|Last week, a long time Linux enthusiast and the chief architect of Gentoo Linux went inside the Microsoft Redmond campus. Not to steal any commercial secrets or operating system code, but to accept a job at the software giant.
Daniel Robbins, the founder of Gentoo Linux and its former chief architect announced that he has accepted a position at Microsoft Corp. In a brief note to the Gentoo Foundation Inc. community, Robbins said he was leaving Gentoo and that he will be "helping Microsoft to understand Open Source and community-based projects."
So, what do you think? What made him go to Microsoft? Isn?t that equivalent of John Kerry going all the way to Texas to work at President Bush?s ranch?
Money, my dear Linux comrades!! It?s all about money!
Here is what a hard-core Linux guy might tell Daniel Robbins. ?Don?t tell me that you are going to Microsoft to help them, buddy. They bought you, didn?t they? You betrayed all of your Linux comrades and joined the enemy camp, didn?t you? You traitor. How dare you could do that? ?
I used to be a hard-core Linux fan when I came out of college. Because that?s what they taught me. My supervisor was a member of the open source movement and he had literally brain washed me with all sorts of great things that had happened at the Linux camp. So did my colleagues. We were all Linux aficionados when we graduated. All of us ran nothing but Linux on our campus PCs( Of course I didn?t have the money to buy my own right out of college), and we learnt our C++ and all other great stuff that they teach you in school on a Linux machine. We knew nothing but Apache web server. VI editor was the best for us. And you won?t believe that I didn?t know how to create a folder on a Windows machine until a technical writer ( not a programmer) in my first job taught me. I was so obsessed with Linux that I never thought I would ever have a need to learn Windows in my entire life.
Then one-day reality struck me. Fortunately for me, I had couple of job offers right out of college. It was those days the world looked at programmers like rare creatures that had to be grabbed when you see them. So naturally I chose a company that paid more and a one that had the right path for me to move on (You are right. To the US). I accepted the offer as a Linux C++ programmer and proudly started my job with that great company. Guess what? The whole company ran on Windows. Then there was that lone Linux box sitting on the corner not been hooked up to the company email or the Internet. All of my colleagues had email, not me. All of my colleagues were browsing the Internet ( which was a luxury back in 1995) and not me. I was like one of those Bihari farmers on MG Road in Bangalore.
Then one day my manger told me that I ?had? to start working on the Windows platform, or I?d be shown the door, as they had no more Linux projects coming along my way. With so much heartache and anguish, I started learning the freaking damned operating system that I hated for years. It was hard but helped me pay my bills. But then guess what, it also helped me get my H1-B visa. Hey, I thanked Bill Gates for the first time in my life.
Daniel Robbins, the Gentoo Linux guy, might have had bills to pay, too. So he chose to go to Microsoft abandoning his Linux project. When your wallet becomes thin and your wife?s shopping bills create G8 summits at home, you better pack up your hard-core affections and find something that?ll bring freaking peace and balance to your finances. So don?t just blame Daniel. He might have possibly hurt your feelings, but he has a life to live, and Microsoft might have possibly saved his marriage, too.
Linux is a wonderful operating system. I still love it and I still think it?s superior to any of the existing Microsoft stuff, in terms of stability and security. But that doesn?t tell you should hate Microsoft. The reality is always different. I can?t install Linux in my home PC and make my family happy. My wife will call the police if there is no Microsoft Word on the machine. What will I do without PowerPoint? The savior application that helps million of people including myself to instantly look super smart in front of our bosses by presenting a neat little slide in a conference room to explain how we avoided traffic this morning. The reality is, you just won?t be able to live a realistic tech life without a Microsoft product. You like it or not, you just need them.
Why do so many good movies fail at the box office, despite impeccable scripts and astounding direction? The reality is that commercial movies are the ones liked by the masses, or ?junta? in our terms. Microsoft operating systems are the equivalent of well-crafted mass movies that ?junta? had already given the ?go?. Neglecting that fact would just make you a ?Linux Egomaniac?. What my dear hardcore Linux fans should understand is that there is no such thing called a ?cult? in the IT world. Be it Mac, Linux or Windows. Your wallet and bills decide the cult.
The good thing is that, Microsoft has taken Linux a lot more seriously lately. They were in a snoring, ?oh that geeky OS? type of mentality sometime back and now they realize the potential threat Linux posses to their fundamentals. We should look at this progress in a very positive angle because that?ll make Microsoft more vigilant about how vulnerable they could become if they continue to ignore the great innovations that come out of the open source segment of the industry. The world will be a better place if there are choices for the consumer and there exists an interoperatable environment between operating systems.
Let?s look at these events from a win-win angle than a mere Microsoft vs. other guys type of mentality. Let Daniel work for Microsoft. He may possibly be doing the right thing. Paying his bills with Bill?s money and making Microsoft ?understand? what open source is all about. Hey, If I could have a Linux PC at home with all the bells and whistles of Windows, I?ll be grateful to Daniel for helping me avoid the G8 summits for having a ?Geeky OS? on our home PC without the most important application the whole world needs, yes, the Microsoft Word!