Ghost Writer

Seriously, is there a worse technology journalist than Sam Varghese? His column Open Sauce - A GNU Perspective (geddit?) is a train-wreck. He's very poorly informed, self-important (he considers that if he gives a product a poor review, it's "a major PR disaster"), but what's even worse: he simply can't write.

This is the open-minded individual who insists on writing "(sic)" when quoting americanised direct speech. This is the wordsmith who crafts nonsense like Bruce Perens made what would be a move with huge repercussions, and the brainless Stormy by name, not by nature (on Stormy Peters of OpenLogic). I could go on. And indeed, I have.

Anyway, I'm revisiting Mr Varghese's column after reading his review of OpenSolaris. I will admit that I was waiting for this one, fully expecting it to be littered with factual errors and what we might kindly describe as failures of intellectual curiosity. And I wasn't disappointed. His opening salvo:

One still has to go through a requester/sponsor arrangement to submit a patch to the OpenSolaris project. (By contrast, the Ubuntu Linux distribution started by Canonical is now a little more than three-and-a-half years old - and there is no need to detail what it has achieved).

We all admire Ubuntu, and no one is going to deny it has done a fantastic job in both gaining admirers within the Linux community and, crucially, growing the popularity of Linux with people who might otherwise have not used it. But still, (and ignoring the massive differences in starting points for these projects) the truth of Mr Varghese's statement really depends on who you are. There are, after all, non-Sun committers to OpenSolaris. Sure, we want more, but I challenge Mr Varghese to put back a patch to Ubuntu without a sponsor. One will always have to go through a request/sponsor arrangement unless one has committer status.

Mr Varghese then demonstrates his ability to work the Google machine, regurgitating criticism of OpenSolaris (much legitimate - we're not claiming perfection here) from IBM employees, and then his inability to RTFM by complaining that he can't find But then he unleashes his final barb,

But the licence is what jars the most. It pops up in all its glorious detail right at the start of proceedings, the Community Development and Distribution Licence. It isn't compatible with the General Public Licence, an indicator, again, that Sun is still in two minds - should we (really) give it away or should we still continue to be control freaks?

Like many people, I have a lot of respect for the GPL, but let's be clear: only the GPL is compatible with the GPL. And the CDDL is an open source license by any - any - reasonable definition, and certainly the one to which Mr Varghese appears to subscribe. Does he even read his own column? So when he writes:

There are two Sun components that would be of interest to Linux developers if they were licensed under terms that made them portable - the ZFS filesystem and DTrace. But by the time Sun decides on whether it will open source these two, it may be time for me to bid goodbye to this world.

Let's hope not, as that would date Mr Varghese's demise as January or December 2005. Happily, DTrace and ZFS are both now available on Solaris, Mac OS X and BSD - DTrace is even available on QNX. But should Mr Varghese read this (although the evidence is that he reads very little, at least, until he has decided what his opinion is), "open source" does not equate to GPL compatibility. If it did, why would we even have the Open Source Definition? We would just have the GPL.

ps. the views expressed here are not necessarily those of my employer


Don't feed the trolls ;-)

Posted by Che Kristo on May 27, 2008 at 03:45 AM GMT-01:00 #

yah, there's a lot that's wrong in that article. Thanks for making these corrections, Patrick. I think he also said something about the Constitution still being in draft, which, of course, it isn't. Regardless, as you say, we are not perfect, but we are making progress. :) We are in this for the long run.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on May 27, 2008 at 08:16 AM GMT-01:00 #

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