Tuesday Apr 01, 2008

Last time I checked



Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian, ("ill considered" - Redmonk), not content with the murkiness of his own company's patent arrangements with Microsoft (the two companies laughably "agreed to disagree"  on whether or not their November 2006 agreement was an ackowledgement that Novell was infringing Microsoft patents), has decided to throw some mud in the general direction of OpenSolaris.


"Rather than focusing on Microsoft, Zemlin pointed Hovsepian to Sun and Open Solaris, where his comments were unusually pointed.

"I believe OpenSolaris has had about 60,000 downloads last time I looked," he said. "When you look at Linux downloads just last year [there were] over two million of just SUSE.” Hovsepian also attacked the OpenSolaris license directly.

"I would suggest to the customers and to the community, be careful. The way they’ve written their contract as soon as you look at it, you can’t go back and look at Linux.

"It’s a very dangerous contract from my perspective for someone who wants to work on Linux."


Attacking the license?  Well, any old fule knows that only GPL'd code is compatible with GPL'd code.  But presumably, Mr Hovsepian is scaremongering that those who work with OpenSolaris code have been exposed to patented methods and may face encumbrances if they want to put back to another code base.  Is that what he's getting at?  (Incidentally, his criticism remind me more of Microsoft's covenant not to sue open source developers who use Microsoft-patented methods for "non-commercial" use than anything else.  Now that's dangerous.)


Anyway, last time I checked, Sun is pretty clear on software patent policy.  You can read about it from
Mike Dillon (General Counsel), Simon Phipps and again here (Chief Open Source Officer and, ahem, my boss), Greg Papadopoulos (CTO) and Jonathan Schwartz and again here (CEO).


Secondly, Ron Hovsepian's reported figure on OpenSolaris downloads wasn't too clear.  Did he mean source code?  Or binary distributions?  When did he last check?  And who did he check with?  Of course, since Sun opened the Solaris source code, there have been millions of downloads of Solaris 10, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of downloads of Solaris Express, and I don't know how many downloads of source code, but I would put it in the tens or hundreds of thousands (I tried to calculate this, but gave up - you have the full tarball, and specific consolidations...hits per file, data transferred per file...it gets messy and I couldn't generate a figure I could stand behind).  We've also had tens of thousands of downloads of the developer preview of the binary distribution coming out later in the year.  Which isn't bad for an operating system that hasn't been launched yet.


Ron Hovsepian



Ron, left, not right

But enough about us.  Last time I checked, Microsoft's intepretation of Novell's patent licensing agreement was,
"If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-SUSE Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes," -Steve Ballmer
More on this in the latest episode of the Register's Open Season podcast (27:20 minutes in) -this is not necessarily historical issue.

Now this isn't Mr Hovsepian's first ill-informed and misleading attack on OpenSolaris, but I don't think that's it's really our fault.  Simply put, he has a shortage of targets.  I mean, who else is he going to attack?  Given his position, he can't very well attack another Linux distro, and he's hardly going to attack Microsoft.  Apple?  For successfully porting of OpenSolaris technology into their operating system (without licensing any patents, we might point out)?  Doesn't really work, does it?



Open source needs better leadership that this.


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


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patrickf

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