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Linux Business

Ransom Love's Answers About UnitedLinux 482

We posted your questions for Ransom Love, Caldera's CEO, on June 10. Here are his answers, which ought to clear up a few things about what UnitedLinux is doing, along with some discussion of Linux advances and how to (hopefully) make money selling Linux services and support. This is one of the best "CEO interviews" we've ever posted, with lots of straight answers and hardly any buzzwords or marketspeak. Lots of good insight about the "business of Linux" here.

1) LSB
by Anonymous Coward

From the description of UnitedLinux it seems to me that it is simply a commercialized LSB. How is what you are offering different from the LSB project?

Ransom:

LSB is a specification and does not describe a complete distribution. UnitedLinux is combining the efforts of four major Linux providers around the world to create a common, best of breed server implementation (full Linux Server distribution). It will be a full implementation of the LSB standard, but it will go beyond and include components not currently defined in LSB.

LSB does not attempt to solve the business model around Linux. UnitedLinux is not only providing packaged bits and bytes of a distribution, but also giving developers a global infrastructure of support in local languages and channels to sell their products on a global basis. UnitedLinux solves nearly all of the impediments facing the commercialization of Linux, such as market fragmentation, the availability of applications (by simplifying certification of hardware and software solutions), and a valid business model for Linux (Supportable business quality product through limited binary distribution and 12 month maintenance agreement with every license sold).

2) What will you give back to the community?
by dbarclay10

In a completely selfish vein, what will you give back to the community? Caldera doesn't have the greatest track record (I can think of a few specific cases but I'll omit them here for brevity) for providing some return to those people who have coded the _VAST_ majority of Linux, GNU, and everything else. Aside from, of course, providing jobs for developers.

Ransom:

I am a little frustrated by this question as it implies that somehow Caldera or any other Linux company is making millions of dollars off of Linux. Every Linux provider has spent far more on promoting Linux than they have ever received. Not even Red Hat is profitable and a lot of their revenues are generated from non-Linux technologies. Millions of dollars have been spent in recruiting applications, advertising, and tradeshows to promote Linux, not to mention the millions spent in employing engineers as well as the innovations that have been given back to the community. The actual development cost of producing a product is only about 20-30%; marketing, sales and support constitute the majority.

I am also troubled by your impression that Caldera's contributions to the community have been scarce. Caldera architected and paid Red Hat to enhance the original RPM. We were the first to address a graphical desktop; the first to provide a graphical installer; the first to provide a management system. I could go on and on. All of these innovations were given back to the community. You can see a more detailed list at www.caldera.com/developers/community/contrib/.

Please don't get me wrong - I firmly believe that what is produced by the community is vitally important. But it is not what creates a product or a solution that businesses have to deploy. Caldera has been a company for profit. Profit enables continued investment in Linux. UnitedLinux is for profit so that there is money that can continue to be invested in Linux itself. I do not believe in a Linux model that requires ongoing charity to survive.

That said, Caldera and all the UnitedLinux partners will continue to provide all of the changes and enhancements that are made back to the community. I believe that all of the participants have a very good track record of so doing. In addition to providing the source back, UnitedLinux will offer development programs that will provide continued access and updates for the serious developer.

3) Source and binary distributions
by RGRistroph

There has been some confusion on your statement in the UL teleconference to the effect that while source code would be available to meet the requirements of the GPL, "binaries would not be freely available." Could you clarify what that means? Is it possible that UL will distribute only source, or only distribute source and binaries to it's member companies? (Who will then be responsible for making sure they meet the license requirements on software which is in their distributions?) Surely UL or it's members don't intend to distribute binaries compiled from GPL code and assert the recipient can't re-distribute them?

Ransom:

The binaries that are certified by the major ISVs and OEMs will not be made freely available for distribution by anyone. This is to limit the support liability for these companies and to ensure a high quality, consistent product around the world for support purposes. The UnitedLinux product produced is not just a binary, but 12-months of maintenance. That maintenance is for a single system and therefore has limited distribution. The source code for the server will be made freely available for all in compliance with all of the Open Source licenses.

There will be programs for developers who need access to the binaries and they will include options for ongoing updates and patches to ensure continued certification compliance. Our desire is to make UnitedLinux easily available for serious developers, and give them means to make the development process easier.

4) Commercial Development
by Marx_Mrvelous

It seems to me that a group like UnitedLinux could bring a lot of commercial development to the Linux platform. Are there any efforts to bring companies who have so far neglected developing for Linux due to support costs, like most hardware venders, into UnitedLinux?

Ransom:

Certainly. By enabling one certification for hardware and software and then facilitating a global distribution of the solution through established global channels with support in local languages around the world, UnitedLinux should increase the number of hardware and software participants supporting Linux.

5) Future of Linux
by micro-colonel

Where do you see the true future of Linux being? Will it remain mostly in the enterprise and web server market, or do you think that it will also make large gains in the desktop market? Also, to what end does the goals of UnitedLinux fit into your predictions for the future of Linux?

Ransom:

Linux has great potential in moving beyond the web server market into the mainstream of the application server market. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, however, to allow Linux to be a dominant application server platform. The objectives of UnitedLinux are to take that first step: enable Linux to be used by mainstream businesses. Accordingly, the initial effort is focused at the server.

I also believe that web services will become the dominant method for outsourcing IT. As the Internet becomes the primary business platform and Internet client interfaces become dominant, Linux will continue to make inroads into the client. (Take, for example, the fact that we now spend more time in email than in an Office suite.)

Finally, one of the keys to desktop penetration of Linux is in ease of management and provisioning. Making Linux easy to configure, deploy, manage and interoperate with Microsoft alternatives will greatly enhance Linux's acceptance at the desktop. Clearly, several of the UnitedLinux companies are addressing these issues individually. UnitedLinux may address this after enabling Linux to be used as a mainstream application platform for business. Another key, of course, would be the number of applications with which end-users are familiar. With the current balance weighted towards Microsoft, the need is for new software that makes end users more comfortable with and consequently more accepting of Linux on the desktop.

6) Business Model...
by powerlinekid

Mr. Love, I'm curious as to how you'll make money from this? By not giving away binaries it seems as if your group is trying to sell Linux, and probably service and support with it. Now you appear to be in competition with Red Hat (on server) and Mandrake (on desktop) who both give their software away. Red Hat makes it's money from service contracts and Mandrake from special software for paying customers. I guess my question is how can you compete against them, when they are just as good and give it away for free or cheaper? What is the incentive you will give consumers to actually purchase your software as opposed to downloading isos from other companies?

Ransom:

It should be noted, first off, that Red Hat has moved to a model on advanced server where they are not giving away the binaries and they are charging around $800+ for their advanced server product.

Going forward, there will only be two platforms certified by the major hardware and software vendors, Red Hat and UnitedLinux. For Linux to move from the peripheral of the business network into mainstream application server market, businesses must be assured that their platform is certified and will work with other applications and hardware solution in their environment. What the UnitedLinux customer is paying for is 1) the assurance that his applications will work together, and 2) the ongoing maintenance and support of that certified platform. The restriction on binaries is to ensure product quality and consistency of the brand for hardware and software vendors and for the quality of support within the business organization. I believe that Red Hat is moving to a similar model with business customers. The majority of the value will be in product assurance and maintenance. Both of these are of tremendous value to the business customer.

As mentioned earlier, binaries will also be made available to developers, but they will be through programs that can keep them updated and in sync with all changes. More information on this will be forth coming.

Desktop derivatives will be made available by each of the respective Linux companies. Since they will not carry the UnitedLinux brand and do not need application certification, their binaries may be available based on the individual company's policies.

7) Documentation
by forgoil

Will there be some form of initiative to work together on online documentation for both end users and developers? For instance making sure that there is up to date information on all applications and APIs in a common format (for example XML, that can be used to generate info, man pages, html, etc)? I personally don't think the distributions as a whole are well documented enough, and I think it would be one area where everybody would gain from co-operating.

Ransom:

We will be offering developer programs to address many of these needs and your suggestion here is a very good one. Clearly not having to duplicate efforts will allow us to create a much higher quality combined product and this is an important area to improve.

8) Who certifies compliance?
by Rogerborg

Who will certify compliance for each vendor provided distro, and who will pick up the pieces when (not if) an application appears that borks on one or more of the distros? If it's UnitedLinux, is each vendor prepared to pay to fix snafus committed by the others? If it's the individual vendors, what happens when one of them screws it up and wrecks confidence in UnitedLinux?

Ransom:

Every company will be shipping a common CD that will include a complete Linux distribution including installer and desktop. This is the UnitedLinux aspect of the distribution. All the additional value-add will be on separate CDs. Consequently, there will be a common quality check on the base components. The testing of the value-added components will be the responsibility of the individual companies.

9) Patents
by Rogerborg

Given the ongoing uncertainty over whether Red Hat's actions regarding patents will actually match its rhetoric, what is UnitedLinux's position on patents? Specifically which of the following will you do?

  • Eschew patents altogether.
  • Obtain your own patents.
  • License, trade or buy outright patents from other companies.
  • Oblige your members to hand over or license patents to UnitedLinux or to all other members.
  • Match Red Hat's current stated intent and express a non-binding intention to stay enforcement for a given type of open source development as long as it is convenient for you to do so.
  • Agree to explicitly license your patents at no cost, for a limited time or in perpetuity, to a given type of development (as sharply distinct from merely staying enforcement and leaving a Sword of Damocles dangling over developers' heads).
  • Obtain and reserve the right to use patents freely against any target, as any other commercial software companies (e.g. Sun, Microsoft) would do.
Ransom:

The four companies have not discussed their position on patents. The official statement will have to be forth coming.

We live in a day when patents have not become a tool to protect, but a weapon to wield. Since the patent office lacks the technical expertise to discern between what is valid and what is clearly an attempt to blackmail, and because innovation continues at a rapid pace, this is a serious problem for our industry and one that will need to be addressed.

10) On the Relationship between Companies
by the-banker

How is the membership into the United Linux group going to work, and how much flexibility will there be? Can any distribution join? Are there significant costs to becoming a member? Can members set their own policies with regard to per-seat-licensing? In sum, how much freedom do the member companies have in how they market, contribute and license United Linux?

Ransom:

The membership will be open. Any Linux company will be able to join, but they will have to pay the fee to become a joint owner of the UnitedLinux LLC. That fee is to offset the cost of development and marketing the UnitedLinux product and brand and to have the upside potential of profits.

There is no per seat license for UnitedLinux. The restriction is per server and it is the 12-month maintenance fee for that system. Other companies can set their own pricing, but they are under obligation to deliver the same product and maintenance deliverable per system and will be responsible for the fees back to UnitedLinux. There may be several ways of participating with UnitedLinux. The details on membership and different options will be forth coming.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ransom Love's Answers About UnitedLinux

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:22PM (#3757829)
    Guess that question wasn't ranked high enough. :(
  • Business-speak (Score:3, Interesting)

    by reverius ( 471142 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:22PM (#3757830) Homepage Journal
    Mr. Love's responses are so riddled with corporate jargon I can barely understand them... can someone translate please? :)

    From what I can tell, he's so intent on selling a "secure, reliable, and hippie-free" product to other corporate-minded folks, he's fallen completely out of touch with the entire linux community.

    This is the equivalent of Apple making computers without sound cards or high-end video, and Jobs saying that they think it's more "professional" that way (but ignoring the majority of Mac users who do audio/video work!)
    • Re:Business-speak (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:30PM (#3757887) Homepage Journal
      Here's a tip: whenever a business is trying to tell you they're doing something for your protection or to continue the high level of service you've come to expect from them, watch your ass. As an example, the following response to "Why will source be offered for free but not binaries?"

      The binaries that are certified by the major ISVs and OEMs will not be made freely available for distribution by anyone. This is to limit the support liability for these companies and to ensure a high quality, consistent product around the world for support purposes.

      The question itself is typical from the community that has grown to embrace Open Source, but the answer is pure PR fluff. Keep an eye out for this technique; you'll see it in play whenever cable rates go up or a business is about to make it harder for you to cash a check.

      • Re:Business-speak (Score:2, Insightful)

        by HiThere ( 15173 )
        The real reason is that under the GPL you are allowed to sell the binaries, but after you have done so, you are compelled to distribute the source (to those customers) for free.

        It is interesting that his explanation is basically unintelligible, or possibly just silly, when there really is a sensible reason.

        A subsidiary reason is that for many of their potential customers the thought of doing their own compiling is ... uncomfortable. So by selling the binaries they are catering to that market.

        Another person has brought up the possibility that the binaries may also have the United Linux trademark embedded in them, which would separately restrict the right of any third party to redistribute them. A further barrier to competition.

        I think that there are many obvious reasons for their choices, and his obfuscation is merely an indication of how trustworthy Mr. Love is.

    • Allow me to translate a summary of all his answers into simple programmer speak:

      bandwagon[Linux].push_back(RansomLove);
    • he's so intent on selling a "secure, reliable, and hippie-free" product to other corporate-minded folks, he's fallen completely out of touch with the entire linux community.

      i suppose that would make the Linux community a bunch of insecure unreliable hippies then?;)

    • Re:Business-speak (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:55PM (#3758051) Homepage Journal

      This is the equivalent of Apple making computers without sound cards or high-end video, and Jobs saying that they think it's more "professional" that way (but ignoring the majority of Mac users who do audio/video work!)

      Provided that more "traditional" variants on the Mac were still available (just as other Linux distros will remain available), I don't see what would be wrong with a move like that. The whole idea would be to get the Mac into a new market, not to sell that model to the people who already use Macs to do audio/video work. If Jobs were to try to sell a supercheap audio-less "BusinessMac" to people who run spreadsheets all day, I would applaud.

      I think Love is up to the same thing. He's not interested in you "Linux community" people. You'll go on running Slackware or Debian or whatever. Corporate jargon, on the other hand, is the language that the people running NT know, and those are his prospective customers.

      • Re:Business-speak (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HiThere ( 15173 )
        In the early days of the Mac, Apple did do something rather like that. They wanted to differentiate the Mac as a business machine, as opposed to the Apple II/III, so they did various things that discouraged the porting of game. It didn't stop them, but it did slow them down.

        This may be one of the factors in the dominance of the IBM PC. It sure isn't the only one, of course. Color screens were also an important factor. Here I think that the "anti-game" argument was used as a justifier when the real reason was the cost, and that Apple couldn't agree on how to integrate color into the Mac system. HyperCard never was properly converted.

        But at first the Mac was intentionally designed to not be a gamers machine, so that businesses wouldn't think of it as a "toy computer".
    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @03:32PM (#3758697) Journal
      OT: your sig:
      My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain IBM...

      When I first heard Mr. Roboto, I interpreted the last part as "my brain I B.M." (where "B.M." is short for bowel movement, i.e. "I shit out my brain").

      Surprisingly, it seems that Love has done the same in order to rid himself of hippies. ;-)

  • by SN74S181 ( 581549 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:27PM (#3757864)
    Mr. Love claims that Caldera was the first to provide a 'graphical' install.

    That's certainly incorrect. Yggdrasil had a graphical install in the Fall of 1993.

    I wonder how much of the other stuff he mentions in his answers is incorrect?
  • by Senjiro ( 143278 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:28PM (#3757871) Homepage
    What is that supposed to mean? I have to pay for the United Linux product to get upgrades (free with any other linux distro) and tech support (mailing lists, faqs, deja, etc)? I must assume from this model that they are really only targeting the numb masses of people who don't like the nuts and bolts of linux. Seems clear that UL will become not a distro for linux users, but a crossover distro for people who don't like to think.
    • by Jeppe Salvesen ( 101622 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:31PM (#3757889)
      If the quality is higher than the free alternatives, there will be people willing to buy for that extra reliability.
    • by GrenDel Fuego ( 2558 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:39PM (#3757954)
      Not exactly.

      They're targeting corporations. Companies that can afford to pay large amounts of money to have someone else worry about the operating system for them.

      Much like Redhat's enterprise edition.
      • Not exactly. They're targeting corporations. Companies that can afford to pay large amounts of money to have someone else worry about the operating system for them.

        Not only that but companies _want_ to pay someone else to do that kind of maintenance. Why? because a fee is a _known_quantity_ - you can budget around it. The last thing the comptroller wants to hear is "Oh, I don't know how much the TCO will be, who cares it was free! Now pay me some value, for an unkown number of overtime hours, to keep it running".
    • I have to pay for the United Linux product to get upgrades (free with any other linux distro) and tech support (mailing lists, faqs, deja, etc)? I must assume from this model that they are really only targeting the numb masses of people who don't like the nuts and bolts of linux. Seems clear that UL will become not a distro for linux users, but a crossover distro for people who don't like to think.

      You're missing the point entirely. UnitedLinux is meant for businesses. (Whether or not you equate businesses with "people who don't like to think" is another topic altogether!)

      A large corporation is not going to want to be told to check mailing lists and newgroups. A large corporation is going to want 24/7 phone support, and guaranteed system integrity and maintenance. This is a good thing! After all, it's what Microsoft tries to sell to their business customers. (Whether or not they deliver...again, another topic) Linux needs something like that to ever make it to some large corporations.
    • I must assume from this model that they are really only targeting the numb masses of people who don't like the nuts and bolts of linux.

      Bingo! Give that man a ham. Obviously this is what they are doing. They're trying to take Linux and sell it in to big business server markets. You don't get united linux for your hack box at home, you get it when you need to run a robust server and you don't have your own crack team of propellorheads to build it up for you. They're attacking microsoft and sun's server territory, and unfortunately that battle is fought on M$/Sun's terms: biz-speak, FUD and memebers only fee-based support.

      Until we "community types" (damn hippies) get our collective act together and break down the massively inhumanizing and undemocratic loci of power known as corporations, this is what it will take to get said institutions to use GNU/Linux. In the best of all possible worlds it will work like a seed from within, but that's probably a little too optomistic, since as you point out the whole point of UL is to releive the client of the need or inclination to look under the hood.

      Me? I'm a borne hot-rodder. If I make it big I'm buying an old Mustang I can repair myself. But the prevailing coporate culture favors the Lexus. Ever seen a lexus engine? It's a typical feat of blackbox engineering. No way you could fix it on your own, and why would you want to. So sad that so many people never get to feel that power of creating something, fixing something, hacking something with your own ingenuity.
  • But it is not what creates a product or a solution that businesses have to deploy.

    I hope the dark irony of that statement doesnt escape this audience. The fact is GNU/Linux was created exactly BECAUSE of this concept. Sad, Ransom Doesnt Get It.... or he thinks we are all stupid.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:19PM (#3758243)
      What? GNU/Linux was created for business deployment? Where do you get that?

      Posts like this reinforce my belief that most Slashdot posters are computer-crazed teens with no business experience. They can't see the big corporate picture. But in truth, businesses don't want to have to learn every detail about Linux. They want to get on with their operations. Computers and operating systems are a means to an end.

      I think Ransom acknowleged the importance of software generated by the open-source community. But until packaged in a business-ready (read: dumbed-down, simple, hassle-free, supported, whatever) distribution, the hundreds of open-source projects we're talking about really don't do much for business.

      Obviously there are other distributions out there, some might cost less. Ransom feels that there's a market for a business distribution. He's probably right, that's where the money is.

  • He dodged most of the important questions. What little of his views came to light showed that he is just trying to reap (or is it rape) profits off the backs of the open source community. Profit motives have a place in the Linux community, but this isn't the way to do it.

    UnitedLinux and Sun are both going the wrong way here. Heed the advice that has been around for years now - Give Away the Software (that means code and binaries, in a usable form), and Sell Hardware, Support, and Maintenance.
    • What is up with you people? I honestly cannot see the problem with what this guy is doing. The GPL does not require people to give away binaries of their products. The source still is available. Use a different license if you don't like it. Use a different distro if you don't like it. But, for Christ's sake, stop acting like paranoid schizophrenics. This guy is not out to get you!

      • He's not out to get anyone, and I didn't imply it. He is out to exploit the fruits of others' labor. He is a hollow shell marketing droid, another symptom of the empty american economy, which creates fake wealth out of thin air. I'm putting him down because he and his type are lame and statistically doomed to failure in the long run, not because he poses any direct threat to me.
  • First off, theres a formatting error in Question 4...needs to be bold and italicized, etc.

    Pardon me if im wrong, but if that interview was viewsed as very "straight up", then /. must have been interviewing advertising pamphlets in the past.

    Dont see what I mean? Take this phrase from the answer to question 4- "By enabling one certification for hardware and software and then facilitating a global distribution of the solution through established global channels with support in local languages around the world,". "enabled" "facilitating" "global".....at least he didnt say "paradigm".

    Desktop derivatives will be made available by each of the respective Linux companies. Since they will not carry the UnitedLinux brand and do not need application certification, their binaries may be available based on the individual company's policies.

    I think that Mr Love's defence of his Buisness Model is very weak. I appreciate the Red Hat/Mandrake/Gentoo. etc. ability to download an ISO, and then burn it onto a CD. Not FTP'ing the files, not being given a limited time trial....And I thought that it was interesting that United Linux, essentially has forsaken the Desktop. It looks to me like United is just the last ditch alliance to stop Red Hat from complete buisness market domination. The companies making up United Linux dont really have the best Desktop/ISO policies, and as far as I could see there was no asssurance at all that the Desktop Distros would be LSB compliant. I came away from reading this very underwhelmed....

    Just my .02$
    • by Roblimo ( 357 )
      I fixed the formatting error. Thanks.

      As for straightupness, remember that we're talking about it in corporate CEO context here, not about a normal person. For a CEO, Ransom is pretty okay. He uses buzzwords because it's part of his job, but the use here is light compared to most.

      (An aside: Peter Wayner and I have registered BuzzwordInstitute.org so we can issue "buzzword compliance certificates" and such; it's a joke, one we'll get going as soon as we have time to actually make the site. We can use some help if you're up for it; we're both very busy. We'll give you some sort of impressive title, even. "Executive Director in Charge of ______" or some such. Peter pointed out that inflated titles are part of buzzwordness, necessary "for executive retention purposes.")

      Anyway, I'll admit that I prefer interviews with people like Moshe Bar, who simply speak their minds, but some of the corporate activities are important and it's worth knowing what the Linux corpses are up to even if you have an RMS shrine in your dining room before which you genuflect 5 times daily.

      - Robin

    • by dublin ( 31215 )
      It's really pretty hilarious to hear the /. crowd talking badly about people talking in buzzwords! Have a look around - most of the people here seem incapable of having a conversation with ordinary people. (Most of who are more intelligent, although less technically inclined that the self-righteous crowd that hangs out here.)

      Believe it or not, there *is* a real world out there, and people live and work in it. It's that world that produces the surplus that gets wasted on salaries for ungrateful Stallman slaves.

      It's crap like this that really makes me wonder if supporting Linux is a good idea. (after many years of supporting Linux, I am seriously pondering whether it is wise to continue to do so.)

      If Ransome Love had any sense, he'd recognize this crowd of backstabbers for what it is and go pursure his plan based on BSD, where at least he has a chance at being successful. Linux is doomed to play along the edges of the market so long as the "community" insists on bludgeoning to death anyone that tries to bring it sucessfully into the real world.
  • These are actual quotes from the article. People who talk like this can only relate to two things: other people who talk like this, and their huge egos. Clearly, Ransom Love has fought no battles, written no code, has not earned any glory for his name. His heart is not truly Klingon.

    create a common, best of breed
    giving developers a global infrastructure
    local languages and channels
    sell their products on a global basis
    Supportable business quality product
    address a graphical desktop
    innovations
    By enabling one certification
    facilitating a global distribution
    solution through established global channels
    hardware and software participants
    dominant application server platform
    dominant method for outsourcing IT
    Internet client interfaces become dominant
    continue to make inroads
    ease of management and provisioning
    peripheral of the business network
    quality and consistency of the brand
    quality of support within the business organization
    a much higher quality combined product
    to have the upside potential of profits.
    maintenance deliverable

    • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:07PM (#3758140) Journal
      I'm gonna have to disagree.

      If you want to swim in the financial waters, you need to speak the financial language.

      Being able to sling around financial buzzwords no more implies technical incompetence then being able to sling around Linux buzzwords implies programming competence. (Not to mention that it is not a given that technical competence is necessary to run a technical business; it's just so few CEOs, or indeed people, can stand to trust the tech people enough to make good decisions just based on their word.)

      While it can annoy people like us to slog through a language with a lower informational density (caused by the higher density of words meant to signal things to the listener's subconcious like 'conformity' and 'if I sound like this, I must know what I'm doing', annoying to us but CEOs who don't use this language aren't CEOs for long), the true test of the value remains the content of the speech.

      On that measure, this CEO did quite well, and your harshness is incredibly unfair, and your moderation probably undeserved. They equally justifiably think the same thing about people who are only concerned about tech, and never the business. ("What actually puts food on the table? Do the techies think they can eat their server?")

      Look past the surface.
      • by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <dvdeug AT email DOT ro> on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:14PM (#3758201)
        If you want to swim in the financial waters, you need to speak the financial language.

        Slashdot isn't financial waters. Any good speaker knows that you pick your language to match what the audience will respond to. If you can't speak techie, then you probably can't think techie. If can't figure out when it's inappropiate to speak financial, you probably can't figure out when it's inappropiate to think financial.
        • Ransom Love had his anwers posted into a widely-watched public forum (i.e. Slashdot), so he had to be careful what and how he says what he says. Anything he mentions publicly can affect UnitedLinux and/or Caldera in the eyes of the business world. Adapting to the audience is not really possible, at least not to a large degree.
    • I've translated a few of these jargonites:

      *create a common, best of breed* It'll have a cool box.

      *giving developers a global infrastructure* We'll have a cool website.

      *Supportable business quality product* It'll have a cool box.

      *innovations* It'll have a cool box.

      *facilitating a global distribution* We'll have a cool website.

      *quality and consistency of the brand* It'll have a cool box.

    • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:12PM (#3758184) Homepage
      Yes, the parent was modded as funny (rightfully), but...

      People who talk like this can only relate to two things: other people who talk like this

      Welcome to the real world. The real world does not consist of coders who ignore everyone else in their insular little universes and think that everyone should be as smart as they are. There's a reason that there's more MBA's than engineering degrees out there -- more people think in a management/marketing perspective than an engineering one.

      Is Mr. Love spewing a lot of horseshit? Sure. But it's horseshit that other horses will sniff, recognize and find comfort in rather than the bullshit that a lot of the Linux community spouts. Bullshit is just confusing to horses - it smells kinda similar, but the nuances are missing and it makes the horses nervous.

      Insert sheep or lemmings for horse if that makes you feel better.

      It still doesn't change the reality that Linux is still far, far away from serious corporate acceptance. IBM, Redhat, and other companies are making headway here (hooray), but it's largely through the same kind of crap that Mr. Love is talking. It's not based off some ethical superiority, and it sure as hell isn't because businesses think OSS is a good model for their core logic.

      We'd love to move our systems over to Linux here... but upper management starts looking nervous every time it's mentioned. So instead we're on AIX (gack) and horribly overpriced PPC boxes. Maybe once Linux gets some more positive press from companies like Redhat, IBM, Caldera, etc. we'll finally be able to move to something better than AIX.
  • For anyone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by llamalicious ( 448215 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:42PM (#3757972) Journal
    questioning fees or the idea of paid binaries:
    If you don't work in a large corporate environment with some heavy iron or reliability/QoS contracts with customers, shut your yap now and read on.

    Allow me to explain.

    Current primary linux distros (RH, Mandrake et. al.) provide a set of binaries and source for multiple target platforms.
    Each of these "should" work, or will "probably" work on a given platform, and the free updates, or access to source from which you can upgrade your system will also probably work; none of these distros go through any heavy-duty regression testing or certifications for uptime guarantees or reliability.

    What Mr. Love is getting at, and the idea behind UL, is to provide a serious platform for linux in the server market.

    By maintaining strict control of the binaries (both Linux base and applications) UL can fully test and certify that "out-of-the-box" the software and server combos are completely compatible. No guesswork. No hoping that source compiles and runs ok the first time on platform x,y or z.
    They can also begin to provide guarantees on the availabilty of critical applications.

    That's what business customers are going to pay for. They'll demand nothing less. To get something for free in a quality-controlled environment is useless if you aren't 100% certain that it will all function as-promised.
    • Re:For anyone.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skotte ( 262100 ) <iamthecheeze@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:08PM (#3758152) Homepage
      you know. i hate the fFact that you started your comment in the subject. thats awfully irritating. BUT NEVERMIND THAT. :)

      you really have a good point.

      I am remninded of Golf. I hate golf. golf is a stupid stupid game in which old men walk around and swing a stck at the dirt fFor hours on end and come home grumpy.

      But golf was not *meant* fFor me. It's meant fFor old men who like to walk around all day, and would come home grumpy regardless.

      lesson: fFor linux to be successfull in the Real World, it must comply with a fFew things which the Real World expects software to be like. my boss used to say he would never use linux because if something goes wrong, who do you sue? Not that he would sue, or even would be ABLE to sue. (ever try suing microsoft?) But it's the idea that out there somewhere is someone who speaks the business language and is standing behind a product and saying "This will work."

      You don't like UnitedLinux? well, you're reading slashdot. so probably, UL was not meant fFor you.
    • Re:For anyone (Score:2, Interesting)

      by stipe42 ( 305620 )
      Working at a small company with only a couple servers and over a hundred clients, I can testify to how much money we would be willing to pay for binaries guaranteed to work because they have been compiled for our exact setup without having to actually compile them on our setup.

      stipe42
    • Re:For anyone (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wfrp01 ( 82831 )
      By maintaining strict control of the binaries ... UL can fully test and certify that "out-of-the-box" the software and server combos are completely compatible.

      There is certainly a value-add here, and I don't question the validity of this business model. What I'd like to know, though, is whether these "guarantees" and "certifications" imply that UL will assume liability for product performance? If not, I don't see how this "certification" is anything other than yet another piece of paper with colorful scrollwork you can put in your office. Is this for real, or (Roblimo's introduction to the contrary) is this just more marketspeak gobbledygook?

    • Re:For anyone (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ami Ganguli ( 921 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @03:04PM (#3758522) Homepage
      Current primary linux distros (RH, Mandrake et. al.) provide a set of binaries and source for multiple target platforms. Each of these "should" work, or will "probably" work on a given platform, and the free updates, or access to source from which you can upgrade your system will also probably work; none of these distros go through any heavy-duty regression testing or certifications for uptime guarantees or reliability.

      I think this is a misconception. RedHat, and I think most major distributions, do extensive hardware testing. Whenever you hear about IBM/HP/etc. providing Linux on their servers, you know that they've made a deal to certify their hardware with the given distribution. So sure, if you buy a random server and load RedHat it may not work (although I've never had a problem on normal server hardware), but if you ask RedHat or your hardware vendor what's guaranteed to work, they'll have no problems telling you. In fact it's probably in the marketing material already. A few seconds of clicking on IBM's web site revealed this [ibm.com] handy little chart.

      The real story behind United Linux is the fact that the companies involved want to save development $$ and they had to come up with some sort of license that all the parties could agree to. More power to them - I hope they succeed. But they're not providing anything fundamentally different than what's already on the market.

    • I'm sure that there is a market for software that is guaranteed to work. Provided that the guarantee is worth anything.

      Unfortunately, most guarantees in the software world are basically guarantees that you received some bits on some medium. They make no guarantee as to what those bits are, or what they will do. Just that they exist, and will be replace (without penalty) if they don't. (Even this guarantee isn't always kept. I've gotten some blank CDs, with no replacement offer.)

      So what is he proposing to back his guarantee with? And what is he going to guarantee? This is the kicker. And if he provided any answers, I didn't notice them.
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:46PM (#3757997)
    I am a little frustrated by this question as it implies that somehow Caldera or any other Linux company is making millions of dollars off of Linux. Every Linux provider has spent far more on promoting Linux than they have ever received. Not even Red Hat is profitable and a lot of their revenues are generated from non-Linux technologies. Millions of dollars have been spent in recruiting applications, advertising, and tradeshows to promote Linux, not to mention the millions spent in employing engineers as well as the innovations that have been given back to the community. The actual development cost of producing a product is only about 20-30%; marketing, sales and support constitute the majority.

    If marketing and sales are that high a percentage of your costs, you're doomed. What he means is that millions of dollars have been wasted promoting linux to the wrong people. As much as I like free beer and booth babes, you don't need to spend millions of dollars selling a free product to a bunch of geeks who already have it, and don't intend to buy support. Furthermore, they should take a lesson from microsoft, and have virtually zero support costs. All support should be billed by the hour. Somebody needs to stop giving this guy money.

    The worst of it though is that he feels that we, the developers out here writing the actual code, owe him something because of all this "promotion" that Caldera has done. It's like the guys who used to wash your windshield at the toll booths and then ask for a tip. Did we ask for this "promotion"? No, so go away. At least now we know not to hold our breath when looking for community support from UL.

    Linux will be sold the same way all other platforms are sold: by the applications. When there are applications you need that run on linux, you get linux. I see it every day as the purchase orders come in. No distribution provider out there looking to make a buck understands yet.
    • by sigwinch ( 115375 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @03:38PM (#3758739) Homepage
      If marketing and sales are that high a percentage of your costs, you're doomed.
      To make money on infrastructure software, you have to convice hundreds of thousands of individual businessmen to buy a copy or two each. *They* control the purse strings, and if you don't convince them you die.
      ...you don't need to spend millions of dollars selling a free product to a bunch of geeks who already have it, and don't intend to buy support.
      No shit. That's why they're going after businessmen who have money to burn and problems to solve.
      Furthermore, they should take a lesson from microsoft, and have virtually zero support costs.
      1. Microsoft spends tens of millions on Windows Update, support websites and documentation, and quality assurance to ward off the need for support.

      2. Supported retail Win2k costs $200. Unsupported OEM Win2k costs $85. You do the math.

      The worst of it though is that he feels that we, the developers out here writing the actual code, owe him something because of all this "promotion" that Caldera has done.
      The single largest category of software is custom/customized business-automation apps. Getting Linux into businesses, and making them believe it is a valid enterprise platform, creates jobs for Linux developers.
      Linux will be sold the same way all other platforms are sold: by the applications. When there are applications you need that run on linux, you get linux.
      Yeah, applications like turnkey mail servers, heavy-duty DBMS clusters, network monitoring appliances, SMB/CIFS-compatible terabyte fileservers. Those are the sort of thing businesses are willing to burn money on, to the tune of billions of dollars. And the great thing is that they hate replacing a working system, so they'd rather come back year after year to keep that box running.
      • 2. Supported retail Win2k costs $200. Unsupported OEM Win2k costs $85. You do the math.

        The bill still says that you have to pay by the hour when you call them up. The extra $115 reflects the lack of a 50% bulk discount (practically industry standard), and printed documentation.

        1. Microsoft spends tens of millions on Windows Update, support websites and documentation,

        Really? Show me where Microsoft spends 10s of millions on Windows Update. They're smarter then that. Besides, I hardly consider security updates "support", and I hardly consider $10s of millions a significant percentage of their overhead. It's less then their monthly engineering payroll.

        The single largest category of software is custom/customized business-automation apps. Getting Linux into businesses, and making them believe it is a valid enterprise platform, creates jobs for Linux developers.

        I've interviewed for, bid on, consulted on, or written code for almost 100 seperate custom software projects using linux in the last three years. Guess which percentage of them cared which distribution we were supporting. Only about 10% (None requested Caldera). Guess who the biggest promoters of custom linux development jobs are. Microsoft and Wind River. Nobody wants to pay their licensing fees anymore. They also don't want to rely on another company for support. Caldera hasen't, and UL will not promote many engineering positions for linux developers.

        Yeah, applications like turnkey mail servers, heavy-duty DBMS clusters, network monitoring appliances, SMB/CIFS-compatible terabyte fileservers. Those are the sort of thing businesses are willing to burn money on, to the tune of billions of dollars. And the great thing is that they hate replacing a working system, so they'd rather come back year after year to keep that box running.

        This is exactly why UL is barking up the wrong tree. Write some applications, and forget about your never was distribution. If they're not careful, IBM will be making all the money...
    • "As much as I like free beer and booth babes, you don't need to spend millions of dollars selling a free product to a bunch of geeks who already have it, and don't intend to buy support."

      No. You spend millions of dallors selling it to corporate clients. That means your boss. Or your boss's boss. etc. Obviously they are not selling it to us who will just download an ISO and slap it on some box under the desk (or whatever we can get our hands on).
      • You've discovered the unspoken meaning of that sentence!

        Corporate managers and decision makers don't go to LinuxWorld Expo or any such thing. Usually software speciffic conventions and trade shows spring up after software gains a market. At trade shows dedicated to a single software product, people who make 3rd party add-ons and accessories sell their stuff. When you want to sell linux to corporate clients that have never heard of it, you don't spen $100k on a party at LWE, you go to general computing shows, hardware platform shows, you do direct mailing campaigns, you hire a sales team with established contacts. Getting the geeks drunk gets you nowhere. Why am I saying this? Because these linux only events are where these companies are spending their money.

        Screw this UnitedLinux crap, write some applications! There's no money to be made selling distributions, and there's no need to sink money into developing one when you can just use Debian. These "big" linux companies won't make any money until they realize that the OS itself won't earn them anything. They certainly won't get something for nothing, which is what it sounds like this Love guy is looking for.
    • Unfortunately Mr. Love is the most outspoken (at least in English) member of the United Linux group, because he is not someone that a sensible party would choose. I *do* wonder what Caldera brought to the party, as practically any other English Linux distribution would appear to have more reasonable spokesmen.

      OTOH, he is making sure that they get publicity. Negative, perhaps, but publicity.

    • [Love]
      The actual development cost of producing a product is only about 20-30%; marketing, sales and support constitute the majority.
      [/Love]

      [ivan256]
      If marketing and sales are that high a percentage of your costs, you're doomed.
      [/ivan256]

      Sir, have you ever run a corporation? I have, and I support Mr Love's numbers. Furthermore, so you don't think I'm blowing smoke, I will give you an example.

      Example: Coca-Cola (KO), FY 2001
      URL: (EDGAR report 10-K, annual summary [sec.gov])

      From the EDGAR report under Consolidated Statements of Income (p 57):

      Gross receipts: $ 20,092 M (1)
      Cost of goods: 6,044 M (2)
      Gross profits: 14,048 M (3) [(1)-(2)]
      Operating expenses: 8,696 M (4)
      Operating income: 5,352 M (5) [(3)-(4)]

      Line (4) can be further broken down into Selling Expenses and Administrative/General Expenses, which is done in the text of the Management's Discussion and Analysis of Operations (p 48):

      Operating expenses: $ 8,696 M (4)
      Selling expenses: 6,930 M
      Admin/gen expenses: 1,766 M

      For Coke in year ended 12/31/01, they spent almost $7 billion on selling their product. That works out to 80% of their total operating expenditure for the year. Since Coke ended up with income of more than $5.3B last year, I'd hardly say they're "doomed".

    • I stopped earlier (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erris ( 531066 )
      when ransom said:

      I do not believe in a Linux model that requires ongoing charity to survive.

      While I can't speak for them, I don't think Linux Torvalds or Richard Stallman believe in such a model either. Both Torvalds and Stallman are earning decent livings with their skills. A "limited binary" distribution is not a viable business model, service is. It's not the shiny disk it's the ability to use it that people value. Obfuscating the works by binary distro will make United worthless. How does the fsf say it, something about having the choice of who to give up your rights to.

      OK, I lied, I did not stop there, I read most of his answers. He wants people to pay him a fee to develop his code? This is better than the current free code how? He's not going to say he will be using patents but defends their use? He's leaving he QC for "value added components" to his fee paying member companies?

      He says many of the right things but his approach is exactly opposite of succesful coding:

      For Linux to move from the peripheral of the business network into mainstream application server market, businesses must be assured that their platform is certified and will work with other applications and hardware solution in their environment. What the UnitedLinux customer is paying for is 1) the assurance that his applications will work together, and 2) the ongoing maintenance and support of that certified platform. The restriction on binaries is to ensure product quality and consistency of the brand for hardware and software vendors and for the quality of support within the business organization. I believe that Red Hat is moving to a similar model with business customers. The majority of the value will be in product assurance and maintenance. Both of these are of tremendous value to the business customer.

      The only way to insure this is to use free code and nothing but free code. Certifying configurations of that free code will make plenty of money. Trying to rebuild everything yourself and trying to tack on propriatory junk that no one else can sync with will never work.

      As for you, what's this all about? When there are applications you need that run on linux, you get linux. I see it every day as the purchase orders come in. No distribution provider out there looking to make a buck understands yet.

      What do I need that runs on any other platform that does not have a substitute on Linux? I'm not aware of it, that's why I own one of those white boxes like 45% of all other computer buyers last year. These white boxes are going to come with Linux, Lindows, even BSD and restrictive software companies are goint to fade away into some foggy nightmare.

      OK, I can stop now.

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:46PM (#3757999)

    I have to give Ransom credit for his good answers. Especially in the area of whether Caldera will make billions off Linux without giving back to the community. Ransom makes it pretty clear that Caldera's development of Linux, even though done for profit, is in itself something big that's being given to the community--it's the effect that takes place when a product has a lot of support from reputable companies more than which lines of code Caldera writes and puts wherever. Even in Caldera didn't write a single apostrophe of code but only packaged other people's hard and free work and sold it for profit, they'd still be opening a market window for the Linux community that wouldn't have existed otherwise.

    I believe that for Linux to really be successful, both in terms of code quality and widespread acceptance, a team of companies needs to get together with a specific purpose to fulfill: To develop a desktop version of Linux similar in functionality to Windows XP or Mac OS X. In other words, other than a few options here and there, it wouldn't really have the possibility of configuring every detail. The bare-bones system, which basically means a desktop with a few icons on it for basic functionality (and no applications) would basically be integrated into the kernel. When the computer boots up, it boots directly into a nice graphical desktop, kind of like the way BeOS did, except Linux will actually stick around. Most of the configuration would be built in, heavily reducing the number of "system" files. No desktop system needs to drown in its own configuration. I would say that a really good bare-bones desktop Linux OS shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 megs of space, and that includes all the beautiful graphics it would have. To make this system useful, a number of applications made specifically for this version of Linux would be included, increasing the size to about 60 or 80 megs. This might include the standard "fun" stuff that consumers look for, like video editing, audio editing, image editing, and the more mundane crap, like word processing and whatnot. Obviously, major formats would need to be recognized. Only when something that's actually easy to use becomes available, Linux will skyrocket in popularity and Windows will go into the dumpster. Yeah, most of the code for this exists. Someone just needs to recognize why Linux tends to be so damn complicated, and rearrange these pieces into something that's really well designed and coherent.

    As a disclaimer, just so someone doesn't say, "You stupid fsck! If you think Linux is too hard, go back to Windows and enjoy crashing all the time. Otherwise, learn how to use the damn thing!" I've been using Linux for years now, since an old Yggdrasil distro I picked up at some computer trade show, and a 8 CD set of crap they downloaded from a bunch of mirrors and stuck on some CDs. (Back in those days, those CDs were really handy, especially considering that most folks had a 14.4 connection. And that was considered fast! Even 56k was far off! So that was a loooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago.) Anyway, I've since realized that Linux is too fragmented. There's way too much duplication of effort. The Linux file system "standard" is totally wrong, IMO, because everything's in the wrong place. (/home should be under /usr, for example.) And the configuration is a nightmare! There are literally hundreds of configuration files strewn all over the system! So I since moved on to FreeBSD. All ya'll Linux folks out there can learn a shitload of great stuff from the BSD folks. Just look at how much of the system configuration for a FreeBSD system is in a single file (rc.conf). In Linux, this would be scattered across 10,000 different files in a monster directory structure under /etc/rc or something like that, as far as I remember. As you can easily tell, I haven't touched a Linux system in ages, and there's a reason. That's why I say this desktop thing needs to be made. Linux can kick Windows' ass in server stuff. Now it needs to start kicking Windows' ass in the desktop, because only when Microsoft loses that battle, they'll no longer be able to embrace and extend, a practice that fscks up all our code because we have to be compatible with their bugs, flawed design decisions, and programming features probably designed by lawyers and marketeers rather than programmers. Ooooooooooh well. Oh yeah, I had all kinds of Negra Modelo last night. It was fun. (If Cerveceria Modelo made software, their operating system would kick everyone's ass!)

  • Not making millions? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @01:58PM (#3758073)
    It's not as though Caldera is making millions off of Linux?

    This [yahoo.com] indicates Mr Love is making $277k/yr off of Linux, so I'm pretty certain they aren't strugling...
    • Perhaps you didn't see the net loss of $17.6 million for the company.

      Whether a company is making profits or losing money, the employees still get paid (be them coders or CEOs).

      Caldera is not making money. The employees are, but then again, would you work for a company if you were losing money working there?
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:04PM (#3758115)
    I found this more than a little disturbing:

    Going forward, there will only be two platforms certified by the major hardware and software vendors, Red Hat and UnitedLinux. For Linux to move from the peripheral of the business network into mainstream application server market, businesses must be assured that their platform is certified and will work with other applications and hardware solution in their environment. What the UnitedLinux customer is paying for is 1) the assurance that his applications will work together, and 2) the ongoing maintenance and support of that certified platform.


    One of the most frustrating things about using some commercial products under GNU/Linux has been the Red Hat centric methods of distribution: binary RPMS designed for Red Hat that may or may not work with other RPM based distros, and will require quite a bit of hoop-hopping on non-RPM distros such as Slackware, Debian, and all of the excellent Source Based Distros.

    Not all products do this ... some of the more intelligent software manufacturers release their products as tarballs, and are thus easilly installed onto any distro whatsoever. That, coupled with a short list of required dynamic libraries and versions, is enough to get the product working with any distro out there (even if you have to retroactively install some older libraries yourself, by hand).

    Now it looks like United Linux is trying to reduce the choice of anyone wanting to run a commercial product on their system to two choices: Red Hat or United Linux. How likely is a product released as a cross-distro compatable tarball going to be to get "certification" vs. a Red Hat/United Linux RPM. It looks like the behometh forming here has every intention of dictating standards and shoving de-facto norms down the community's throat, rather than taking the consensus-based approach we have used up until now. If this impression is correct, this is anything but a positive development for GNU/Linux or free software and will likely be quite detrimental to the communities which surround and support them.

    Having tried Red Hat, Suse, Mandrake, Debian, Source Mage, Gentoo, and others, I can unequivocably say that, in my place of work as well as in my home, the kind of prior restraint on my choice they seem to be aiming for (with their 'certification' requirements) is such that it will eliminate commercial products we would have considered purchasing from contention altogether (We are a Debian shop, currently transitioning to a source based distro for performance/reliability reasons. Red Hat and United Linux are not, and never will be, under consideration for deployment here).

    It would be unfortunate if this were to become the norm ... we actually do use commercial products under GNU/Linux where I work, but we have never, and will never, allow a commercial product to dictate the distribution we deploy. To do so would be absurd ... and it sounds very much like this 'certification' process they're talking about is designed to coerce any and all commercial GNU/Linux vendors to target Red Hat and United Linux, to the detriment of other, likely better, distros out there.

    This reduces choice, and is a bad thing for the Linux community IMHO. The result is more likely to be less willingness to deploy commerical products if a marginally usable free alternative exists that happens to be usable on the platform/distro of choice (whatever that may be). Contrast this to current conditions, where many vendors are sufficiently neutral that one can deploy their product anywhere, and the free community drives most standards, not Red Hat and Caldera.

    I started reading this interview with a very positive "I'm glad to hear the negative rumors are likely wrong" and by the end of the interview have reluctantly concluded that this isn't going to be a positive development for GNU/Linux at all, and many of the worst fears expressed by others earlier are quite probably entirely well founded.

    Worse still, the answer given to the patent question was downright chilling...thank [deity] it only affects the United States, and not (yet) the entire world. This is one way they could very effectively steal our work and cut off our access to the products of our own labor, perhaps even in spite of the GPL.
  • Does everyone who is claiming that United Linux is bad and won't contribute to Linux development realize that Red Hat already does what United Linux is planning to do?

    In late April, Red Hat released Advanced Server - a distribution that will be guaranteed to be supported for an 18-month period with minimal change. If you go to ftp.redhat.org and poke around for this distro, you will find that Red Hat has a nice collection of SRPMS (source RPMs) for the distro, yet no public binary release. Any complaints?

    Do people not realize that this is going on, or is it not a problem because it's Red Hat?

    Personally, I think it would be great if all Linux companies made all of their distros freely available in binary form on ISOs, but sadly this is not the case, not even with Red Hat.

    So what's it going to be? If everyone is going to get up in arms over United Linux, they better put Red Hat in the same boat (IMHO).

  • by God! Awful ( 181117 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:14PM (#3758199) Journal
    What I read from the subtext of this article is that the major Linux distribution companies have lost confidence in the GPL. He doesn't come right out and say it, but it's clear that they are fighting the license. Without violating the GPL, they are trying to make it inconvenient for users to redistribute the software and avoid the per-seat licensing. He also says that he not does believe in a Linux model that requires ongoing charity to survive. This sounds like a dig at Mandrake.

    He is right, though. Charity is a terrible business model. The only time it works well is when you campaign for some worthy cause (e.g. feeding starving children in Africa) and then spend 90% of the money on "administration". Here's an interesting tidbit from the other side of the political spectrum. Did you know that Ayn Rand (a laissez-faire capitalist and staunch opponent of taxes) believed that if income tax was abolished then the rich citizens of America would voluntarily donate money to establish an army? Can you imagine a world in which armies were established and paid for solely by robber barons? I mean, they'd probably be sent off to fight any country that threatened to mess with our oil supply. Oh wait, that already happens.

    -a
  • ...is that they have no clue about how enterprise computing works. You can't just be like, "oooh, here's a problem, throw a linux box at it", that would never happen. Companies that are worth millions and billions in business every year move very carefully. Every piece must either work perfectly or have channels of responsibility, which in the case of 3rd party products (like Operating Systems) often falls back to the vendor.

    Why doesn't Linux get deployed at the enterprise level (5000+ employees, not to mention 170,000 employees like the company I work at)? Because there are no support channels, and no, "ask the local LUG or post a message to a mail list" is not a valid support channel at that level.

    UnitedLinux may be on the right path, why not support them for what they're trying to do, bring linux onto the enterprise stage, and not make up things like they're trying to take away your rights or make linux proprietary or some other nonsense. UnitedLinux, IMHO, is trying to innovate, they might get some things wrong here and there, but very few people have tried to bring Linux into the enterprise space and they deserve a little support just for trying that.

    -Chris
    My $.10
  • Serious Developers? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wackysootroom ( 243310 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:21PM (#3758255) Homepage
    Our desire is to make UnitedLinux easily available for serious developers, and give them means to make the development process easier.

    Would UL consider a 21 year old college student a "Serious Developer"? What about all of the budding Linus Torvalds' out there?
    • You can bet your hiney that "Serious Developers" will be identified by two criteria:
      1) Willingness to pay a non-negligible amount of money to be included in the category
      2) Willingness to sign a no-distribution agreement for the binaries they receive
  • by funkyaintit ( 88821 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:28PM (#3758293)
    Many of the people in this discussion are talking in broad generalities about how you *think* corporations are going to react to UnitedLinux; let me tell you how *I*, a sysadmin for a company that uses both Linux and Windows 2000 servers, gauge this interview.

    First of all, Mr. Love is entirely correct about what corporations want, which is a standard, consistent server platform with regular upgrades. We currently use Caldera OpenServer for file sharing and DNS, and we love it. However, we're nervous about utilizing this platform for more than these two functions.

    Example: we want to move to an LDAP mail and message server, akin to Exchange. So, I hit the boards and forums, check SourceForge (of course), and come across 8 - 10 server products that *sound* like they fit our needs. My problem is this: how can I tell that this is going to work as advertised on our systems, and how do I know that it's not going to bork everything else we're running? Sure, it's all *supposed* to run properly and play nice with the other boys in the garden, but everyone knows that server platforms, regardless of manufacturer, have interop glitches. Yes, it's true that, if I had all the time in the world and was being paid 200% more, I could download each of these products, set up a staging environment, and try to hammer out the bugs myself.

    Or, I could install Exchange and be up and running with a high confidence level in about 3 hours. I know, I know- you all think Exchange is a steaming pile; but the reality is that it's quick and easy to install and administrate. Why? Because Microsoft has farms full of paid developers making sure that it is.

    If UL can provide my company with the peace of mind Linux does not currently provide, it will have made a new customer. In turn, the rest of the community will benefit because the installed base will expand, and perhaps another developer gets a job. There's a whole lot of sweetness to be passed around!

    One more thing: I would like to remind all die-hards here that corporate profits are the *only* thing supporting Linux development right now. Every developer who works on any open source project gets his beer/rent money from a job someplace; even though he doesn't get paid (most of the time) for the time he spends on a project, he only has the luxury of spending spare time because he has a job to cover the expenses. Why not support UL, so that maybe a few more Linux geeks can have a good job doing something they love?


    • Example: we want to move to an LDAP mail and message server, akin to Exchange. So, I hit the boards and forums, check SourceForge (of course), and come across 8 - 10 server products that *sound* like they fit our needs. My problem is this: how can I tell that this is going to work as advertised on our systems, and how do I know that it's not going to bork everything else we're running? Sure, it's all *supposed* to run properly and play nice with the other boys in the garden, but everyone knows that server platforms, regardless of manufacturer, have interop glitches. Yes, it's true that, if I had all the time in the world and was being paid 200% more, I could download each of these products, set up a staging environment, and try to hammer out the bugs myself.


      Or, I could install Exchange and be up and running with a high confidence level in about 3 hours. I know, I know- you all think Exchange is a steaming pile; but the reality is that it's quick and easy to install and administrate. Why? Because Microsoft has farms full of paid developers making sure that it is.


      I'm kind of curious as to where the leap happened between

      "Sure, it's all *supposed* to run properly and play nice with the other boys in the garden, but everyone knows that server platforms, regardless of manufacturer, have interop glitches"

      and

      "...I could install Exchange and be up and running with a high confidence level in about 3 hours."

      I would assume at some point, your organization took Exchange and ran some tests against it to ensure it would manage to deliver what it claimed. Perhapse you even talked to Microsoft and got some information as to what to expect out of their product and good implementation strategies. And you would have sought out reviews and opinions from industry news sources and technical discussion forums.


      Many of the same strategies apply to investigating Open Source applications for the Enterprise. One advantage to Open Source is that its community and developers are rather exposed to the public - discussions over implementation, scalability, bugs, and other technical issues are often a google search away. Furthermore, these projects usually offer forums (web forums, mailing lists, usenet groups, etc) where one can seek out informed answers to direct questions. Sometimes these projects are the product of a group who consult on implementing the software - engage them. Or seek out some of the other organizations involved in providing business support for Linux and associated products (such as RedHat, SuSE, or Caldera). There may be enough free information available - or a small enough fee that is easily absorbed as a "cost of business" when compared to future licensing fees (or lack thereof).


      The final step is simply testing. After you've narrowed down on a few possible products based on your desired needs (you DO know what your user base NEEDS, right?), underlying architecture, etc... implement it. Set up a testbed. Stress test it. Look for odd performance kinks and usability or administration issues.


      Of course, this should be old hat. After all, we know not to trust the glossy brochure. The proof is in the performance. And that holds true no matter if the product comes from a Mega-corporation or a modest listing on Sourceforge.


      UL does not change any of this. Granted - it does provide another vendor listing. But this is not something new. Linux vendors, contractors, and independant contractors have been serving business interests and concerns for years.

  • by ibis ( 16191 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:34PM (#3758341) Homepage
    The binaries that are certified by the major ISVs and OEMs will not be made freely available for distribution by anyone.

    If he is referring to binaries of GPL'ed programs, this is a violation of the GPL. The GPL specifically states:

    "3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form..."

    and

    "6. ... You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise
    of the rights granted herein. ..."


    So anyone who receives copies may redistribute.

    'nuff said. Flame Mr. Love at will!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Anyone may distribute the binaries if they want, but neither Caldera, or anyone else, is under any obligation to do so.
    • I think you're misinterpreting his answer. When he writes:
      The binaries that are certified by the major ISVs and OEMs will not be made freely available for distribution by anyone.
      what he means is that the United Linux vendors will not be making the binaries available for free. This is perfectly legal under the GPL. People who get the source and compile it can distribute the binaries. But United Linux isn't going to help them.
  • by Uggy ( 99326 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:37PM (#3758368) Homepage
    I always wondered why Redhat and Mandrake and the ilk always made binaries available for download for free. People would sometimes scream and cry about SUSE not offering ISO's at EXACTLY the same time as the packaged distro for purchase. People would scream bloody murder but forget that the GPL is a SOURCE CODE license, not a binary license. The binaries are yours to do with what you want. If you want to sell your brand of Linux for 1 million dollars per seat, you can. However, you cannot deny anyone access to the gpl'd source code. If they wish to recompile the entire distro and sell it for $1 or give it away, there's nothing Caldera can do to stop them. And there's no reason for Caldera to worry about that.

    They don't care. They want to do business with people that want to exchange money. Companies forge relationships by the exchange of money. That's how business is done.

    They like it.

    Open Source coders build relationships by exchanging code.

    They like that.

    The GPL allows for both and encourages both. It's really pretty simple and elegant... any engineer can appreciate that can't they?
  • by shren ( 134692 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:39PM (#3758383) Homepage Journal

    Here goes my karma.

    A CEO takes time out from his busy day, and the highest ranked comments accuse him of being a liar or against the 'cause'.

    Moby says that just maybe P2P cost him a dime or two, and now he's a no-clue traitor to the cause who sucks now anyway.

    You suck. You all suck. Nobody should agree to be interviewed by you. Other sites would be better off refusing HTTP referals from slashdot because too many people here are incapable of being civilized.

    The embarassment to the OSS movement and the DRM debate caused by Slashdot posters has probably set both respective causes back 6 months.

    Now I understand the trolls.

    Now I agree with the trolls!

    Please people, learn how to be decent human beings!

    • "My god you are all pricks! (Score:3, Troll)"

      Haha...it's marked Troll. Priceless! The circle is complete.
    • People forget that OSS is a development model, not a business model. Linux has proven the effectiveness of the OSS development model. (So the OSS stuff is just snow, okay?)

      Now...I think Love has correctly interpeted the business market and recognizes that unless some radical changes are soon had Caldera (and a number of the other small distributions) are going to be out of the market. Right now, RedHat has the mind share and Mandrake the market share. (Debian, much as I like it, is a non-issue for most businesses and is, for the most part, a speck on the business horizon. --- which is, imo, a good thing.)

      So, Love proposes (to other soon to be out-of-business distributions) commodizing the OS. This isn't a bad thing (especially for Love if he can get them to agree). This allow other distibutions to differentiate on other things ... sorta like how Dell, Gateway, and Micron all support Microsoft. Now, the question is how much of a hold will Love keep on this? If he keeps too loose a control, the distributions will fragment (losing effectiveness), if he keeps too much control, the distributions will quit and won't join him.

      It'll be interesting to see if he can pull it off.

      But then again, considering his alternatives, he didn't have much of a choice.
  • by jeremy_hogan ( 587864 ) <jeremy@hogan.hyperic@com> on Monday June 24, 2002 @02:46PM (#3758426) Homepage
    [snip from question #6]
    Now you appear to be in competition with Red Hat (on server) and Mandrake (on desktop) who both give their software away. Red Hat makes it's money from service contracts and Mandrake from special software for paying customers. I guess my question is how can you compete against them, when they are just as good and give it away for free or cheaper?
    [/snip]

    [snip from response]
    Ransom:

    It should be noted, first off, that Red Hat has moved to a model on advanced server where they are not giving away the binaries and they are charging around $800+ for their advanced server product.
    [/snip]

    The wording here is very misleading. No fault of Mr. Love, he has not the insight to make statements about our positioning or products, so here's a bit of clarification of what Advanced Server is and isn't:

    1) The charge is for the packaging, updates and support subscriptions, not for the software in and of itself.

    2) The code is still available. Binaries, Red Hat Network, ISO's/CD's are available for those who pay for the whole package. The source will be available publically for all to build their own.

    The intent is *not* a per boxed set price of $800+. The intent is *not* to keep any errata or other updates exclusive to paying AS users, but to keep the convenience and associated services exclusive to those that pay for them. Which is very fair.

    There was also a question about patents and a comment as to whether we could/would be held to uphold "Our Promise".

    Our patent policy is issued as an estoppel statement which binds us as well as subsequent "owners" of such patents to the spirit of our intent. That is, any party relying on Our Promise has an absolute defense to an assertion of patent infringement by Red Hat (and subsequent owners of any such patents), subject to the limited obligation that they not sue us for patent infringement with respect to software we have produced.

    http://www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html

    I'm no lawyer, but in layman terms, the agreement is much more than a press release.

    --jeremy
  • In related news... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zurab ( 188064 )
    Mr. Love has charged /. and is planning to charge all readers a "per question fee" for this interview. This is to limit the support liability for these companies and to ensure a high quality, consistent answers. These fees will not be per seat as previously feared. Instead, the restriction is per server.

    On a more serious note, it seems like UnitedLinux will be trying to feed corporate customers to what they are used to - being ripped off. The general attitude at an average corporate IT consumer, most will agree, is and has always been "you get what you pay for". It's certainly so for the management who makes decisions. At the same time the same attitude is being smashed and ridiculed by most in the community when it comes to software (I am not talking about support!). UnitedLinux will be landing 2 different impacts with this move - make corporate friends, and alienate an average developer to develop for UnitedLinux. They will try to work this from top to bottom, not from bottom up.

    But by pushing only in corporate server market, in my opinion, will not put UnitedLinux over the hurdle; you need to have the word of mouth and average developer support. Again, in my opinion, UnitedLinux selling back to developers what developers have given to UL for free will not sit right with many. That was I think one question that should have been asked - Mr Love, to accomplish UL goals do you believe today that you need developer support? What do you think his answer would be?

    Italics quoted from interview.
  • by rakslice ( 90330 ) <rakslice@@@gmx...net> on Monday June 24, 2002 @03:02PM (#3758511) Homepage Journal
    "The restriction on binaries is to ensure product quality and consistency of the brand for hardware and software vendors and for the quality of support within the business organization. "

    Heh... Well, that could be an argument against the distribution of _modified_ binaries not labelled as such, but not one against the distribution of _unaltered_ binaries. The only reason I can see to restrict the distribution of unaltered binaries is to obtain more money.

    Now, keep in mind that all GPLed bits of UL will be freely available to the public in short order. (After all, the UL members can't enjoin their customers from distributing the GPLed bits, so even if the UL members won't do it directly, the sharing that is the basis of the linux community will ensure that they sneak out somehow...)

    Anyway, the UL base seems to have a good chance of reaching the segment of the enterprise market looking for well-supported linux server distributions (that Red Hat is trying to reach with their Advanced Server product, for example). They tend to buy distros that contain a lot of non-GPLed value-add anyway, and will spend big chunks of cash on wider (more "end-to-end"-integrated) products.

    But, it's kind of odd to try to go after them with the "standardization" angle, isn't it? I mean, they don't care very much about standardisation as a tool to integrate products from different vendors, because they don't want to spend any time on that anyway. Reaching a minimal cost to fit the requirements isn't really very important to most enterprise customers, when it comes right down to it, as long as the cost is below a subjective "too high" level. So wouldn't it be better for UL to pump out as much distribution lock-in as the customers can handle?
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @03:09PM (#3758546) Journal
    This certainly isn't my idea, I read it in previous UL thread, but I haven't seen it mentioned here yet.

    If the UL distro is required to distribute binaries, why can't someone just compile them all and distrubyte/release a UL-based binary and source distro with no strings attached under some different name? FUL anyone? (Free United Linux that is... :)

  • Usually I would disagree with Robilmo, if nothing else then just for the heck of it ;o) but this time I can't but agree completely: this interview really did provde me with straight answers. A very useful and as a consequence, rather envolving.

    Now I wish more than 10 questions could have been allowed....

    As an aside; I was a bit surprised R. Love hasn't mentioned Caldera's contribution to Linux's TCP/IP stack. If you ask me, that's more useful than RPM.

  • If all the 'distros' will be based off a common 'universal' cd ( the first disk he spoke of ) and then VAR cds added to the set to refect each companies slant..

    Why isnt the *first* disk to be available if its
    not got any 'special' stuff that must be supported, as he says is the reason for not releasing binaries..

    Ever hear of 'unsupported' download versions?

    Sure they need to make money too, but what if i dont care about the VAR parts, but would like to be compatible with this 'standard'...

    Does that mean i can download the source to recreate the 'base' system totally?
  • by Eversor ( 24917 )
    Ransom gave this link [caldera.com] for contributions from caldera: http://www.caldera.com/developers/community/contri b/ Lets take a look at these. AIM benchmarks: Well if you are not satisfied with cat /proc/cpuinfo now you can clock your system with benchmarking software that caldera has provided for you. Caldera Open Administrations System (COAS): these are supposed to be contributions to the entire linux community not a small crappy GPL'ed program they use to promote their own bastardized distro? CScope: it is amazing how they take credit for this, as SCO (Santa Cruz Operation) released this openly before Caldera had anything to do with them Java: Now you are taking credit for Java?!?!? Linux Kernel: and I quote "Caldera has contributed several Linux kernel enhancements, including Windows support, IPX support, NFS, and more". Well I know that I have excellent "Windows" support in my linux kernel, how about you. It looks as if the ipx support is genuine, but NFS has been around longer than caldera. Lizard: Yet another installation system. but this one seems to be very locked down, with not mention of OS licensing, or any available downloads. Again isn't this supposed to be contributions to the Linux community? Netscape: Well sure you saved netscape! OS is the only thing that has saved netscape to this point. NCPS for linux: more netware stuff. Well being that ransom did have a lot of dealings with novell, I guess contributing to this dying networking technology seemed like the right thing to do. NKFS: yet more dying netware support. OpenSLP: Well another BSD style license, for I program I'm sure everyone uses everyday. RPM: quote: "Working with Red Hat, we developed the first package manager." BS! The first and best package management system was the good old tarball. RPM has cause me more trouble than it has avoided me. Webmin: yet another BSD style licensed project "started" by caldera. WordPerfect 6.0: Well thanks for paying for the copy of WP for linux that I also paid for. (someone made a lot of money off this deal). WP for linux was so bad I had to revert back to staroffice after using wp for a week. some things are best not shown as a badge of honor. UDI: vaporware. looks like it was started back in 99, and 3 years later, it is still as un-heard of. So what we have here, is some loose attachments to BSD style licenses, and a bunch of programs written for the dying netware protocols. Ransom, look at what the linux community has actually DONE for you, such as what the foundation for your entire company is. and your ticked!! This guy dosn't stop, so he must be stopped.

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