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MicroImages Leaving LINUX

Mr Hocevar:

This is my first time communicating with anyone in the Linux
community, so please forgive me if I have breached some sort of
protocol.  I have been a Linux dabbler, user and supporter for some
time.  One of the developments I have noticed with pleasure over time
is the increasing number of, for lack of a better word, enterprise
quality Linux programs.  Because of my profession, and my desire to
set up my own company after retirement next year, I have been
particularly aware of developments in the GIS realm.  One of the few
professional level, commercial GIS suites available for Linux has been
MicroImages "MIPs".  It is very capable, and less than half the price
of the now Windows only ESRI products.  It is also MUCH cheaper to
update/upgrade and maintain.  As I refuse to buy Microsoft's OS, I was
eying it seriously for my own business use.  Imagine my chagrin when
upon going to the Microimages site today to have a look at their
latest version, I discovered no references to LINUX on their pages!  I
immediately called MicroImages to find out what was going on.  I
regret I did not get the person's name, but he was quite

Basically, they decided in the last few days to no longer support
Linux.  I was told that they sat down and analyzed the traffic on
their website over time and saw that Linux downloads were few.  I
didn't think to ask how many or if the number was increasing,
decreasing or static.  From further quite frank and informative
conversation, I believe the central reasons for their decision are

First, their impression of the "average" Linux user is multifaceted,
but does not include the general business owner or professional.  More
critically, I presume, ones likely to use their product.  Second, and
the primary reason I am addressing these concerns to you, is the
perceived/real burden to needing to write code to support their
software running in different Linux distributions.  I also got the
impression that they saw few distributions seriously focused on the
enterprise.  In particular they mentioned SUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu.
Frustration concerning the constantly changing (Linux supporters might
say evolving) code and the necessity to track multiple changes in
multiple distributions.  They are a small company, and I could see
their point.  They seemed particularly convinced that Ubuntu was aimed
at the home user.

I countered that SUSE, RedHat and Ubuntu had all been recently
evaluated for their support services.  I observed that this was an
issue of great concern to business owners, and that each had basically
done well.  Again, I forgot to mention that they had provided that
support quickly, without charging by the minute, and with considerably
better problem solving than Redmond.  I said that RedHat and SUSE
certainly focused on the business environment.  He countered that, in
their analysis, the purchase terms of RedHat made it more expensive to
purchase than Windows, and that it made little sense to support them
in that case.  In the end they had decided to support Windows and MACs
OS/X only.

I then observed that in writing for OS/X they were essentially writing
to UNIX/Linux and Solaris, although I allowed that Solaris software
also historically tended to be expensive.  I allowed I could see his
reasoning.  However, I observed that while there were many different
distributions to consider, perhaps they weren't thinking
strategically.  I suggested that perhaps they should write code to
support their program running under Debian, as it formed the
underpinnings of about half the distributions out there, including
Ubuntu.  I suggested that they might want to collaborate with RedHat
because of their business focus and relationship to other RPM based
distros, including Fedora.  As for UNIX, which I believe to be
MicroImage's original OS focus, writing to support MIPs running under
the BSD familiy, the underpinning of OS/X, and Solaris, with its Linux
program binary compatibility, would give them a more manageable task,
and good coverage in the Linux environment.  Certainly better than

I will be sending this along to whomever I can think of in these other
OS contexts as well.  But because of the reasons I stated, I am
focusing my thoughts and hopes on the Debian community as having
perhaps the most means to support this effort, and best chance to
persuade MicroImages to reconsider its decision.  Companies offering
powerful business-oriented programming deciding to not support their
programs running under Linux just serves to make Linux less attractive
as an OS environment for business or general use, slowing down its
adoption.  I don't wish to see that happen.

My hope in writing this is to stir up support for MicroImages at this
moment in particular, but support for enterprise software developers
in general, in developing for the Linux environment.  For myself, I
refuse to put one more penny that I have to into Windows and/or
Windows-centric products.  I am sure I am not alone.  However, I am
also a hard-nosed realist.  I am willing to learn a new OS, and spend
the time to search out reasonable Linux-based alternatives to
Windows-based programs.  I currently have that luxury, as I earn my
living in an environment where I have no choices in this regard, so I
can take time to evaluate.  But when I start my own enterprise, I want
choices.  I will want support.  I will need programs and an OS that
"just work" and provide me the tools I will need to successfully
compete in the marketplace of products and ideas..

I was a beta and gamma tester for OS/2.  I support the Linux ideal.  I
have contributed financial support to various Linux-based projects
over the years.  I want there to be meaningful choices in operating
systems and programs for pleasure and work.  I read about the efforts
to entice developers to write for the Linux platform.  In seeking that
involvement we should not be so distracted as to allow a long-time
participant in the commercialization of Linux slip away unnoticed.

Gene Kersey

PS  I have sent this note to organizations where I could find a
contact fairly easily.  So, if this ever happens to get forwarded to
Sun, RedHat, Ubuntu and SUSE, this is why you didn't receive the

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