Has Microsoft lost the war?

In an old youtube video “Microsoft Windows 3 and NT, 1991 Part 1” Bill Gates gave an overview about the Windows 3 and Windows NT product line. He explained, who Microsoft brings modern computer technology to the user and he presented modern software and even network capabilities. For the time of 1991 the presented technology can be called advanced and it was explained easy, so that any customer can understand it. But something is wrong with the presentation and the reason why Microsoft was modern in 1991 but not in 2018. It is not about the Windows 3 operating system, the technology is great. The problem is that the user has to pay enormous amount of money to profit from all these feature. What is not shown in the promotional video is how much exactly. The shown 386’er PC costs around 3000 US$, the MS-DOS 5 operating system was sold for 200 US$ and the presented Windows NT line costs even more. If the user needs also the Microsoft encyclopedia, the MS-Office product line and the C++ development kit he will pay 1000 US$ additionally. And that is only the price for 2 years. If he needs upgrades for software bought some months ago, he will pay even more. That means, if money is not important Microsoft is a great company. But for most users this is a problem. The PC industry is competing with technology and with the price and if a company is not able to reduce the costs he will not be able to survive.

Let us take a look into today’s market position of Microsoft. For beginner users with a small need in software, Microsoft is great. Like in the early 1990s the customer buys a PC, gets a preinstalled Windows operating systems and buys additionally one game and the MS-office package. The total amount of money he has to spend is low, perhaps 300 US$. That is the behavior of many million customer worldwide. But, if the customer has greater needs he will recognize that Windows is a dead end. For example, if he is visiting the computer store with a list of software he needs: Database application, Server system, C++ compiler, encyclopedia, office application, image manipulation, sound tools and video editor. If he puts all the software in his cart and moves to the checkout he will notice that the computer store ask him to pay 4000 US$ only for the software. That is too much. And there is a need to search for an alternative. Microsoft isn’t able to provide such an alternative. Their prices are fixed some kind of software flatrate isn’t available. What the customer can do and what most professional users are doing is to switch to Open Source. So they get all the software they need and their costs are limited.

The business model Microsoft worked in a time, in which only a small amount of software was needed. That means, the typical PC of the 1990s consists of an operating system, plus 3 additional programs, not more. Paying the license costs was affordable. Since the 1990s times have changed. Today’s poweruser have a higher demand. They need all software available on the market. That means, they have a PC and on the PC they have installed 100s of programs. The only business model which is able to provide such a service would be Open Source and a flatrate. That means, the individual software package costs nothing or very few.

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The update button in Fedora Linux

Today I want to introduce the update feature in Fedora. It helps, to stay the operating system healthy and get all the latest security updates. In the main desktop menu the user has to click on the software icon:

And in the next window on the “update” tab.

In my system every possible update is installed, that means Fedora 27 is protected against the latest bugs and runs quite well. It is important to press the button daily or at least once a week. Sometimes only minor updates were retrieved from the mirror servers in the Internet, but at least once a month a major Linux kernel update is installed on the system.

Trafficshaping in Fedora

At first we need to know, which network interfaces are available: ifconfig. Then the throttling is activated: sudo wondershaper enp9s0 400 800 The first value is the upload speed, the second the download speed. In some older tutorials the values are different. If we want to remove the brake, the following command is right: sudo wondershaper clean enp9s0

The change is not permanent, only for the current session, on the next bootup, the normal values are used. The main purpose is, to consume less bandwith. The effect is for example, that youtube loads very slowly and uses only the lowest quality. It helps to consume less download bandwith. The values are given in kbit/s but they are not reached exact, it is only per average.

Fedora as a professional operating system

At first I want to introduce the opposite, a consumer operating system. That is software which is used to play content already there. The iOS system for iPhones is a good example, or Windows 10 for a PC. The main idea is, that the user can install a game or an application from the app-store and this will fit to his needs. Also the playback of youtube content and podcasts is possible. For 99% of the users, Windows 10 and iOS will satisfy their demands and there is no need to switch the operating system.

A professional operating system is used to create the content. It is used by musicans, programmers, engineers and video artists. Fedora is a professional operating system. Explaining the usage is a bit complicated. In most cases the user has to learn something otherwise the result is not possible. A web developer would perhaps install the Apache webserver plus the PHP suite for running a backend application. A java programmer can use Java 8 together with Eclipse for programming sourcecode. And a video amateur can install Kdenlive (which is not available in the package manager) to create extensive movies. That sounds not like fun, but like demanding task? Yes it is, that is they reason why 99% of the users, stay on the user side and will never get interested in Fedora. For the rest, it is the perfect choice. For example, if the video professional has a bigger file and realizes his need to use an external harddrive with 5 Terabyte for storing a raw file. With Fedora no problem. He plug ins the harddrive, formats it with ext4 and thats it. He will never get any problems with it, and work the next 2 month with this setup until his important video is ready.

A game designer can install Box2d plus C++ and will get a perfect development system. He can invest years, until his program is done. In all of these cases, Fedora is used as a tool, like a typewriter for an author. Apropos typewriter: if somebody want’s to try out Lyx … Fedora is also the perfect choice as an underlying system.

I wouldn’t call Fedora a PC operating system, it has more in common with a workstation. That means it was designed for 24/7 work on the computer making content available. The main problem with Fedora and other workstation OS is, that at the beginning the author starts from scratch. After booting up the system there is no video or textfile, and the author has to make something until he can see it. Sure, it is possible to use Fedora as a consumer PC, for example for playing a song or a video. But in reality, it doesn’t work quite well. The mp4 format can not be played by default. Most Windows games will not start, and Wine has problems to run a modern Windows application. If the user identifies themself as a user, then Fedora is the wrong choice. He will not has any advantages over iOS or Windows.

Welcome Fedora 28

A new version of the best operating system is out there. It runs on PC and Mac, it runs on expensive PC but also on a 300 US$ netbook. It is called Fedora 28, was programmed by Red Hat and the main feature is a package manager which give the user access to many thousands of Open Source software, for example Chrome, Lyx, C++, Java and LibreOffice. The only point in which Fedora 28 is weak is gaming, the Steam client is technically available in the package manager, the wine program to play old Windows games too, but in reality nobody is using it. The reason is, that modern games are running better in Windows directly. But for everything else from playing Games like Webbrowsing, programming and desktop publishing the Linux-like operating system works great. There are no known problems with malmare or security problems and a powerful bash-shell is supported out of the box.

The best feature is the price. The software costs not 200 US$, not 100 US$, it is provided for free. No, it is not a joke, the Fedora 28 iso file can be downloaded without any costs from the internet and get’s regular updates for improved stability. The business model is called freemium Open Source and has as a longterm vision to change the software-industry and make advanced software global available, especially for countries which are focussed on low entry costs.

tool of the month: gst123

The program gst123 is not known in mainstream computing. It is available in the fedora repository and is a video player like mplayer but uses not it’s codec but the GStreamer one. But let us go a step back. Podcast player for the GUI are many available in Linux for example Rhythmbox. The problem is, that they are complicated to used. They have to much buttons and it is unclear how to create a playlist. The better idea is to use a commandline player. Here we can give the playlist as a textfile and seeking forward and backward can be done with cursor keys. All this is provided by gst123.

The nice thing is, that it is no longer necessary to download physical a podcast to a pc instead a command like “gst123 https://url” is enough to play the file remotely. If we are jumping 10 minutes forward the duration between them is not beeing downloaded, which saves download capacity. Overall, the tool is very useful, +1 from me.

How does Red Hat earn money?

The first impression is, that the business model of Red Hat makes no sense, because they are posting new developed sourcecode to the internet for free. How does the model works financially? Open Source software is not grouped around a product, for example a box with a CD-ROM in it, instead is build on companies. On the market, we see companies like IBM, Intel, Red Hat and Apache. For example, Red Hat has 10k employees, they get their paycheck from Red Hat Inc. The question is now: where get the company Red Hat the money from? Red Hat is comparable to a staffing firm like Manpower and Adecco. That means, they have employees which they are train, support and selling to the public.

I want to give a small example. Suppose, we want to have Linus Torvalds as a speaker for a conference. We are not talking to Linus directly, but to Red Hat, because Linus is the employee of Red Hat. We are paying money to Red Hat, and Linus comes to us. Or suppose, we want that Alan Cox creates a new cpu scheduler which supports hardware invented from Intel. Then the game is the same.

What is the alternative to use a staffing firm? Intel may have the idea, that they need somebody who is writing kernel code in C, and the name Alan Cox sounds familiar to them. They want to hire Alan Cox permanently. But it is not possible to make a contract with him, because he is employee of Red Hat.

Open Source works like a staffing firm for producing intellectual goods. It is a contract over many edges which increases the freedom of the stakeholder. Earning money is possible, because the different people are doing work and demand for work. Again, it is not about the Linux product, it is about the invested time of the programmer and the demand for that time from the customer.

Founding an opensource company is equal to become a hub for work distribution. Red Hat doesn’t produce software, they are pairing between software developer and companies how need software developer. On a formal level, Linus Torvalds gets his paycheck from Red Hat, but in reality he is an employee of Intel, IBM, Apache, Oracle and most other tech companies. Red Hat is a laborlaw construct for getting all the different customers satisfied.

Let us observe the founder of Red Hat, Bob Young a bit in detail. Is he only a programmer, is he only the CEO of a software-company, is he only a lawyer? What Bob young really looks like is the boss of an staffing agency. That means, he is not interested in products or technology but in people. He knows, which companies have a demand for programmers, and he knows which people can fulfil the demand. Bob Young sits in between them.