09 August 2005

An Open and Shut response to Darl McBride

Hi, Darl.

I see you’re being dishonest again. It’d be really nice if you could shoot straight for a change, but I think Kerry’s Dad will be selling snowplows in Hell first.

Three years ago, when I first joined The SCO Group, we focused the company on the area that was most profitable and provided the most benefit to customers, investors, resellers, developers and employees: UNIX

No, you focused the company on suing people, which was most profitable to lawyers and provided some golden parachutes for your buddies.

People thought we were crazy.

They were right.

But since SCO owns the UNIX operating system

The SCO Group does not own UNIX® in any sense of the word. The Open Group owns the UNIX trademark, definition and other rights, The SCO Group does not. The SCO Group doesn’t even own the UnixWare® or OpenServer® code, the rights to those are held by Novell and TSG use them only by permission and under certain conditions — which they have violated. Apparently you personally have had a big part in breaking those agreements.

we absolutely want to defeat Linux, just as we want to defeat any other competitor

Linux is not a competitor. Linux is a paradigm, dummy. Hello? In three years, you haven’t acknowledged that even once. Wake up!

you would clearly know that we are a company focused on furthering SCO UNIX and innovating in new product areas

The implication is that these are to do with UNIX, but as far as I can tell your innovations are almost entirely limited to repackaging of other people’s ideas (and their work, too) — your failed “bottled water” get-Darl-rich-quick scheme at work — and bizarre/hilarious legal hypotheses. Speaking of which:

while our lawyers are protecting UNIX in the courtroom

Your lawyers have failed to protect anything, and as noted above, UNIX is not yours to protect.

SCO is clearly focused on winning in the marketplace with superior technology and better value for our customers.

Ah. Maybe this would explain why TSG’ve finally stopped selling basic things like networking as optional extras.

SCO OpenServer 6 [is] a product that goes beyond simply leveling the playing field with Linux.

In what way? Linux scales both smaller and larger (more processors, bigger processors, more cluster nodes), runs on more architectures, supports more hardware and more applications. It’s nice to see some admission from you that OpenServer is chasing Linux’s tail lights, but it’d be nice to see the whole truth from you. Where is OpenServer for the 64-bit chips? Why does OpenServer’s support for (to pick one example of many) removable SATA or USB2 hard drives suck so badly?

The purchase price for SCO OpenServer 6 is priced from [USD]$599 to $1399 which includes the license to the product, software fixes, and access to SCO’s online knowledge base.

Mandriva Linux Corporate Server 3 (good for at least 5 years of support) is EUR€329, and the Premium version is EUR€749, but the €0 downloadable version works just as well so long as you don’t mind doing a distro-upgrade every two and a half years (one-line command and typically 30 minutes of manual intervention to cope with software advances — I routinely do this remotely).

Oh, yes... regular Linux distro software fixes are $0, and Google is a highly effective knowledge base, able to pick answers from thousands of sources rather than just one. We even have an acronym for people who rely heavily on Google: MCSE — Must Cconsult Search Engine.

Is Linux really free? Of course not.

Wrong. Very wrong. Linux certainly is free. It’s free in many ways which you clearly don’t want to recognise or mention, ways which The SCO Group can never match.

Ignoring those to address your key point, setting up and running anything costs money. On top of that comes the cost of the software itself. Traditional TSG licensing has involved several pounds of flesh taken from about the heart; it’s nice to see y’all backing down to a single pound now, but to pretend that UnixWare or OpenServer are somehow better value than Linux is absurd. The only fair contest they could possibly hope to “win” is one involving an expensive and non-portable vertical application — and I put “win” in quotes for a reason: the second or third round would go to Linux anyway in a typical enterprise scenario, as it would become cheaper to rewrite the application (properly, this time, to avoid platform lock-in) than to pay for and find support crew for your warmed-over Ancient Unix.

We should perhaps pause and reflect here; TANSTAAFL, after all. Why does Linux bite less than any TSG product? Less to buy, less to run, and so on? There are at least two answers, each of them sufficient by itself:

  1. it cuts out the middle-man: when a customer buys Mandriva Corporate Server, they are paying for service and longer updates, not the software itself; they’re not paying royalties (this is the part which your track record says you despise the most, the whole $699 thing was aimed at making TSG the troll under the bridge); and

  2. the cost of making the “free” lunch is being distributed across thousands, nearing millions of people — a workforce TSG can’t hope to match.
Just remember the proverb: “The best things in life are free”.
OpenServer provides support for up to 32 processors, 64 GB of memory, terabyte file sizes, and full support for multi-threaded applications.

All of which Linux provides, and more. Linux also provides these things on architectures you can’t touch. OpenServer may well have terabyte-sized file systems, but how many terabyte-sized files does OpenServer actually field? Linux, to say nothing of several of the other unices you disparage, has been in the field with terabyte-plus databases for years and years. Come on, Emperor Darl, tell us more about these new clothes of yours!

A study confirmed that SCO UNIX platforms had the lowest number of vulnerabilities of any operating system they had studied.

This could be partly true. Most of the OpenServer systems I work with are not exposed to the Internet, and with good reason. The Linux ones are exposed, and several of my Linux systems do nothing but protect OpenServer systems (many more of them exist only to protect MS-Windows servers, too). Read on.

a vulnerability was discovered affecting Intel’s hyperthreading and allows a local hacker to steal sensitive information [...] SCO was first to respond to the security threat.

That’s once, sorta.

But what about the rest of TSG’s track record? Here we have TSG quelling a potential local-access-only vulnerability in two OS families (OpenServer 6 — since 5 didn’t hyperthread... oops &mdash and UnixWare) while other OS distributors have to repair and test across several families (Microsoft) and architectures (Linux) each. Now cast our eyes back... back... back into the past. We don’t have to go very far to discover a remote vulnerability for TSG systems that left customers flapping in the breeze for over a year, and many others that languished for months. I’ve heard of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but man! this is like making a silk purse out of second-hand fibreglass! Hoorah for bravado, but boo/hiss for honesty.

the most vulnerable operating system for manual hacker attacks was Linux, accounting for 65.64% of all hacker breaches reported.

Yes, it’s true that Linux is generally hardened enough to require personal attention for break-ins to stand a chance of succeeding.

Let us pass over MS-Windows, which suffers roughly twice as many web-site defacements as Linux despite having roughly one third as many servers facing the ’net and being a much less useful target, and turn to an oft-abused argument which might finally have found a valid application here. Undoubtedly, you mean to imply that TSG OSes suffer less attacks. Undoubtedly, they do. But why?

The answer is stunningly simple: because hardly anybody uses them. Hardly anybody dares expose TSG software to the wild ’net, so fragile is this miracle of modern engineering which you so fulsomely tout as secure!

By the way, that’s “crackers” not “hackers” — hackers make, crackers break.

Let us press on, for the end is near:

SCO Has a Customer-Driven Roadmap

Linux’s developers are its customers. The customers make the road-map themselves! You can’t get a more accurate road-map than that!

But the part which must surely frighten you, o toothless IP troll under the bridge of progress, is that it has no toll-gate. It has no choke-point. It has no single point of failure — no, not even Linus.

Can you say that of TSG? What happens to TSG’s customers if your entire company gets dropped into escrow, as Novell are asking the judge to do? What happens if you are restrained from selling Novell’s UNIX software?

Linux can’t possibly suffer from that kind of tragedy. Linux companies have come and gone (and split and merged), but Linux lives on. It’s all part of the magic in that freedom I mentioned above. That and customers being able to trust you because they’re not forced to trust you.

Linux will likely continue to face challenges about its development methodologies and roadmaps as long as it continues to be a loosely organized set of volunteers

Such as? Toss us an example, just one will do!

Has some idiot spent Linux’s family fortune in a quixotic attempt to nail down the wind? What happened when somebody spat the dummy about attempts to extend the source management tool that Linus was using? Catastrophe? No! A new and better source management tool quickly arose. It’s the Open Source way — the Internet way — if there’s a blockage, route around it. Remember that.

When a new upgrade of Linux is required, software vendors and end users most likely have to upgrade their application as well.

That’s not a very bright supposition, Darl. First off, you might have Linux confused with other operating systems which suffer from “DLL hell”. Linux has no problem with multiple versions of libraries coexisting. Backwards compatibility is straightforward and predictable.

Second off, the vast majority of applications are distributed with the operating system, compiled afresh from source. There’s no separate update to do. You might have heard about packaging systems? They’re one of the many things which makes Linux a breeze to use compared to, say, OpenServer or MS-Windows. By the way, Darl, what do you use as a desktop operating system? I mean right now, not by the time you compose a reply to this.

Third off, if you’re not updating your application, you’re isolating it — backwatering it — instead of allowing it to take advantage of the useful features, streamlining and improved robustness which will typically have been worked into the newer library and OS versions.

Fourth off, and specific to OpenServer 6, backward compatibility is all fine and dandy, but to use many of the new features, a complete recompile of the entire application is required — what was that you were saying about Linux? Oh, yes, “most likely have to upgrade their application”, so spake Darl McBride, King of Chutzpa.

The article linked there also has this to say: “OpenServer 6 will have a tough time competing with Linux, Windows and Solaris, each of which runs on the same x86 hardware for which OpenServer is designed. These rivals match or beat OpenServer in terms of cost and capability, and each enjoys more momentum in the market than does OpenServer.”

Taken together with the above, what you’re really saying about OpenServer is that it’s essentially stagnant. Not progressing.

If you’re adopting Linux, get prepared to go into the operating system business because that’s exactly the path you will be taking.

Your, um, inexperience is showing again, Darl. Any idiot with a copy of something like WebMin can administer a Linux system, much more simply and consistently than anything TSG or its ancestors have every produced. And you’ve either never been exposed to tools like the Mandriva’s Control Center or Novell/SuSE’s YAST or don’t want to admit it. Get with the program! Why are Microsoft releasing MSH?

It looks really bad for a technical company when one of their CXOs loses the plot so thoroughly.

The TSG customers I deal with locally are being forced into the OS business because they struggle to find people who’ll support them. They’d leave it for Linux in a heartbeat if the application vendors would let them. What goes around, comes around, Darl, and for TSG it’s “comes around” time.

SCO Owns and Warrantees its Products

Wrong. Novell owns your products, Darl, remember? They inherited them. You’re only reselling them under agreement — or haven’t you picked up on the history of your own company yet?

By the way, Novell/SuSE, Red Hat, Mandrake and so on all warrantee their products too. That’s why you might pay them money for their corporate and professional editions instead of using the $0 download edition.

Why am I explaining these things, Darl? Are you being wilfully ignorant, here?

I must concede, though, that TSG warrantee more than Microsoft, who will oh-so-generously replace or refund your damaged media for you on demand.

Forking is exactly what is happening to Linux.

Really? Where? Have you ever heard of the Linux Standard Base, Darl? More and more Linux distributions are hewing to that standard every year. How about Alien? Apt-RPM? No? These are programs (a few of many) which install packages from one Linux distro (or packaging system) on another. Far from forking, Linux is uniting in diversity. Get the facts! Oop, wait — bad phrase! (-:

SCO UNIX: Legendary Reliability

InsertNameHere Linux: concrete, measurable reliability (better than a legend) — and cross-architecture, too. Your point was...?

they can turn to the Linux distributor who played a big role in packaging the product but had nothing to do with its core development.

I challenge you to name one major Linux distributor who has not had a significant hand in the core development of at least three major software packages. Mandrake: KDE, kernel, X11, hotplug, etc; Red Hat; GNOME, RPM, hotplug, etc; even little Linspire nee Lindows have done NVu and several other major applications which are not bound to their own distribution.

What has TSG contributed to the core development of? Especially in the last three years?

And when we turn to look at OpenServer 6, what do we find it shipping with? Ho! Samba, Apache, BIND, yadda yadda, all Open Source packages (remember your definition for “free”? Well, these are free... and you’re shipping them... does not compute?) which TSG have contributed approximately zero to and have approximately zero helmsmanship for.

And do you use your own software? NetCraft seem to think that most of TSG’s sites (including TSG’s main one, Australia, and your own personal site) run on — <ghasp> — Linux. Who are you trying to fool?

Point one finger, Darl, and you’ll find three pointing back.

along with a set of new and updated open-source software components, make OpenServer 6 a compelling upgrade

“Sound bites” aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, but I must say I found this one highly amusing... and found it even more amusing that you should elect to quote it. Why did the reviewer say that OpenServer 6 was better value (presumably than v5)? <whack forehead> Because it’s looking more and more like a Linux distro as time goes on. D’oh!

But even more damning are the other sound-bites, Darl, the ones you didn’t quote, like “while I really like OpenServer technically, I can’t recommend it” and “By January 2001, when Linux 2.4 came along, the handwriting was on the wall. Unix on Intel had long been a niche product, but Linux was bigger and better.”

as the stewards of the UNIX operating system

See above. I remind you that TSG are not the stewards of the UNIX operating system.

As a friend of mine put it, you’re “the stupids of the UNIX operating system”. Caldera OpenLinux was a great distribution for its time. It could have been a leading distribution today, grossing tens of millions of dollars a year for TSG, or formed the backbone of the late, lamented UnitedLinux — but instead you trashed it. Why do all of that hard work to build a good, solid product when you can simply extort an income instead? Double d’oh!

In summary, your performance here is consistent with the past three years or so, and probably also consistent with your performance at earlier places of employment — which I remember you suing, and I remember one fellow employee from which describing you informally as “a nightmare” — you have either lied or been grossly negligent in your due diligence or both from the first to the last paragraph of your letter. No change there. I’m not the only one, but I’m here to tell you that we’re not buying it. Your fables are not even interesting or dramatic any more. Please choose a different career (if a judge doesn’t choose one for you), used-car salesman seems to be a better fit. Sorry, I know I’m doing an injustice to many in that trade by suggesting this.


porksword said...

Well said

tomansley said...

Taken from dictionary.com

stew·ard n.

1. One who manages another's property, finances, or other affairs.

I got that from a post on Slashdot. =)

Featherston said...

If you let us, why don't we print out this excellent response to Darl, and mail him a copy, or a few hundred?

skribe said...

Someone want to /. it?

Leon RJ Brooks said...

featherston: go for it

tomansley: yes, that's why "stupids" is a so much better fit

skribe: monochrome here too?

skribe said...

LOL, don't you know I'm colour blind?