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February 5th, 2006, 09:11 AM
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February 2, 2006 STREET STRATEGIST - A strategy for Linux
A strategy for Linux
Thads Bentulan February 2, 2006

Linux is probably the best operating system for computers in the world today. Furthermore, Linux is free and open - these are its greatest strengths. Linux is free and open - these are its greatest weaknesses. How can a strength be a weakness at the same time? Now comes the Street Strategist with his analysis of Linux on its 15th year anniversary, and his strategy for Linux for the future. And, yes, the Street Strategist is using Linux to write this strategy.

For background information, here's an account of Linux from Wikipedia, the open Web-based encyclopedia.

Linux (or GNU/Linux) is a computer operating system and its kernel. It is one of the most prominent examples of free software and of open-source development: unlike proprietary operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS, all of its underlying source code is available to the public and anyone can freely use, modify, improve, and redistribute it.

In the narrowest sense, the term Linux refers to the Linux kernel, but it is commonly used to describe entire Unix-like operating systems (also known as GNU/Linux) that are based on the Linux kernel, combined with libraries and tools from the GNU Project and other sources. Most broadly, a Linux distribution bundles large quantities of application software with the core system, and provides more user-friendly installation and upgrades.

Initially, Linux was primarily developed and used by individual enthusiasts. Since then, Linux has gained the support of major corporations such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and Novell for use in servers, and is gaining popularity in the desktop market. Proponents and analysts attribute this success to its vendor independence (the opposite of vendor lock-in), low cost, security, and reliability.

Linux was originally developed for Intel 386 microprocessors and now supports all popular computer architectures (and several obscure ones). It is deployed in applications ranging from embedded systems (such as mobile phones and personal video recorders) to personal computers to supercomputers.

GNU project

GNU is the acronym for G=GNU's N=Not U=Unix. (This is a typical engineering fun with recursive functions.)

In 1983, Richard Stallman founded the GNU project, which today provides an essential part of most Linux systems. The goal of GNU was to develop a complete Unix-like operating system composed entirely of free software.

By the beginning of the 1990s, GNU had produced or collected nearly all of the necessary components of this system - libraries, compilers, text editors, a Unix-like shell, and other software - except for the lowest level, the kernel. The GNU project began developing its own kernel, the Hurd, in 1990 (after an abandoned attempt called Trix).

According to Thomas Bushnell, the initial Hurd architect, the early plan was to adapt the BSD 4.4-Lite kernel and, in hindsight, "It is now perfectly obvious to me that this would have succeeded splendidly and the world would be a very different place today." However, due to a lack of cooperation from the Berkeley programmers, Stallman decided instead to use the Mach microkernel, which subsequently proved unexpectedly difficult, and the Hurd's development proceeded slowly.

Meanwhile, in 1991, another kernel - eventually dubbed "Linux" - begun as a hobby by Finnish university student Linus Torvalds while attending the University of Helsinki. Torvalds originally used Minix, a simplified Unix-like system written by Andrew Tanenbaum for teaching operating system design.

However, Tanenbaum did not permit others to extend his operating system, leading Torvalds to develop a replacement for Minix.

After that, it gradually evolved into an entire operating system kernel intended as a foundation for POSIX-compliant systems. The first version of the Linux kernel (0.01) was released on the internet on Sept. 17, 1991, with the second version following shortly thereafter in October. Since then, thousands of developers from around the world have participated in the project.

Today, Torvalds continues to direct the development of the kernel, while other subsystems are developed separately. The task of producing an integrated system, which combines all the basic components along with graphical interfaces (such as GNOME or KDE, which, in turn, are based on the X Window System) and application software, is now performed by Linux distribution vendors/organizations.


The name "Linux" was coined, not by Torvalds, but by Ari Lemmke. Lemmke was working for the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), located in Espoo near Helsinki, as an administrator of ftp.funet.fi, an FTP server which belongs to the Finnish University and Research Network (FUNET), which has numerous organizations as its members, amongst them the TKK and the University of Helsinki. He was the one to invent the name Linux for the directory from which Torvalds' project was first available for download. (The name Linux was derived from Linus' Minix.) The name was later trademarked. Originally, Linus was going to call it Freax for "free" and with the often-used X in the names of Unix-like systems.


The Linux kernel, along with most of the GNU components, is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL requires that all source code modifications and derived works also be licensed under the GPL, and is sometimes referred to as a "share and share alike" (or copyleft) license.

In 1997, Linus Torvalds stated, "Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did."

Other subsystems use other licenses, although all share the property of being free/open-source; for example, several libraries use the LGPL (a more permissive variant of the GPL), and the X Window System uses the permissive (non-copyleft) MIT License.

The Linux trademark (US Reg. No. 1916230) is owned by Linus Torvalds, registered for "Computer operating system software to facilitate computer use and operation." The licensing of the trademark is now handled by the Linux Mark Institute (LMI). LMI has also sought to enforce the Linux trademark in countries other than the US. In September 2005, Intellectual Property Australia, the trademark regulator in Australia, rejected an application to trademark Linux.


In March 2003, the SCO Group (SCO) filed a lawsuit against IBM, claiming IBM had contributed some portions of SCO's copyrighted code to the Linux kernel in violation of IBM's license to use Unix. Additionally, SCO sent letters to a number of companies warning that their use of Linux without a license from SCO may be actionable, and claimed in the press that they would be suing individual Linux users. This controversy has involved lawsuits by SCO against Novell, DaimlerChrysler (partially dismissed in July 2004), and AutoZone, and by Red Hat and others against SCO.

Linux: 15 year after

The Linux of 1991 and the Linux of 2006 are quite different - in looks.

Allow me to quickly round up Linux in its 15th anniversary. Linux is great. I have been using it for a few months and I am extremely satisfied with the results, but not a perfect experience yet.

First, since Linux is free and open, anybody can make his own Linux. But instead of creating your own kernel, you simply create compilation, much like LEGO blocks. You may have to create some of your own LEGO blocks in the process.

Each flavor is known in the industry as a distribution or a distro. A distro could be a full installation or a Live CD version. The latter is a CD that you insert in any computer, even one with Windows, and it runs Linux from the CDROM drive without deleting any files in the computer. Its just like putting a music CD into a CD player and music is played. That is the analogy of a Live CD version. You can test Linux or use it fully without writing anything in the hard disk which may contain Microsoft Windows.

There are many distro available - more than 350 at latest count. There's Bayanihan Linux, there's Red Hat Linux, Mandriva Linux, Debian Linux, and my current favorite Ubuntu Linux.

How do you obtain a distro? From computer magazines who give out CD inserts. The fastest way is to download it from the internet and burn it into a CD. You need DSL speed because these are large files.

In the case of Ubuntu, they give you CDs by postal delivery from the UK for free.

I chose Ubuntu because it is by far the most user-friendly of all the distros, and you don't have to pay for any "enterprise edition." How can it afford this free shipping, free everything? Because it is a brainchild of the first African in space, Mark Shuttleworth, who paid $20 million to the Russians for that privilege.

To be continued

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February 3, 2006 STREET STRATEGIST - A strategy for Linux
A strategy for Linux
Thads Bentulan February 3, 2006

Continued from yesterday

In terms of engineering excellence, Microsoft's Windows is only 60% of Linux. From a software architectural point of view, Windows is an embarrassment. Linux is designed as a multi-user system. It is possible for 10 employees to use only one Pentium computer. Of course, you need to attach 10 keyboards, 10 mice, 10 monitors, but can you imagine the savings in your company, school, or government agency? Note that each of these employees would not know what the other is doing, even whether the others are using the computer or not. This is how we should spend our money, not in some constitutional amendment consultative body.

Installation in Linux is painless, and you can be connected to the internet right away because of autodetection. It is also faster to install.

As for Web cam detection, Linux is poor. Printers, modems, routers, etc. are easily detected.

Installing additional software in Linux that is part of the distro is poor, but with Ubuntu Linux, a software called Automatix helps a lot.

Again, if your office needs are the normal applications, there is no problem at all.

With Ubuntu Linux, it is about 90% as graphical friendly Windows. And this is where Windows is really great.

However, for use in your company, the 10% advantage of Windows is irrelevant. If your company is now using Windows in a network, you can actually replace that system overnight with Linux, and your employees will not suffer any noticeable reduction in productivity. That's if they are normal employees, using Office applications.

Linux is 85% user-friendly compared to Windows in terms of adding network printers, Web cams, and peripherals. But remember, Linux is attempting to use add-on hardware that were designed for Windows, not Linux.

Again, if you are a company with ordinary office needs, Linux is free, Windows is about a month's minimum wage.


There is no virus for Linux. Why? In Linux, just changing the system clock requires a password, so how can any virus attack without such password? You cannot install a software in Linux without a password. Very difficult to create a virus for a system like that. It can be done, but very hard.


Linux is fast such that when after a few days you go back to Windows, you will be able to discern just how slow Windows is. Linux, by its architectural design, is a lean mean machine.


I saved close to half a million pesos of software licensing (that's for the operating system alone) by advising a small company to use Linux. Now, since application software such as OpenOffice are free in Linux, the savings are doubled.

Assuming you have company of 50 computers. If you install Microsoft Office and Windows in each unit, you easily spend P1 million. If you install additional software like Acrobat Writer or Adobe Illustrator, or any graphic software, you need to pay P10,000 to P30,000 per copy.

Many of Linux software are comparable or even better in quality than their Windows counterpart and are free.

Software applications

The Mandriva distro includes more than 2,000 free application software from finance to stock market to engineering to games. And you can download many distros.

For instant messaging system, in Windows you need to install five or so software for Yahoo, Googletalk, MSN, Jabber, etc.

In Linux, you need to install only one software which has the capability to talk to Yahoo, MSN, etc.

Web cam viewing is still poor in Linux, but not because Linux is bad, but because Web cam manufacturers are not willing to share their Web cam's specs to the community.

OpenOffice, with the recent donation of Sun Microsystems, is formidable. I have not used Microsoft Office for half a year.

I have been writing my columns in OpenOffice and e-mailed these to the editors who do not realize they were not touched by Microsoft hands. Yes, OpenOffice has the ability to read and write in Microsoft format.

Graphics programs, CD burners, etc., there are many of them.

Linux is poor in audio and video format support because of licensing issues, but there are distros that can download for you, using a few mouse clicks, software with support for those formats that maybe non-free.

That is why in the community there are the so-called "non-free" software that may infringe some copyrights. For example, the music MP3 format may be copyrighted that the open-source community invented other free formats.

Overall, a bank or a school can save millions of pesos immediately with only a minor inconvenience as a trade-off.


So you want to run MSOffice or some Windows program in Linux to save on the cost of the Windows operating system?

Chances are those Microsoft applications will run. You can use WINE, which is W=WINE, I=Is, N=Not, an E=Emulator. WINE is free and is usually found in any distro.

Or can be downloaded, as with any open-source software.

Your in-house accounting software may run under WINE. Try it.

You can use Cedega, too. Cedega source code is free, you can compile your own, but for those who don't want the hassle, you can buy it for $5 per month (subscription because of the updates).


Gaming is an issue because games are designed for Windows. Of course, there are Linux games, but there are tens of thousands of Window games.

Sure, the games on Flash animation or Java will run in Linux, but we are talking about games that are using DirectX technology of Microsoft.

Yet, it can be done with some success.

For example, I have set up 20 computers, some are Linux, some are Windows, in a network and all users can play against each other in a network version of WarCraft using the Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) maps. These are Windows games, but I was able to run them in Linux - with the network version of the game at that.

Still some failures in the online RPG games is the subject of my Strategy for the Philippine Software Industry.


I propose that the government standardizes on Linux and OpenOffice, and open-source software because, currently, Linux is more than capable of meeting its needs. The government does not need gaming or user-installed software.

It should follow the Massachusetts decision to adopt open standards.

A poor country has no excuse to pay for hundreds of millions in software if it can be obtained for free.

Strategy for Linux

Let me just map out a strategy for Linux.

Linux should become like Windows before Windows becomes like Linux. What do I mean?

Linux is free and open. This is great. Linux is configurable and free such that anybody make his own Linux, that therein lies the problem.

Free and open means chaos, whim, and caprice. This lack of standardization is the Achilles heel of Linux. Its superior engineering is rendered inadequate because of poor standardization.

Linux should adopt the Henry Ford system: The customer can have any color he wants as long as it is black. Ford's system is great because it made the manufacturing process uniform, standard, fast. This resulted in drastically reduced cost of production, reducing pricing and more costumers.

Instead of 300 Linux variants, for Linux to become the world standard for the grandmothers and children, it must be predictable and uniform.

Windows is universal because it is user-friendly and standardized. For instance, in Windows, to install a software you only need to point-and-click the "setup.exe".

In Linux, it is a minor nightmare to install. Wait, wait. Let me clarify. If the software is part of the collection supplied for free by the distro, then there's no problem. There are menu-based add/remove software for Linux. But if there's a new software, that's where the problem arises. There's no "setup.exe" for Linux.

This installation nightmare is due to the variants of Linux. If this is not addressed, Linux will never take over Windows as the operating system of the masses.

Ubuntu community came up with such standardization approach in a small software like Automatix, but the strategic direction is not there.

The product is there, but not the strategy.

The success of Ford is that the car was standardized. The success of Windows is that is standardized. The success of Linux is that it will be standardized.

Linux is free and open. My strategy is for Linux to be free, but closed. When I say close, I do not mean proprietary or copyright.

Linux must set up a standardization council to keep it as uniform as possible for the benefit of the greater number of users. Grandmothers should be able to attach Web cam to Linux without having to use the "sudo" command.

This standardization will not remove the configurability of Linux nor reduce its open-source model.

But to reach a billion people, we must surrender some freedom in exchange for uniformity. Uniformity means standardization. Standardization means acceptability.

We can start with the "setup.exe" equivalent or the uniformity of menus.

I know many do not agree with me because of the concept of free and open freedom.

Ubuntu is leading the way. If Ubuntu continues to standardize, I will start convincing everybody to use only Ubuntu, and then it will become the standard. The community must converge to one or two flavors of Linux, not 300. Standardize now, but keep the configurability option for the nerds.

Remember that Microsoft DOS did not become the world standard because it was the best. No, sir. Microsoft was merely lucky. It was lucky that IBM chose it as the standard.

Windows is not the standard because it is the best, but because it continues to hide its faults with its great interface, user-friendliness, predictability and standardization.

Linux will never become the standard, even if it is free, unless it begins to think like Microsoft: Make it customer-friendly.

Linux has engineering in mind, not the customer. That is the greatest fault not only in the software industry in particular, but in the world of business in general.

But that is not probably the greatest fault. The greatest fault is not heeding the mind of the Street Strategist until after you realize how prescient it was, and when you do realize it, the time value of that advanced information is gone.

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August 15th, 2006, 12:48 AM
I've read in another forum about people playing Windows games in Ubuntu using WINE.

I've decided to spend some of my next salary buying blank CD's to burn Kubuntu on. I'll give them for free to my friends who still pirate Windows so they can see what they're missing.