Take the second highest ranked distribution of Linux on the planet. Show the community that your developers actually care about desktop Linux. Show your attention to detail. Show your sense of duty to the community by offering that desktop for free. Develop a robust community surrounding that distribution you offer for free. Now throw it all away in one swift, idiotic motion.
If you live under a rock and haven’t heard of the Novell Microsoft ‘deal’ then please read about it then come back to find out how Novell is the new SCO. And by the way, how is it that Novell places the link above in the ‘coolsolutions’ section of its website under ‘tips’? That’s reaching quite a bit. I wouldn’t consider this a coolsolution at all..
So how is Novell the new SCO? First and foremost, I’m not the first one to talk about the correlation between this deal and SCO’s indemnification licenses…Groklaw has detailed postings on it. Let’s look at this concept a bit more. This deal between Microsoft and Novell isn’t about getting Linux to play nice with Windows…it’s about patents, intellectual property, and indemnification licenses. All your patents are belong to Microsoft…well, maybe they don’t…but believe me, Microsoft would like them to. The language of the agreement puts you right in the mindset that Novell is selling indemnification licenses to their customers just like SCO. Look closely at #2 on this article, then tell me I’m crazy.
Thus, I now dub Novell “Sir ScoVell”, champion of allowing Microsoft to make bogus profits and also making bogus profits yourself while painting a target on all other distros and spreading FUD in the community. As groklaw reported many years ago, SCO sold those same licenses to its customers to make money for itself. What’s in this for ScoVell? Where are their interests? One can be sure that the community is not where they are storing those interests. One thing is sure; they’re going to make money on those licenses just like SCO did.
Microsoft isn’t a company one hears about when discussing trust. Just a few years ago circa 2001, Microsoft said Linux was a cancer. Have they changed that much since then? No they haven’t. What has changed is the world around them. They realize that it isn’t cool to say things like “Linux is Cancer” or “Linux is Communism” anymore because too many of their customers use Linux now. Saying this would alienate them from their own customers. They had to do something to show that they were part of the solution and not part of the problem. Enter ScoVell Deal.
ScoVell has waltzed into a tangled, proprietary, close source environment…one they can profit from and one they can pay Microsoft to be a member of as well. They’re in this muddy mix and are trying to drag the GPL along with them.
Imagine for a minute that Microsoft Windows is a club. You look at the outside of the club and it looks pretty cool…afterall, everyone is lining up to get inside and there is a doorman at the front who controls who gets in and who doesn’t. The doorman let’s Novell inside the club and quickly closes the gate again.
What should have happened? Novell should have called for Microsoft to take the club OUTSIDE and include everyone. There are licenses that protect Microsoft’s proprietary pieces and intellectual property yet still allows them to share things. Novell had a unique position in the Linux world having converted their entire business to that side of things. They had begun to post good numbers. Instead of embracing the community and championing for that community…they have entered the club and left the community out in the cold.
It’s kind of like having a group of kids (Linux) hanging out at a playground when a bully (Microsoft) comes up and wants to beat up whoever used HIS swingset. ScoVell is safe. They and the bully have an understanding. But the other kids don’t have this understanding…and the bully is free to wail on them. That means ANY other Linux players out there…IBM…Red Hat…Oracle…whoever…are now included in this group of kids along with any small distro developer from Anywheresville. Of course, for a fee, anyone can have an understanding with the bully right? So, it most likely won’t be long before Microsoft and ScoVell start selling “protection” to others.
Microsoft has already begun to threaten as well. Just look at the second paragraph of this eweek article…if that doesn’t sound like a “you better do this because you never can tell who we’re going to sue” threat, I don’t know what is. How many small developers is ScoVell ready to sacrifice and step on on its way to fill its pockets with Microsoft License gold?
If you haven’t read Free Software Magazine’s piece on this merger of interests, you are missing out terribly. It’s one of the most well written pieces I’ve seen on this subject. I specifically like the part about how ScoVell and Microsoft dance around the GPL section 7 (paragraph 6). ScoVell is set to become a redistributor of Microsoft Licenses. If you have it on your desktop…think about that…will you buy the license when it becomes available? Will you buy it when it becomes a requirement? If you make packages for SuSe, will you continue to develop for them while they become fat by selling licenses on your work?
It isn’t even clear if ScoVell has the legal ability to do what it says it is going to do in this deal with Microsoft. If Microsoft and ScoVell try to push this deal, they’ll be in violation of sections 4 and 7 of the GPL. Bruce Perens sums this up quite nicely in his article: “Novell has clearly accepted that [GPL] license. But it appears that they are now out to make patent protection a business differentiator. Even if everyone were to be protected regarding software that Novell distributes, there’s the tremendous collection of Free Software that they don’t distribute. A logical next move for Microsoft could be to crack down on “unlicensed Linux”, and “unlicensed Free Software”, now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path.” Linux beware? Most likely not. Most of the code in SuSe Linux is code that can be found in the very same distro you’re viewing this webpage in…and that is protected by the same GPL Microsoft and ScoVell seem intent on testing.
The real problem that ScoVell is now going to face is that of their community. They’ve given the appearance of selling out by becoming that which the community truly hates…and perception is as perception does. They can’t go back and say just kidding now. They are a leg on the FOSS body and they hacked themselves off at the thigh with this move. They can’t grow another body at the bloody stump….and they’ll slowly die without constant blood flow from the rest of the FOSS body. Perhaps Red Hat is correct in its statement that ScoVell will not be a player for Linux in another year. One thing is certain…if you turn your back on the community, they’ll turn their back on you.
Should ScoVell attempt to un-muddy itself from all of these opinions and facts, it is guilty at the very least of spreading FUD about Linux…why? Because now Microsoft can use its threats linked above to bully Linux and users/companies into license agreements. It spreads that fear, uncertainty, and doubt and ScoVell sits in the wings watching it do so and quietly congratulates itself for not being one of the bullied. So thanks for turning the dogs loose ScoVell. Pat yourselves on the back, because we won’t.
I for one, will not use ScoVell products, nor the SuSe Linux distribution, on any computer I own or operate. Nor will I stump for them as I have in the past. They have officially been erased from 13 hard drives that I control. If you are a supporter of Free and Open Source Software and a firm believer in what the GPL stands for and accomplishes, you might want to re-examine how you feel about this subject and perhaps do the same.
Maybe you don’t buy all of this stuff. Maybe you think, just like Novell is thinking, that this will all blow over. It’s just an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to the agreement/deal and it will die off in time. If that’s the case, you would do well to remember that Microsoft’s position on this agreement is that “Open Source commercial offerings have to move to more restrictive measures in order to increase the value of their offerings” Right. Closed is better because we said so and invented the concept.
In closing, this deal doesn’t mean a lot for the small developer right now. When will it? Only time will tell if there will be any ramifications for joe developer. Even if Microsoft and its new buddy decide not to sue the many small distro developers out there we shouldn’t applaud this deal…because, let’s face it, it is about making money on the backs of those around you (selling indemnification licenses) and tromping all over the spirit of Open Source and the GPL. I don’t think its a good deal at all and I am NOT excited about it.
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