/etc/rant - Skim Cream not Scum

Pack up the Microsoft sycophants and shoot them off to Mars.

When did Microsoft lose its status among open-source developers as the evil, or better still, incompetent empire? When did open-source developers stop trying to make software better than Microsoft's and start imitating everything Microsoft does? Why do we have to have an open-source Outlook, or an open-source dotNet? Sure, there are examples of how we do things better in Linux than Windows. But I'm getting really tired of the monkey see Microsoft, monkey do Microsoft mentality that has infected open source. And the operative word here is “monkey”--hint, hint.

Aside from being open and free, isn't superiority what got Linux where it is today? Once upon a time, Microsoft was under intense pressure to catch up to Linux stability (in my unhumble opinion, Microsoft still has a long way to go). Now we have several projects that exist for no other reason than to to catch up to and duplicate Microsoft software. Worse, we're duplicating architectural nightmares like the registry, and with no other apparent purpose than to be more like Windows.

I have nothing against cream-skimming the best features of Windows for use in Linux. But creating a registry for Linux is not cream-skimming. It's pond-scum-skimming. What happened to the days when people were appalled at the idea that you'd have to edit a registry in order to make this or that feature work the way you wanted? I don't care if the registry is binary or XML. It's a maintenance nightmare.

Next time you visit Redmond, take a look at big hole with teeth marks in the Microsoft butt. That's a “came back and bit it” bite mark left by the registry. While Microsoft is trying to get around its mistakes, we're busy duplicating them.

Here's another example. Emulating what OLE 2.0 brought to Microsoft Office is not cream-skimming. It's biohazardous-medical-waste-skimming.

I remember the original Microsoft demos of OLE 2.0. You paste spreadsheet cells into a Word document. You click on the cells and the word processor magically transforms into a spreadsheet program. That makes good demo, but did anyone ask what real value it offers? Aside from looking cool, that is? This feature is bad not because of what it does, but because of what it fails to do. It fails to make it easy to create a live link between the original spreadsheet data and what you paste into the document.

Fortunately, not everyone has imbibed from the punch bowl of Microsoft cool-aid. EIOffice, although it looks and feels more like Microsoft Office than OpenOffice.org or KOffice, actually came up with a fresh idea. Imagine that. Innovation. But it took a commercial company, not an Open Source community, to do it. The folks at Evermore Software (the makers of EIOffice) must have at least one non-Microsoft drone on board to enlighten the developers as to what really matters. EIOffice gives you a menu selection to paste a bit of spreadsheet into a document where the cells are live-linked to the original spreadsheet data.

And this next bit of information should send open-source fanatics into a tizzy. EIOffice is based on that evil, despicable language called Java. How dare they? Mono C#, Python, Ruby, maybe even Perl. But Java? Won't that encourage Sun to become dictator of the world if EIOffice gets popular? It's perfectly fine to copy Win32 DLLs in order to make Linux do Windows tasks, but heaven forbid Linux should be infected with a Java runtime. How Sun replaced Microsoft as the evil empire is beyond me. But don't get me started on that.

Back to OLE 2.0 and its successors. Of course, the OpenOffice.org and KOffice folks have faithfully duplicated this monstrosity. Hey, it's how Microsoft Office works. It must be the way to go, right?

That's what they want you to think. Who is they? I don't know, but I can't help but wonder if one or more people within some of these open-source projects are Microsoft moles.

“Here's the plan. Infiltrate the Open Source community and neutralize it. Convince them that the only way to compete with Microsoft is to create open-source versions of Microsoft's great software and development tools. Without our patents, you'll always be several steps behind everything we do. And the fact that you're imitating us makes us look like the clear innovation leaders. End result? Free advertising and marginalization of the value of having Linux.”

It's time to boot the Microsoft suck-ups out of the Open Source community. Give them a free copy of Windows XP, Visual Studio dotNet and two months to use these to create a navigation system for the rocket we'll use to send them to Mars.

Yeah, but what do I really think?

Nicholas Petreley is Editor in Chief of Linux Journal and a former programmer, teacher, analyst and consultant who has been working with and writing about Linux for more than ten years.



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Welcome aboard but I disagree

Jeff Lapchinsky's picture

At least on this issue, well really on the second paragraph.

I wanted to welcome you aboard in January since I’ve been following you for years and was thrilled to find you here. I think this is the perfect spot. Love your style but I think that you’re off base with this MS Monkey Do business.

I really don’t think that any alternative OS’s can be presented until a workable replacement for Office can be made. I’m constantly using Linux tools to do my work in a Microsoft world. I even use StarOffice (ODF also) for all my documentation. When those documents have to be submitted I must still bring them into Word (copy and past) and save them. If we as users would like to push Linux to the desktop we have to have an alternative to only to Office. Since Office is the standard that is the only package that has to be mimicked. If an alternative to Office (only Office) is available then I could use any OS desktop I want – bar none. You can rant all you want and say you won’t stoop to such lows but the bottom line is that an alternative to Office has to be found. I’ve read that MS has 95% share of that business, that’s a big share for us to say we won’t stoop that low. And what's wrong with the way StarOffice works? Does a word processor have to work like emacs, vi or sled to name a few. Most people can't handle those and the ones that can don't want to anymore.


with you on this one

Anonymous's picture

Why should open source start going backwards... what makes it so much superior to MS is the the fact that it's been based on originality from the the start (save the unix platform). I used to support Windows networks , the registry is something that really should be left for the windows community to play with,that's their problem.

The Word/Excel Example

Wu Yongwei's picture

Of course I cannot switch back to the time when OLE was released, but I do not think your example is correct. MS Word can paste a datasheet as text/rich text/bitmap/Excel sheet/etc., and with each choice you can choose to paste directly or as link! OpenOffice can paste a datasheet as `DDE link' too, though not as nicely.

I do not think `Paste link' is a new feature. Even if it is only in recent versions of Word, it does not prove your points correct, but that Microsoft is improving itself.

Yes, Microsoft is evil. But that does not mean that it does things in the wrong way. You really are underestimating your enemy.

How did you become editor in

Anonymous's picture

How did you become editor in chief?

Linux Journal just lost a subscriber.

I must agree, HOWEVER.....

ki6amd's picture

So my question to you is this... What was the primary objective of GNU when Richard Stallman first started? Was it to make something different that Unix? No, His first objective was to imitate a C compiler from Unix. The very fact that GNU stands for "GNU's Not Unix" is a play on the fact that they are strikingly similar.

While I'll agree with many points you have made (windows registry, Outlook, etc) I shall say that the reason people are wanting these is because we've told windows users to switch to Linux. Windows users (the majority anyway), want all the same programs (Nero and such). Whether we like it or not Linux will eventually be proprietary-like system (think DRMed Debian or Redhat packages).

Eventually there will be a split in the Linux community. Some people will use Redhat, Suse and other "brand-name" distros, while others will adapt to the Stallman way and use Debian, or small community distros like Kanotix (Hi Kano :). Personally I like the GNU way, but for many people that I myself have talked to, they don't understand "open-source" and what it means.

We are already seeing the split in Linux, or GNU/Linux. Just look at the difference between Stallman and Linus with GPL3. So what does this mean? Which side will you take? I say read Don Marti's "Keep Your Options Open" (May2005)

More broken than you would believe.

Petr Vicherek's picture

The list copying mirosoft mistakes is ensless.
1. Modeless popup window that blocki parent applications. You cannot cut from parend and paste to popup. With "move mouse to focus" mode, the popup can eazilyi end up hidden behind mainapplication, making in inexplicapblyi inresponsive - a crash.

2. Some applications are solving data sharing violation by locking a second copy from running.

3. Some application spawn a "second thread", but if the user is logged in on 2 consoles, the window is redirected to the window where the first thread was started.

4. Registry! Who had the sillies idea to use a cryptic registry for Mozilla!

5. Schemes. Try gnome desktop running white on black. You won't see half of the text! KDE is much better, yet not perfect.

6. Some application do not accept pase via middle-click.

7. Applications that cannot run in batch mode, only interactive.

8. Applications that cannot handle redirection to X-terminal properly.

There is so much of this crap in the "mainstream" Linux, that it is beyond fixing. All we can do is rant about it ....

Oh, shut up...please...

Anonymous's picture

DO something about it, don't just whine and bitch like a child.

Valid point

edis's picture

Rant or not, but points made are correct. Creating software is not copy making. MS has own approaches, own successes and failures as well. It would be logical either proceeding with what differentiates from MS, or, at least, look for best inspirations, not pick anything.

Freedom of choice is good, but we still speak of engineering these places.

hole in one!

Hosiah's picture

Nicholas Petreley, you are a sage. I've been saying this same line for five years, thusly:

Windows User to Linux Developer:
"You have to make more people switch from Windows to Linux."
Linux Developer:
"Uh, OK, how should I do that?"
Windows User:
"You have to make Linux work, look, feel, sound, smell, and taste exactly like Windows."
Linux Developer:
"If I do all of that, why should people bother to switch from Windows to Linux anyway?"
Windows User:
"Ha ha, ya got me! I wouldn't switch to Linux if you paid me to, anyway, I was just seeing if you were stupid enough to fall for it!"

...thank you for saying it better!

Nicholas Petreley, you rant

Anonymous's picture

Nicholas Petreley, you rant on like a nutter. Your poor writing skills undermine your credibility. This article is uber-pointless nerd-on-nerd action, and reeks of fanboyism.


Eric Boutilier's picture

Nicholas: I really agree with the overall point you're making in this article, except I'm unaware of your anti-Sun views. Wondering if you could provide links to other articles you've written about that because I think I'd like to comment.

Eric Boutilier
Sun Microsystems

re: Sun

Bryan Venable's picture

Eric, I'm pretty sure Nicholas was saying that it's no big deal to use Java for EIOffice and that Microsoft, not Sun, is still the evil empire that Linux lovers should be worried about.

Re: Sun

Eric Boutilier's picture


Thanks. I guess I'm getting a major hair-trigger when it comes to the seemingly huge, uninformed anti-Sun camp out there.

In the article, Nicholas notes:

> How Sun replaced Microsoft as the evil empire is beyond me.
> But don't get me started on that.

Nicholas, this would be a great topic to explore further here on Linux Journal. IOW, please do get started on that.

Best get hopping

Anonymous's picture

Oh Nicky, your masters at Sun have spoken, and you better get jumping. They are still sore about your abject failure to prop up their assinine "NetComputer" concept, and are beginning to question what they are getting for those hairplugs they sprung for.

Oh, and since Java is a proprietary language controlled by a corporation, anyone who pretends to support FLOSS can not support Java at the same time. Unless you are a paid Sun shill, that is.


Anonymous's picture

So, don't like Java from Sun? OK

How about using Java from GNU, or Java from Apache, or Java from Jboss or Java from...

The language has been cloned about 15 times. Some are more compliant than others, but even Sun certifies a couple of them. Just stay with the core functionality, and your golden.

Lost site of OSS

Buddy Lindsey's picture

IMO the writer has lost site of what OSS is. It isn't hate MS, it isn't don't copy. It is freedom. Freedom to develop software how you want. If that is being unique or copying. You have the freedom to do it. I was going to get this magazine until I read this. Now I think I will move on.

I will also say that I am a Microsoft supporter I like the products and the company, and I love OSS and the ideals behind it. There is a place in the world for both. Why should people hate MS? They shouldn't MS is a company that has just done well.

I understand the points of the article, but I don't think that there hould be a hostel tone to it either. I agree that we shouldn't copy software from other companies, but be creative and innovative. Again I don't think you should point his out by being hostel.

Buddy Lindsey


Anonymous's picture

i also find the authors choice of the use of the word "fact" highly amusing.

"And the fact that you're imitating us makes us look like the clear innovation leaders."

i would definetly need some clarification on how this authors "opinion" just became a fact. go ahead and do the research. how many "facts" are actually stated out of these two articles.

if you have an opinion, i'd like to hear it. if you have opinions stated as facts. "FUD"


Anonymous's picture

Well heres the thing about opinions and facts.

If the contents of an opinion are true... that makes it a fact.

The opinion the writer asserted is that a lot of OSS copies MS "features", rather than developing better ways of doing things. This is true. Thus it is a fact.

still no fact

Anonymous's picture

that was a very generalized statement that cannot even be argued. the author never even sited a particular feature or software. just a huge rant. and yes i understand that this is a rant section, but i can just as easily say "all computers suck" cause the one i have won't turn on. does this make it fact? does the computer really suck? i guess i wouldn't know unless i did a little research on how it operates. how can you even begin to say that a software has been imitated or copied without even looking at a single line of code, or at least reading a manual to find out how it works. just because the "GUI" looks very similar? the gui is probably only about 5% of the programmers effort. that's what gui toolkits are for. how is anybody supposed to know what is imitated or copied without at least siting one piece of software/application/feature.

so just because i make a statement that is impossible to disprove due to lack of any actual facts, it now becomes a fact?


Anonymous's picture

may our "Choice" of gods or lack of, protect us from the cancer within.


Anonymous's picture

well said. the linux kernel itself was born from freedom. as also are ALL of the gnu and gpled apps which the "Linux Community" is familiar with. the licenses themselves that these apps hold is in the spirit of freedom. as is also this column. freedom is also an "ideal". Attempting to close minds to the idea that i should not have the freedom to choose whichever software solutions i deem fit for "My" "Choices" in "My" life is just plain "FUD". in my "humble" opinion, how about promoting the use of as many "FOSS" projects as possible. knowledge is king. as i truly do beleive in freedom, continue as you wish, i am going to "freely" continue to read your magazine as i do enjoy most of the technical articles and howto's and i am "free" to pick and choose the "FUD" i wish to read.

dictionary.com <-----------------------all references above may be confirmed here.

Skim Cream not Scum

Peter's picture

Dear Nicholas,

Very well done. I have for some time now, harbored similar thoughts, and questions. Having worked in UNIX for 20 years now, I have really begun to question where Linux in particular was going. Not in the applications themselves but in that basic design philosophy Not only wishing to 'replicate', but almost blindly mimicing anything produced by that company in Redmond.

Over and above that I am dismayed by the way in which the current development process of applications takes on the role of trying to be " all things to all ". A fundamental premise of UNIX was that a command should do one thing but do it very well. To carry out complex tasks your put commands "together". Now we a have desktop environments that want to perform caching functions and do their 'own' DNS look ups. Mail clients that want to be calendars (and keep running processes in the background even after you have exited the application), ad infinitum.

We (Linux community) become guilty of mis-representing the stability and performance of Linux when we point to how many and how long so many of the Internet servers are Linux. Quite happily serving up web pages and/or delivering mail and/on serving up a databases for months even years on end. But put the desktop and it's apps in to the mix and it's stability and performance plummets. But we don't acknowledge or admit that. That same thing can't be said of the 'original' X windows client apps and environments like FVWM, which generally exhibit strong stability and performance. It can't be missed that those X client apps, followed the same Unix principle, one thing done well.

We now see so much of following the $MS Pied Piper, with that same re-inventing the wheel that $MS goes in for that it has to be no surprise that Linux is beginning to take on the undesirable aspects of Windows.

In large part I believe this to be caused by those now coming in to the development world having had little exposure to anything other than the MS World and increasingly the replication of that on Linux. To many the thought that it is actually unacceptable to cycle (reboot) a machine is completely alien. Equally few have ever written batch files for windows machines let alone been exposed to shell scripts, means that they don't necessarily know that there is almost certainly a command in UNIX/Linux to carry out what you want to do.

With that in mind we could/should be seeing really innovative things come from the open source world. Why, for example, should I need to tell my environment to start up my e-mail client, by now we should be at the point where, after a little while of use the 'system' should have figured out, ".. oh it's 07:30 on a Monday, he'll want to open the mail client, I'll do that ready for him..." - but then don't go creating a new, application specific, cron replacement!

I don't think I have wondered off topic (too much). Once again Nicholas, please carry on giving an 'alternative' view.

Yours sincerely

P Dominey

Letting me subscription laps

Andrew's picture

I got my latest issue with my final renewel notice in the mail last night. I read this article and From the Editor and have decided that I won't be renewing my subscription. I don't know what was behind the decision to hire this yahoo but from the Editor's column where he proceeded to kiss everyone working at Linux Journal's butt to the last article where he launches a weakly veiled attack on Mono, Evolution, Ximian, et al. I'm really burned.

It's pretty obvious from googleing Petreley's name that he's less of an advocate and more of a detractor of linux. The top articles to pop up are all about how this is terrible and that is no good.

It's also apparent that he really has issues with Gnome and Mono - I don't even want to know what he thinks of Ubuntu. It's ironic that in this same issue there's an article about embeding db40 with C#/Mono.

All and all I don't think he's a good addition to the team. And while I really enjoy the articles - especially Marcel Gagne's - I'm going to "Vote with my pocket book" as it were and not renew the subscription.

Hopefully Petreley will get his act together - not likely since he's been ranting for so long - or the "dream" Executive Editor realizes the mistake and let's this guy go.

The glimmer of hope is that old grumpy dinosaurs eventually pass on - often times eaten by the faster "Evolved" ones - hint, hint.


Dan Siemon's picture

I have to agree with the above post.

I have been a Linux Journal subscriber for 8+ years and I proudly have every issue on my book shelf. I even pay for a subscription for my favorite computer store to help them gain knowledge about Linux and Open source software.

It used to be that the final page of Linux Journal had good information; news from the community, law advice etc. Now the last page of my favorite magazine has uninformed rants that at best belong in a Slashdot comment on a KDE vs GNOME story.

I can only imagine what people new to the community will think when they pick up their first issue of Linux Journal and see that the writing style typified by Slashdot comments also makes it into the community's print publication.

I will reserve my judgment on the article content for a couple of more issues since the articles that have been published so far were quite likely in the pipeline before Petreley got involved. However, I seriously doubt Petreley's biases will not bleed into the rest of the magazine.

Torvalds has a problem with

Anonymous's picture

Torvalds has a problem with Gnome, you going to stop using GNU/Linux because of that?

The difference being

Anonymous's picture

The difference being Torvalds isn't paid for writting anti-gnome rants on a magazine that otherwise has some fine articles. But hey, non-sequitur arguments are easy, free and look pedantic. What's not to like?

What is the title of the column?

Anonym's picture

Huh... isn't the title of the column /etc/rant ?
Isn't it supposed to promote discussion and self-critisism on controversial topics?

Well... I thought so!

My problem with his "rants"

Anonymous's picture

My problem with his "rants" are that they make him come off like a complete bigotted idiot.

Last month's rant was filled with a large number of factual errors, and was more or less a string of insults thrown against a company that did nothing other than make a product he didn't like. (Namely, Ximian GNOME.)

This month's rant was just incoherent rambling about how we're supposed to hate Microsoft because we're all supposed to be as bigoted as he is.

Petreley is definitely causing me to not renew my subscripton, just like the OP. I'm not going to trust any magazine with this guy in as the Editor in Chief. Petreley's clouded perception and lack of technical comprehension is on par with Rob Enderle.

It's not the linux guys...

Anonymous's picture

In a very round about way the article has some point... ,it may not be developers or programmers that lack innovation ,it's the general public that are clearly poorly educated in the realms of OSS and general Linux issues... in order to get more people to use Linux the developers have to cater to the lesser educated aswell as the hardened MS user (who has been deprived of freedom of choice).

But lets leave the MS bashing alone... that in it's self is a sign of weakness , let the negative approach of slagging off the oponent be left to the MS community... the Linux community see ourselves as a superior breed so let us set an example and handle MS with a little more decorum , who cares what MS are doing lets just get more people to use Linux and open source products , then we can start setting the trends, we might see a little more of a copy cat approach just to lure in the MS or on the fence PC users in...

Have you converted a MS user Today?

Perhaps you prefer that other Magazine...

Spicerun's picture

Perhaps you prefer that other Magazine? You know, the magazine that shares the same first name as this one? And has accepted MS advertisements, and constantly prints rants on how MS is the standard and how Linux should be like MS and continue to always being the good second OS next to MS? No Thanks, I'll stick with Linux Journal, especially since Mr. Petreley has joined the magazine. In fact, I'll be renewing my subscription for an additional year now.

Mr. Petreley has expressed exactly what I've been thinking for years. I agree with him that copying Windows programming is not they way to go, and that Linux/OSS has the potential to set more widely used standards.

I suspect you're the exact type of yahoo user Mr. Petreley is ranting about, and personally I think you should go back to Windows and don't bother us real Linux users.....at least not until you're ready to truly try something different from Windows, not just Windows imitations.

Keep up the good work Mr. Petreley. I'm looking forward to more good things from you.

(emphasis mine) I suspect

Anonymous's picture

(emphasis mine)

I suspect you're the exact type of yahoo user Mr. Petreley is ranting about, and personally I think you should go back to Windows and don't bother us real Linux users.....at least not until you're ready to truly try something different from Windows, not just Windows imitations.

Wow, there was so much misguided elitism there I felt like cracking a monocle.

If I had to choose between a crappy OS with an average community of users and a godsend that forced me to interact with arrogant nerds to solve my problems, I'd take the crappy OS, thank you very much.

Oh, and I've been using linux since 1997, but if people as wonderful as the "yahoos" Petreley was talking about weren't around (say, Gnome developers he seems to hate beyond any logic), I'd be programming proprietary software right now.

P.D.: if you want to use something "truly different from Windows", you could go for circular windows or something. Useless as hell, but it'd be different! So underground! Truly badass!

Good questions. I really

brianlane's picture

Good questions. I really began to wonder when the project (I forget its name) to copy .net was launched. Personally I prefer to use Abiword instead of OpenOffice, it runs alot faster!

I think that the trend can be traced to the influx of programmers and users who are not used to doing things the Unix way -- small interconnected applications. GUI programming lends itself to monolithic apps that have to try to do everything.


Linux Software Developer

Ranting is under-rated

fjsummers's picture

As one given to various rants myself, I support your choice of
a rant column vs a "from the editor" column. Keep up the
provocative commentary!

Just don't start using smilies to soften your words. I really despise
that kind of crap. They get a good head of vituperative steam built
up, and then they pretend they're "just kidding" with some inane
winking smilie ;) Man, I hate those weenies who don't have the
guts to lay out the way it is, and stand by it ...