Microsoft Innovation – Part One

I’ve been around for a long time now. Not as long as some, Stallman for instance predates me by a good bit. But I’ve been around long enough to know a lot about Microsoft, that many people don’t know, even though it is public. Microsoft would rather that most of this was forgotten. It’s a history of Innovation. Innovation by other companies, which was then copied by Microsoft. Since in many cases Microsoft’s competitors no longer exist, due to Microsoft’s predatory monopolistic practices, and Microsoft appears to be the only vendor, many people think that Microsoft invented these ideas. They didn’t.

Let’s go back to the start. What were Bill Gates and Paul Allen doing? Running a company called Traf-O-Data, writing traffic system control programs. Was it the first? No. No innovation here.

What was there next project? Writing a Basic implementation for the IMSAI computer. This was the first time that they used Micro-Soft as the business name. The Basic Programming Language was designed by John George Kemeny and Thomas Eugene Kurtz at Dartmouth University, New Hampshire, USA. Microsoft didn’t invent Basic. They didn’t invent porting either. Their success at IMSAI helped them win more business from the computer manufacturers springing up at the time, and they ported their Basic to several other operating systems, including CP/M, and gained a bit of a reputation as company that could supply computer language implementations. They supplied several Basic implementations to Commodore and Apple for example. I have fond memories of Basic V2.0, which came with the Commodore C64 computer. I had no problem using my knowledge of Basic from an IBM mainframe to program the C64. Yes, it was limited. But it worked pretty well.

The companies next major shift came with DOS1.0. There are a variety of stories on the internet as to how they got this contract, and several as to how they got the source code. Due to Microsoft’s tendency to ask that all settlements be sealed, no one now knows the truth as to what happened. And those who’ve gone on record, stating one position or another, may not be telling us the truth. That after all is one reason to seal court documents, to hide the truth and there were purportedly several lawsuits.

The most likely variation that I’ve heard is that Bill Gate’s mother was serving on a board with an IBM executive, and told him some of what Microsoft was doing, and pushed him to use Microsoft as a supplier. When the IBM-PC was in design, IBM decided to buy an Operating System, rather than developing their own, and talked to Intergalactic Digital Research and Microsoft. Microsoft got the sale, even though they didn’t have a product of their own at the time (this was apparently hidden from IBM). Microsoft bought a product called Q-DOS from Seattle Computer Products, made some modifications, and sold it to IBM. Q-DOS was a CP/M clone, which may or may not have contained CP/M source code (there are stories…). IBM as a backup also planned to offer CP/M as an option on the new computers.

Again, no innovation here. Not even in selling something you don’t own, smart traders have done this for years. It cuts down on the inventory requirements!

To be continued…

What do the following products have in common?

Lefty said…

By the way, I’m attempting to understand this:

“It doesn’t matter whether Mono is any good. It doesn’t matter whether or not Mono is legal. It doesn’t matter whether or not Mono is a patent trap. What matters is that three years ago, Windows XP fucked up. Again.”

Are you saying that, because you has a problem with Windows three years ago, no one should use Mono on Linux systems…?

October 21, 2009 6:58 PM

Lefty,

What do the following products have in common?

1976 Ford Explorer Pickup truck.
1978 Harley Davidson
1980 Hyster S40E Forklift
1980 Commodore VIC20
1984 Apple Macintosh

Will Windows 8 require a Supercomputer to run?

We all knew that Windows was getting bloated. Vista was solid proof. However Microsoft’s next generation operating system after Windows 7 could be worse.

How do we know this? Well, we don’t really. What we do know is that a Microsoft employee wrote on his Linkin account the following:

Working in high security department for research and development involving strategic planning for medium and longterm projects. Research & Development projects including 128bit architecture compatibility with the Windows 8 kernel and Windows 9 project plan. Forming relationships with major partners: Intel, AMD, HP and IBM.

PCPro saw this and published an article on it, and it hit Slashdot.

So what does it really mean? Well, it’s quite possible that Robert Morgan isn’t going to get a bonus this year. Other than that, nothing really. It’s probable that a lot of companies are running research projects into 128 bit computing. Heck, if they aren’t doing this, their R&D folks should be fired (look what happened to Intel when they didn’t take 64 bit computing seriously).

But it’s really unlikely that we’ll see anything soon. For 128 bit computing to work, you’d need 128 bit chips. None of the chip makers have taped out 128 bit chips yet (though it’s probable that they’ve run experimental batches). Without 128 bit chips, Windows 8 can’t be 128 bit.

Oh, it’s quite possible that Microsoft has tried to block Linux and the BSDs from 128 bit computing, by signing contracts with AMD and Intel. However they wouldn’t be to block Apple out (Apple supports FreeBSD). And even if they did try to block out Linux and the BSDs, we’d have at least a years warning before a 128 bit chip could hit the streets, which would be more than enough for the Free and Open Source software communities to roll 128 bit operating systems and software, and would also, unless Windows 8 could run 64 bit and 32 bit programs, kill Microsoft’s Independent Software Providers.

Straight out, I don’t see Windows 8 being 128 bit. The chips don’t exist. Even if they did exist, 64 bit computing is still beyond what most of us are using. I could see supercomputers needing it. Maybe.

Open Source vs Free Software – a Philosophical discussion

Everyone is aware of the huge fuss going on at present. What we have appears to be a conflict between two philosophical viewpoints, fueled by claims that one community is under attack by the other community. This is wrong, and here’s why:

Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985, with the aim of restoring the freedom that had been lost with the advent of the Proprietary Software companies, most especially Microsoft. Specifically the freedom he was talking about was the freedom for the end user to do whatever they want to with the software, with the exception of preventing anyone else from having the same rights. This freedom is often misunderstood to cover programmers only, thus the rise of the Open Source Community.

The Open Source Community has a different view. To quote Wikipedia:

Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software’s source code. Some consider open source as one of various possible design approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations. Before open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; the term open source gained popularity with the rise of the Internet, which provided access to diverse production models, communication paths, and interactive communities.

So we have a conflict between those who want the user to be free to do what they want, and those who want to build more efficient software faster. Both groups agree on many things, so you would think that there wouldn’t that much of a conflict. But those who are closest, often have the biggest fights. Just think of all the brothers and sisters you know.

Where the biggest conflict occurs between Free Software and Open Source is Free Software’s insistence on rights for the end user. The Open Source Community tends to be elitist. If you aren’t a programmer, you don’t matter.

So the Open Source Community feels under attack. We are pushing for user freedom, which means giving the user the same rights as the programmer, which appears to be anathema to them.

The reason I’ve decided to write about this today, is that I had a rather interesting exchange with Lefty Schlesinger yesterday. I gather that Lefty is very interested in mobile software, and that the GPL V3 scares him. If Linus decided to take the Kernel to Version 3 of the General Public License, Lefty feels that wouldn’t be able to use Linux on mobile devices, like cell phones (certain jurisdictions have legislation which states that mobile devices have to be designed in such a way that the user cannot modify them).

While I understand Lefty’s problem, I also understand the end user’s problem. He can’t modify his phone. His rights have been taken away by politicians.

One of Lefty’s comments to me was that if the GPL V3 was applied, then companies wouldn’t be able to use Linux in mobile devices, and millions of people in poor countries wouldn’t be able to afford cell phones. I’m afraid he didn’t appreciate my comment that the cell phone manufacturers could do what Apple did, use the BSD licensed kernel instead.

The problem now is that Lefty seems to think he is the head of the Open Source Community, and he is blocking those who disagree with him from posting. If he was sure of his standing, he wouldn’t block people.

Astroturf in the Climate Change discussion

Now I mostly write about computer related issues. What most people don’t know is that I spent 10 years working in the environmental industry, in regular contact with the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and Environment Canada. I’m no longer in the industry, but I learned a lot while I was there, and still have a strong interest. After all, we only have one planet, and I live on it.

Glyn Moody pointed me at a website that has to be seen to be believed. The website, run by a group called CO2 is Green is an incredible collection of lies, half truths, and total and utter bullshit (I grew up on a farm – I know shit when I see it). Let’s take it from the top.

Why would labeling CO2 as a pollutant be such a catastrophic decision?

Claims that CO2 is a pollutant are a myth and are absolutely false. In fact, lowering levels of carbon dioxide would actually inhibit plant growth and food production. What we see happening in Washington right now is the replacement of politics for science in conversations about CO2.

They are trying to twist things here. By their logic, since Radon gas is a naturally occurring substance, we should ignore its radioactive properties. So what if people get cancer? Second, increased levels of CO2 have been shown to inhibit plant growth. It’s like food. It’s good for you. But it’s also the primary cause of obesity. Plants and Animals need nutrients in the amounts that their metabolisms are capable of handling. Give them too much or too little, and you have problems.

Could this happen soon?

Yes, Congress and federal regulators are poised to make a misguided and reckless decision that will stifle our long term economic recovery and long-term enhancement of plant and animal life on Earth. The Environmental Protection Agency will hold hearings to justify their plan to label CO2 as a pollutant. Congress will also consider cap-and-trade legislation that, if enacted, will make Wall Street, a few inside investors and the government a fortune, but will cost everyone else in higher food and utility bills.

I love the wording in this section. It’s designed to scare non-technical people into backing something that is totally against their best interests. Consider Coal fired power plants, every day the plant has to burn a certain amount of coal to provide power, whereas a wind powered plant requires nothing but the wind. Did you know that the Chinese government has decided that the entire nation will be powered by renewable energy by 2020? Their plan is heavily biased towards wind power, and while there is a cost to build the turbines, and some cost to maintain them, China’s fossile fuel emissions would drop to virtually zero if they can do this. And they can. The technology exists. And unlike the democracies, business is not allowed to astroturf. In fact if it does, it can get a bullet in the back of the head.

It’s not too late.

Polling indicates that most people will change their opinion when presented with the facts.

If we lie enough to you we may be able to still go on selling you overpriced fossil fuels.

What you can do.

* Educate yourself on how CO2 can further “Green the Earth” by visiting http://www.plantsneedco2.org.
* Educate yourself on the pending legislation.
* Write a Letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. This critical committee will soon hold hearings on legislation to label CO2 as pollution.
* Take action today. Use our tools to write your representative
* Donate to organizations that expose the CO2 myths.

Yes, let’s educate ourselves. A quick check with Source Watch tells us you are funded by Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Hunt Oil, Lyco Energy Corporation, and Five States Energy Corporation. I consider this relevant information, which you should display prominently on your website, after all, your sponsors should be proud to have their names listed with such an important issue.

About CO2 Is Green

CO2 is Green is a pending 501(C)(4) non-profit organization. Our mission is to support scientifically and economically sound public policy on environmental issues. Currently, we are especially concerned with federal proposals that would interfere with nature’s dependence on carbon dioxide (C02).

CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 makes Earth green because it supports all plant life. It is Earth’s greatest airborne fertilizer. Even man-made CO2 contributes to plant growth that in turn sustains humanity and ecosystems.

CO2 Is Green is working to insure that all federal laws or regulations are founded upon science and not politics or scientific myths. No one wants the plant and animal kingdoms, including humanity, to be harmed if atmospheric CO2 is reduced. The current dialog in Washington needs to reflect these inalterable facts of nature. We cannot afford to make mistakes that would actually harm both the plant and animal kingdoms.

Now this is where it gets fun. Is this site in the United States? If it is, the new FTC regulations covering blogging may cover it, and force disclosure. On the other hand, the reason to register a 501(C)(4) non-profit organization is often to obscure funding.

Now this doesn’t directly affect me. I’m not an American. I’d never be an American. I don’t even like visiting America. But I’ve got a lot of friend who are American, and I don’t think that it should be legal for corporations, political organizations, and special interest groups to lie the the American public.

And that’s what this website is. One. Big. Lie.

Soon, Bloggers Must Give Full Disclosure – Title courtesy of the NY Times

The rest of the article doesn’t matter really, it just reiterates that the FTC is going to require bloggers to “disclose” any financial relationships. I wrote about the issue, and how some companies are hoping to avoid like legislation in other countries.

Now I’m a cynical old bastard. So what I think will happen, is that any company that wants to game the system will send their freebies to bloggers in countries that don’t have laws covering disclosure. Like Canada.

And of course there’s the Free Software issue. I’ve often written glowingly about Moon OS, so technically I should file a disclosure, because I was given a free copy. So, consider that my disclosure. Along with that I’ve gotten freebies from the Fedora Project, DreamLinux, Canonical (Ubuntu, KUbuntu, XUbuntu), Gentoo, DesktopBSD, and Sun Microsystems (Open Solaris, Java, VirtualBox). Oh, and of course I also got freebies from Apple (ITunes, ILife).

Oh heck, I forgot – I also got freebies from Google (Gmail, Groups) and Yahoo (mail).

Oh, and I got freebies from Novel (Open SUSE, Mono), but I tossed them, they weren’t any good.