines of code in Linux, the kernel grew from 1,526,722 lines in version 2.2 to 2,437,470 lines of code by release 2.4.2.

"If McBride's latest unsubstantiated claim is to be believed, the Linux kernel developers didn't actually contribute any new lines of code to the 2.4 release. It all would have had to come from SCO."



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