Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 17:10:21 -0500 (EST)
From:"Linux Pipeline Newsletter" <>
Subject: [LXP] Linux Pipeline - 02.01.2006 - A Bad Example Linux Pipeline Newsletter | A Bad Example | 02.01.2006
Linux Pipeline Newsletter

In This Issue:
  • Editor's Note: A Bad Example
  • Top Linux News
        - Mass. Names New CIO; Hardens OpenDocuments Policy
        - Rumors Fly Over Google's Plans For Desktop Linux Distro
        - Microsoft To License Server Source Code in EU Case
        - More News...
  • Editor's Picks
        - Firefox Extensions: The Pick Of The Pack
        - Linux Kernel Developer Says No To 'Insane' GPL 3
        - Five Ways To Keep Your Google Searches Private
        - Extra: It's Salary Survey Time
        - More Picks...
  • Voting Booth: Is DRM DOA?
  • Get More Out Of Linux Pipeline
  • Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

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    Editor's Note: A Bad Example

    When Peter Quinn resigned last December as the Massachusetts state CIO, he had just spent the better part of two months imitating a pinata -- with Microsoft's powerful political allies wielding the sticks. His offense: Supporting, and ultimately helping to pass, a state policy adopting the Open Document Format, rather than Microsoft's published but still-proprietary Office XML format.

    I didn't realize that Quinn had somehow managed to avoid giving any media interviews since resigning -- that is, until last week. Now you can read Quinn's own explanation of why he resigned; who was behind the infamous Boston Globe hit piece looking into his alleged violations of state travel policies (for which he was completely exonerated); and much more, in his interview last week with Groklaw editor Pamela Jones.

    For many people, Quinn's more-or-less forced resignation raised one key question: Would other public-sector CIOs and IT managers take the hint and think twice before pushing open-source software at Microsoft's expense? In his interview, Quinn himself explains his decision to resign more as a pragmatic matter -- in essence, "taking one for the team" -- but I don't think his answers really address the potential chilling effect his case might have on other Open Source initiatives in the government sector.

    Here's my own take, based on Quinn's interview and everything else I've read on the subject recently: There is no "chilling effect" in this case, or at least nothing that would scare a reasonable person. Intimidation requires a credible threat -- and a credible threat is precisely what's missing from this story.

    The political mugging that drove Peter Quinn back to the private sector was real enough, and it must have been a very unpleasant experience. Yet while Quinn himself sees Microsoft's grubby fingerprints on many of the little things that made his work life miserable and drove him to resign, I think he has it backwards. Quinn first fell prey to a unique and undeniably potent combination of bad timing, coincidence, his own political naivety, and the Boston Globe's preternatural taste for sleaze -- and then, once these ingredients were in place, Microsoft and its local hatchet-men swoop in to make an opportunistic meal out of Quinn's career with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    Even more to the point, however, Quinn faced one truly deadly problem: He lost his only real source of political cover and protection, just as he was busy turning some very powerful state politicians into his new worst enemies. Quinn's own manager, state Secretary of Administration and Finance Eric Kriss, was a personal friend and an equally ardent ODF supporter; while Quinn championed ODF from a technological perspective, Kriss kept Microsoft's political attack dogs, in the Massachusetts Senate and elsewhere, comfortably at bay.

    To do this, Kriss controlled two key assets that forced other players in this game to treat him with great care: Governor Romney's ear, as a cabinet-level appointee; and control of the state's purse strings. It's hard to overstate just how important a tool -- or, at times, a weapon -- fiduciary authority can be in these situations.

    When Kriss split for a private-sector job, however, Quinn was suddenly the only target worth hitting on this political free-fire range.

    In the end, the fact that Quinn himself apparently didn't see any of this coming, once Kriss was gone, illustrates exactly why Quinn needed protection and support in the first place. When Quinn's new boss, Tom Trimarco, kicked off his tenure with blather about not wanting to be "unfair" to Microsoft (which just scraped by last year on $11 billion in revenue and 80 percent margins on its Office software, the poor things), Quinn's long-term job prospects suddenly looked about as secure as a watermelon at a Gallagher show.

    Nobody would want what happened to Peter Quinn to happen to them. But here's the good news: I'm sure that almost anyone can find better things to worry about. Given the circumstances, Quinn's political pinata act simply doesn't work as a "this could happen to you"-type warning to his colleagues in other states.

    Actually, the dreaded "chilling effect" couldn't even cool things off in Massachusetts, where Peter Quinn's recently-named successor, UMass Medical School IT chief Louis Gutierrez, was named just this week. Gutierrez is every bit as likely as Quinn had been to fight for open software, systems, and standards -- and to make Microsoft back up its mostly-idle talk about making Office XML a truly open standard. If this is Microsoft's example of making an example out of someone, the company's PR masterminds can't be very happy with their handiwork so far.

    Have a good week, and as always, stay in touch.

    Matt McKenzie
    Editor, Linux Pipeline

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    Top Linux News

    Mass. Names New CIO; Hardens OpenDocuments Policy
    Massachusetts' new CIO, former UMass Medical School IT guru Louis Gutierrez, has a solid record as an advocate for open standards and open-source software -- and in particular, as a vocal supporter of the Open Document Format.

    Rumors Fly Over Google's Plans For Desktop Linux Distro
    Google says it is using Ubuntu desktop Linux technology internally, but remains tightlipped about its purpose. That hasn't stopped bloggers from speculating that the company plans to launch "Goobunto" as its own desktop distro, in spite of Google's repeated denials.

    Microsoft To License Server Source Code in EU Case
    Microsoft will license source code for the Windows Server technologies at issue in the antitrust fight with the European Union to "put technical compliance issues at rest," the company's head counsel says.

    Nokia Opens Mobile Platform Code On SourceForge
    Nokia on Tuesday said it would release the source code for its Python for S60 Platform to the open-source community on, in an effort to spur application development for the Symbian OS-based mobile software.

    Google Wins Nevada Copyright Case
    A judge rules that Google's caching and serving of a story from a writer's Web site is protected as "fair use," under U.S. copyright law. The ruling could help Google in other cases, including a lawsuit seeking to stop its effort to scan and index books and other copyrighted content for online searches.

    Microsoft Outlines Updated Blog Policy
    Stung by revelations that it actively censored a popular Chinese journalist's blog, Microsoft unveils an updated policy for accessing -- and, if required to do so, censoring -- content on international versions of its MSN Spaces blogging site.

    Novell Launches SMB-Friendly Linux Bundles
    Novell launches a Linux bundle tailored to its small-businss and midmarket customers, including software, online training and telephone/online support, all provided at a significant discount.

    U.N. To Back $100 Laptop Project, Says Report
    The United Nations is expected to endorse an idea for a hand-cranked $100 laptop computer to be issued to millions of schoolchildren around the globe.

    Editor's Picks

    Firefox Extensions: The Pick Of The Pack
    Installing Firefox for the first time? Don't leave the lair until you have these 10 indispensable add-ons running with the pack -- they're just that good.

    Linux Kernel Developer Says No To 'Insane' GPL 3
    Linus Torvalds says parts of a draft update to the Free Software Foundation's key open-source license are unacceptable, and he won't move the Linux kernel off version 2 of the GPL. Is the dispute a sign of healthy dissent, or a hint that the Free Software "movement" is moving in very different directions?

    Five Ways To Keep Your Google Searches Private
    Censorship controversies overseas, and court battles with the government at home, leave more users wondering just who can see their Google searchs. If you want to make your search requests a secret that GHere are five simple steps you can take to keep outsiders from uncovering private information about your Web browsing habits.

    Firms Warned: Beware Of Linux Security Gaffes
    Security experts remind firms that Linux is not a security panacea: Double-checking software version levels, however, and making sure the techies don't slip unpatched Linux products onto the network, will go a long way towards avoiding potential problems.

    Critics: CERT Security Numbers Don't Add Up
    Linux experts savage a CERT report comparing total Windows vs. Linux/Unix security vulnerabilities as at best useless and at worst highly deceptive. The CERT director's rebuttal, so far, consists of hiding his phone and suggesting that Linux slim down to one distro.

    Extra: It's Salary Survey Time
    Do you deserve a raise? Is your career on track? The editors of InformationWeek magazine invite you to participate in our 9th annual National IT Salary Survey.

    Here's why you should participate:

    + It's fast. It's convenient. It's confidential.

    + We'll compare your salary and job satisfaction responses to those of your peers in a 30+ page report.

    + Compare salaries regionally and nationally (for free). Click here to go to the survey:

    Voting Booth: Is DRM DOA?

    Cast Your Vote Now!
    This week, we want to know what you think about the impact the Sony BMG Entertainment case will have on the use of aggressive digital rights management systems on users' PCs. Will Sony's deal settling the class-action lawsuits filed against it scare the rest of the industry straight? You've got opinions -- and we're all ears. Bring it on!

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