My opinion on Mandriva vs. Microsoft

I have posted about an open letter François Bancilhon, CEO of Mandriva, wrote to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Here I intend to give proper answer to some comments in the Mandriva blog page, mostly covering ethical and legal issues.

For a complete immersion on the subject, please read the whole letter. For a summary: the government of Nigeria decided to buy 17k computers. Mandriva and Microsoft made offers, and Mandriva won. After the computers being sent to Nigeria, the government of Nigeria contacted Mandriva and informed them that they'd pay the bill, but that they had changed their mind and would install Windows instead.

Now some comments in the Mandriva blog page, and my responses:

Charles said

November 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Would you entrust your country’s educational computer future to a company whose CEO writes whiny unprofessional conspiracy theories on his blog? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Even if bribes were made (and I’m just saying hypothetically ‘if’), the reality is that for this to have happened somebody must have seen value in a Microsoft solution over your ware. It’s your fault for not being able to convince the customer otherwise, not Microsoft’s for behaving like a business.

Grow up.

1) The whole point is that with Mandriva the Nigerian government wouldn't be "entrusting their country's educational computer future" to anyone. It's the other way around! No matter how stupid/lame/immoral/illegal Mandriva and its CEO are, once you make the Linux bet, you are free. You don't depend on any single vendor for anything. I know it's a complex concept for a slave-minded Windows user, but Linux is about Freedom. On the other hand, going for Windows implies entrusting yourself to a single company: Microsoft. Would you pledge obedience to an unethical, monopolistic, soulless, predatory and often illegal company? You are doing so by surrendering to MS. Besides, the CEO of Mandriva is not "whining". He is caring. After all, they got the money, so, if money was his only concern, he'd be happy. But he is concerned about more things, which you seem to be impervious to: the fairness of the deal, the fulfillment of closed agreements, the access of Nigerian youth to Free Software, the respect of MS to anti-monopoly and fair market rules... The wise is pointing the sky, and you look at the finger instead.

2) It is not Mandriva's "fault", and MS did not "behave like a business". If MS somehow bribed the Nigerian government, they'd be seriously breaking international law, violating the rules you rely on to believe you live in a democracy. Not "everything" is permitted in business. A monopolistic holding can not sell products below price (dumping) to eliminate the competitors. It is against law, and, if permitted, it totally damages the consumer in the long run. In the short run, the lower prices are a plus for the consumer, but once the competition is hampered, the company in the monopolistic position can continue abusing the market (raising the prices, lowering the quality, applying arbitrary limitations...).

sarek said,

November 5, 2007 at 3:46 pm


What are you whining about. You have sold your PC you already have your money. If the Nigerians would say, we don’t want to pay for the software because we install Microsoft Windows i could understand your complaining. But you have deliverd your goods, and got payed. What is your problem, if the Nigerians want to convert the machines to a Sony Playstation, that is not you problem, it is their right because they have bought and payed for the goods. I can’t understand all those whining of Linux community against Microsoft, I use Linux myself and the company uses Windows. Linux is not heaven and Microsoft is not Hell. If you look at companies as Suse/Novell and Red Hat, it is no open source anymore (they are copieing the Microsoft marketing strategie).

François, stop whining and use a better sales team

3) Again, François is not complaining for money! He is speaking of fairness, justice, and even the good of the Nigerians themselves. Don't you get it? Mandriva won the contract, because their offer was better. Any act whatsoever afterwards is a dirty trick (possibly illegal) to impose a worse product that had lost in fair competition. François is worried about Nigerians getting the worse product.

4) About Mandriva getting a better sales team... why should they? They freakin' won the contract!! Their product is better, and their sales team did convince the Nigerian government. Where did Mandriva fail? They should have bribed the Nigerian government, I infer?

Steve said,

November 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Come on guys! Seriously, you wonder why the mass market isn’t taking on Linux in numbers? There’s a number of reasons, but comments like:

“I am proud to be a linux user and i’ll die as a linux user.”

“MS is like a drug dealer”

And then moaning about ethics. Come on - this is business.

5) No. François is not talking only about ethics. Bribing someone to dump the option that won in a public competition and choose the loser option is illegal and unfair. Besides, it is also unethic, and your lame ad hominem attack on Linux users doesn't "prove" otherwise. What you accuse Linux users of is not unethic, and even if it were, it doesn't disprove our arguments (read what an ad hominem is, please).

Maybe, just maybe Microsoft presented a really good business case, stating the TCO on a volume licence agreement compared to the Mandrivia option. The cost would be reduced due to the volume licence agreement anyway, and that also includes free technical support to MS.

6) This line of argumentation is irrelevant. Obviously MS might have a better offer than Mandriva. But the public competition was made just for that! Both Mandriva and MS made the offers they considered fit, and Mandriva won. How many times does this need to be said? Mandriva won the competition and MS lost it. If the Nigerian government changed their mind afterwards, it has nothing to do with MS's merits, because such merits were judged in the public competition that Mandriva won.

Whilst Linux is a great platform, it’s still nowhere near Vista or XP level yet. Whilst Linux is free or very cheap this is OK - but if you compare Vista against Linux and remove the cost out of the equasion then the worlds most popular OS is probably going to win it.

7) You have obviously not used Linux much. The technical competition was lost for Windows long time ago. The only advantage of Windows is that it is more widely used and that more commercial software is made for it, and this generates a vendor lock-in effect. Both effects are external to Windows. Intrinsically, and leaving the price aside, Linux is miles ahead of MS Windows.

That’s just business, we’ve had the same thing happen to us (our company is a web development company. Got Phase 1 done, but support went as they got their system redone by a competitor before we even finished development) Get over it, stop whining like children and start working as a commerical entity rather than hobbyists.

8 ) This is not "business", this is breaking the law (see point 2 above).

chineme said,

November 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm

I don’t understand what all this fuss is about,Someone buys a laptop or PC that comes pre-installed with windows (also paying for the software) then remove windows and install mandriva no one complains.

Then he do the opposite and everyone takes up arms.

9) You are wrong. If I buy a laptop privately, I can do with it whatever I see fit. But the Nigerian government bought 17k computers with public money. Whenever you do something like that, you have to make (if you live in a democracy) a public competition, to see which provider makes the best offer (to guarantee that public money is spent correctly). This competition was made, and Mandriva won. If, afterwards, and with no further public competition, the government decides otherwise, they are misusing the public funds.

Lets face it the Nigerian government wanted a good cheap hardware deal and they got it and they probably also got a good deal on OS from Microsft as well. So they went for it. What is this Francois complaining about? Wasnt he paid or did they violate a contract that he can sue them for? If they did he can go ahead ad sue and stop whinning.

10) See point 9 above.

Did he ever go to Nigeria to protect his investment? Or did he just read up all the drivel and nonsense about Nigeria being a corrupt country full of spammers like the rest of you and decide to stay away as far as possible.

11) No. What François did was to win the public competition with his better offer. Period. Mandriva's offer was better, it won, and any other use of the Nigerian money is a misuse on the government's side, and illegal actions from MS's side depending on what they did to get the deal.

On spam: I recieve more spam on people trying to sell me viagra or sell me a home ownership loan or even winning a lottery than Nigerians trying to get me to move millions out of the country and I treat them all the same way: I trash them.

Lets concentrate on the real issue being poor marketing and follow up and leave Nigeria’s ethics or lack of it out of the issue

12) The "real issue" is not poor marketing. It is improper assignation of public funds. Read points 9 and 11 above.

Alex said,

November 3, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Dear François,
Your letter show ignorance on your part about black people in general and Nigerians in partucular. Nigerians may be poor now- but they are certainly not stupid!
Your assuption- even though you have dealt with nigerians is that they are ignorant about both business issue and they do not have they technical savvy to make their own decisions- it’s nothing but pure racism. Not racisim out of malice- you seem to demonstarte a sincere ignorance about the abilities of africans.

Incidentlly, only French young people spend more time in education than Nigerians in the whole world- you can check that out
Do you seriously Think Nigerians- some of the best educated people in in African , if not in the world are not clever enough to change from your OS to microsoft’s.

13) You are using a laughable straw man argument. François is not implying that Nigerians are stupid. He (if I understand correctly) is implying that a) MS behaved illegally, bribing the Nigerian government to make it choose an option that had lost in a fair and public competition, over the one that had won, and b) it might be a case of corruption in the Nigerian government side, by knowingly choosing the loser in the aforementioned competition, and hence misusing the public money assigned to buy computers. To "change their mind", the Nigerian government would have had to repeat the public competition, so that MS could win in a second round.

As a person of Nigerian parentage, when i first read about your deal I was alamed about you supplying your OS to nigerian schools. From what I know about Nigerians everybody used microsoft anyway- Every Nigerian I know- including the teachers who would be using this machnines use microsoft.

The delivery of machine s that are rugged by your company is just the perfect thing for nigeria and her schools.
To me it sounds like the best business outcome- from the point of view of the customer.
They get rugged machines good for their situation, and an os they are used to

I think for once Nigerians have let common sence rather than money to prevail.
Maybe you should press our advantage that they loved your machines to keep your relationship with the Nigerian govermenmt going, so that you get more contracts from the country- Nigerian is a huge country with millions of young people eager to learn. A well considered stategy and long term view by your country in a frican may in the end popularise your OS there as well- believe me there are ways to beat microsoft in a country like nigeria- I mean software design wise

14) Getting computers with Windows is about the worst possible outcome for Nigeria. You say that Nigerians are eager to learn, but on the other hand you say that getting Windows is better, because they are used to it! Staying with the known "bad" thing, not to have to learn the new "good" thing is very bad politics for a developing country.

GvS said,

November 2, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Maybe because Mandriva is just one of 10.000 linux distro’s, and Windows is the defacto industry standard.

15) Windows being the de facto standard is really really bad for the computer users. What this means is that instead of software makers following the standards agreed upon by all agents (makers, users, governments...), it's the other way around: users, governments and other companies have to follow the decisions of MS. Decisions that are taken to benefit only MS, regardless of how negative they might be for the users. Do you really think this situation is good for you?

If you are running a government, and you have to choose between:
a. A linux distro that my students have a 1% (a very very high estimate) of using in real life (that is working for a company)
b. A M$ solution, they will use in at least 50% (a very very low estimate) of the companies they will ever work for.
Now what do you choose to best prepare your students?

16) Your argument is that people shouldn't use Linux because people don't use Linux. Reread it, an realize what a nonsense it is! The correct reasoning is the following:

a) Windows binds you to a vendor (MS) / Linux doesn't
b) Windows restricts your rights to use, modify and redistribute it / Linux doesn't
c) Windows artificially restricts (DRM) what kind of media you can play on it / Linux doesn't
d) Windows encourages you not to learn how the computer works / Linux does the opposite
e) Windows makes you dependent on proprietary formats / Linux doesn't
f) Windows is bug ridden, unstable and subject to malware / The incidence of these is infinitely smaller in Linux
g) Windows encourages following the beaten path / Linux encourages finding your own way
h) Windows makes you fall in a dependency loop that is hard to get out of / Linux gives you freedom
i) Windows means more money to the already rich / Linux means more power to the user

Now, as a teacher in a developing country, eager to break the chains with the First World domination, to give the most freedom and power to your students, to educate them to learn, and not just repeat what others do without real knowledge... what would you choose to provide your students?

Anonymous said,

November 1, 2007 at 4:02 am


Why are you assuming that Microsoft did something underhanded? It could very well be the case that a deal with Microsoft is more viable for the Nigerian goverment in the longer run -
- Their products are tried and trusted. Yours is still an unknown quantity.
- Their customer support is supposedly very good. How about yours?
- Maybe the TCO for Microsoft’s solution is lower than your solution.

I’m in no way taking sides. But you must be willing to accept the possibility that Microsoft could have presented a better long term deal for them.

17) Did you actually read François's post? MS lost the public competition. Mandriva won it. MS's offer could have been better, but it actually wasn't. Read point 6 above.

djbon2112 said,

November 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

Wow, more bitching from a Linux distro because Microsoft won a deal? Unheard-of!

18) Again the same nonsense! Microsoft LOST the deal. There was a public competition, and Mandriva won. Mandriva and MS had the opportunity to make their best offers, both did, and the government chose Madriva. MS didn't win the deal: they bribed their way into it. Read points 2, 6 and 9 above, please.

Sorry, but Microsoft makes a better product. You know why? It doesn’t abuse my time.

I’ve tried to use Linux. I’ve tried Ubuntu, and Debian, and Fedora, and countless other distros (yours included) throughout the years. And every time, I’ve run into problems which are so simple to fix in Windows, but take HOURS of my time to attempt to fix in Linux. And I say “attempt”, because 90% of the time, the “solutions” don’t work, and I’ve wasted another hour of my life trying to make something simple (like, a Flash plug-in for Firefox in x64?, to name one of MANY!) work.

A friend of mine said, “Linux is only free if your time is worthless”. Microsoft products work easily, the first time, and don’t waste my life with trivial issues and setup. I can get a Windows Vista box up and surfing the internet, playing games, watching movies, doing ANYTHING you want, in under 2 hours. I’ll take a little “insecurity” (and Windows is only insecure if you’re an idiot) for that!

19) This rant is more tech-related than about the Mandriva vs. MS issue at hand. Anyway, I will comment something: your experience is anecdotal. Windows is easier than Linux if you are an expert in the former, and an ignorant in the latter. I have a long experience in both, and for me Linux is easier. When I an forced to use that pile of crap called Windows I keep finding that I don't know how to do the simplest things. Maybe it's because I am more used to Linux... so this proves my point. And there are a lot of things that are really simple in Linux, and are really annoying, or impossible to do in Windows.

You say that "Linux is only free if your time is worthless". It's a good point, but rather false. You are assuming that you already know how to use Windows, and that you have to learn how to use Linux. But if you know neither, learning Linux does not necessarily require more of your valuable time. Moreover, all the time I have spent figuring out how to do things in Linux was not wasted time for me. I learned a lot, not about Linux, but about how to do stuff, and how computers work, and how the Internet works, and about security, and about programming, and about an awful lot of things. Linux gave me the marvelous opportunity to learn a lot!

Update: Nigerian government moves back to Mandriva

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11 thoughts on “My opinion on Mandriva vs. Microsoft

  1. Hello. I come from windows and I have no linux experience. I have donwloaded mandriva 2008 and when I try to install a printer It appears a message "can not install cups server" or something like that. I think this is a big mistake, because I have seen a lot of people in internet that have the same problem, so I can't understand how can it be possible to have this problem in a new distro, in windows you don't have this kind of problems, to install a simply printer you don't have to lose days and days triying to find the solution to a problem that should not exist. At the end I had to return to windows; I can not imagine how it would be to install a scanner or a wireless card. Have a nice day and more.


  2. Hi Joan,

    This is because Mandriva sucks! Get a really good distro, like Debian or Ubuntu :^)

    Now, seriously, your problem might be caused for two reasons: you can not install the printer, or you can not install the printing server (CUPS). It seems to be the latter. Have you installed the cups package in your Mandriva system? Were you root when you tried to?

    Every Linux newbie is confused by the many distros there are out there, but let me tell you something: the only real differences between them are 1) the installer (that you only see once, when you install from CD), and 2) how to install/remove each program. You will use the latter a whole lot, so choose a distro that has a package management system that you like. Personally, I have come to love APT, Debian's package managing system (used by Ubuntu and others, too).

    If you have cups up and running, the rest should be a breeze.

    (By the way, your English is great)

  3. Pingback: My opinion on Mandriva vs. Microsoft « handyfloss

  4. [From]

    Miles said:

    If I were a country buying any flavor of Linux - it’d have to do specifically what I want it to do and no more or less. In servers - ONLY Microsoft’s servers are built to provide ONLY server services whereas Linux services are the same whether or you load servers or desktops…and those 35 to 45 services eat up so much CPU and Memory that it’s really not worth the pain to install cheap Linux boxes and especially Mandriva. Mandriva’s core MBR writes are systemically prone to failure and do so on a 30 to 50 percent basis. By that I mean - if you can get a fresh loaded verson of Mandriva to load the MBR - you can’t just pull the plug or turn off the machine while cycling or I’ve even just pulled the plug while the machine was just sitting there doing virtually nothing - and the reboot didn’t happen and I’d have to use DOS debug to fix the MBR or load a fresh copy of XP or DOS (DOS is a quicker fix) or a fresh version of some flavor of Linux. Mandriva may be a stable product in the lab under nice conditions - but, not in the real world of keeping the CPU, Video RAM and RAM in full tilt to do the required work. Mandriva looks good and mostly runs good - but, not great on any subject. Sorry - Nigeria should have tried openSUSE 10.3 or chose like they did, Microsoft Windows. Redhat would have worked or something Redhat Server connected to Fedora Desktop. Still - Mandriva was a poor choice to even try.

  5. [From]

    Miles said:

    Let me correct my previous statement on Linux usage. You can load Linux without ALL 35 to 45 services running - and you do that by loading a GUI-less install. Yes people - Linux runs great without any GUI attached…in fact I prefer to run it that way. You just need to know how to do CLI so you can properly program with a Text Editor in order to setup Apache, MySQL and other servers required for websites with PHP, Perl and Python scripting. This in fact the best way to run a Linux server - barring Mandriva because what is wrong with Mandriva is systemically an issue at its core and even with CLI it keeps breaking (MBR keeps corrupting or won’t get written to at all or Mandriva can’t find where to write). The bottomline is - if you load Linux without GUI - you’re going to have a super fast server, very secure and only about 6 to 12 services running - depending how many boxes you feel like buying and loading without a GUI in order to get all your apps running. As for me - my main box to the open internet is my squid box and only runs squid, firewall and a ftp proxie. I have a special box for telnet and another box for websites and another for databases. In any case - you can buy or download ANY version of ANY flavor of Linux and load and run it from a CLI and never worry about KDE or GNOME open socket issues or broken programs showing a colorful program - but, not really of any practical use otherwise. Being color blind in this case would be a good thing then you have no distractions. You can experienced users and developers by their need for GUI and Color. GUI and Color are for the audience - not the actors.

  6. [From]

    Miles said:


    Linux is getting very bad rap because of:
    GNOME and KDE who are the real culprits are not getting charged as “guilty” for being crappy GUI’s.
    Apple has Leopard or Cheetah or whatever - and Apple doesn’t call their GUI’s BSD (Berkley Software Developement) and people are quite happy calling their machines Mac’s or MacIntosh. So why are GNOME and KDE calling themselves Linux - when they ARE NOT built from Linux but, in fact are built from the very same C/C++, Perl and Python that Mac’s are built from? Even if MacIntosh computers were running on top of Linux - Apple wouldn’t call it a Apple Linux or LinApple or whatever goofy name you can make of it.

    The first problem with Mandriva is that it is not fixing the Linux issues with the MBR and 3D-Cube freezing and probably doesn’t have the expertise now that they have fired their best dude for the job and hired a salesman to replace him.

    The second problem with Mandriva is that it is giving Linux a BAD rap when in fact it is GNOME and KDE that are screwing up and Mandriva isn’t even trying to fix their issues of “writing to the MBR”. It’s not a Linux problem with these issues - it’s GNOME and KDE problems and “How” Mandriva is rewiring them so to speak - to be Mandriva instead of leaving them as done by openSuSE or hiring someone from openSuSE to do the writing for Mandriva.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Miles.

    I am not a Mandriva expert (I used Mandrake back when it was 8.0 - 10.0), but I would not find it surprising that all you say is true. I do not know if openSuse is a good substitute. Recall that a government like that of Nigeria would probably prefer a commercial solution (be it Linux, Windows, Mac or whatever), for the added support (so they'd go SLES instead of openSuse, I guess, or openSuse with support). For someone not wanting this support, I think Debian is by far the best choice for servers, for stability and flexibility. If you don't want a GUI, both Mandriva and Suse are a pain in the ass, because they are really oriented at being configured via their GUIs.

    However, recall that a Mandriva vs. Suse discussion moves us out of the core question of the post, as it would a Linux vs. Windows one. The actual problem is not whether Mandriva is good or bad, better or worse than Windows. I would probably not have posted if Nigeria had chosen Windows from the start. But this is NOT what happened. Mandriva was deemed better (maybe for the wrong reasons, I don't know) and chosen. LATER, the government changed their mind and chose Windows (even after paying Mandriva), for unknown reasons.

    Now, what these "unknown reasons" are is a really interesting question...

  8. Hey there isilanes - how's it going.

    You have a misconception of Linux. GNOME and KDE are not Linux. Linux is a kernel and can run the computer without GNOME and KDE...that's how I learned to install and run Linux in the beginning. I used to do all my Linux work from a 1.44 floppy using a small text editor and the commandline. SuSE and Mandriva are no more GUI oriented than any Linux flavor selling GNOME and KDE.

    The Linux kernel, network interface cards, video cards and sound cards are all completely configurable from the command line. No matter what flavor of Linux you are running - the root installations are all held to one standard. If you can do your configs from the command line on one flavor - that same config will work on any similar setup. You might see some variations of logic in some program setups such as SAMBA - but, even if you take that back to the basic - it's the same. One persons idea will work on the same SAMBA install as another. That's the beauty of computers. Many different logical ideas will work in accomplishing the same job.

    I didn't aim to bring about a SuSE vs. Mandriva debate. My point was that SuSE has fixed its MBR issues after all these years - and Mandriva has not -- even to this day. Mandriva - being a spinoff of SuSE - should have had this MBR issue solved a long time that shows the inability for Mandriva to address crucial but very root issues with the Linux product. The Mandriva concept is unreliable...and probably Microsoft proved this issue. Anyone that has been working with Linux since its inception know of this MBR issue and Microsoft has the Novell pro's telling it the weaknesses of my opinion and it is something that can be proven.

    I think Nigeria made a good decision for choosing Microsoft over Mandriva. Microsoft products are more in numbers, ready to use and usually fully tested. Linux on the other hand - you have to get past the harden hardcore hacker wisdom and characteristics in order to get something reliable, durable and sustainable. Usually - the first words out of one the really really intelligent hackers that work on Linux is "Have you sent us a bug error report?" YET?" If I'm a user - I'll just simply tell you to get lost and that your product sucks. I shouldn't have to be an expert in computers to run one that's been setup and programmed by these experts. You don't tear your car engine apart if it stops running. Why would you want to do your computer any different?

    In my opinion and experience - the developers of Linux want all computer uses to be experienced professionals at using their products - not just average users. That's the biggest issue I have with these arrogant people. I wouldn't buy their product due to the very nature of Mandriva management.

  9. Hi Miles!

    Thanks for pointing out, but I have no misconception. I know full well that Linux is a kernel developed by Linus Torvalds around 1991, based on MINIX. I also know that it filled the hole Stallman's GNU project had, because a viable kernel (Hurd was not, and still is not, production-ready) was needed to build up a whole OS. I simply use "Linux" as shorthand for "GNU/Linux", or "Any complete OS plus utility software bundled in so-called distros, based on the Linux kernel".

    I know that you can do everything from the command line. But with some distros the default tools to do things from CLI are more useful, and with some others GUI tools are more prominent. You can install in SuSE all the CLI tools you are used to use in Debian, but for that you have to use the package manager that comes with SuSE, which in turn is more comfortably used from the GUI, which in turn is a piece of crap. In short: when a friend with SuSE has asked me to fix some problem, it has always been more trouble than with other distros, even though, yes, you can do everything from my beloved CLI in any distro, in principle.

  10. By the way, Miles, you say Nigeria made a good decision choosing MS over Mandriva. I could agree with you if Nigeria had chosen MS. But they didn't. They chose Mandriva. They made a public competition and Mandriva won. After that, and with no public competition, the Government changed their mind, and took Windows. Later on, the tribunals decided against this second decision, and forced the Government to abide to their own choice in the public competition: Mandriva.

    What does it teach us? That when the process of selection is public (and one assumes, fair), even Mandriva (one of the worst GNU/Linux distros in your opinion) beats Windows. MS can only "win" with movements behind the scenes, twisting the will of the Government of a country on a base different from quality merits of their product (because those where already taken into account, and dismissed, in the public competition). We do not know what "other merits" those would be, but I'd be willing to bet that their material is paper, and their color green.

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