Tuesday May 27, 2008

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 OpenOffice.org. 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

Friday May 18, 2007


It is with regret that I read Sam Varghese's critical report of Sun this week, Solaris can never be Linux.  This wasn't just any old nonsense from a blogger posing as a jornalist after all, but the man, the Varg.  Is there a better writer out there?

An elegant wordsmith,
The latest bit of spiel which juxtaposes these words,

but always to the point,
If anything, trying to morph one in order to make it like the other will result in something that is neither fish nor fowl. And we all know what happens when things turn out that way.

with a fabulous command of literary references,
Statistics are often the refuge of scoundrels

and quick to forgive the failings of others,
To put it in his own words:"This paper emphasizes [sic] quantitative measures"

while maintaining his own high standards,
There is no hyberbole, no escessive putdown.

and, as always, in consummate good taste.
Microsoft: shades of Saddam Hussein.

So, when I read that whenever Mr Vaghese hears "the words Sun Microsystems and open source mentioned together [he] can't help but laugh", well, naturally, I'm concerned.  And Mr Vaghese deals out a proper savaging with his irresistable combination of astute observation,

Sun keeps talking about its dedication to the open source ideal and holding on to its code.

quality prose,
Last year, Sun was literally dragged kicking and screaming to the table to release Java under the GPL.

razor-sharp reason,
For years there have been calls to do this but Sun resisted. The act was finally done but who is interested any more?

And industry-insider prescience,
It isn't going to happen. Solaris isn't Linux and will never be anything like it.

No, few survive a mauling from the pen of Mr. Sam Vaghese and laugh it off.

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




« July 2016