[kwlug-disc] the limits of linux

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Mon Jan 18 15:03:07 EST 2010

On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 13:14, Robert P. J. Day <rpjday at crashcourse.ca>wrote:

>  is it just me, or is this guy wildly out to lunch?

Yes-ish. There is a large variety of commercial, proprietary applications
available for Linux, just not from Microsoft. Interestingly, until 'Shake'
was discontinued last year, Apple also sold Linux software. You might have
seen it's output while watching Lord of the Rings. HP, it was pointed out a
few days ago, has no problem supporting every one of their printers on

You just can't find this stuff via apt-get. So I suppose there is a bit of
merit if you paraphrase his argument as "The Open-Source deck is stacked in
favour of open-source software being easy to find, install, and use because
they make it available to everybody for free in a manor that is easy to
find, use, and install".

I only made it half way through the article. I wonder who is ever swayed by
these. All it seems to do is entrench people on whatever side they started
on (much like my argument above will). You can probably guess where I stand
on the issue. And if not yet, you sure will! :)

>From the article:

Last year I talked to a company (I won’t name them here) whose main business
> was on Windows. They have been putting out a binary-only Linux version of
> one of their main product for some time now. They admitted that the Linux
> versions lagged behind their Windows brethren because of the sheer effort
> involved in getting a binary-only app to behave properly across the major
> distributions they had targeted.
> Worse, they had to think about each kernel revision within those
> distributions, going back about three or four iterations. This effectively
> makes them custodians of a dozen or more different editions of the same app
> for *one platform.* (The Windows version runs generically on *all*versions of Windows from 2000/XP forward.)
I would really like to know what kind of software this was. It sounds like
it is not a hardware driver since it is "their main product" and not a
driver for their main product. Why do they need to track kernel changes so
closely? Also note that Windows has compatibility limitations as well, but
they are typically bureaucratic: Try writing DirectX 10 apps targeting all
Microsoft platforms. There you end up just writing to the

You could say I have a bit of experience writing software (on both Windows
and Linux). I can't imagine what they were writing that not only did they
have to track every change in the kernel, but that they couldn't handle
minor differences between distributions. Not only that, but they apparently
were unable to share any code between them or have an automated build
system, thus making them manage "a dozen or more different editions". That
just sounds to me like they were re-inventing the wheel somewhere and
complaining when cars were not designed for theirs. It's too bad they
couldn't hire some competent cross-platform developers. Also, I guess
tracking your dependancies and using OpenSUSE build service is right out
(and stacking the deck in favour of Open Source again. damn).

The argument that it is bad for Linux to favour open source software and
drivers is somewhat silly. I just moved to an nvidia graphics card in my new
laptop from an intel in my old. The intel one was a much, much better user
experience. Now I can't even test a beta OS release now without checking to
see if nvidia managed to grace us with an update for the new X server. So,
if you compare lagged updates (which was his citation), and sub-par support,
then yes, open source solutions are better for Linux. That said, apparently
even nvidia has no real issue with having their driver run on "a dozen or
more different editions" of Linux.

The company I work for now sells a closed product based on Linux. We moved
to an appliance model due to integration problems, but with other
closed-source products (databases, libraries, etc). At least with open
source you get a changelog and a revision history. With closed source
software you suddenly find out (their support urged our customers to install
it) this point release broke ABI compatibility and re-factored all their
headers. Woo.

Chris Irwin
<chris at chrisirwin.ca>
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