LJ Archive


Skim Cream not Scum

Nicholas Petreley

Issue #142, February 2006

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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