One of the other jobs I have at
Microsoft is to be the Community Lead for the VSCore team. I won’t get into
what that means just yet (I think we are still trying to figure that out.). One of
the benefits recently is that I was asked to take a gander at the Linux community
at the latest Linux World show.
With only a show badge advertising MICROSOFT larger
than my name, a Tablet PC ( No, I do not run a Linux distro on it ), and an Ipod (This
actually garnered a bit of respect with the crowd.) I set out to enjoy the latest LinuxWorld
expo. It was an intriguing mix of well dressed big business and people wearing
Root” hats accompanied with the only thing that could add geekyness to the hat&
Star Wars parody ” OS
Wars” t-shirts. Though I was told by a vender looking to do real business ”
There is less riff raff this year and more people here to save and or make money.”
This statement could have been construed as a theme to this Linuxworld. I boiled
several of the talks I saw down to ” Community and free stuff is an important
part of the equation, but we have to make money somehow”.
Community Project Spaces, Source
Control, and the IDE
The Sourceforge concept
was everywhere. The big guys were all touting their solutions during their sessions:
Forge), IBM (Developer
Works), HP (hp.sourceforge).
On the show floor you could find several venders selling their solutions, both intranet
(for running MAUI like projects internally) and internet hosting. Bugopolis and Perforce were
two among many. Other companies that did not have had their own solution were
making sure to tell people to check out their projects on Sourceforge or similar.
Missing from all of these solutions was any exciting forms of IDE interaction.
Everyone had their own favorite IDEs but noone had any real innovative solutions for
merging community development into the IDE. <Sarcasm> Oracle showed
off Jdeveloper hosting
a web browser and opening a project from a web page during their keynote!!!</Sarcasm>
There could be a great integrated solution somewhere.
Listening (and Responding) to
Everyone beat MS up on this one.
Simon Phipps, the Chief Technology Evangelist at Sun, made the point best when he
said ” I used to work as a tester at Microsoft on Word 1.0. I would log
bugs that I’m not even sure the developers ever looked at. I never saw any fixed or
heard about the bugs again. The first time I logged a bug against OpenOffice.org one
of the developers wrote me back, told me he had fixed it, and I would see it in a
released version in 3 months”. He challenged Microsoft to do the same thing
and the audience cheered. It reminded me that Microsoft
cannot continue to be a black hole in the eyes of the customer.
Another, sadder theme, at Linux
world was still ” Look, you used to be able to do this only with Microsoft. Now
our cheaper Linux solution does it. ” Missing in the copycat cycle was innovation.
It seemed the most innovative demo was Sun showing off ” Project Looking Glass”.
This was a three dimensional desktop environment for Linux that looked like some mix
of OS X(Complete with that funky pop-up start bar) and Longhorn. The audience
went crazy for this. Red Hats CEO challenged the people in the audience with
“Each of you here are heirs to the future information society& I’m here to ask
you to participate…in moving the entire industry forward.” IBM representatives also
seconded this challenge in a session delivered designed to inspire innovation in computing
for years to come.
every developer I talked to said ” What linux is missing is your product (Visual
Studio)”, but I saw a bunch of copycat IDE’ s trying to close the gap. Too bad
we are still moving forward on an even better version.
Other News, Rumblings, and
The whole SCO thing
From the ” Prove it” buttons
being given away at the Red Hat booth to the people that told me ” You should
be happy, now MS is second on the hit list” . SCO wanting to hit everyone running
Linux with a $699
licensing fee for using pieces of UNIX code was big on the minds of everyone there.
Red Hat became instant heroes when they pledged $1 million to help fight the
SCO thing in addition to filing
Stability and Cost
I can’t recall the last time I saw
the Blue Screen of death, but it still haunts us(Microsoft) with jokes abound everywhere.
Quality (finding and fixing the right bugs) is something we need to continue to push
on until it becomes obvious to customers that we have beaten the demon. I did
smile a bit when the StarOffice demo I watched crashed to the point the machine needed
to be rebooted then crashed upon boot again. Neither time did an opportunity
arise to ” Send Error Report” , but we were encouraged to go to bugzilla and
file a bug if it happened to us. J
I’m also not even sure what the
details of our licensing policies are, but if you were at LinuxWorld you were educated
on how evil they are. No one at the show claimed that Linux was free, but one
company that made the Linux switch did claim that no evil lawyers have come after
him since they switched for being 8% under licensed. It just depresses me to
lose customers because of this.
Where’ s Linux
I saw plenty of people with windows
laptops and plenty of OS X notebooks, but outside of the booths and Sun sessions I
was surprised at the lack of people running Linux. Sure, their slide decks talked
a big game, but it looked a lot like Powerpoint and Windows XP underneath for Dan
Powers(IBM VP of Grid Computing and Emerging Technologies) and several others.
For presenters and general show goers I saw it felt like the order was MS > OS
X > Linux. It surprised me enough to mention it I guess.
For scalable server solutions to
projects like Seti@Home this was touted as what is already the ” Next Big Thing”
from IBM, Sun, Oracle and others. IBM is starting to require their employees
desktop machines for spare better than mainframe power at night. They talked
about a cool demo they did by modifying the Quake engine and creating a grid based
quake server that could have over 500 people playing at the same time. I’ve
always wanted to see us take advantage of it to scale out HUGE virtual test labs.
The Microsoft Booth
We had a pretty sizable booth with
demo stations. I wasn’ t there to work the booth, but I did stop by frequently for
the free jelly beans. We were showing off VS.NET, Web Matrix, Unix Services
for Windows, and Rotor. There seemed to be a lot of interest in the last two.
that’s it. My tablet doesn’t run Linux and I was not captured by an evil penguin.
If there is anything else you would like to know please stop by. Thanks for reading
this far. Now “Where do you want to go tomorrow” J
between the AMD micro 3 button with a scroll wheel laptop mouse and Microsoft jelly
Ploy to take advantage of: Real
networks threw an after hours party with free drinks to convince people to build
their next generation software for them. “Sure, I’ll write free code for
you in return for peanuts and beer”. (With the unemployment in the valley they
might have had a few takers who considered it a good offer.)
most likely heard after people read my badge:
Oh, well at least you don’t work for SCO.
I asked for demos of all the competing IDE’s: “Do
you know much about IDE’s, so I know where to start?” Followed by “So what project
at Microsoft do you work on” and then by “Oh, nevermind you guys kick our butts anyway” J I
have some feedback on these IDE’s as well, but I think they require some more time
to play with in person for real details.