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ESR Speaking @Microsoft 100

webslacker writes "ESR's been invited to speak at Microsoft on June 21st. The question: Why? The answer: Nobody knows... " All it took was bribing him with dinner with Neil Stephenson. I think that would work for Hemos too...
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ESR going to Microsoft

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  • The lack of respect shown towards MSFT is the free software community's Achilles' heel. There are a couple aspects to this crisis.

    First, although there is much to ridicule about their technologies, they actually have produced good things. The interview with International GNOME support [] contains a good argument for the respect free software developers should show here. Please, I am not saying that MSFT is a good company, but that they have tons of cash, have hired plenty of smart people, and that some good technology has come out of it.

    Second, and much more importantly, while the community laughs in disrespect about MSFT, they are plotting to undermine us in serious ways. Yes, it is fun to ridicule them. :) The DOJ trial, while it has brought welcome scrutiny upon MSFT, does not really hinder most of their tactical ability. Gates' tactical brilliance is woefully underestimated by the free software community. Look for MSFT to do everthing in its power to discredit and totally annihilate the likes of RedHat. This should concern even those who do not like RedHat. After all, in the public's eye, they are strongly identified with GNU/Linux.

    In short, let's please respect MSFT as the predator that it is. Know thy enemy.

  • About time!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @06:19AM (#1848563)
    MS thinks this is what ERS will be
    talking about.

    In the last nine years, the Linux
    community has emonstrated a remarkable
    ability to violate Brooks's Law
    (``Adding more programmers to a late
    project makes it later.'') and
    produce extremely high-quality
    software with large, loosely organized
    development groups. This talk will
    explain how it was done, focusing on
    the central phenomenon of distributed
    per review. The communications
    structures and sociology that support
    Linux will be analyzed in detail and
    related to general phenomena in the
    scaling of complex systems. Specific
    prescriptions for effective development
    will be elicited.
  • sql*kitten wrote:

    Well, despite the hysterical raving of many "open source" advocates, remember that Microsoft is just a company like any other. Would it be newsworthy if ESR was invited to speak at Sun Microsystems or SGI?

    As a previous poster indicated, yes, just not as newsworthy. Both Sun and SGI have already dealt with Free software and the Free software movement. Microsoft really has not, hence it is a new situation, hence it's news.

    Considering ESR's public writing is often little short of slander

    I think you're thinking about libel here (slander is for speech, not writing). I also think you are approaching libel here. In what way is ESR's writing criminally defamitory?

    Microsoft are being extremely magnanimous by inviting him

    No, they are hoping to gain something from this. Whether it's PR points, or they actually want to understand what ESR is talking about, I don't know.

    I only hope that he endeavours to make it a productive meeting and doesn't engage in his customary circus act - if for no other reason than it would simply be rude to insult his hosts.

    I think you're confusing ESR and RMS here. ESR's talks with companies are polite to a fault (in fact, polite to the point where I often disagree with him). RMS is the one who publically insults his hosts (generally when they deserve it).
  • They probably need a good laugh, what, with the DOJ after them and all..

    Too bad it'll probably be their last laugh.

  • Just reading the subject line gave me a shit eating grin...

  • Posted by Art Pepper:

    >Microsoft are being extremely magnanimous (SP?) by inviting him

    Yeah, that's something Microsoft are (sic) known for: being magnanimous!

    Stop it man, you're killing me!
  • Posted by tpo:

  • Give in to your hatred...

  • >> Would it be newsworthy if ESR was invited to
    >> speak at Sun Microsystems or SGI?

    Probably, but not nearly as newsworthy.
    The reason is obvious to me -- ESR has publicly stated his contempt for Bill Gates after being brushed off by Gates some time ago.

    A more reasonable comparison would be to diehard EFF members sitting down to chat with Scott "No Privacy" MacNealy, or perhaps Michael Dell speaking at Apple on the company's future...

  • Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
    The self does not exist

    There is no spoon

    Sorry.. couldn't resist :)

  • Well, despite the hysterical raving of many "open source" advocates, remember that Microsoft is just a company like any other. Would it be newsworthy if ESR was invited to speak at Sun Microsystems or SGI?

    Considering ESR's public writing is often little short of slander, Microsoft are being extremely magnanimous (SP?) by inviting him, I only hope that he endeavours to make it a productive meeting and doesn't engage in his customary circus act - if for no other reason than it would simply be rude to insult his hosts.
  • I found this quote at the end to be the most interesting:

    Another sign of Microsoft's interest in open source comes from user statistics released Monday by Microsoft was the leading corporate visitor to the site in the first two weeks after it opened last month, with 15,000 visits from Microsoft servers.

    That's a lot of visits in a month, about 500/day. I'm not sure what consistutes a "visit" (a single hit on any page?), but it seems like Microsoft is certainly keeping an eye on us Linux people.

  • Neal Stephenson DID speak at Microsoft on May 2nd, in support of his book Cryptonomicon. I didn't get to go, because a prick of a manager decided that my excellent work didn't overrule the fact that I was showing everybody just how stupid he was every 3-4 days and laid me off.

    Wasn't my fault - he just didn't know that everybody else already knew he was an idiot.
  • Microsoft have a tradition of inviting all sorts of speakers onto their campus; the theory is that the more ideas their staff are exposed to, the better they work. It's a sort of memetic diversity thing.

    As such, it was only a matter of time before they invited ESR or some other open-source figure onto campus. And ESR seems the obvious choice (being less zealously opposed to the basis of Microsoft's existence than RMS).

    It doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be GPLing Windows 2000 or anything anytime soon. Though the increasing propagation of open-source memes in the MS environment may have an (as yet undetermined) effect.

    Didn't start with Linux, or even UNIX. Various kernel overlay schemes were used in the '70s to help shoehorn OSes into tiny memory environments; and even though people don't think of them that way, modules really are just an overlay scheme with some hooks. In any event, I know at least Solaris 2 had a very modern, modular kernel from the git-go...

    Linux is very much your father's UNIX kernel. Innovation was never the idea; Linux instead looks at the engineering of other kernels and tries to draw consensus. The workhorses of the kernel (VM, ext2) are much, much more similar to the competition than different. The one weird bit about core Linux, its scheduler, is worse in my opinion than the competition...
  • Well, if ESR disappears after the dinner than we know how M$ will act upon open source! But in reality it seems that M$ wants to appear to be open to the idea of Open Source - it could be their way of embrace and extend - extend - extend. Isn't that what there try to do with Perl and it seems that with Kaffe they have succeeded it making it closed source.
  • Given his essay [] I wonder if it wouldn't be more productive to have Stephenson rather than ESR speak to MS. I can't really see MS learning much from the free software development process, but perhaps they could be gotten to rethink user interface issues.
  • I think MS has the capital, though, to drive out those who can charge a lower margin on services out of business. Not too legal, of course, but who's to stop them? The government? HA! :)
  • I think if they realize that desktop windows is nearing its demise, they'll move on...
  • s/Nixon/ESR/;

    hmm ....
  • Best analogy yet.

    Nice one.

  • I don't like Salon already. Why is Slashdot loading slow this morning? How many people think that if Linux loses in this round, we will never hear the end of it from Microsloth? At least we can fix bugs faster than they can, even if their system is easier to get to do dialup.
  • Especially in light of the past week's sequence on User Friendly [], this is kind of scary. Maybe the local LUG should tag along as bodyguards. Or would they just be falling into the trap too?

    David Gould
  • Come on. If Microsoft wanted ESR dead, he would have an "accident" at the shooting range. Or he would get hit in a drive by. It's a little too suspicious if the cook "accidently" put rat poison only in his food.
  • My submission was along the lines of "step into my parlor..."
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • There are a lot of smart people that work there. Maybe they are just seeing how to tune their home Linux box on company time.
  • Most of the history of large computer systems since UNIX has been of the form, "Company x needs to do something like UNIX. Company x tries to build something like UNIX that is not UNIX. Comapny x fails dramatically." That Linux is a copy of UNIX that works makes it a solid and useful piece of work.

    AN operating system should provide, basically, memory management, device addressing, process scheduling, and pipes. The rest is garnish. UNIX gave us good working models for all of those, and Linux has properly followed that lead.

    This puts it miles ahead of Microsoft, which has yet to do a reasonable job of any of the criteria mentioned above. You can do a lot worse than making a working, free copy of UNIX.
  • by eponymous cohort ( 8637 ) on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @05:22AM (#1848589)
    Eric, Eric, turn to the Dark Side, it is your destiny...
  • by jazman ( 9111 )
    '"I'm going there to explain to them why they can't win with a closed-source strategy," Raymond said.'

    Er, lets see, MS is the largest company in their field in the world; the CEO is the richest man in the world; many _developers_ (let alone PHBs) are millionaires and won't have to work again after they quit MS; their product is a household name and everyone continues to buy it regardless of how bad it gets.

    Sorry, how exactly do you define "win" here?
  • Proceed with caution - there's a lot of politics and public image involved, and so far M$ has the bigger bull horn - be careful not to play into their hands. Those guys have a LOOOOONG history of taking some event and twisting it around to appear to be something else - or of 'strategically partnering' with some other entity which ends up getting the royal shaft. It would look too much like a command performance (See, when the King calls, ya gotta go!) When Ralph Nader had his conference on software monopolies and invited Gates to come and speak, did he? Nooooooo!! Personally I'd say thanks but no thanks, I'm too busy, but you can come to the next Linux Expo I'm appearing at and listen in, or here's some of my brochures you can look thru while waiting on ME.

  • This is not the last year of the millenium.
  • I can't imagine why Neal is hanging around the Microsoft campus. He lives in Seattle, but other than that I can think of no motivation for him to be there.

    Up until '95, he was a die-hard Mac fan and Mac hacker. Then he had some problems with a laptop and switched to Linux. He loves UN*X, by the way, and has written a manifesto on command line interfaces. You can download it from the promotional site for his latest book. []

    Disclaimer: I have to inform you all that my name is Jason Stephenson, and I also went to Boston University, a few years after Neal graduated.

  • I wonder if Eric will finally quail at speaking his mind when he finds himself surrounded by the 'enemy' on their own ground.

    Methinks he will tailor the message for the audience. It would be impolitic not to.
    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • So - it was YOU! No wonder my packet sniffer just died...
    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • You confuse the people with the company. The people who work for Microsoft are not our enemies, but the company as a whole is.

  • Let's see... the open source movement's biggest gun nut visits the largest software company on the longest day of the last year of the millenium. I point this out in the lamest post in the thread, that's also the most-recently posted? Scarey.
  • The XFree86, Apache, FreeBSD, Perl, and probably the KDE people still seem to have their heads screwed on straight, but I'm getting very cynical about anything associated with Linux...
    Sure, I've felt that way for a long time too. That's why I hack on projects that aren't so self-promoting and self-aggrandizing, like NetBSD.

    On the other hand, you have to ask yourself if, even though you personally may disklike the heavy marketing thing that many of the Linux folks do, it's not a good thing overall. After all, look where Linux is now compared to NetBSD. (It's not as if these two systems have such different capabilities.) And look where the whole idea of Open Source is because of Linux.


  • "Methinks he will tailor the message for the audience. It would be impolitic not to."

    Oh yes, and we all know ESR would never be impolitic.

    If I was him, I'd be very careful what I ate and drank there.
  • > Would the rest of the open-source community be > able to take any action against me?

    First, IANAL. I am just a copyright/patent/trademark law enthusiast (like 90% of the rest of Slashdot)

    As long as the only code in the program was yours, then no. Under US copyright law, you own the copyright and you can change the terms of your license at any time. I'm unclear as to whether you can retroactively change the terms of your license however (I would say no, since this would be breach of contract), so the ORIGINAL code should still be useable under the GPL (again, IANAL).

    On the other hand: If you have incorporated ANY changes from other people into your work and they have not specifically signed the copyright over to you, then you could be sued for infringing on their copyright if you changed the license without their permission. This is why most people aren't too worried about the major projects (like the kernel) getting yanked by their developers - there are just too many of them.
  • ... he'll bring his gun
    :), the great and .....
  • Microsoft and Linux have succeeded for the same reason: little innovation. It is easier and less risky to build a "second generation" copy of someone else's previous success. Linux copies and refines Unix. Microsoft copies everyone else.

    For example, the non-innovative parts of IE5 are great: fast HTML rendering and other goodies. The Microsoft innovations "hanging off the side" all suck: Active Desktop, IE channels, ActiveX, ...

  • Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
    The self does not exist

    The following is the translation of this sig for those of you who, like me, are struggling to find the deeper meaning of Java. Don't try this at home.

    public interface Thought {

    public class Consciousness {
    private Thought think() {
    return think();

    public Thought getSelf() {
    return think();

  • Reread the GPL. It doesn't apply to the copyright holder. It couldn't anyway, it's license, not a contract.

    You could very well rerelease your version 2.0 as a proprietary program. But you couldn't revoke the licenses for version 1.0 from those people that already had it.

    I have a quick, very non-scholarly, and heretical explanation of the GPL here [].
  • Sorry, I couldn't resist.
    If you want to get technical. 2002 is the last year of the millenium.
    Our calendar (gregorian) actually didn't start until 3 A.D.
    So for people who feel the need to argue about this. Don't.
  • Your message just got me thinking... Red Hat's scheduled to go public fairly soon. (Anyone know when?) What happens if a "hostile" group of investors purchases enough shares of Red Hat to control its strategic business decisions? Anti-trust issues aside, could Microsoft purchase a large chunk of Red Hat and "integrate" its product line with Windows?

    I've also got a GPL-related legal question here. Let's say I release "Ryan's Kewl Installer 1.0" under the GPL, but I continue to hold the copyright for the program. A year later, I write an update for it, based on the original source. My update is released as a commercial, closed-source program.

    Normally, in this situation, the copyright holder could sue the person/company infringing on the license. But in this case, I am both the copyright holder AND the person infringing on the GPL. Would the rest of the open-source community be able to take any action against me?

  • The Oracle boss once made me understand what he meant, when he said that Oracle was going "open source".

    In many non-free software companies, people don't work on internal "open source" projects at all.

    A lot of proprietary software is actually written by people, who don't know a thing about the other parts or hacks that their code collegues work on.

  • Don't do it Eric! They're going to abduct you and turn you into a Microsoft Borg(TM) that preaches the benefits of Windows to the masses! ;)
  • I doubt it. It would be cool to hear what goes on.

    Hey Rob, what are the chances of ESR posting a summary of the festivities on /. ?

  • This is a bit overdue, actually - and I'm confident that Eric isn't the first personality from this community who's been invited to speak to MS, though perhaps the first to have done so so publicly.

    Microsoft's not dumb, and they're not afraid to change course, even drastically. If Win2K is a more or less total disaster, if Linux continues on its trajectory, and if there's a biz model behind it, I could see MS doing their own Linux distribution, porting MSOffice to it (though probably *not* open sourcing MSOffice), etc. Actually, all they need to do is port Win32 over to Linux, and they have a platform "story" to tell their developers.

    Actually all Microsoft needs to do is buy time to build up their services division, as IBM has done over the last few years. Right now MS is way way overreliant on the high margins associated with proprietary software development - a model that more or less can not survive in the OSS world. Services can, though; but margins on services are much lower, so MS needs to figure out a services strategy that still retains a high margin. That's not easy to do, since you can't really protect yourself against your competitors offering the same service at a lower fee (and margin).

    We live in interesting times.


  • hrm, are you related, or do you just have the same last name?

    if its the latter then I 1up you :P I went the the same highschool as him, and I even had the same english teacher, so there..
    of couse if your his brother, then... nevermind

    Chad Okere
  • I know Stephenson has made some pro-linux remarks lately and so is in high favor around here. But don't forget that Greg Bear is awesome too.

    Maybe Bear should have named Slant, "Slant Dot." I remember hearing about the book before it came out on NPR. He named it for the "slash" on the computer keyboard and even that many years ago, I smiled in my driver's seat, wondering if Greg Bear knows about "Slashdot."

  • "We have given you bitter pills with sugar coating. The pills are inert - the poison's in the sugar."

    I have no idea what it means, but certain events like this call in to mind. So what do you say? Who'll be ingesting what from whom?
  • Nahhhh. Everybody at the lunch that ESR attends will be a brownshirt. Slated to die from the beginning of the episode. Me, I'd bring a brown bag that day.
  • No, they are hoping to gain something from this. Whether it's PR points, or they actually want to understand what ESR is talking about, I don't know.

    MS is looking for information to formulate it's future strategy and position itself to be a player in Linux's future. I'll bet they tape the meeting and spend weeks analyzing the conversation looking for angles.

  • I do not question MS's repositories of cash, brilliant people, or their strategic and tactical business brilliance. I am curious about one thing though... what is the good technology that has come out of Micros~1? (Oh, and no fair listing things that they bought. Also, remember that NT is based on "portable OS/2" from the IBM/MS partnership of days gone by -- but I suppose they must get credit for half.)
  • I read in Technology Review that Stephenson can be
    seen hanging around the Micros~1 campus. Slumming?
    Drugged and hypnotized? Or waiting.... just waiting.... One of his characters would be carrying an emp weapon made out of an old Amana RadarRange magnetron. Maybe that is why nothing is shipping on time. Huummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
  • Why do you think Unix sucks? Why do you think Windows (95/98/NT - be specific) is better?

    Please give examples and reasons to back up your opinion...

    Regarding your statement about your coworker smashing the machines, personally I think your coworker is a total dick - I mean, he could have given the machines to Goodwill, an retirement home, or heck - to the high school kids! - people who could have used them constructively.

    Actually, if your coworker had half a brain he could have built a pretty good Beowulf system out of those boxes...
  • ESR going to Microsoft: Luke going to see the Emperor.
  • Windows is their crown jewels. Owning it helps them to monopolise the complementary products market for Windows. The last thing Microsoft would do is give up on Windows.

    Even if it's so bad crashes several times a day, people will continue to use it in droves.

  • You can't release your page under the GPL, since
    it is a work based upon the GPL, which is a
    non-free work (you can't modify and redistribute
    it. So the GPL doesn't give me permission to use
    your page at all.
  • EMP weapon? Naah, Microsoft will listen to Reason. *grin*

    On a more serious note - those of you who follow the Spam Wars will likely remember Jim Nitchals. The term "Nitchalization" is used when an anti-spammer, rather than blindly wielding the Mallet of Doom, actually treats his or her enemy with sufficient respect that a dialogue develops, a clue is imparted and the former spammer changes his ways. It's harder work, and often fruitless, but when it works, it can work wonders.

    Could I do that? Nope. I'm a mallet-swingin', all-spammers-are-subhuman-goo kinda guy all the way. But Jim wasn't. Jim realized that the best way to overcome an enemy is to make him your friend. In the face of harsh criticism and skepticism from his allies, he ended up convincing (of all people) Walt Rines and Sanford Wallace to endorse a strong anti-spam bill in Congress. I distinctly remember seeing a whole squadron of pigs flying outside my window that day.

    I also have fond memories of Jim's code from my Apple ][ days, Bug Attack (real music during gameplay - a hell of an accomplishment given that the Apple's only "sound-generating" capability involved toggling whether the speaker cone between an "in" or "out" position!), Hard Hat Mack, Music Construction Set, Archon, and others.

    Back to ESR, Stephenson, and Gates.

    Will these presentations change the Evil Empire in a day? No. Maybe they'll change nothing at all. But the odds that they'll change things for the better is IMHO far greater than the odds that they'll change things for the worst. If there was one thing that Stephenson made clear in Snow Crash, it's that the voice of Reason doesn't have to speak with a million rounds per second. Sometimes a few well-placed words in the right ears can be far more effective.

    ESR and Stephenson know this. Does their audience at Microsoft?

  • maybe esr is starting to think of himself as a star. The star of OS, hobnobbing with the biggies in redmond. Well, it wouldn't be the first time, folx. Maybe they'll stroke his ego a bit, wine & dine (oops, he doesn't drink, I don't think!) him, then get him on board with the M$ point of view of the world. As the OS spokesperson who can do no wrong (to many of you wide-eyed worshippers), I'm sure he'd excel as a trojan horse. Rest assured that bill have only the impurest of motives.
  • 'Enemies'
    Pardon me, but, we are discussing SOFTWARE!!!
    If you must BATTLE FOR A CAUSE , how about putting it in perspective and choosing a REAL problem, like abortion, or teen pregnancy, or the starving.

    This babbling rhetoric is neverending. /. readers/users are some of the most technically adept persons in this industry, and it simply belittles their reputations to toss about phrases like 'destroy' and 'enemies'.

    As badly as you want 'The Matrix' to come true, it will never happen. Most PC users are AOLJunkies that can't even create a birthday card or a formatted letter, much less compile a kernel or install a non-RPM piece of software.

    What would happen to this forum if MS DID lose?
    If it were destoyed?
    Who would be the next evil empirer?
    Yep. AOL/Sun. Laughable. The cartoonishly goofy McNealy and the LOL funny AOL servers.

    Yes, I KNOW I am rambling, but,oh well.

    BTW, what is to be thought of RedHat going public?
    Are they now the enemy too?
    I mean, heck, first they dump on Rasterman, and now they strive to make money!!!

    BOYCOTT RedHat!!!!!!!
  • This is like going to a rally for Christians aganst Christ.It makes no sense,maybe Microsoft has hired a cult deprogrammer to get at ESR since nothing else has worked .

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.