Recently there has been a lot news regarding Microsoft in many different aspects. Each piece of news has several important things in it that by themselves are interesting, but when they are put together they lead to some very interesting conclusions.
Recently Jim Allchin,a top MS Executive, stated that there were pieces of MS code so bad that if people were to see them they would be able to completely shut down anything using windows including the Department of Defense. Only a few days later Microsoft starts a campaign to get the Department of Defense to leave Open Source projects because they are insecure and proprietary closed source code is more secure. This is somewhat contradictory. The only way I can figure this out is that they must mean it like this, “Open source is less secure because people can see it, even though there aren’t any gapping holes in it. While our software is more secure, even though there are gaping holes and bad code, because no one but us can see them.” That is about the best summary of the two topics that I can come up with. If I was the Department of Defense I think I would see it in another light, “Is it better to face the enemy that is known or the one that is unknown?” Meaning, you can pay people to look at Open Source programs and see if there are any backdoors that people can take advantage of, but if you use MS software you have to take their word for it. This means there are several possible problems. First you have the fact that there are new breaches in MS software all the time, these problems are often not corrected for weeks or even months. Second, there is the possibility that MS is made to open its source and then you have these huge holes in your software. Holes that you already knew existed, but couldn’t correct. Third, and one of the more scary ones, what if MS, for whatever reason, decides to exploit those holes itself? There is that possibility. Right now we assume they don’t on good faith, but what if the court case doesn’t go their way? Perhaps they need to get into a couple of computers to see where the next court attack is coming from. Do you honestly think that there is an moral issue for a company that has done all the things that MS has done when it comes to entering a machine in the Defense Department?
Another interesting situation is MS attempting to audit school systems in Oregon. The school systems started raising hell and the news made it to sites like slashdot.org where thousands more people picked up on it. This led to several offers from people to help the districts move to Open Source software and Operating Systems. It also led to a stong look at Linux as a possiblity and led to MS changing its attitude and providing a free bar at one of their conferences. MS is now backing off a little with the audit threats, but is still continuing with the scheme of making schools pay for every computer that could run Windows, no matter if it does or not. This is pushing school systems to use Linux as well. All in all while I think that this attempt has brought some more money to MS, I also think that it has sown the seeds for less money in the future. Now there are company’s like Redhat are starting their school plans to help schools migrate to their version of the OS at a very low cost. Effects like this will continue to snowball as more and more schools have success stories for using Linux. Hopefully in the near future it won’t be a very big deal to hear of Linux in schools. All because MS tried to more greedy that it already was.
Increasingly, it seems things are not going MS’s way. There are more and more countries that are working on laws to not allow the government to run MS or closed source software. Sometimes it seems like the Judge in the anti-monopoly case is really working toward having them nailed down so this time they cannot get away. Server share is decreasing as more and more viruses and worms come out that take advantage of Microsoft operating systems and more admins are switching things to Unix. More and more people are realizing that there are other things out there besides MS bloatware and licensing. It is possible to go about your day without using MS software for things. At home I have had my primary machine running Linux for several months now, and I know of many people that haven’t used it in a long time. They are perfectly able to interface with the rest of the world and use programs that are productive. I still have a windows machine in my room. I use it for a television and to run programs for other people. I also use it to watch some movies that there is no way to watch under Linux. Linux commonly follows standards which are cross platform and will work on any machine, while the only place that they lag behind is in working with Windows formats. If Window were to loose some of the market share and have to start following standards that would go a long way toward allowing people to work with whatever they want and still have everyone be able to work with them. The only time I really miss Windows is when I want to play a game. Sadly most all games are still being written for Windows. Hopefully someday that to will be corrected.