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1234567890 Day and a Hot Job at Microsoft

1234567890 Day and a Hot Job at Microsoft

We might have missed the bus to the 1234567890 Day party, but there's plenty more going on in the FOSS blogosphere to keep us busy. Bloggers discussed the tired meme of open source vs. proprietary security and discovered an opening at Microsoft that might appeal to, well, someone.

By Katherine Noyes
02/16/09 4:00 AM PT

There are few things more frustrating to us here at LinuxInsider than being late to the party.

Unfortunately, that's just what happened last week, when we learned a mere 24 hours or so ahead of time that Friday -- notable already for being the 13th -- was none other than 1234567890 Day!

How in the world did we miss that one coming?

'Time to Party Like It's ...'

Well, it's true, and we have it direct from the official 1234567890 Day Web site: Last Friday, at exactly 3:31:30 p.m. PST, Unix time was "1234567890." How cool is that?

Parties were planned around the globe as we wrote this to celebrate the arrival of the big moment, with updates on Twitter -- not to mention more than 4,700 Diggs and near 360 comments within 48 hours of the story's posting.

Next time we'll try to be more on top of this one!

A Flock of Governments

Anyhoo, fortunately for us, not all bloggers were focused entirely on the party plans. In fact, many were unusually busy painting a grim picture for the future of Microsoft -- business as usual in the Linux blogosphere, that is!

First, a variety of items in the news from the last week or so came as music to many FOSS fans' ears. For example: The Canadian government is now apparently considering switching to open source software, even as Cuba went ahead and launched its own distribution. This, of course, as Russia and Vietnam are hard at work on similar plans.

No wonder a group of open source vendors have written an open letter to President Obama, encouraging him to do the same.

That sound you hear is a small tear trickling in Redmond!

Fearmongering in Redmond

Then there was the benchmark report in TuxRadar (heavily discussed on Slashdot) suggesting that Ubuntu can more than hold its own against Windows 7.

The sweat must be pouring freely in Redmond now, in fact, because a separate report on Slashdot charged that Certified Microsoft Professionals have embarked on a concerted effort to convince clients that open source software is fraught with security risks.

"The credibility of M$ on matters of security is laughable," blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider in response. "A company that has cost the world billions of dollars more damage by welcoming malware on most PCs on the planet than it has collected in license fees is pushing a product with negative value."

'Diversity is Strength'

Just read "CyberInsecurity - The Cost of Monopoly" to see "why that other OS is inherently insecure and why the diversity of GNU/Linux is strength," Pogson added.

"I have met many who feel closed-source like that other OS has security through obscurity, but the opposite is true," Pogson went on. "The guy least likely to find the bugs in software is the guy who wrote it. It takes objectivity to find bugs/vulnerabilities. FLOSS invites objective evaluation; M$ forbids it."

To wit: "Where I work the boss has told me he believes that other OS is very secure because he has never had malware take over the system," Pogson said. "I showed him that 7 distinct users were bypassing the firewall and all security measures."

'Security Through Obscurity'

Indeed, the argument that FOSS is less secure "has been around for a long time, and is often brought up by the security-through-obscurity crowd," Slashdot blogger Mhall119 told LinuxInsider. "Nobody should be surprised that it would be used more often as people start looking specifically for open source products.

"I have no doubt that Microsoft is worried about open source desktops," he added. "Their rate of improvement and innovation is staggering in comparison to Windows or OSX. The fact that there are so many that are so flexible is a serious issue for Microsoft, who couldn't get the Vista desktop to run on an Asus EeePC."

This is "not a new argument," Slashdot blogger drinkypoo agreed. "It gets trotted out every time Microsoft thinks that we have forgotten about it."

What Difference, Indeed?

Windows source code has leaked on "more than one occasion that we know of," drinkypoo told LinuxInsider. To that "we can add the statement that Linux still seems to be substantially more secure than Windows."

Even if one were to assume that "the source to current versions of Windows was not in the wild, you'd have to concede that there seem to be numerous exploits against various Windows platforms which are not at all based on any Windows sources," he added. "And so you'd have to wonder what difference it makes at all?"

'Good Guys Get to See the Code'

The more things change the more they stay the same, Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider. "This is a standard Microsoft way of doing business," he said.

The assumption that "black hats can't see Microsoft's code," meanwhile, "is false," Mack added. "Decompilers have been on the market for ages, and it's well-known that attackers have been reverse-engineering Microsoft's patches. At least with open source the good guys get to see the code too."

Finally, reports by several alert bloggers -- including OStatic's Sam Dean and Cnet's Matt Asay -- recently uncovered that Microsoft has placed a job ad on LinkedIn for a new director of open source desktop strategy.

Get those resumes ready! Then again, maybe it would be better to think twice.

'Nothing Whatsoever to Do With Linux'

"I honestly believe that it has nothing whatsoever to do with Linux," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider. "With the competition closing in around them in the browser market, along with their failure to get the MSN search brand (now Live) to get any traction, I believe they are trying to hire FOSS gurus in the hopes of finding a way to 'reboot' IE."

That, in turn, suggests that "Steve Ballmer is going to run the company into the ground," hairyfeet added. "Yet again they are missing the point by ignoring their core markets, which are the business and enterprise users and administrators."

Home users don't buy operating systems -- they buy PCs that come with operating systems, hairyfeet noted. Business users, rather, are the ones that buy operating systems.

"They buy support contracts, they buy volume licenses, they buy server CALs," he said. "And they have not had a single desktop release geared to them since XP Pro in August of 2001. For the first time ever, I am getting customers asking what I know about 'this Linux thing' simply because they don't have a choice."


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