Category: OSS

So you have multiple RHEL4 machines in a secure DMZ location. You need to update these machines from RHEL 4.5 to RHEL 4.6. You need to do this without access to the infamous Redhat network, and without physical access to the servers. What are your options? The only supported method by Redhat is to physically upgrade the system with optical media.

How the hell is this enterprise? Both Redhat and Suse continue to amaze me with their inferiority to community Linux distributions. Their inferior support, and the ever increasing licensing costs. Don’t get me wrong, the Linux model is amazing for the quality of product, but the commercial distributors are not adding any value, certainly not enough to pay $1500/box/year.

So what did I do about my DMZ upgrade issue? I ended using Debian’s APT packaging tool to upgrade $1500/box/year Redhat systems. Its quite sad that a community distribution like Debian has better upgrade and packaging tools than the overpriced market leader in “enterprise” Linux.

Today, Google announced that they are releasing their own web browser. Chrome, a lightweight browser for Windows that has no particular usefulness, other than to take market share away from Firefox.

The bottom line of Google Chrome’s creation? The bottom line. Google was worried that Firefox was making too much money, and Mozilla was getting too independent. Mozilla had to be stopped — and the true Firefox believers at Google had to be cajoled into doing Larry and Sergey’s dirty work.

There is no innovation in Chrome. Chrome is to Firefox as IE was to Netscape. Its all about corporate control. Just like Microsoft used their desktop monopoly to propel their browser, Google will abuse its search monopoly to push Chrome.

I don’t think they will have much success, since it actually requires people to psychically install another browser and reject Firefox and IE. Microsoft’s bundling was much more egregious since it came on the computer by default.

The Novell “partnership” with Microsoft has been a hot topic in Linux circles since it was announced a few years ago. Recently, Novell and Microsoft introduced a joint-marketing site to promote their collaboration.

A few years ago, I had really high hope’s for Novell’s forays in to Linux. However; bad move after bad move has left me with no confidence in Novell or their Linux products. I can’t say I was shocked to find this work of misinformation touting the “benefits” of Novell over Redhat and “unpaid” Linux.

Novell has this lovely chart to highlight the benefits of SUSE over “unpaid” Linux. “Unpaid” is a complete spin word, sounding like something Karl Rove cooked up in a focus group.

Novell FUD Chart:

fud chart

With the exception of phone and on-Site support, community based Linux does everything listed in this table. As someone who was worked with Novell and Redhat in multiple enterprise environments, their phone support offerings are not very good. On-site support? For Linux? Why would anyone need a Novell presence on-site? Unless you’re doing a training or consulting engagement (ie not support,) their is no need for Novell to come on site.

Online support with community distributions such as Ubuntu and Debian is generally far superior to Novell’s online support. Novell’s Suse forums are a ghost town compared to the Ubuntu community.

Security and system updates via community Linux outclass Novell. Novell’s update system via yast is woefully inadequate. Debian and Ubuntu provide a much better mechanism for updates. Novell provides a crappy method for patching SLES systems, because they want their big customers to buy Zenworks to handle their Linux infrastructure.

In a nutshell, nearly every point in the Novell vs. “Unpaid” section is wrong with the exception of phone and on-site support. Having dealt with Novell and other commercial distributions in the past, phone support is completely overrated. Typically, community based distributions offer higher quality support for no cost.

So why buy Novell and Redhat? If you are using Linux as the platform for Oracle or some other proprietary product, typically commercial distros are the only route. Is there any other valid reason? Its certainly not for the quality of support.

I guess it boils down to the fact that most IT shops want someone to blame/call when something goes terribly wrong.

So it looks like Sun is restricting what features go in to the open source version of MySQL. The Slashdot thread is full of anti-sun FUD, but the blog post linked in the Slashdot thread is true. Sun is providing features to the “enterprise” customers that are unavailable in the GPL version.

I like to refer to such restrictions as semi-open source. The problem with such arrangements is that its just as restrictive as proprietary software. Oh you want online backups for your database? You need the proprietary “enterprise” version.

With such arrangements, the openness of the software is essentially a farce. I’ve seen this the past with “open source” groupware. Zimbra may utilize open source components, buts its no better than Exchange when it comes to being open. Oh you want connect Outlook with Zimbra? You need the “enterprise” edition with its per user per year licensing.

Semi-open source may have packaging that looks open, but when you open the box, its really just proprietary software disguised as open source. In the case of MySQL, organizations are better off using Postgres anyway. Why use an inferior product that isn’t really open?

There are lots of open source projects out in the wild, that have their own blog planets. A planet, is essential a collection of blogs, usually of people involved in the same project. Gnome is a windowing environment for Linux, and other Unix like operating systems. Gnome’s founder, Miguel de Icaza, had a lot of clout and respect in Linux circles, until he decided to waste the last 7 years or so of his life reverse engineering Micrsoft’s Java and Flash clones.

Miguel has some pretty extreme political views, most of which I agree with if I happen to catch them, but they piss off a lot of people because he continually posts his political blogs on Gnome planet. This brings up an interesting question, should people be posting politically charged content in software blog planets?

My view is simple, I go to Planet Gnome to read about the latest developments on Gnome. I don’t care about Miguel De Icaza’s view that Israel has an unjust influence on US foreign policy, even if I totally agree with it. If I care about someone’s political opinion, I will take the time to visit their blog directly. I go to Planet Gnome to read about Gnome, and laugh at whatever Microsoft product Miguel is porting now.

Sun Cuts More

Looks like Sun is cutting more jobs again.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filing completed earlier in the week, Sun Microsystems plans to make job cuts while undergoing a restructuring plan. The company will spend from $100 million up to $150 million over the next few quarters while eliminating more jobs.

The company already cut around 3,700 positions with layoffs and attrition after Jonathan Schwartz took over as CEO — a number smaller than expected by analysts at the time. Sun still employs almost 34,000 people worldwide.

Wall St. loves job cuts, but as a technology customer, cuts generally turn me off to vendors. Unfortunately, Sun’s troubles are much deeper than having too many people. Sun develops some interesting technologies that make very little money.

The biggest cash cow for Sun in their hardware, which most companies will not buy. Sun survives on legacy customers. There are a variety of reasons why companies won’t even consider Sun. A lot of former Sun shops had really bad experiences, and wont even let a Sun rep set a foot in the door. The other big reason Sun hardware is having trouble is price, or in some cases the false perception of price. Companies won’t touch Sun hardware because it has a reputation of ripoff pricing. The reputation is justified, but today there are a lot of Sun configurations that are competitively priced.

Where Sun really completely missed the boat is Linux. Sun spent way too much time trying to push Solaris and fight Linux, when it should have adopted Linux. Sun’s outlook would be completely different today if it adopted Linux in the mid-late 90’s. If this was 2001, I would say Sun should just go out and buy Redhat, but now SUN can’t even afford to do that.

At this point, Sun can’t even make the switch to Linux if it they wanted. They already dug the hole a lot deeper with investing more into Solaris. As a UNIX fan, I like OpenSolaris. It has a lot of good features, but from a business perspective its stupid.

Sun is not going to make more money improving Solaris. Not enough companies are going to run out and adopt Solaris, and buy Sun hardware because of some feature in OpenSolaris. It might keep legacy customers happy, but Solaris is not going to attract enough new Sun hardware customers to validate Sun’s strategy.