Strategy (was Re: Improving copyright)

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at
Fri May 14 19:57:00 UTC 2004

Hash: SHA1

On 14 May 2004 at 20:27, Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> > Linux has had this problem twenty times over in trying to behave
> > like all the different Unices out there *at* *the* *same* *time*.
> > Following this logic, Linus should have dumped the idea of Linux and
> > gone with forking Plan 9 instead - which while very appealing on
> > technical grounds, it ignores how much worth legacy compatibility is
> > worth to people.
> GNU/Linux almost complies to an international standard called
> POSIX. Why would you want to throw away that standard and implement
> some non-standard, proprietary API which changes every few years?
> Don't you like open standards?

That was actually my point - legacy standards are worth a lot to 
people. The Windows API is also pretty ancient & very stable, there's 
a lot of Windows 2.x and 3.x stuff in there still plus smatterings 
from OS/2. Of course Windows NT also provides a POSIX subsystem which 
was wonderful back in the day.

> > > I don't think that running windows binaries is going to be an
> > > issue in less than one decade, probably 3 to 5 years.
> > 
> > Precisely why Microsoft are going down the managed code route.
> > They're going to try and get all new development over to that new
> > proprietary API with proprietary tools & programming languages. By
> > the time Linux is fully up to par, all the latest apps will be
> > incompatible again.
> Linux is up to par with what? Do you mean wine instead of Linux?

I meant it in two ways - Linux in features terms and Wine in Win32 
compatibility terms. Not cloning Windows makes the job of keeping up 
much tougher.

> > Are we talking about the same system here? I can run my Win95 and
> > often my DOS binaries unmodified on the latest Windows. A Linux
> > binary from 1996 stands *zero* *chance* of running unmodified on the
> > latest Linux.
> I know from other people that most games written for win 9x work
> poorly or not at all on XP. Even microsoft can't make XP fully
> compatible with 9x, and we should be able to do so without specs,
> source code and knowledge of the internals?  I don't think so.

Almost every *application* for DOS runs fine on NT. Games less so I 
agree, but then Microsoft's WOW team set a target of being able to 
play DOS Doom in the subsystem and then it'd be considered done. 
Business apps were their primary concern and these run very well.

The guys at ReactOS know most about the difficulty of cloning Windows 
so I'll leave it to their interviews to comment. However the DDK 
gives a surprising amount of information.

> > When you say "It's making sure you're always behind the first guy" I
> > think you're ignoring how non-techies value computers. Non-techies
> > want something they can buy some peripheral or application for with
> > reasonable assurance it'll work - Linux doesn't and never will do
> > this - it has more of the market now than MacOS X yet its peripheral
> > support is far less. That's because Linux is good for techies (who
> > are able to maintain their own kernel modules) and servers (which
> > have a very limited set of hardware configurations).
> Linux will never do that? And how do you know? Can you look into the
> future?

There are some things Linux is naturally strong at. There are other 
things it is naturally weak at. If you balance the effort required to 
turn a weakness into a strength against the rewards for investing the 
effort then yes, you can see into the future.

I can't see Linux ever penetrating more than 2% of the home market 
period. I can see it making maybe 25% of office desktops which are 
basically glorified typewriters. I can see it gaining 75% of servers 
though once the giant lock is expunged from FreeBSD it'll be 
unstoppable for servers. We'll see if I'm right or wrong in five 
years time but go look at RedHat's recent marketing strategy if you 
want to see corroboration.

One arena I can't guess is embedded devices. Either WinCE or Symbian 
will grow or Linux will shrink. Very hard to call right now.

> Which resources? FSF doesn't have any resources for this at all. And I
> think the FSF had created enough serious change and is still doing so
> - or do you want to say the FSF didn't create a change the last 20
> years? Do you want to say that the increasing number of GNU/Linux
> users isn't a change?

The self-appointed leaders of the free software movement could begin 
by publicly encouraging ReactOS and its ilk instead of decrying it as 
encouraging further lock-in into MS's evil grip (complete nonsense, 
but who am I to disagree with RMS?). That alone sadly enough would 
cause developer resources to flock to cloning Windows.

Regarding how much change the FSF has caused, well yes they have been 
successful in a way the more free BSD culture never was. I don't 
think they themselves know why that was but I do notice that they 
think it's because their worldview is the right one and therefore 
they have been given some divine mandate. I among many others find 
that attitude disturbing and worry where it's going. For sure, their 
actions don't seem to be those which most proactively advance the 
causes they profess to believe in.

> And about the patenting stuff, I don't think there will be software
> patents in Europe.

Our best and only chance was via the parliament because it's 
something we can influence. The council of ministers is effectively 
closed to our voice and there's little we can do about it (that's why 
the old left in Britain disliked the EU, it's fundamentally anti-
democratic). I personally am resting easy until the directive returns 
to the EP when I'll either campaign for a yes or no vote depending on 
whether it's good or not.

However my comments were referring to the globe. Microsoft is quietly 
patenting key parts of Linux and if it ever needed to, it could sue 
everyone using Linux for patent breach though not in the EU if the 
parliament amended directive were passed. Bye bye Linux if that 


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