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Microsoft has recruited the father of a popular Linux distribution, under a continuing mission to further understand - some would argue "extinguish" - the open source operating system.

Daniel Robbins, founder and chief architect of the Gentoo distribution, is moving to Redmond to help Microsoft "understand open source and community-based projects" according to OSNews.

Robbins' recruitment comes as Microsoft makes increasingly friendly noises towards Linux. According to reports, Red Hat chief executive and prez Matthew Szulik has been courted by Microsoft and even joined chief software architect Bill Gates for lunch at an exclusive New York eaterie earlier this year.

Linux fans will likely suspect the latest moves are another example of what critics say is Microsoft's "embrace, extend, extinguish" strategy.

In this case, that could mean taking elements from Linux and open source that help advance the Windows architecture and ecosystem of developers, rather than doing something radical like build a version of Microsoft Office for, say, Red Hat.

Robbins, who actually left Gentoo in 2004, certainly brings the benefit of his experience in software management, which could support Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) strategy for autonomic computing and self-managing systems. Gentoo uses a software distribution system called Portage that updates the distribution via a simple command and combined "Portage tree" that is capable of creating and installing latest Gentoo packages.

Gentoo will also build customized packages to fit users' specifications, optimized for hardware and requested features. Gentoo, which describes itself as a "metadistribtion" for PCs, games and embedded systems, runs on x86, AMD64, PowerPC, UltraSparc, Alpha and MIPS processors.

Interestingly, the recruitment of Robbins follows last year's release by Microsoft of the WiX command line tools for installation of Windows from XML packages to the community. WiX is now reportedly being used in MySQL 4.1 to generate binaries for deployment of the open source database to Windows. Microsoft also last year released its FlexWiki and Windows Template Library (WTL) to SourceForge.®

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Ballmer: Interoperability, interoperability, interoperability
The rise of the $99 consumer Linux distribution

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