Tag Archives: microsoft

Open fun with Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Like many, I’ve been fast-forwarding past the Microsoft Surface commercials as I watch recorded episodes of The Walking Dead. (Though, I will admit that I had to use Google’s listening capabilities to find out what that music was… it’s I Am the Best, by 2NE1.) It looks cool and all, but it also comes with a Windows lifestyle. I don’t mind if you decide to use Windows, but I’d really rather not.

Then I saw this article:

CNN Discovers Promotional Surface Pros Make Fantastic iPad Stands

photo of iPads propped up against Surface Pro devices
Last night, CNN wasn’t just covering the mid-term elections. It was also pimping the Surface Pro 3, conspicuously placing a kickstand-ed unit in front of a bunch of its commentators. The catch? They were actually just being used as iPad stands.

This makes me laugh. It’s such a beautiful example of how people react to having technology pushed on them when they are trying to get something done. I wonder what sort of time was spent setting up the SPs and trying to orient staff on how to use them. Did they just pass them out or was there a concerted effort that was ultimately just ignored.

When I first saw the Surface Pro 3 I thought it looked interesting, but, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t interested in moving to Windows for the privilege. I wondered how long it would take to see Linux running there. The answer… it already does:

So… I would probably need some time to poke through the tweaks for the keyboard and bluetooth, but I have no doubt that those things would all fall into place at some point… possibly by magic as the updates embraced the nuances of the hardware.

I could totally get on board with this! I wonder if they have any leftovers from CNN I could use!

Rumor: Google is leaving Windows

This just in… or at least into my inbox:  “Google Closes the Blinds on Windows
It looks like the company, which successfully became a verb, and has built a love/hate relationship for many in the technology world has made a choice.  Apparently they are in the process of removing Windows from the organization and offering Linux or Mac for all of their users.  In this report, Andrew Storms, the director of security operations at nCircle Security, comments that the move smells more like cost-cutting than security. “[But it’s] been cleverly spun into a PR effort to strike at Microsoft,” he said.

Even if it is a cost-cutting move, so what?  If removing Windows from your organization saves money, money that one might want for other things, like paying employees, marketing, development of new business, things that go way beyond providing a platform on which to run your applications, what’s wrong with that?  If you could buy fuel for your car more cheaply and still get where you want to go, wouldn’t you do it?  If you could refinance your mortgage and get a better deal, wouldn’t you do it?

As the open-source movement continues to provide multi-platform tools and as more and more functionality moves into the browser, the platform running your applications becomes less and less relevant.  For many, the only thing really holding them from making such a move is the will to move.  If this all really goes through as rumored, perhaps that example will provide will for other companies and individuals to officially make the change that they’ve been hinting at for years.  If that happens, it will make some interesting changes in the software and hardware industries.  Developers who have kept their development Windows-centric, claiming that there was no point in supporting anything else but Windows may suddenly discover that they have multi-platform approaches after all.

I think that finally breaking that ice will help computing to integrate in areas that have been held up.  I remember several years ago seeing some of the technology concepts which had your house working together.  IBM had this ad about how little bits of technology planted around could make life easier.  Frankly, I think centering our computing around Windows has made it very difficult to do this sort of ubiquitous technology.  It wasn’t that it wasn’t possible to have more integration between Windows and things that couldn’t run Windows.  It just didn’t appear to be easy for some reason.  As a Linux user, I became frustrated with the ways that gadgets I would get came packaged with all of this Windows software with no information about how to interact with the device in any other way.  Generally this was not a problem, because in many cases Linux would recognize the device as a file system or something and I stumbled across an open-source tool to help me out.  A good example is the calibre program which I use to manage my Sony book reader.  It makes book management very easy to deal with and even helps me convert between formats to make for a better experience.  I can group ebooks together in a series to help me find them and read them in order.  It’s nice.  (It’s also multi-platform!)  A bad example is my TomTom navigator, which, despite the fact that it uses Linux as it’s operating system, has it’s interface software only available in Windows (and more recently Mac OS X).  It’s begun to be supplanted by my Droid phone for navigation… which is a shame because I think the TomTom does a better job in many ways.

It’s all about standards.  Not “this is the only platform that people should use so you should only bother programming with our tools in our way” sort of standards, but true open standards that are independent of tools and platforms.  The more we adopt predictable ways for technology to communicate the easier it will be for people to create devices and software that can do it.  Perhaps this sort of quaking in the desktop world will cause people to wonder what they’ll do if the market changes, and they’ll start reaching for those standards.  Whatever happens next, I think it’s going to be interesting.

Maybe it’s time to reduce our FAT intake

In the continuing action on the patent battlefield, a recent announcement declares that “German appeals court upholds Microsoft Long File Name patent.”

This is the sort of thing that caused problems for TomTom and is likely to cause problems for other device manufacturers as Microsoft begins to explore ways to augment their revenue stream.  Please don’t get me wrong.  If Microsoft is legally entitled to receive royalties for this technology then it is appropriate that they pursue those royalties in whatever manner they see fit.  It would be nice if they could take the more magnanimous route of allowing it to be freely used by anyone, but that does not appear to be what they want to do.

So, why do we still want to use the FAT file system on devices?  There are other, unencumbered file systems that are available which would do the job —  arguably a better job — that FAT does today.  The initial argument is that everybody uses Windows and so we have to follow that protocol.  While it may be true that many people use Windows, FAT is no longer the de facto standard in a Windows environment.  FAT is just a legacy carry-over which could be allowed to go to pasture.

I would like to propose that manufacturers consider using the open ext2 file system.  There are Windows drivers for ext2 available.  The openness of ext2 breaks down the barriers of drivers for any operating system.  When someone buys a device, they are accustomed to having some sort of driver disk that goes with it.  The device could simply install the ext2 driver along with whatever other helper software was provided.  If this became more common, OS manufacturers might simply start providing a driver as part of the standard software stack.

The open-source world provides viable alternatives for many problems.  Rather than fighting this further, let FAT go and start working with a truly freely-available alternative.

Amazon signs a deal with Microsoft

This was written when I was working for IBM, so that’s why there are the protestations.


I suppose I should begin this one by reminding everyone that, while I am an employee of IBM, what I write here are my own thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the position of IBM on these matters.

So, I’m trying to enjoy my morning cup of tea and I come across this article from Reuters and many others talking about a new and mysterious deal that Microsoft has signed, this time with Amazon, to protect them as users of Linux.  A lot of speculation went up about similar deals done with TomTom and Novell.  In the case of TomTom it seems pretty certain that the issues had something to do with their use of the FAT file system.  The others are more mysterious.

My preferred solution for TomTom was for them to switch to an open file system, like ext3, and then load an ext3 driver onto Windows as part of their software installation.  I understand that the Windows driver may need a little work, but it would be nice to pay that money to open development rather than into Microsoft’s protection plan.

I’ll admit that I’m someone who is primarily curious about technology and what I can make it do.  I’m probably pretty naive when it comes to matters of big law and big business.  Yet I just don’t understand this game that is being played about the dark secret that Microsoft has about Linux.

I envision this scene in a conference room where a group of lawyers and business executives all sit around the table.  Someone speaks:

“We’ve examined this issue in great detail.  We’ve had our patent lawyers search and we just don’t see what the issue is with Linux in our environment.  We don’t see why we should sign this deal.”

Another figure across the table, dressed in an elegant, yet timeless way, with piercing eyes and a face that will reveal nothing but mild amusement responds in silvery tones.

“I understand.  It is a confusing and difficult matter at best.”

“So you’ll have to pardon us if we just don’t understand the benefits of this deal.  We’re going to need to see exactly what you are talking about.”

“But of course.  That is to be expected.”

The figure raises a gloved hand and snaps his fingers.  A misshapen little man comes in bearing the weight of an ancient looking, ornate box and lays it gently on the table, as though he is afraid to disturb the contents.  His gaze turns to the man who summoned him, his body wracked with anticipation.

A cold, soulless smile breaks across the face of the figure at the head of the table.  “I think that this will make everything clear.”

The little man opens the lid of the box and the conference room is bathed in a sickly green light.  The executives and lawyers turn  pale  as each man finds his own place between utter terror and total astonishment.  After a few moments the box is closed again.  Each man looks at another, trying to make sense of what he has just witnessed and imagining what would happen if such a thing were unleashed against the world.  The feeling slowly fades and, with resignation, men reach for their pens.

OK.  That’s probably a little melodramatic and reveals more than is necessary about my choices of fiction.  Yet,based on the information that I’ve been able to determine about the so-called infringements of Linux and open source I can’t throw it out completely.  I followed the previous attacks on Linux and open source and they really seemed to lead nowhere.

I certainly don’t think that this is the time to develop unfounded fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the future of open source.  I think that many analysts and people who thrive on conflict for the sake of conflict will try to make you think that “the big one is coming.”  I think that many people selling something will try to convince you that you need to buy a little insurance.  I would rather that you look at great examples like the Ernie Ball corporation who made the move to Linux and open source years ago and never looked back.  There are other companies that have happily made the move.  (Here’s an incomplete list.)

Again, I’m not speaking for IBM.  If you want to know the IBM position, watch for the press releases, if any.  I speak to you as someone who has happily used open source software for years now.  I know that it works.  It gets better for me every day.  It’s not to be feared, but embraced and enjoyed because it really will change your use of technology forever.