Does Microsoft really love Linux?

Also in today's open source roundup: AnandTech reviews the HTC 10 Android phone, and the story of Linux began 25 years ago

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Credit: Microsoft

Does Microsoft really love Linux?

Microsoft has always had an…uneasy…relationship with Linux, to say the least. But a writer at The Verge is convinced that Microsoft does indeed love Linux these days, and that its stormy Linux past is now behind the Redmond giant.

Tom Warren reports for The Verge:

What a difference 15 years makes. Back in 2001, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was busy branding Linux “a cancer” during the height of the software giant’s domination of desktop computing. Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll find Microsoft confessing its love for everything open source and Linux. It’s a stunning turnaround that’s now backed up by Microsoft’s serious attention to the open source world. Microsoft is now the top organization with the most open source contributors on Github. It beats Facebook, Docker, Google, Apache, and many other competitors.

Microsoft launched its CodePlex open source community 10 years ago, but the company started moving its big projects over to Github more than a year ago. This move has fuelled Microsoft’s growth on Github, but a culture shift has played an even bigger role in this change. Microsoft employees have embraced Satya Nadella’s culture change at the company, and open source advocates like Scott Hanselman have been free to push the company to open source some of Microsoft’s top tools.

Recent moves include the open sourcing of PowerShell, Visual Studio Code, and Microsoft Edge’s JavaScript engine. Microsoft also partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10, and acquired Xamarin to aid mobile app development. Microsoft even open sourced Xamarin’s SDKs and developer tools, and brought SQL Server to Linux.

More at The Verge

The article at The Verge spawned a large discussion thread and readers of the site shared their throughs about Microsoft and Linux:

Tundey Akinsanya: “Actually, Microsoft has been doing it for decades. Just not at this scale and not on Linux. Visual Studio has had an express version since forever. So has SQL Server. And Microsoft has programs for startups to get Microsoft tools for cheap/free (I think it used to be called sparks).”

Harfox: “That’s not what open source means. Their recent actions are completely different.”

Talont: “The cognitive dissonance regarding MS in the linux crowd must really start to build up.”

Pappas Antonis: “There will be none as long as Microsoft refuses to even publicly name the patents it believes that Linux infringes. MS will show true love when it does its part to clear the patent minefield that it created.

It should have been mentioned that most Android handset makers pay a licensing fee to Microsoft, largely based on Android’s use of patent infringing code in its Linux kernel.”

Davey: “The major thing that MS have won on is the editor, so many people using VScode. As someone working with a large .Net app, its almost impossible for us to move it to dotnet core, with the long term looking very uncertain. They have committed to Linux, but how many people are actually migrating to it, how many people have a successful transition story. In reality, a lot of what MS has been doing is to build developer relations. Build a good editor, build a better server OS that supports containers, build a better cloud service that supports Windows and Linux, support your primary web app platform on Linux and have a full vertical integration. That would work if the dotnet core wasn’t so incomplete, the cloud platform was miles behind AWS and the Windows server nano was actually out. Also, containers on Windows may still be a lost cause, we’ll have to wait an see. They are working on all the pieces, but they really need to drive home that it works together.”

Ardent: “Microsoft has recognized that much of software development — particularly OS development — is a dying industry (from a profit perspective). Getting into the open source world will let it continue to navigate freely as it works on its real future of business solutions and, they hope, gamer lock-in (to drive their home entertainment endeavors).”

Bill Broadley: “I think it would be more appropriate to say Microsoft loves linux customers. So sure they will sell you an Office365 subscription to users of the very popular chromebooks (which run the linux kernel). Sure they love the hordes IOS and Android (running the linux kernel) customers and well sell them services. Similarly they love the cloud, they love docker, and the increasing popularity of containers.

However they hate linux itself, they hate android, they hate Chrome OS. They do their best to keep any version of linux from running on the surface with EFI. They haven’t helped windows run as a linux guest. They have adopted compatibility and playing well with standards to allow linux guests to run on windows. Which allows them to sell cloud related surfaces… only to the degree that it allows them to try to run underneath every linux instance in the cloud.”

Alphaq: “It’s not a ‘stunning turnaround’, the entire development landscape has shifted from underneath Microsoft’s dominant feet over the last decade, towards open source and small developer friendly tools. They are simply trying to stay relevant to those developers, but they have already lost the battle for mobile and web platforms, Google owns the web and Apple/Google share mobile.”

More at The Verge

AnandTech reviews the HTC 10

AnandTech is known for its deep and detailed reviews of all kinds of products, including Android phones. One of the site’s latest reviews covers the HTC 10 Android phone.

Joshua Ho reports for AndandTech:

It’s been a long road to get to this point. In order to try and take the HTC 10 as a whole then we can start by reviewing the details. At a high level, the HTC 10 is specced to take on the high-end Android market. As far as design goes, this represents HTC’s first major design shift since the One M7. I think it’s easy to write it off as a minor change but this device is now truly all metal and glass unlike the One M7, M8, and M9. Instead of plastic speaker grilles or plastic sidewalls like the previous designs, the front is just a sheer piece of glass with no logos or anything to really distract from the experience. The back cover is similarly almost all aluminum other than the antenna insulating lines and the RF window for GPS at the top of the phone. The logo on the back is painted on rather than a discrete, separate piece, and the FCC markings on this PVT are absent altogether in mass production units.

This design really in a lot of ways is HTC finally getting serious about the details as well. If you looked too closely at most of the phone the lack of ID detailing was apparent with SIM trays in random areas and poor color matching as well as buttons and other pieces scattered in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Things like the buttons are so much better than previous models with no take-up and a clean, crisp break with a hard stop. The top-mounted 3.5mm jack is not necessarily ideal for ergonomics but it’s still acceptable.

In light of everything, the HTC 10 feels like it shows a lot of attention to detail and care that seems to be absent in a lot of devices that I’ve had to review in the past few years. There are definitely sore spots like the display and WiFi, but on the whole the great camera, audio, design, and software experience come together to make a great phone that has really aged quite well over the past few months.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how the price is too much, but realistically it looks like the price is closer to 600 USD due to frequent discounts. Considering the direct competition in the price range, on the basis of the device itself I would argue that the price is about in line with expectation. Even now, with the iPhone 7 and Note7 available my experiences with the HTC 10 lead me to believe that it’s well worth buying still if you’re looking for a high-end Android device that can be used with one hand.

More at AnandTech

The story of Linux began 25 years ago

Linux has been around for a long time now, and it’s fun to look back on how it got started. A writer at Inverse recently shared his thoughts about Linux and how it got started back in 1991.

Alasdair Wilkins reports for Inverse:

On September 17, 1991, a volunteer administrator for the FTP server shared by Finland’s universities uploaded the kernel of a new, open-source operating system. The administrator, Ari Lemmke, did so on behalf of his friend, a computer science student at the University of Helsinki. There was just one small problem: Lemmke didn’t like Freax, the name his friend had given the operating system. “Freax” was meant as a portmanteau of “free,” “freak,” and the operating system’s spiritual ancestor, Unix, but this didn’t sway Lemmke. Instead, he renamed Freax after its inventor, Linus Torvalds. The operating system went out into the world as Linux, and the rest is history.

It’s now exactly a quarter-century later, and Linux has won. Oh sure, it’s still a relative rarity on personal computers. Data from earlier this year shows that just 1.8 percent of desktop computers use Linux. Although Microsoft Windows crushes Linux with 89.7 percent of all desktops, Linux really isn’t that far away from the 8.5 percent of desktop computers running Mac OS. Sure, Linux is the third operating system when it comes to computers, but it’s more down to Apple’s branding than anything else that we think of this as a two-system race in the first place.

But personal computers constitute just one aspect of computing, and it’s pretty much the only one that Linux doesn’t totally dominate. Take smartphones: Google’s Android system is descended from the original Linux kernel, meaning every Android phone is fundamentally a Linux device. The precise numbers vary, but Android probably runs on about 80 percent of all the world’s smartphones and 60 percent of all the world’s tablets. Sure, Windows or the Mac OS might be the system waiting for people when they sit down at their desks, but odds are the operating system they carry around in their pocket, play around with when bored, and take to bed with them even when they really, really shouldn’t? That’s Linux.

Venturing onto the internet means entering a world dominated by Linux, especially with the biggest websites. Of the top million most visited web domains, nearly 97 percent run Linux web servers, compared with just 1.7 percent that run Windows. The number isn’t quite so ridiculous as you increase the total number of web domains beyond the top million, but we’re still very much living in a Linux universe — Microsoft’s own Steve Ballmer once estimated that 60 percent of all servers run Linux, compared with just 40 percent for his company’s Windows server.

More at Inverse

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