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The State of the Open Source Union, 2004 211

Mark Stone writes with a thoughtful look back at the year 2004 in open source, pointing out both major gains and inevitable uncertainties. He writes "2004 stands out as a year in which open source consolidated its position as a valuable and accepted approach to business and technology policy. A less obvious but significant trend underlies all of this: even as open source business models join the mainstream, the open source development model remains a mysterious process on which large technology companies struggle to capitalize. Key issues and developments have played out in four areas: legal, policy, business, and technology." Read on for the rest.


The biggest non-story of the year was SCO's legal efforts. So far SCO has not been able to make substantial headway with a single one of its legal claims, and indeed has suffered a number of significant setbacks in court.

This is certainly good news for Linux and open source. Going back five or six years, clearly one of the major obstacles to widespread adoption of open source software was the uncertain legal status of both the software and the licenses. While this aspect of open source is still an unfinished saga -- more on that shortly -- the inability of SCO, through either legal or PR channels, to undermine Linux gives reason for confidence about the future.

The real story about SCO in 2004 has in fact been the telling of that story. While mainstream media coverage of SCO has varied widely -- sometimes accurate, sometimes resembling coverage of the OJ Simpson trial -- Groklaw has emerged as a steady voice of reason and objectivity adeptly defusing all attempts at "FUD" PR around the case.

2004 has been, especially as an election year, a controversial year for the phenomenon of blogging. Whether blogging will provide a sustainable alternate voice in journalism is very much an open question. A few blog sites, however, have shown what a handful of dedicated individuals can do in the face of much larger, and better funded PR machines. Groklaw is an outstanding example of the positive journalism effect that blogging can have.

The legal front brought other good news for the open source community. Norway's Supreme Court acquitted Jon Johansen, and the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit opted not to appeal the decision. In the United States the Digital Millenium Copyright Act still remains the law of the land, but the Recording Industry Association of America has made little progress in forcing ISPs to disclose the identities of alleged file swappers.

A more troubling legal trend is the shift in debate about the intellectual property status of open source software. The principles behind the "copyleft" approach have gained continued acceptance, and have even been leveraged as an integral part of some business models. The debate now, however, centers more around patents that copyright.

IBM has been out in front of the patent issue. Their open source license was the first to explicitly address patent licensing as an issue above and beyond copyright, and they've taken steps, even recent steps, to see that open source development is unencumbered by patent concerns. IBM is not the only company putting patents in the open source domain. Sun Microsystems recently announced they will make patents available under their recently approved Common Development and Distribution open source license (CDDL).

All of this would seem to be good news for the open source community, especially given that Poland's objections have put a temporary halt to the Europan Union software patent initiative. Appearances can be deceiving, however. IBM is a supporter of software patents. Sun's gesture is in fact intended to create a competitive advantage for OpenSolaris over Linux, since the patent protection Sun offers applies only to work licensed under the CDDL -- in other words, not Linux. In a recent News.com commentary, Bruce Parens said, "So while claiming to make the patents available to open-source developers, Sun can sue folks who work on Linux rather than Solaris."

The biggest patent concern comes from Microsoft. In a speech in Australia, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed that Linux violated more than 200 patents. While this may be more hype -- or hope -- than fact, it does tip Microsoft's hand in terms of what tactics they are willing to use to meet the Linux competitive threat.


All other things being equal, customers prefer an open system to a closed one, and vendor choice over vendor lock-in. In the IT world in general, and between Windows and Linux in particular, all other things are not equal, which makes platform choice complicated. More and more, however, organizations are seeing Linux as a viable platform choice that

  • Lowers up-front licensing fees
  • Has the support and backing of significant technology vendors, whether small, medium (Red Hat), or large (IBM, Novell)
  • Avoids vendor lock-in at both the platform and application level

These claims are independent of the more controversial claims about improving security and lowering total cost of ownership. 2004 has added an interesting additional element to the mix: the desire of government organizations outside the United States to not be dependent on a large, American technology company whose revenues exceed the gross national product of most nations.

This software declaration of independence has taken several forms. Sometimes it seems simply to be a negotiating tactic to force Microsoft to lower prices. India may be an example.

Sometimes, however, price is not the issue. Munich, for example, committed to making the switch to Linux despite direct lobbying efforts by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In the case of a high tech country like Germany, this decision is probably influenced by the reluctance to be dependent on an American company guilty of monopoly practices.

The situation in the developing world is somewhat different. Unshackled by significant requirements of backward compatibility, emerging economies like Venezuela's have a chance to make a clean start and avoid what they perceive as the pitfalls and inefficiencies in older IT infrastructures.

The policy approach in China is even more alarming to traditional technology vendors. China clearly does not want to build an economy dependent on outside production or services, whether it's factories or satellite launches. In the software world China has made it clear that it can and will build its own platform and application stack leveraging open source components, if that is what it has to do to maintain control of its software destiny.


The North American market for computer technology has, in many ways, reached the saturation point. A Pentium 4, to say nothing of a 64-bit processor, is already overkill for most office desktop applications. Older versions of the Microsoft Office suite, and older versions of Microsoft Windows, are often quite adequate for business productivity needs. The problem for traditional technology vendors is aggravated by the fact that Linux, Open Office, and other open source software may now be good enough.

On the one hand this accounts for why policy issues and the international technology market have become so important: this is where technology vendors see the biggest opportunity to grow new business. On the other hand, open source is forcing some significant changes in the software market domestically.

The most visible effect of open source has been the commoditization effect. Microsoft, as we've seen, has been forced to acknowledge the competitive impact Linux is having, and to cut prices overseas in response to this competition. Yet even companies like BEA acknowledge that open source will have an increasing commoditizing effect, meaning that they will cede lower levels of the application stack to freely available open source software and seek to add value further up the stack.

The most dramatic concession to commoditization in 2004 has been the announcement that Sun is open sourcing Solaris. Said one Sun executive who asked to remain anonymous, "Do you think we'd be open sourcing Solaris if we had any other way to compete with Linux on price? Of course not."

If anything, the opening of Solaris reinforces that Sun has been unable to find a business model built around Linux. Given that competitors like IBM and HP have, with varying degrees of success, been able to integrate Linux into their business models, one suspects that there are deeper problems at Sun than the opening of Solaris can solve.

The bottom line is that Sun is still trying to compete with, rather than embrace Linux. The CDDL doesn't extend patent protection to anyone working under a different open source License, and the CDDL is incompatible with the GPL, meaning none of the Solaris code can be used to benefit Linux.

This move, of using a license as a competitive tool, is one of the more subtle but more important business trends to emerge from open source in 2004.

The most common approach is a dual-licensing scheme, utilized by Trolltech (for Qt), Sleepycat (for Berkeley DB), MySQL, and newcomer db4objects, among others.

In each case the company makes its core product available under the GPL, or else under a similar viral-type license. Since each of these software products is intended to be embedded within or combined with other software to create a derivative product, companies are forced to make their own product available as open source, or to approach the originating company about separate licensing under proprietary terms.

The result is a very low-cost distribution mechanism for the open source companies, as well as a cheap in-bound sales channel of pre-qualified leads.

Of course, to be able to dual-license, you must have created all the code in question, or have full rights granted to you for all the code in question. Thus this very successful open source business model is incompatible with the open source development model; each of the companies using the dual-license approach does all, or nearly all of their software development in-house.


What then of the open source development model? Has it enjoyed the growth and widespread acceptance that open source business models have?

Certainly 2004 saw a number of significant releases for open source projects. GIMP 2.0 was finally released, as was Gnome 2.6. Large companies as well as individual projects made strides. IBM announced the release of its Java database, Cloudscape, as open source. Novell released SUSE Enterprise Server 9.

The year's most significant releases were the 2.6 series of Linux kernels, and the 1.0 release of Mono. With 2.6, Linux now has many of the features needed to compete as an enterprise-class server: better multiprocessor support, failover and hot-swap support, better journaling file system support.

Mono is absolutely critical if the open source community is to compete in the application development market. C# and .Net will be important application building blocks for the forseeable future, and Linux and open source need to be viable approaches.

The Debian Project has undergone an interesting evolution in the last year. Long-time Debian users have often complained about the slow pace at which Debian moves, favoring security and stability over feature growth. The result is a very solid server system, but one that, for the end user, often lacks support for advanced hardware.

The solution, which seems so obvious now, is independent distributions that leverage Debian as a base but target the end user with ease-of-use features and hardware-support features that have yet to make it into Debian. Two successful projects heading down this path are Ubuntu, which follows the Gnome approach to usability, and Mepis, which follows the KDE approach to usability. Either distribution will give you an easy install, access to Debian packages and apt-based network updates, but with more advanced hardware support and an improved UI over stock Debian.

By far the biggest development story of the year, however, has been Firefox, the browser component of the Mozilla project.

Timing is everything. Security, privacy, and spyware have become major concerns in 2004. Microsoft has refused to significantly update Internet Explorer (IE) until Longhorn is released, which could be in 2006 (as in "Santa Claus could be real"). The Mozilla Foundation capitalized on this opportunity with a major fundraising blitz for the foundation and PR blitz around Firefox; this included a full-page New York Times ad.

In November, Firefox 1.0 was released, and to date downloads exceed 10 million. Mozilla has raised over $250,000 in its fundraising campaign. While IE's market share still hovers around 90%, Firefox has rapidly grown to 5% market share, and put a dent in IE's market share for the first time in years. Industry analyst Gartner Group has looked at the results of 2004 and declared the browser war open again.

Looking ahead to 2005, it's interesting to ponder the tech sector's differing response to open source business and open source development models. The business models are reasonably well understood and generally accepted now. Not everyone is leveraging open source as a business play, but everyone understands it is one viable strategy to pursue.

On the development side, however, the results of open source continue to confound the establishment. Why did no one see the Firefox phenomenon coming? Equally important, why isn't anyone (AOL) attempting to leverage Firefox's market success and technology advantages?

With Solaris, it's interesting to note that even supporters of OpenSolaris admit it sees no real development savings to opening Solaris; the benefits are all on the marketing side. Ben Rockwood blogs "It's going to take Sun more work to maintain it open source than it will to just leave it closed."

Yes, open source has become mainstream. But that mainstream presence needs to be more than a commodity benefit to companies willing to leverage the results of open source. Will mainstream technology companies figure out how to anticipate and collaborate with open source development as a deep part of their technology strategy? That's a big question that 2005 may answer.

Mark Stone is an open source consultant and freelance writer living in the Sierra Nevada region of Northern California. He can be reached at mark.stone@gmail.com.
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The State of the Open Source Union, 2004

Comments Filter:
  • OSS for voting ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:26PM (#11805444)
    I hope Hillary Clintons bill does go through. Although Diebold and the GOP will stonewall it, I think that this would be the PERFECT environment for OSS. Get a university to write it.
    • Re:OSS for voting ! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jeffehobbs ( 419930 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:50PM (#11805699) Homepage

      After that, it would be nice if our government funded an open-source "TurboTax" replacement. I find it annoying that expensive commercial software is required to make sense of our tax laws and forms.

      • I find it annoying that *any* software is required to make sense of our tax laws and forms!

        Jack Kemp (whatever else you think of him, and I think about him something close to not at all) used to push the "post-card tax return," and a flat tax, or even a flat-tax-with-simple-deductable could be done that way.

        Now, I'd rather see all income taxes eliminated, and what taxes must be raised raised via sales taxes, but Hey, I'll take certain lesser goods over certain current evils.

        So, however nice and worthy ar
    • Re:OSS for voting ! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by size1one ( 630807 )
      Don't limit it to just 1 government application. There are numerous applications that all levels of government need. Opensource is the perfect fit for government entities because they arent there to make money, they are there to serve the people in the most efficient manner possible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:26PM (#11805445)
    We the People of the United Open Sourcers, in Order to form a more perfect Code Base, abolish FUD, insure programmatic Tranquility, provide for the common security, promote the general technological Welfare, and secure Blessings of Library to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United Open Sourcers of the World.
    • We'll need a Bill of Rights as well, post corrections below.
      • There shall be no law to prohibit sharing of knowledge, or the right of people to communicate or post messages on Slashdot.
      • A well-educated populace being essential to the progress of Open Source, the right of people to keep and use the instruments of science shall not be infringed.
      • No software shall be installed forceably on personal possessions, be it brain or computing device, or required to participate in protected communication.
  • From the article: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:28PM (#11805457)
    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed that Linux violated more than 200 patents.

    Honestly, how do you take such a claim seriously??? If M$ wasn't such a financial juggernaut, this would be hilarious. As it stands, it's depressingly sobering...M$ has the financial clout to do a lot of damage in court, event if the cases are ultimately thrown out.
    • by delire ( 809063 )

      As it stands, it's depressingly sobering...M$ has the financial clout to do a lot of damage in court

      .. thankfully not here in the EU - given that software patents are generally considered destructive right up to a parliamentary level. we'll see what the new swpatent draft looks like however. see http://nosoftwarepatents.com/ [nosoftwarepatents.com]

      also consider that the new GPL is looking closely at patents toward the end of greater resilience in court. meanwhile IBM, Redhat and Novell now provide indemnity to their enterp

  • regarding MEPIS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mantorp ( 142371 ) <mantorp 'funny A' gmail.com> on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:30PM (#11805480) Homepage Journal
    As a newbie it's great, but when you need to install new things it gets trickier.

    Been attempting apt-get install plone to work with no success.

    • have you tried running it as root? is it an privilege problem or dependancy. If you're going to make a statement like above, please provide more information. You might receive some help then.
      • Well, I know this isn't the right forum for it so I was just venting. Spent hours on it yesterday. It actually tells you NOT to run the install as root. Problem is the dependencies, some of the paths refer to outdated names. E.g. for the Zope part of it looks for a folder called zope while the install puts it in a folder called zope2.7 (can't remember exactly, but that's close)
        • hmmm.... my (debian) machine shows all the dependencies just fine, and apt-get install plone installs fine, along with all the zope dependents. I would suggest changing your apt sources file to use debians repositories, but I don't know enough about mepis to advise well. You should try the mepis' mailing lists (something which I'm sure, based on your reply, you're all ready doing). The fact that debian's sources install fine though does make good your comment about installation in mepis. GL with the problem
          • The weakest link in all this is without a doubt me. But, I'm hanging in there. It'll work one of these days. (nb it took me roughly 5 minutes for it to work in Win 98, not that I'm bitter)
  • WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    So some freelance writer makes a store for /. and all of the sudden it's the offical F/OSS "State of the Union".

    CmdrTaco, guys, nice try, but you need to quit stroking your egos now.

    This is probably the worst article ever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:34PM (#11805524)
    This is just a technicality, but it should be noted that the 2.6 branch of the Linux kernel started with 2.6.0, which was officially released December of 2003, _not_ in 2004 as mentioned in the article.
  • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:36PM (#11805543) Homepage
    Well at least there weren't 68 clapping breaks and 22 uses of the word "Freedom".
  • Yeah....reading that lengthy article is certainly "hard work".

    But it's good to see Open Source is on the march...

  • It's interesting that the writer would describe Munich's adoption of more OSS-ish stuff as due to an urge not to be dependent on big bad Redmond (a political decision) where as he credits Venezuela (described as an "emerging economy") with embracing a clean start without being weighed down by the "pitfalls and inefficiencies" of traditional systems (implying policy making by technologists, something that doesn't really resonate with current events in that country).

    Venezuela, of course, is suffering more
    • MicroChina, damn I wish I would have thought of that. too bad www.microchina.com is already taken
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Venezuela, of course, is suffering more from self-inflicted wounds than anything else, and certainly the companies doing business there (or trying to, without getting nationalized)

      You have no idea what's going on in Venezuela, do you?. I'm surprised Fox News even covered Venezuela long enough for you to pick up this snippet of right-wing fear mongering.

      • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @04:03PM (#11805823)
        You have no idea what's going on in Venezuela, do you?

        Um, actually, yes, I do pay attention to actual facts and everything! I'm more impressed by your completely vague (and cowardly anonymous) implication that my take on things is wrong without actually saying in what way it's wrong.

        When I refer to self inflicted wounds in that country, I'm talking about the long term strikers, the thuggish election tactics, the pretension that they (unlike the foolish rest of the world that just can't quite get it right) have discovered a brand new, properly-tuned form of Socialism that will magically bring prosperity to the people there. Please. Running a nationalized semi-economy that tries to sell things to the rest of the world for hard currency while simultaneously condemning the very economic mechanisms that allow international trade to happen in the first place... its all so... Cuban. Of course, we know what a paradise that is. Imagine Cuba with huge oil reserves, and you'll know where Chavez (out of expediency, not love of freedom) is headed. He's trapped in a 40-year old view of the world, and has enough control over what happens in that country to make a lot of his people think that's simply the way it has to be.

        In the meantime, he's borrowing money from China to build housing and win local popularity contests. China, of course, will take the money back in the form of cheap oil.
        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @05:25PM (#11806767) Homepage
          Cuba - under a strict embargo and with a superpower in direct opposition, has been doing far better than many other Carribian states - look at Haiti, for example. Heck, Cuba's lifespan is almost as long as that of the US. What a horrible example. There are plenty of examples of socialist collapse out there, but Cuba's a rather poor example.

          the long term strikers

          You mean the ones that opposed Chavez and supported Carmona - the replacement for Chavez after the coup whose first act was to dissolve the judiciary?

          the thuggish election tactics

          Please elaborate - this should be good. :) Be sure to only cover things that were only being done by one side, not both. And remember that those trying to destroy the economy and using a media monopoly that made Pravda look free and independent were the *anti-Chavez* side, not the pro-Chavez side.

          the pretension ... brand new, properly tuned form of Socialism that will magically bring prosperity ...

          Please quote Chavez talking about such a thing. He supports socialism - but, heck, even Spain is under a socialist government. What's the big deal?

          He won 58% of the votes in a recall election monitored by *international monitors* (both the OAS and the Carter Center, both widely respected as election monitors in central and south America - both of which said the election was clean) despite the fact that the opposition owned essentially all media (apart from the Venezuelan equivalent of "PBS") and were viscious about using it against him, as well as attempting to sabotage the country's economy (in order to get him kicked out) via strikes.

          Fox should really get over it. For better or worse, his "bricks and milk" plan - basically a modern day Robin Hood style appeal - has captured the hearts and minds of much of the urban and rural poor who historically have had little voice in the country. It's exactly the result of what you'd expect from his policies: high taxes on the wealthy that fund food kitchens and urban reconstruction. Seizure of unused land from wealthy landowners to give to the poor who were squatting on it. Etc.

          It's kind of funny.... I read this one article of a reporter covering a protest around the time of the election. A huge crowd - tens of thousands of mostly blonde, light-skin anti-Chavez protestors clashed with roughly twice as many brown-haired dark-skinned pro-Chavez protestors, almost like some bizarre overbudget shampoo commercial. The smaller numbers of those with more Spanish ancestry have historically been the middle and upper classes and have typically held power, while the people with more native blood have typically been the poor and unempowered.

          Save your "Socialism doesn't work, I told you so"s for when/if Venezuela's economy falters. Until then, it's not our responsibility - if we want to support democracy, we need to accept that Venezuela's poor are sticking up for this guy. That's one thing that seems hard for many people to accept: Democracy != Pro America. Democracy != Capitalism. Democracy != American ideals. Etc. Democracy equals the will of the people, for better or worse.
          • Cuba - under a strict embargo and with a superpower in direct opposition, has been doing far better than many other Carribian states - look at Haiti, for example. Heck, Cuba's lifespan is almost as long as that of the US. What a horrible example. There are plenty of examples of socialist collapse out there, but Cuba's a rather poor example

            The current regime would never have survived its initial forray into communism without Soviet patronage and brutal repression (which continues to this day.. that's
            • The current regime would never have survived its initial forray into communism without Soviet patronage and brutal repression (which continues to this day.. that's "better"?). And they're "thriving" now because of other countries (in Europe and elsewhere) that enjoy having Cuba as a tropical destination, and are willing to overlook the attrocious human rights situation there. Hard to imagine a better example than a place that's willing to imprison and even execute people for trying to leave. "Strong-man" ru
              • I'll note that you dodged and completely refused to compare it to other Carribean countries under the American sphere of influence without an embargo, such as Haiti, or to address it's average lifespan, or anything of the sort

                Sigh. It's been a long evening, so I'm not hitting every point, but... how does "sphere of influence" relate to Haiti? If the US were to spend any more time peacekeeping, we'd never hear the end of the complaints about how our actual military troops were "occupying" the place. As it
                • how does "sphere of influence" relate to Haiti?

                  Capitalist, unembargoed, and enjoys a much better relationship with the US than Cuba.

                  As it is, the US is the single largest source of financial, material, medical, and related aid to that place.

                  Compared to embargoing and attempting to destabilize Cuba. And Cuba is doing proportionally quite well. Hence my statement that Cuba was a bad example to pick.

                  1) there are too many people and too few, too poorly managed resources

                  Cuba has a lot of people, t
          • Very beautifully and intelligently put.

            "Democracy != Pro America. Democracy != Capitalism. Democracy != American"

            I think people keep forgetting that America is not a democracy but a republic. IIRC the constitution specifically mentions that it is not a democracy but a republic. They are not really the best people to be 'spreading democracy' throughout the world, which I think is the main reason the British goverment support them in their various invasions. To make sure they have someone along who kno

  • by lpp ( 115405 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:41PM (#11805592) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft exists as a business entity. They offer an OS with arguably the most exposure of any OS, one many folks associated directly with general computer use. They offer a number of other products which tie in to, add to and build upon that OS and it's market share.

    Why then shouldn't they go ahead and pursue a patent attack strategy in order to crush what they see as the competition? They are bound only to act within the confines of the law. There is no legal reason why they should play nice.

    I'm not saying this because I like the possibility, but rather because if Linux supporters can come up with a cogent response to the question and present it to Microsoft in a manner likely to be received without substantial hostility (i.e. something different from "Don't use patents you m!@#$!@# a$$hatz"), then perhaps Microsoft would avoid this approach.
    • "Why then shouldn't they go ahead and pursue a patent attack strategy in order to crush what they see as the competition? They are bound only to act within the confines of the law. There is no legal reason why they should play nice."

      I think they would be afraid of the fall out that could possibly occur. Linux has gained enough support that an all out attack on it would very possibly bring about an all out attack on software patents and copyright law, as well as more antitrust suits. Their empire would sl
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yup, and citizens^H^H^H^H^H^H^Honsumers only exist to make the good people richer. They could have made Civics Class 5 minutes long and still been 100% truthful.
    • With the number of government organisations, military, schools etc already using OSS, Microsoft would have a real shit-fight on their hands.

      They'd also go down in history as being Very Bad People and attract even more ill-will, from regular computer users in above organisations.

      Before they ever attempt a patent attack, they have to win over the hearts and minds of the public to their view of software patents. I guess Gates' stabs at 'Communism' among the OSS movement were an early step in this direction.
    • Why then shouldn't they go ahead and pursue a patent attack strategy in order to crush what they see as the competition? They are bound only to act within the confines of the law. There is no legal reason why they should play nice.

      You're correct. This is exactly why business must be regulated and restricted by the government; corporations by design use law as a surrogate for ethics.

    • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @05:49PM (#11807031)
      "Why then shouldn't they go ahead and pursue a patent attack strategy in order to crush what they see as the competition?"

      Perhaps they should. However, a common theme on slashdot is how broken the patent system is. Trivial things are patented every day that demonstrate the system not working the way it was intended. Sometimes companies fight over silly patents and it can be fun to watch one big company screw with another one (which might have done the same if it could) and comment on the system. Free software (and OSS too) are usually not corporate developments, a full Linux distribution is the product of thousands of people working for over a decade to develop. FLOSS represents a lot of different things to a lot of people, so to see it crushed by MS utilizing the broken patent system would be a travesty on a global scale.

      My guess is that's one reason MS hasn't tried to actually play the patent card against linux. It wouldn't be money attacking money, it would be very big money attacking the people (really bad PR). This would be unprecedented, so there is great uncertainty with it. Also, with governments and business around the world considering OSS, this kind of attack would make legislators question the very patent system such an attack would rely upon. Imagine using patents to go after Linux, with the result that the rules change - or get repealed - so that you can't use them against other companies either. No one knows what would happen if MS attacked Linux with patents, but all effects other than defeating Linux would likely be negative.

      Either that, or they are waiting for legalization of software patents in Europe...

    • Microsoft patents might be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny that SCO's claims were. To get a patent requires showing a lack of prior art. Microsoft might find all or almost all of their patents tossed based on prior art issues.
  • by suso ( 153703 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:43PM (#11805618) Homepage Journal
    inevitable uncertainties
    • by temojen ( 678985 )
      Given a particle of which you have perfect knowlege of it's position, you can have no knowlege of it's velocity. This uncertainty is inevitable.
      • by suso ( 153703 )
        from m-w.com:

        inevitable: incapable of being avoided or evaded

        uncertain: not certain to occur
        • uncertainties - more than one uncertainty, Plural of uncertainty.

          inevitable uncertainties - of these 20 uncertian items, some are inevitable to occure while some are not. There is no way to tell which are which.
          • oxymoron: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.

            Duh! I get what Mark Stone was trying to say, but it was still an oxymoron. My calling it an oxymoron doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense, but just that its an oxymoron.
    • Not really an oxymoron so much as a statement of the obvious. Or just an attempt to enbiggen the word future.

  • by Nine Tenths of The W ( 829559 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:44PM (#11805623)
    They've finally set a date - it's going to coincide with the release of Duke Nukem Forever.
  • Groklaw (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zeitgeist_chaser ( 607006 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:49PM (#11805680)
    While mainstream media coverage of SCO has varied widely -- sometimes accurate, sometimes resembling coverage of the OJ Simpson trial --
    Groklaw has emerged as a steady voice of reason and objectivity adeptly defusing all attempts at "FUD" PR around the case.
    While Groklaw's coverage of the SCO case has been the most thorough and detailed, it has hardly been objective. There has been virulent anti-SCO sentiment on that site from the very beginning of the case. That may be a reasonable attitude, but it is hardly objective.
    • Re:Groklaw (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @05:46PM (#11806993) Homepage
      Can you give one example where Groklaw has:

      a) lied
      b) misled
      c) refused to reveal uncomfortable facts for IBM (like when a ruling goes against it).

      I guess if objectivity is defined as complete neutrality with no concern for truth at all then Groklaw has failed. I, along with most other people, was shocked when this case started at how weak SCO's case was. As time has gone on its gotten even weaker. The judge himself indicated that SCO has not managed in this time to create a single disputed fact; how can Groklaw be detailed and still take SCO seriously?

  • by PHAEDRU5 ( 213667 ) <instascreed@gma i l . c om> on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:50PM (#11805688) Homepage
    I'm going to JBoss World tomorrow and Wednesday.

    Four yearas ago, if I'd said you could generate enterprise-level solutions with open source code, I'd have been laughed at.

    Now, with JBoss, and all that goes into it, I can deploy an all-singing, all-dancing J2EE application, for only the cost of the hardware.

    Drop in OpenReports, and you've got the complete package: Servlets/JSP/etc..., for the webby bits, JNLP and Swing for the interactive bits, and OpenReports for the bar-chart crowd.

    Add in Eclipse as your IDE, and you're good to go.

    The next challenge, will be to place this all in a neat little iconified environment so more-naive users can do really powerful things.
  • WHAT? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:50PM (#11805696)
    Groklaw was objective about SCO? You're joking, right?

    Of course, this follows with the stereotypical /. thinking that for news to be objective, it has to follow your opinions...

    • Umm, that seems to be pretty much everyone's opinion. Very few people will read something against their opinion and say wow they're right but I'm not going to change my thoughts on the matter. You either agreed with it, start agreeing with it, or think it is biased in the other sides favor.
    • Re:WHAT? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday February 28, 2005 @05:32PM (#11806838) Homepage Journal

      Groklaw was objective about SCO?


      You're joking, right?

      Not in the slightest.

      First, keep in mind that although contemporary journalism seems to have forgotten it, "objective" doesn't mean "balanced", it means "fact-based". "Balance" is the lazy reporter's poor substitute for research.

      PJ and most of the folks that post at Groklaw have a clear bias, but that doesn't change the fact that what they do is to acquire, publish and analyze objectively the facts of the cases. While there's no doubt which side the Groklawers want to win, they work hard at punching holes in both sides' arguments. They shoot down SCO's arguments because they want SCO to lose, and they poke holes in SCO's opponents' arguments because they want to strengthen them. But they definitely look hard at both sides, and no one can fault the quality or depth of their research. Court documents show that both SCO and its opponents follow Groklaw, and for good reason -- very little goes unnoticed there.

      Objectivity doesn't really have anything to do with lack of bias, because if a complete lack of bias were necessary, objectivity would be impossible. Objectivity is about looking past your biases to base your conclusions squarely on the facts available.

      Groklaw does a stellar job at objective reporting and analysis. If it seems that they demolish nearly all of SCO's arguments and claims while doing no more than knocking the rough edges off of SCO's opponents' arguments and claims, that's because SCO's arguments are weak and its attorneys poor (in skill -- they're doing fine financially).

      PJ does editorialize a bit, and that part of Groklaw is decidedly not objective, but that just keeps the site entertaining. Some Groklawers occasionally ask her to tone it down specifically to reduce these charges of non-objectivity, but anyone who seriously reads her articles can see the clear distinctions between fact, analysis, speculation and whimsy.

  • by Ih8sG8s ( 4112 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:54PM (#11805741)
    I think many people (including me) would take offense to this guy packaging Opensource in with Free Software. He also takes the libery to call witness to the greatness of the opensouce development model.

    I realize that to many people, OSS and Free Software are synonymous. To those who fall squarely within either camp, the differences are meaningful enough to warrant the existence of two separate groups. This guy seems to fall into the OSS camp, which is fine and well, but one can't have their cake and eat someone else's.

    There are fundamental differences.
    • There are fundamental differences.

      Is aqua blue?
      • I'd say aqua is a colour & blue is a category under which many colours fall - Free Software & Open Source Software are two categorys under which software can fall; all Free Software is Open Source but not all Open Source Software is Free.
    • How can he be "packaging Opensource in with Free Software", when all "Free Software" is open source? Looks to me like he's just talking about open source in general (and a few related topics). The only evidence I see that he falls into the OSS camp is that he doesn't feel compelled to mention "Free Software" when discussing open source.

      Some, like myself, fall so squarely into the open source camp, that we don't consider "Free Software" a seperate group, but simply a sub-group with a political dimensio
      • I don't disagree with your comments. I just personally felt that he was using the term "opensource" liberally, and to mean all software which may be considered opensource. He may think he is in a position to speak for opensource, and that's fine. The author though sppears to attempt to speak for free software as well, all though he fails to mention it specifically.

        Some in the free software camp will take offense to the fact that this author attempts to speak for all, when he is in no position to do so.
  • by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @04:01PM (#11805810) Homepage
    I predict that Open Source will come into its own in 2005. While it has hit some bumps and trouble along the way this year and in recent years, especially with microsoft's flagerant abuse of a number of linux patents, there is no question that the whole concept in general is gaining mass acceptance.

    I work in Washinton for one of the senators from Virginia and its interesting to see how even the legislature is starting to look at open source seriously. My boss, who sits on Ways and Means (the committe which is in charge of the budget) and a few of his friends have been talking amongst themselves and they are planning a number of hearings this year to discuss open source in general and more specifically as a way to save goverement money from going to huge software companies like M$ as a way to help cut some goverement spending.

    2005 will indeed be an interesting year to watch.
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday February 28, 2005 @04:14PM (#11805977) Homepage Journal

    What's viral is copyright law. Mixing anyone's code with yours "infects" your code because it creates a derivative work. The only way you can legally do that with any copyrighted material is if you have permission from the owner (or fall into a Fair Use category).

    Some open source licenses grant a blanket permission to do that without any strings attached. Many (like the GPL) do not. Few commercial licenses provide that permission, and many of those that do require some sort of royalty payments.

    The GPL isn't viral, it just doesn't allow you to ignore the viral nature of copyright.

    • I'm a fan of the GPL but lets be fair here. Most commercial software that is designed to be linked to other software has very generous terms for the derived works. The GPL's rules are unusual strict for software.
      • Most commercial software that is designed to be linked to other software has very generous terms for the derived works.
        Generous as in can be modified and distributed freely? (I'm assuming that by "commercial software" you mean proprietary software.)
        • Yes generous in that sense... You create an executable parts of the libraries are linked in and the derived work can be distributed under whatever terms you like. For example the evil empire makes it pretty easy to get the .Net frameworks onto any client computer how to distribute .NET [microsoft.com].

      • Most commercial software that is designed to be linked to other software has very generous terms for the derived works.

        There are lots of development tools and libraries whose licenses do provide very generous terms for derived works, but there are lots that do not, as well, particularly libraries for niche applications. I've seen libraries that require you to pay the company you're licensing them from a percentage of any revenue you make off of anything you do with their product, for example, and some t

        • (most of whom not only don't give you permission to create derived works

          I agree with most everything you wrote. However I should point the courts have held again and again and again you don't permission to create a derivied work. You simply need to purchase one license per... for example clean flicks [cleanflicks.com] buys one copy of the movie for each copy they create. Hollywood tried to shut them down but they won the lawsuits easily.

          Also a minor quibble
          And even though many commercial libraries don't place a lot o
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @04:25PM (#11806102) Journal
    And Monodevelop is not, at it's current point, usable.

    It works fine for little "Hello World" apps, but once my project got to a small-mid size (6 or 7 files, about 1000 lines each), it slowed to a crawl. It took minutes to register each keystroke. I turned off the command-completion engine, thinking it was to blame - it wasn't. It seems to be whatever code that constantly rebuilds the class tree?

    Whatever it is, it's unusable. I had to migrate my project back to Windows-land and do my work in SharpDevelop. Now, for whatever reason, Monodevelop won't even open my SharpDevelop cmbx file.

    This is a big, BIG deal. My company, like so many others, has tons of old VB/Delphi and other Windows-RAD based code, all powered by SQL Server backends.

    It's time to migrate most of this stuff to .NET. I actually managed to convince the brass that we avoid WinForms, and use GTK# to build our GUIs. I actually convinced them that we can support Sybase as well as SQL Server, being as the T-SQL is similar enough it won't involve any rewriting for us.

    Did TFA mention FREE (beer) Sybase ASE for linux? A SQL Server killer - heck it is SQL Server - is HUGE. I've worked with MySQL, PostgreSQL, firebird, and they are all toy databases.

    Sybase+Mono= a whole hell of a lot of people, and a whole lot of source code that was once very MS-specific, that can now be opened up to other platforms.

    Anyhow, the brass were impressed when I showed them how the same executable runs under Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc, etc - and unlike Java, it looks and feels like our old application, not a kludgy pile of crap (Java evangelists need not reply, I've yet to be convinced. AWT sucks just like Swing. We simply have no use for the platform, get over it.)

    The brass were blown away when I mocked up a little box, with Sybase built in, to run as a terminal server via NX - NX is cool as hell. Blows MS Terminal Services and Citrix right out of the water. When I told them the machine they were using was sitting at my home, and they were working over my home connections measly 128k upstream, hell - you just can't help but be impressed.

    So now I'm at the point where they're actually considering linux. All of our apps on a linux-based self-contained blade server, complete turnkey for clients. It's about giving the client what they want, after all, and that's what they want. A box they plug in and does its job. (With a quarter mil per annum support agreement, and as we all know, once properly set up, there ain't shit to support).

    So now I'm tasked with putting together an environment with which to work with the stuff/crosstest under linux. And I'm short one IDE.

    It'll get there eventually, I'm sure. Just get your ass back to work Miguel. Actually, scratch that, finish your GTK# documentation first - or at least fix the goddamned hyperlink to it. There's plenty of great stuff in those namespaces (gtk, pango, etc), but to someone like me with no real prior experience with GTK, figuring it out can be a real bitch - though not impossible, but so far the process has been for me to read some C documentation, figure out the C# binding by way of autocompletion, and guess at the parameters.

    This year was big, but IMO, Mono and Sybase were the two biggest things to hit the scene. I don't know if NX counts as this year or not, but if it does, it's a big thing too.

    Note to any Gentoo users fighting to get Sybase to work: Nothing I found on google helped, installing Red Hat 7.2 under UML and installing sybase on that didn't work. ASE did nothing but segfault until I switched to NPTL, now it runs like a champ. (emerge unmerge linux-headers; emerge --oneshot linux26-headers; emerge glibc; reboot). This is probably applicable to other uncertified distros too.

    Also, anyone know of any good free as in I'm-broke SQL Server->Sybase ASE migration tools? For years the flow has been 100% the other way, people ditching their big proprietary uni
    • Isn't the promise of C# to allow you to develop using Windows and deploy on Linux?

      And, if that's the case, why bother with a "Mono IDE"?

      Honestly curious here -- I am more in the Java camp - develop on Linux, Windows, or Solaris, and deploy J2ME on Cell Phones.
      Also, develop on Linux, and deploy on Windows.

      I have been thinking about the whole C# and Mono thing; and am almost ready to give it a whirl.

    • > I've worked with [..] PostgreSQL, and they are
      > all toy databases.

      Fujitsu disagrees with that [fastware.com.au].
    • You completely blew it when you called PostgreSQL a "toy database". Hate to burst your bubble, but PostgreSQL is only barely shy of the features Oracle (the database, not the complete suite) provides.

    • Java evangelists need not reply, I've yet to be convinced.

      Oh, aren't you a tease. On one hand you say we can't reply, and on the other you say "I've YET to be convinced". :-)

      You should have been honest and said "I will NEVER be convinced", since that is what you mean, right? Nice to see you keep an open mind though.

      So consider this not directed at you, but at all the other readers:
      You can use SWT, gcc, or one of the many bindings from java to native widgets that exist.
  • Hmm, status on Desktop Linux is conspicuously missing.

    So when are commercial app developers going to release Linux versions of their apps along with Windows versions?

    Until that question can be answered, Desktop Linux will continue to be a theoretical possibility with almost zero marketshare. No one cares about operating systems; the applications are everything.

    • Desktop Linux is actually quite good. Good enough that Novell, Sun, Linspire, Xandros, etc. are selling, right now, products directed towards home users and regular business users.

      For a much much lower per-seat licensing cost than Microsoft can offer, a business can equip their employees with a good well-integrated GUI, StarOffice/OpenOffice.org, Evolution, Mozilla/Firefox, and tons of other stuff. Seriously, what do businesses really need beyond StarOffice/OO.org, Evolution, and Firefox, especially when
  • by JimDabell ( 42870 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @05:06PM (#11806550) Homepage

    Microsoft has refused to significantly update Internet Explorer (IE) until Longhorn is released

    Internet Explorer 7 will be available for Windows XP [msdn.com].

  • by runderwo ( 609077 ) * <{runderwo} {at} {mail.win.org}> on Monday February 28, 2005 @06:37PM (#11807492)
    Either distribution will give you an easy install, access to Debian packages and apt-based network updates, but with more advanced hardware support
    I think what they meant to say here instead of "more advanced hardware support" is "more liberal support of hardware whose intended operation requires non-free software". The implication in the former is that Debian is somehow behind in hardware support, which is demonstrably false - every unsupported device that could be supported is invariably due to one of the following:
    • a license issue that prohibits redistribution entirely
    • contradictory licensing in the Linux kernel (e.g. a GPL-incompatible license in a Linux driver) that causes a driver to be removed from the Debian kernel
    • DFSG issues such as binary-only firmware forcing the package into non-free, even if it was otherwise freely redistributable and had a compatible license with whatever it linked with (since Debian policy requires freely redistributable source code for all programs in the archive)
    Other distributions have more liberal policies with respect to software that supports hardware devices, but Debian's conservative stance attempts to guarantee that nobody further down the distribution chain can end up screwed by a license problem. In other words, it's a feature, not a bug.

    I have had a few problems with the interpretation of Debian policy in the past.

    The first was that the proposed firmware loader really sucked for certain applications. I'm not sure if this has changed. Because of this, I was originally really pissed off with the interpretation that the DFSG "program" applied to microcode and firmware because of the technical limitations of the loader interface. Eventually I came to the conclusion that this really was for the better though, but only after the following issue was also resolved:

    There was a huge push to eliminate non-free from the archive around the beginning of last year. This sounded like a great idea at first, because then the FSF would endorse Debian as the reference GNU/Linux distribution (aside from the GFDL conflict). Unfortunately, once everyone started moving firmwares and microcode to non-free, it was becoming increasingly clear that if Debian was going to continue to support modern hardware, non-free was here to stay. Certain zealots continued to push for the removal of non-free, even when it was apparent that doing so would not serve the interests of free software in the long term due to the reduced mindshare growth of people not being able to install Debian on their existing systems. Eventually a GR was made, and non-free was kept around. This political decision, coupled with my realization that the long-term benefits of free firmware outweighed any temporary technical difficulties with a crappy firmware loader interface.

    The final struggle for me is that certain zealots in the Debian community are still insisting that all strings of bits are to be interpreted as 'programs' under the DFSG, and thus the 'source' must be required. There are two gaping problems with this. The first is the level of abstraction (FA theory) at which one must view things in order to claim that, for example, a video file is a program - I think that's utterly impractical. The second follows from the first - what is the 'source code' for (for example) a video file? Raw DV? Raw uncompressed frames? Who determines whether a particular package is in compliance or not? What if the author deleted the raw source after processing it? What about the effect on the mirrors who suddenly have to host multi-GB raw video files?

    There is some practicality to having such high-quality source files for multimedia, because it encourages reuse of the content, so I think making such things available whenever possible should be encouraged. But the idea that a piece of software could be placed in non-free because it included an intro AVI without a raw video source files is ludicrous and counter-productive, IMO.

  • i thought you open source guys were a bunch of raving anarchists. now i find out you actaully have a union to give a state of address. damn.
    • Open Source without government? Copyleft without copyright? And you're a teacher? I can see you're earning your twenty-four grand a year... ;P
  • Biased agains Sun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @08:04PM (#11808256)

    The article above is clearly biased against Sun. Sun has said openly they are not out to sue anyone, and that their intents with the CDDL and patent grant is to actually prevent lawsuits. Slashdot really needs to cool off over this.

    Also, Bruce Perens has numerous conflicts of interest in the matter, so his opinions should be read in context. For example, he works for OSRM, which is an insurance company who stands to make money from inflating the perceived risk regarding patents. He will say otherwise, but the timing and veracity of his comments surrounding the announcement of OpenSolaris are quite a coincidence. He also has vested interests in two or more Linux distributions, so of course he sides with the Linux fanboys on issues beyond patents.

    Groklaw has been more balanced, in that they at least posted articles following up their initial set of questions about the CDDL. Of course, people commenting on the articles at Groklaw generally sound like JFK conspiracy theorists, so don't take them too seriously, either.

    Let Sun prove themselves in their actions over the next year. OpenSolaris should be out around June or July, so they need a good year for people to get a feel for how all that will work. If Jonathan Schwartz were to ever pull off a mask revealing a big green patent ogre, then you can say I was wrong. But the likelihood of that is nil.

  • >Slashdot really needs to cool off over this.

    >Also, Bruce Perens has numerous conflicts of
    >interest in the matter, so his opinions should
    >be read in context.

    I will admit that one thing that has come to bother me about Debian is the amount of "Debian IS Linux!" groupthink that seems to have sprung up. It is the persistent attitude I see online that Debian and Red Hat's offerings (and maybe SUSE) are the only Linux distributions in existence worth mentioning. To put it bluntly, they're not.


Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.