What's So Java About Sun's Linux Desktop?
Subject:   Comments on Linux and Java on the desktop
Date:   2004-10-08 00:28:12
From:   scottwalters1
I take objection to this article for all the same reasons I've objected to JDS and Sun's understanding of open source - none of which are which are what you accused me of. Company PR departments have a way of taking critisms and repeating it back polarized into accusations so bad they couldn't possibly be true and ambaguous comments that can easily be shown not to be a complaint at all, and lo, magically, there are no valid objections! This is spinning, and us Open Source people, being able to successfully avoid it to such a degree as we have, don't fail to notice it.

First, lots of companies are adapting Linux for the corporate desktop, RedHat not the least of them. We like RedHat because they say what they mean and they mean what they say. We're seldom left guessing, and never for long. IBM people are suspicious of yet, as well they should be, but IBM has done a huge amount of work. I don't see Sun Linux commercials on TV. You might pat yourself on the back for "integrating everything", and a lot of companies have done a lot of integrating in the past, but guess what, people like me do too. We go down to client sites, create custom Knoppix based distributions with customized start menus and file associations, with Microsoft Windows software living in /home/knoppix/.wine/c_drive, stuck on the start menu, ready to go - for those few applications they can't live without. I call this a days work, not a valuable, exclusive service to all Linux kind. Linux can live without me and it can live without you. Hundreds of "system intergrators" have died through the 80's and the resurgance in the 90's was... limited. MSCE's took over this field.

Second, Sun likes to play second fiddle. This gets back to no Sun Linux commercials on TV. Fine, let the unwashed masses go on living with no evidence whatsoever that no operating systems besides Microsoft Windows and MacOSX exist. You wouldn't believe how many computer owns I've had to explain to "yes, your PC can run other operating systems". As long as no one drops the hint, they're going to go on thinking this, and this just makes it harder to do what you're trying to do. But you don't care. You're happy to play second fiddle. When Netscape squaked at you for competing with them with HotJava 1.3 on the Java-on-the-web front after they licensed your tech, you castrated HotJava into something worthless except as a component. After Microsoft defanged Netscape, boy did you look dumb.

Third, actions speak louder than words. Remember when you refused to give up technical information needed to port Linux to the Sparc 64 architecture, making snide remarks all the while about how Linux "isn't ready" for 64 bit computing, and high performance applications demand Solaris, and as independent reverse engineering progressed, you hinted at sueing? Well, maybe you didn't work in that department and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, but from out here, you're all one big company, and it doesn't look nearly as rosy as it might in your department. SGI ported Linux willingly. SGI added a lot of things they developed to Linux - and they're taking heat from SCO just like IBM is. When SCO approached you - before they approached IBM - you gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars and agreed not to add anything from Solaris to Linux. Remember? I do. Slashdot is a top 20 news site. It pushes a hell of a lot more traffic than does. You're spinning against the stream here.

I realize Sun's been lost for a market for a while, and there's the temptation to go soft - "oh, Sun, they should just watch their ass real close cuz someones gunna put them out of their misery" - people say things to this affect. If you acted like the people who liked you well enough to own your hardware were the coolest people on Earth, you wouldn't be in this mess. Last time a client needed big iron for a database server guess who I bought it from. SGI. That's right. Even though their reputation as the biggest coke-heads in California with greedy management from hell is entirely founded. (Unix newbies out there: it's well known that California Unix venders encouraged their employees to take cocain to put in those long hours - Sun has this reputation too but SGI is legendary). Maybe you buy a crummy $800 PC from a store down the road and expect betrayal, but you don't drop $265,000 and take that kind of treatment. I know most people buy hardware out of momemtum and thusout of ignornace, but inertia comes from somewhere, and you've lost it. Remember: it isn't about what you want your customers to do, it's about what your customers want. The only thing you should draw the line at is giving away hardware someone is willing to pay for. Your best successes were lowing the prices of the Ultras, getting all sorts of people and research departments running them on the desktop. People like Unix. It sells itself. We're sick of crummy white label PC hardware, but most of us are afraid of RISC boxes because we've never been able to touch them because they're too expensive. If you can't make a Sparc and sell it new for under $1,500, you'll continue to fade away - and I'm not talking about gimped out thin clients. I want to order this thing on your website, and through better online computer retailers without having to give my cell number to some damn Sun reseller who calls me in the middle of my sleep cycle and acts coy. Apples took a big hit when they stopped putting Macs in schools at any cost. It took years, but things slowly started leaning towards Microsoft. Consdering the care Windows needs to be handled with and how utterly useless it is when it's locked down, this blows my mind. Give the poor kids Speak 'n Spells why don't they. Take a hint from Google: make everyone work on their own "fun" projects for 10% of their time. The 3D window manager is the best thing you've shown us for years. Get computers out there - GNU is already supporting your processor for you - all you have to do is design and fab them. Get them in peoples hands. Get a new generation of Linux enthuasits excited about Sparc hardware (and if you're just selling PC's, you're just another white box). Make it a friendly environment to device driver authors, programmers, hackers, amature sysadmins, college researchers, and when they get jobs in the real world, they'll remember their safe haven and it take with them. Problem is, it'll take close to 6 years - just like the hobbyists-come-pro Linux movement. You can do!


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