Microsoft TechEd Trip Report: Sunday, June 17th

by Brian Jepson

I woke up and cracked open the sliding glass door. I was kind of surprised at how cool the breeze was, considering that I was standing in a hotel in Atlanta. Around noon, though, it got very hot, and I had to close the door. That’s OK, because it was time to head over to the conference center for registration.


I arrived just before 1pm, and the line for registration was incredibly long. Once the line started moving, it moved quickly. Conference staff supplied us with bottled water, and I found plenty of fruit on the way to registration.

A Sea of Bandwidth?

I was looking forward to the 802.11b support at this conference, but I was slightly disappointed that the 802.11b support is limited to certain lounges (as well as rooms adjacent to the lounges). I was hoping to bathe in a sea of bandwidth.

On Hobbyists

VMware was giving away copies of their software. I lined up and got my copy (only the Windows version was available). I bought a copy of VMWare for Linux back when they still had the hobbyist license. I’m bummed out that they still don’t do this. The hobbyist license recognized that there are two types of users: those who need the program to work all the time (and need phone or email support), and those (hobbyists) who can find workarounds when stuff doesn’t work. As a hobbyist user, let me report bugs, and I’ll wait for a fix or find a workaround on my own or via user-to-user support.

A Conversation

In the evening, I had a good talk with some Microsoft guys about Open Source. Of course, the conversation started out about Craig Mundie. I was asked how much truth there is in what he's saying. I said there wasn't much truth there, but blurring of the distinctions between open source and the GPL. Someone raised a concern about the C library, a library that nearly every program needs to link against. I pointed out that the C library is licensed under the LGPL, which lets non-free software programs (such as Netscape) link to the library at runtime. Section 5 of the LGPL license spells out the details of these terms, including the extent to which a non-free work may include portions of header files related to the library.

The conversation took a lot of turns, visiting embedded Linux, Mac OS X, and Apache. We talked about the difference between companies whose sole business is open source and companies who augment their core business with open source: if a big part of your core business is hardware (as with IBM and Apple), then open source software is a much surer bet. And in the current financial climate, sure bets are appealing. If you can dictate the hardware configuration, whether you are shipping a PC or a handheld, Linux or BSD is great, since you can tune the operating system to the device and never worry about hardware compatibilities. One of the reasons Windows is so darn big is the breadth of hardware that it supports. Windows XP has been especially impressive in this respect (and stable, even for a beta).

All that being said, I think companies like RedHat and Ximian will prove that you can have a business model based entirely on open source software. This is where the Microsoft guys and I diverged a bit. They believe that their model is the best for developing software quickly and reliably (don't laugh until you've used the .NET Framework for a few months - it's quite well done). Although Microsoft's model can and does turn out quality software, I think there's plenty of room for open source to do so (and in different ways).

Chatting with the Microsoft guys was a pleasure. First and foremost, I found them to be intelligent and open-minded. This didn't surprise me, since I've talked with people from Microsoft before. I mention this because it challenges some stereotypes that people have about Microsoft employees. Second, the conversation led me to think about many of my positions, and I found ways to articulate them better (the fact that I had only one black and tan really helped).

More to come tomorrow: .NET, Web Services, and a few digressions...