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IBM's Interest in Red Flag Linux 97

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the blue-and-red-is-purple dept.
eldavojohn writes "For those of you unfamiliar with Red Flag Linux, it's an OS for the growing Chinese community of Linux users. Interestingly enough, IBM is looking to support Red Flag Linux as the next distribution of Linux that its more than 300 applications will run on. Support from a huge vendor like IBM certainly raises the rate of adoption of a distribution of Linux so this is certainly good news for Red Flag Linux and also the Chinese open source users. IBM currently supports Red Hat and SUSE Linux, which creates twice as much testing for each of their applications. Will Red Flag Linux cause them to require three times the amount of normal testing?"
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IBM's Interest in Red Flag Linux

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  • by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel,hedblom&gmail,com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:18AM (#16184097) Homepage Journal
    If IBM is smart they will target LSB (Linux Standard Base). Then they will ask the distributions to please conform to that standard. If anything this is the kind of thing that could work on unify Linux even better if done right. Ofcourse testing will have to be done anyway but the likelyhood of problems will be very small for every new distribution supported.
    • by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:50AM (#16184411) Homepage
      Actually, if they're smart they will do what it takes to get a foot into the door in China, which has a potential market 5 times the size of the U.S. Then they can use their early-supporter status to influence Red Hat's direction, which I agree should be toward LSB.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by diersing (679767)
        Right on, its about market share and nothing more. I'm surprise more vendors are bending over backwards to get a shot on the growing Chinese markets. Not that I'm a communist, but I could definity see a communist country embracing the open standards Linux offers to build the infrastructure for tomorrow's technology landscape. When Chinese users without the dispospal income of Westerns want a home PC I wonder which "free" OS might fill the need?
        • by rubycodez (864176)
          a pirated copy of Windows? Free as in beer!
        • I don't see what communism has to do with it. I'm aware that a lot of people do call China communist, but it's a misnomer, there is no equidistribution of power in China, so it's not communist.
      • by kestasjk (933987)
        Especially with Vista's new anti-piracy measures and China's recent anti-piracy pledges. It could be a real foothold for Linux.
      • by posdnous (469992)
        I hear this quote all the time,

        China, which has a potential market 5 times the size of the U.S


        China only has a potential market 5 times larger if you are selling rice...If you are selling anything else, the POTENTIAL market is exponentially smaller than the U.S...even if you extrapolate out 20 years.
    • by Gothmolly (148874)
      The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. I believe our herring-scented idol wrote that.
    • by teg (97890) on Monday September 25, 2006 @10:04AM (#16184555) Homepage
      RHEL and SLES are both LSB certified already - the problem is that LSB doesn't specify enough to be useful. An LSB-compliant application needs to include everything outside the LSB scope in itself, which ends up being the OS minus the X libraries and glibc (I'm exagerrating, but not that much). LSB is the lowest common denominator, and a very static target, in a world of rapid evolvement (e.g. GNOME every 6 months, new compilers, new glibcs etc).
    • One thing I am afraid will happen if LSB ever really gets targetted by vendors is that they will say "Well, it's LSB compliant. We did our job. If you can't run it, it's not our fault.", after having produced binaries for one or two architectures, and probably one version of the libraries. I think the beauty of a system based on source code (which the free unices are, albeit some more than others) is that things like machine architecture and specific library versions are very much abstracted from. I'd rathe
      • Isn't the point about LSB that it allows binary packages?

        If people want to release source code, they'll do it anyway, and people will port it. But binary applications, which are allowed by the GPL, are impossible unless you have things like LSB. You'd need a lot more of course, like being having a stable ABI with enough libraries to build GUI applications.

        If some vendor has an application which they won't (or can't since they don't have rights to redistribute libraries as source code) release as source code
    • The Chinese goverment will be too busy censoring the code for the project to ever get off the ground.

      2 cents,

      QueenB
    • by qinglong (562433)
      oh, so right now it is still a case of develop once, debug everywhere?
      that is so java!
  • ... aside from the obvious(it raises a red flag with right-wingers ...)

    ... an hour after you finish installing it, you want to install it again.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wait, wasn't Red Flag Linux in some trouble with the GPL a few years back for making changes to open source programs and not making those changes public? Were those issues ever resolved, or do they still technically violate the GPL?
  • What's with the inane editorializing in the OP? 3 times as much testing? So what, I'm sure IBM has the resources to burn and might hire more people if they need them...
    • No decent PTC has "resources to burn". If the company is doing right by its shareholders then there should be a nominal float of staff to cover 80% load (or 100% average run rate). Then when a peak comes in you are slightly understaffed and either slip or hire temps (if possible). Only the government is always fully staffed.
      -nB
      • by jusdisgi (617863)
        Uh...maybe in an intro econ or management course. Here in the real world, any large company will typically have some resources not being fully used. Layoffs are both logistically difficult and politically distasteful.

        On the other hand, I think the underlying assumption the blurb makes is the bigger problem. Who says that supporting two Linux distributions takes big blue twice as long as it would to support one? For my part I consider that ridiculous on its face. The second system you test on should never ta
      • by PhoenixK7 (244984)
        Agree with the additions of the sibling comment here, but if you want to argue on the level of shareholders: IBM wouldn't be interested in this if they didn't think they could gain more than they would have to spend.

        Also, if you've ever worked within ANY large organization, there's always waste and resources that could be put to better use. No company will ever achieve a theoretical high in productivity, at least not for long periods, it's just part of human nature. That said, improvements in management,
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Jollans also addressed a question about why IBM did not release its own Linux distribution several years ago.

    "We thought that if IBM was in the market as an 800-pound gorilla, it would have a negative effect on the Linux market. We won't do something that sets us against the community," he said.


    Thoughts?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Erm, isn't lending support to RedHat and SuSE tipping the balance (by as much as the 800-pound gorilla)?

      One might have expected IBM to put its resources behind a distro with a better-than-average "internationalisation"
      if it wants to be able to grow in international markets. Too bad they haven't been paying attention to Mandriva.

              "When one door closes another one opens (but maybe not for you :-)."
  • Asianux (Score:5, Informative)

    by raffe (28595) * on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:31AM (#16184245) Journal
    Red flag is based of Asianux which is based on red hat.The current release version of Asianux is 2.0 , which is based upon Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Asianux 1.0 was based upon Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3. The first releases of red flag was very poor quality. Asianux is a joint development between Linux vendors Red Flag , Miracle Linux Corporation and Haansoft .
    • by ajs (35943)
      Don't forget the fact that Red Flag (I still have my version 2.0 in shrink-wrap on my desk) is sponsored in part by money from the Chinese government. It began back when the Chinese were making noises about not being able to trust American hardware (probably more for the fact that 90% of it was from Taiwan than the fact that it was sold by Americans, but there's some concern in the latter too).

      Not that any of that really means much, but it's useful historical context to keep in mind.
  • This is ridiculous. Most of the testing is done on one platform. When it's finished, testing on other platforms is usually not that time consuming.
    • by minionman (643063)
      You're completely wrong - there are a number of subtle differences between the platforms that requires a fair amount of additional testing. Distribution to distribution, you end up with a lot of version mismatches between the distros. One version might have the pam modules at 1.7.2, another might have 1.7.4 (version numbers are arbitrary, not necessarily correct) and thats one of the difficulties in testing your products on multiple distributions. Mix that with the differing base installs and the amount of
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by anzev (894391)
      This is not true. Testing is time consuming because in a commercial environemnt you HAVE TO test ALL THE FEATUREs on ALL THE SUPPORTED PLATFORMS. Testing is not what most users think, that you just run the app, click a few buttons and that's it. The common mentality is, as it appears:

      "Ok, let's test this on OS A, and if there are errors fix them, otherwise, see if the program also runs on other OSes and that's it".

      Sorry to dissapoint you, wrong! You need a test plan [wikipedia.org]. The test plan specifies how to tes
      • Am I way off base here, but don't your two examples have nothing to do with OS, and everything to do with the language that you are writing in? Different languages are going to handle null comparisons differently regardless of platform.

        Sorry if I am missing something...
        • by anzev (894391)
          They have to do with how the run time enviornemnt written for these specific OSes is handled. Java on Windows and Linux behaves differently. Some people consider the Windows behavior wrong while some people consider the Linux behavior wrong. The point is that there are minor differences due to OS specifics that you need to handle, there can also be differences due to version specifics. that's why testing, even on multiple distributions / versions of the same platform. That was my point.
      • On Windows it is legal to compare two strings like this:

        if(str1 == str2)


        Actually... no, it isn't. I was doing Java development this summer (on Java 1.5), and I did that a few times by accident, and it doesn't work. It asks whether str1 and str2 are the same String object, rather than asking whether the strings contained in them are equal.
        • by anzev (894391)
          You're right, sorry, I should have written, it used to be legal (1.4.2). Still, the point is the same yet even more enforced I think.
      • by nwbvt (768631)

        Well, aside from the fact that all three operating systems mentioned are Linux and thus the platform dependent issues you mention are rather moot...

        Most of the errors that come up during testing are not platform dependent, but occur on any operating system. Thus you will find most of them on the first OS you test on, and it will account for most of the effort used in your testing. And furthermore, much of testing is usually automated, so aside from setting everything up, you only have to work on it once.

        • by anzev (894391)
          It doesn't really seem like you have experience in this. Becuase if you did, you would know that there are a lot of things you cannot test simply with JUnit. for example, does the GUI block if an operation is in progress? Does it show a progress bar? Does it allow you to cancel tasks? Are the menus inaccessible? Stuff that matters to the user, but is not a part of a function (which you test using JUnit).
          • by nwbvt (768631)

            "Becuase if you did, you would know that there are a lot of things you cannot test simply with JUnit"

            Please tell me where I said you could automate everything. In fact I said no such thing. I specifically said you could automate a lot of it, thus a lot of the work does not have to be repeated for each platform. Thus adding another platform does not double your work.

  • Can anybody tell if Red Flag is Linux Standard base compliant. If it is it would be interesting to see if helps LSB move along.

    Would'nt it be strange if a communist party inspired Linux distro ended up influencing Linux developement?
  • by RobertinXinyang (1001181) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:38AM (#16184309)
    I am in China and I havn't seen any Linux at all. All I have seen is Windows, and most of it is XP.

    In the markets I have seen the entire office suite going for 10 Yuan (1 US dollar = 8 Yuan). This was not one of the little markets that we hear of being raided, this was at one of the largest chains in the country.

    As far as Apples, I have the only one that I have seen here. In a stor with, literaly, hundreds of MP3 players, I saw one iPod. It was priced out of line with the local economy.

    With this being the situation, I find it hard to believe that Microsoft will fail to dominate this market. There may be a small market for Red Flag, much like there is stil a market for SCO Unix; However, look in the stores, it is al Microsoft.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      Wasn't the Chinese government supporting the development of Red Flag so that they would have an alternative to (American) Microsoft?
    • In the markets I have seen the entire office suite going for 10 Yuan (1 US dollar = 8 Yuan). ... With this being the situation, I find it hard to believe that Microsoft will fail to dominate this market.

      But at $0 per copy I don't think that is what Microsoft (nor IBM) has in mind.

      Seriously, until China has *and* enforces IP property rights and copyrights, all software is effectively "Free". So, why wouldn't China use Windows, along with all those free applications like Photoshop, Office, etc ...
      • by pepeperes (731972)
        I don't think microsoft are too worried about not getting income from China, as long as they don't use and establish a free OS. I'd say they'd rather give 'em free copies of their software for years, than have them use linux. And my guess is that chinese salaries and income are not going to buy many microsoft's licenses...
        • And my guess is that chinese salaries and income are not going to buy many microsoft's licenses...

          Come on! If they can afford the hardware they can afford the measley "Microsoft tax" - it's a small percentage of the cost of a machine. That said, I too thinkthat Microsoft is probably taking the long view with China (they are quite good at taking the long view, which is one of the keys to their success). They most likely will turn a deaf ear to the blatant copying in China with the hope that they can be (r
          • by pepeperes (731972)
            Well we mostly agree, but, even talking off my head, I dont think hardware has the same price in China than here... And anyway, when it's relatively costly for you to pay for something, that you can easily get away not paying for, most people just won't do it. Here in Spain, buying software licenses is still something new for most users, except medium-big companies, and ppl who buy branded machines. Piracy levels are really high here. But microsoft is almost omnipresent, and since the last four or five ye
          • Come on! If they can afford the hardware they can afford the measley "Microsoft tax" - it's a small percentage of the cost of a machine.
            China is where they make all those cheap generic (and not so generic) computer parts. I imagine the Chinese get their computers without going to Dell.com.
            • From everything I've read, the margins in computer parts are razor thin. That means that what we pay for "cheap, generic" hardware is very similar to what they pay in China where they're manufactured. I routinely buy boxes w/PS made in China for about $29. Cheap MB's are $50. China doesn't make their own CPUs so they would have to pay $80 or better for those. DIMMs will run $50. HDs will run $50. Optical drives $20. Mouse/Kbd $20. So we have about $300 worth of cheap hardware. Even if their cost was only $2
      • by ronanbear (924575)
        China mightn't want to become dependent on Windows right at the time that China is cracking down on IP infringement and Microsoft is expanding WGA to make it more of a nuisance.

        Photoshop might be effectively free right now but that won't last forever. China has an opportunity to free itself from the Microsoft tax in the future by paying to support Linux now. It looks like really good value too if you consider that sponsoring local Linux will be a boost for Chinese levels of Linux support expertise. There

    • As far as Apples, I have the only one that I have seen here. In a stor with, literaly, hundreds of MP3 players, I saw one iPod. It was priced out of line with the local economy.

      If the yuan value was set on the open world market instead of by the party hacks in Beijing, that iPod would be a lot cheaper and the Chinese consumer would be a lot richer.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      As you said Microsoft stuff is pirated and would be too expensive to buy if it wasn't. So while MS have a monopoly on the pirate scene which has some worth, it isn't exactly and ideal situation. And if China stamps down on the pirates (at the insistence of the US government and Microsoft) it is in effect creating a vacuum that Linux can fill. Just from a idealogical stance, I'm sure the concept of community and open source software combined with paranoia of backdoors or malware in Windows makes Linux very a
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All I learn from this is that IBM has an awful China strategy, and probably knows less about linux than it wants people to think.

    Can anyone point to any contribution Red Flag has made to open source software? The company has released something like 2 distributions over the last four years or so while being heavily funded by the Chinese government. Neither distribution was usable (I've tried both). Their desktop version of Linux even removed a lot of usable software in order to cram in crippled language demo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Americano (920576)
      I think you just answered your own question about why:

      The company has released something like 2 distributions over the last four years or so while being heavily funded by the Chinese government.

      It's funded by the Chinese Government == lucrative government contracts == profit.

      IBM is in the business of making a profit. If doing so results in a net contribution to open source software, then good for IBM & good for OSS. If doing so doesn't result in a net contribution to open source software, you'

  • by smcdow (114828)
    no apostrophe.
  • Red Flag Linux is actualy a distribution of Asianux2.0 [asianux.com]. Red Flag (Chinese), Miracle Linux (Japanese) & Haansoft (Korean) are all built on Asianux2.0 and targeted for the specific countries listed above. AFAIK, Asianux2.0 is a RHEL clone, so that helps with testing (vs. having to test a completely new distro).

    I can't speak for "IBM", but back when I was product manger for WAS Community Edition (WASCE) [ibm.com], I know that we decided to support Red Flag Data Center (RFDC) with WASCE right from v1.0 because o
  • If it's the third one supported, that's nine times the effort :-)
  • The bigger questionis will IBM also move towards supporting JFox: http://www.huihoo.org/jfox [huihoo.org] From the China Enterprise OpenSource Community in some manner or will there be a merger of this with ASF Geronimo Server..
  • In the Netherlands (and probably elsewhere in the EU), you can buy Acer desktop PC's with Red Flag Linux pre-installed for under 300 euros. Alternatively, you can get Linpus Linux pre-installed, which is a Taiwanese distro. In either case, you will get the UK version (not the Chinese version) of the distros.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877)
    You surely mean Lenovo ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by leoPetr (926753)
      No, the article means IBM, which develops the DB2, Informix, Rational, WebSphere, and Lotus ranges of software products. Lenovo is the new manufacturer of Thinkpads. They are not the new IBM.
  • The reason why Linux is embedded in China because China is a huge market especially on technology produuct.
    Another reason is Linux is an open source where it gain support from many experts to review code and fix bugs.
    The price is cheaper and flexible compared to Microsoft. Most of people in China are affordable with it.
    The most important is China goverment encourages it people to use linux and even provide financial support to Redflag Linux Software.
  • Clearly, this is just a capitalist plot to make China dependant from IBM !

  • Having actually used red flag linux, supporting it will not be much different than supporting redhat. Most of the internals are simple text replaces with "red hat" to "red flag" with most of the added-value being the comprehensive chinese localisation and translation stuff. For those like me who dont need the extra support for chinese, its just another redhat clone.
  • Despite all the talk about supporting chinese distributions,
    there is still no* written chinese character recognition for desktop linux that i can find,
    specifically so that a pen and tablet or mouse can be used to write characters
    (this would be an additional input method since emacs already supports
    several keyboard chinese input methods but many people don't know 'Canjie Input')

    This should not be an insurmountable tasks since there are many windows programs
    that do this that are sold for very low cost
    • by 808140 (808140)
      You're nuts, man. It may be that in Taiwan and Hong Kong where there is no standard romanization (really) for Chinese characters tablet-based input methods are popular, but on the Mainland -- which is the real market here -- there is pinyin. Pinyin is taught in schools, everyone knows it, and most Chinese people use pinyin-based input methods (although some, like me, prefer wubi). Support for these and many other non-graphical input methods in Linux is very good -- in fact, I prefer SCIM's smart pinyin i
      • by kie (30381)
        Well you may think I'm nuts, but it seems that my experience contradicts several of your points.

        I live in Hong Kong and see lots of people using tablets for entering Chinese
        (as well as lots of people using keyboards for entering Chinese).

        Also although there may be variations in stroke entry, the better recognition systems cope very well.
        For example I use the Motorola A732 phone, which has excellent handwriting recognition even for
        those who have very cursive writing, (several of my friends have very cursive
        • by 808140 (808140)
          Yes, well, maybe I did come off a bit harshly, sorry for that. I did say in my post that I was discounting HK and Taiwan because of their unwillingness/inability to standardise on a particular romanization method, however. And I believe -- though I may be wrong -- that Red Flag Linux, the distribution in question, is very much a mainland oriented operation.

          I'm glad to hear that tablet handwriting recognition has advanced, though, that's good news. Obviously if such an input method is ubiquitous in HK th
          • by kie (30381)
            I agree that writing characters by hand is less efficient than using the keyboard,
            however it does mean that people can do it straight away without additional training.
            I think that some of the input methods, such as the 9 key one which is supposed
            to be pretty efficient may be patented as well, which doesn't help matters.

            Character databases exist already, from the hanzilookup page
            http://www.kiang.org/jordan/software/hanzilookup/ [kiang.org]
            Don't know if this includes the 1000 odd HK official additional characters.

            > Th
  • IBM already supports Red Hat, and Red Flag is a recent clone from Red Hat, so it should be nearly effortless to support. Mind you, I'm not saying that the customers will be effortless to support...but they earn money doing that. Merely that adding Red Flag as a supported distro should be nearly effortless.
  • So IBM is going to support their expensive proprietary software on Red Flag linux. Given the economic conditions of China and their lack of a "Nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM product" culture, I wonder how successful they will be and how much impact their support will have on the adoption of Linux in China.
  • by Alb_Be (972418)
    Now how do I explain this one to people who claim linux=communism>
  • I thought IBM was now owned by a Chinese company. If that is true, why is it such a surprise to see that they are supporting a Chinese Linux distro????

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