SUNny Days

Sun releases appx. 1600 patents to their new license scheme, CDDL, and declares them ‘open source’. But don’t be fooled…while this is a great thing for open source, it doesn’t mean Linux will benefit from this at all.

I’ve been fighting the urge to chip in my one and a half cents worth. I’ve been holding back, reading what analysts say. I’ve been perusing quotes from various PRs and company heads…reading, reading, reading. The thing that gets me about this is that IBM just opened up 500 of its licenses. Not to be outdone, Sun sweeps in and usurps the thunder.

That’s reminds me of a time when I was growing up. I remember when I got my first skateboard…a Lance Mountain Street with H-Street wheels and indy trucks…man that baby was sweet.? Not to be outdone, my neighbor had to pick up a Tony Hawk board with slimeball wheels and tracker trucks and all the fixins. Next to his board mine looked rather plain. I felt a bit left out at times, but there was no emotional scarring :) IBM is fast becoming that left out kid, which truly is sad considering IBM is the largest patent holder in the world. I sure hope they don’t begin to feel left out and decide not to open source anything else.

Back to the subject at hand…the Sun peaked its head through the open sourced clouds, its body shrouded by a CDDL blanket…and all of us that have been frolicking in open source bliss atop of these open source clouds have taken notice. Then Sun dropped back through with OpenSolaris and Java bait rimming the small opening from which they came. The question that comes to my mind is…where are they going to get a community from?

I’ve talked this over on some different channels with quite a few different people. Most of them think that a community will spring up. I don’t doubt that at all. However, I don’t think this community will be very large at all. The reason?  Because of loyalty to the GPL. The CDDL is incompatible with the GPL and this will prevent it from ever crossing most functions into GPL’d code.? Thus far…albeit very early in the game…Sun has “an initial Open Solaris community of more than 100 people, from inside and outside the company, which it plans to expand”? (eweek article). 100 people? Come on! That’s it?? What the heck?!?!? I’d be worried if I was Sun. If January 31st, 2005 comes around and they don’t have more than 500 people in the community…I’d say they better toss in the old white towel on this movement because that community isn’t going to spontaneously generate.

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Groklaw and Censorship?

I think I may be on to something here.  I’ve come across an increasingly controversial example similar to what I’ve been posting about in this category.  I’ve posted about censorship in Linux forums and open source supportive websites, systematic categorization of Linux, as well as infiltrating open source and Linux with political and social views.  I’m an avid open source enthusiast…but I’m beginning to become ashamed of being associated with the groups I posted about.  I recently read a webpage that chronicles the traded messages of a person that posted comments on Groklaw.net and who believes that they were censored from public view.

Some of you may be familiar with Groklaw…and some of you might not.  For those of you that aren’t, Groklaw is a site started up to chronicle SCO vs. TheWorld but it has morphed into a little bit more by adding MS into the mix along with some other companies.  The site has some great information for those seeking it and it is powered by Geeklog which makes the format nice on the eyes, easy to navigate, and open source powered.

While Groklaw isn’t a direct open source project…according to the Second article on their Mission Statement, open source principles are applied.  This makes a powerful ally to FOSS, Linux, and the OSI. Or does it?  Is Groklaw actually speaking out the corners of its proverbial mouth?  At least this one user thinks so.

Al Petrofsky is the owner/operator of scofacts.org which is a site dedicated to the systematic documentation of all information on the SCO case.  I had a chance to trade a few emails with Mr. Petrofsky in order to get his take on why he feels his comments at Groklaw were censored from public view.  He believes that the main argument that Groklaw had against his comments was over copyright issues of recordings (audio/visual) that he posted.  He also argues that these copyright issues were bogus because he provides written authorization and release notices for each of his sources.  As Mr. Petrofsky found, his posts were made viewable to only himself and erased from public view as opposed to outright deletion.  It also seems that Mr. Petrofsky wasn’t the only one that reported this phenomenon either.  Al attempted to contact both Pamela Jones and Mathfox, two POC’s for groklaw.  He did receive responses that you can view in his email traffic with PJ at Groklaw, which he vouches for; “The six emails on that page were really sent or received by me, and the eight groklaw pages were really retrieved from groklaw. (I think the fact that I’m publishing that page at a website registered to me already constitutes a representation, no less official than this one, that the evidence there is not manufactured.)”

Mr. Petrofsky isn’t irritated about the fact that a site admin or owner had a problem with his post.  What gets his proverbial goat is that he discovered Groklaw was making comments (of which their comments page states, “Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments”) posted by users visible only to the users themselves.  Everyone else at the site isn’t able to see the posts.

Is this a case of deception versus rejection?  Would an outright rejection or deletion of the comment be a better way to go?  It seems that this would be a valid avenue to go even if you were unsure about the content of the comment.  If you delete the comment in question, then inform the submitting party that their comment was deleted for X reason, the person could provide validity, reasons, license, and sources for their comment(s).

Would a ‘self-moderated comment’ style of submission OR outright deletion of the comments in question be a better avenue instead of deception?  It is my opinion that it would. Mr. Petrofsky shares this opinion, “I have no problem with a newspaper editor or blog writer accepting submissions from letter writers or web visitors and choosing to publish some and discard others”…”However, groklaw has attempted to prevent that last part [rejecting submissions/content] from happening by deceiving the one person who would normally notice a stupid post-rejection decision and might tell other people about it. I find that outrageous, especially from a site that states its goal is “devotion to the truth.”

Besides Al Petrofsky, there are at least 2 other verified groklaw members who have experienced the same “post is invisible to all but me” phenomenon (note: Geeklog also has a setting for this in its latest version) I have also contacted a group of about 5 others that have first hand knowledge and experience with both Mr. Petrofsky’s situation as well as others in which these cases apply.  The question that begs to be asked is, what is going on at Groklaw?  Wouldn’t outright deletion be a better avenue to go?  While I have not officially contacted Pamela Jones from Groklaw, rest assured that it will be done within the next few days. (Editors note: Still no word back from PJ as of 8 Feb 05).

Interestingly enough, if you go over to Groklaw’s search page and enter al_petrofsky (Mr. Petrofsky’s username) and you won’t find him. I believe that Mr. Petrofsky’s account has been deleted but I have not officially confirmed this information.  A quick look to his userID at groklaw (1098 ) redirects us back to the front page so it seems as though the account has been deleted. Both uid 1099 and 1097 are valid…but 1098 is gone.  Whether this was Mr. Petrofsky’s doing or from Groklaw action has yet to be seen.

To show what Mr. Petrofsky “perceived as” deception and misdirection, look at the following saved threads from Groklaw (saved threads that had comments viewable only to Mr. Petrofsky…taken from groklaw immediately when he noticed his posts weren’t visible) mirrored at scofacts.org:

It is apparent that something happened with Mr. Petrofsky’s posts.  There are far too many plagiarized comments visible from “anonymous” immediately following his posts that received responses on them.  One is curious as to why comments were received on those plagiarized posts and not on Mr. Petrofsky’s.  As he stated earlier, the debate isn’t about the deletion of the aforementioned posts, but rather, the way in which Mr. Petrofsky’s posts were addressed.  Making the posts visible to only himself and site administrators/moderators can be seen as a direct form of deception.  While not outside of the limitations of a site administrator or moderator’s power, it does bring up a question of morals.  Is it ok to deceive your supporters and readers/site visitors?  I say no.  In my opinion, any form of deception discredits your reputation to yourself and your site visitors.

Some may ask, why I posted this at all. Good question.  I think it is because I’ve started documenting in the category “GreatDivide” examples of definite or possible injustice and outright nastiness that happens to people/groups/individuals that are active in or supportive of free and open source software (FOSS).  It’s also a platform for injustices that are done with intent to harm FOSS.  I found it fitting that I post this article in that category and on this blog.  Even though Groklaw is not an open source project, it does support open source…refer back to #2 on the mission statement and you can see why this was posted here.  While not all of you may agree with what is claimed above, rest assured that there will be future developments and clarifications on the way.

Currently, I am contacting PJ of groklaw.net to verify her side in things (one has to be fair). More to come on this.

Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding…part II

*Editors note: The following sentence was removed from the first paragraph of #3:

“Even as recently as November 2004, there has been talk from the kernel developers about a fork in the kernel”

It was removed along with the link to an article from November 2004 due to it being an erroneous reference and based on comments taken out of context. However, I neglected to post that I had removed this sentence because I felt that it did little to support or not support the paragraph. I apologize to the readers of the blog for calling into issue my integrity.

Devnet



Some of you may have read my previous entry that sparked quite a bit of debate. Looking back on the content, I realize that the title of the entry could be misinterpreted as FUD or even trolling. Please understand that this wasn’t the intention. The entry simply addressed issues that I see inhibiting open source, specifically Linux, from fully succeeding (i.e. dominating both the server and desktop market for computers). I should have titled the article, “Why enterprise applications may kill open source”. But hindsight is 20/20 right? On request, I will clarify a few points for those that have asked it.

1. Enterprise companies and applications that take from open source CAN KILL open source.

There is a crossroads in today’s enterprise OS. Micro$oft has pushed back Longhorn and the next greatest server application. Companies have begun to wonder what they are going to do for server/desktop OS in the near future. Many are seeing their support for enterprise server applications such as NT 4.0 and Win2k dry up and blow away. Enter Linux. Affordable, stable, and now certified as a ready alternative to M$. So Enterprise Linux begins to flourish this year. Novell, Red Hat, TurboLinux, and others start to churn out a profit and go into the huge server market with actual products that can offer benefits to all. The problem is this…what happens if those companies pull the plug on their open source support? Would they? Wouldn’t they? Why should we count on them? Didn’t Lotus 1-2-3 and OS/2 count on Micro$oft to keep them in the loop as well? Is it really something the community should bet on? Will the community bet on it? I hope not. Will it crush the community entirely? No…but it could fork open source or even set it back quite a bit. Of course, no one can see into the future, but these are valid questions to consider when you bring enterprise applications and business into the open source mix. Most of this will probably mean nothing for the common desktop Linux user or even someone who uses one or two open source applications on their M$ desktop. So why discuss it? Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Why not make foresight 20/20?

2. What do you mean that these companies don’t give back to open source. After all, IBM gave X Million dollars of support back to the community and Sun released X # lines of code…

Yes, that is true. Money being given back to the community and code being released is a good thing. I hope it continues. If business enters the fray, can you really count on it? What if companies decide it isn’t such a good business idea anymore to give back to open source? Will we cry foul and expect them to listen? Instead of investing our support for these companies…I say we should invest our support for those distros and software that aren’t available for enterprise applications. The free as in beer stuff. You know, those that charge 10 bucks to help the author who’s taxed beyond his means and has taken out a mortgage on his home just to put out the last release. Those are the ones we should cheer…not corporations. If I were rallying behind a business when I began with open source in 1995 I would have gotten shunned out of every single BBS and channel I was on. When did it become cool to rally behind business?

A corporation that sells enterprise open source will try to advance it’s own means first and then that of the open source community that supports it. If the open source community gets trampled or the short end of the stick…so be it. If the corporation sees an opportunity to take more than it gives to open source…it will happen (and most likely has happened). Remember that all they have to do to get accepted back into the community is release another few lines of code or donate a fraction of their billion dollar profits…it’s all smiles and “welcome backs” after that.

The problem with business is that business as a whole is incompatible with the spirit of open source…which doesn’t mean they can’t help each other or coexist…it just makes for an unknown future. Right now, companies have found a comfortable balance with open source. This is proving a very rich environment that open source is flourishing in. If FUD isn’t just something spoken of but something that becomes a reality, then where will we be? How do we prevent it? By being aware that it is an issue and NOT putting all of our ducks into the proverbial enterprise application row.

3. What’s this about Linux forking?

Sometimes forks in major projects can be a blessing. Sometimes though, they can kill a project. So, it’s uncertain what would happen if Linux forked. If you’re thinking…hey, nothing in open source will fork…read this and reconsider things…it’s not an impossibility. The good part about a Linux kernel fork is that open source wouldn’t die. Linux might suffer quite a bit, or it might not…but open source Linux would survive. However, if Linux forked it would be used as a “I told you so” by so many FUD brewers (like your favorite and mine Redmond micro-brewery) and with this happening, overall support would most likely suffer. Of course, this is all speculation. It’s not something we should be afraid of. It’s something we should be INFORMED of. It’s not something that should be uncertain…it should be understood. It’s not something that should provide doubt for us…it should provide knowledge of the possibilities.

There is a possibility with businesses supporting Linux that Linux will fork because of decisions that the business makes. If something the community wants conflicts with what the business wants…what is the business going to go with? Will they remove their support when they decide that they’re going with what they want instead of the community? Will they put undue pressure on individual developers in order to sway the development in their direction? Who’s to say they won’t?

Rightly so, we can’t see the future and we can speculate all day long. But we can change our awareness now and we can adapt ourselves back into the original intention of FOSS instead of nipping at the coat tails of businesses and having misplaced alliances.

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Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding

“It’s not the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow.” Niklas Zennstrom

There was a time early in the dawn of computers where .edu’s and .orgs co-mingled ideas and thoughts via IRC and newsgroups in a conducive and non-proprietary way. The great ideas that were born from this still thrive today in the form of RFC’s, Internet Standards, Protocols, and other surges of genius that sprung from these beginnings.

Lately however, certain things have begun to become apparent. Proprietary software vendors have locked the advancement of technology. This is to be expected. The open source movement is in full swing to counteract that. The only problem with the open source movement is in trying to counteract this huge pendulum and swing it from closed source proprietary toward a multi-source, multi-national technological advancement (for the gain of mankind and not company kind). Instead, open source has begun to push the stone uphill on it’s own without assistance from the VERY companies that take from it.

The bottom line is that companies will take from open source without any inhibitions at all. But when it comes to defending that which they take, they shrivel into the shadows and hope no one notices them. Companies are not in symbiosis with open source…oh sure, some of them might be sympathetic to open source. As we’ve seen with the Linux Core Consortium, companies will pledge their favor but not their resources. But until ALL companies that take from open source give back through REAL support (financial or otherwise)…they’ll continue to be identified as an entity that takes from another without providing anything in return. The word for that is PARASITE.

Companies that take from open source without giving back are a parasite to open source; they are killing it from within. The bad part about this is that we are helping this parasite…even applauding what it is doing. Many of us cheer when company X converts 250 computers to Novell or RedHat…but that isn’t open source anymore! They’re companies who happen to use Linux…they’re just not pure open source no matter what their beginnings are or were. The support and recognition go to Novell and Redhat…the financial gain goes to those companies and not back into open source. Sure, they provide some packages and free-for-home-use downloads and other niceties to try and counteract things…but open source still loses. It loses because there are more takers than givers.

Open source advocates shouldn’t be cheering when company X converts 250 computers it has to Novell or Redhat because they’re just cheering for the company. Even when Linux becomes THE accepted alternative for business and enterprise applications we should refrain from cheering companies such as Redhat and Novell because the money they earn doens’t go back into open source…and the name they make for themselves…does nothing for open source. No matter how hard they try, they’ll always take more than they give.

Some of you might be saying, “But the simple fact is that when Company X converts to Linux, they are embracing Linux in general…not just the company that sells it. This means that they’ll open up more to open source programs such as OpenOffice and Firefox”. Perhaps. But I’d be more willing to believe that company X won’t do ANYTHING that the vendor who provided them with Linux advised against…especially if warranty and license prevent it. So if said Linux vendor who provided them with 250 Linux desktops decided they didn’t want Company X to use OpenOffice…that company wouldn’t use it. The power of choice has been removed.

Until companies aren’t afraid to offer FULL and unadulterated support for Linux (LSB 2.0 standard or the Linux Core Consortium) and free open source software, the open source movement will not succeed.