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Is 'GNU/Solaris' emerging from Microsoft-Novell deal? 'It's just a f*ck

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Is 'GNU/Solaris' emerging from Microsoft-Novell deal? 'It's just a f*cking kernel...'
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2006 11:50:11 +0100

Is 'GNU/Solaris' emerging from Microsoft-Novell deal?

'It's just a f*cking kernel...'

By Andrew Orlowski ? More by this author

Published Thursday 30th November 2006 23:36 GMT

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NSFW Richard M. Stallman has never had much truck with the re-branding
campaign that gave the world the phrase "open source". Stallman, who
authored the original General Public License to give legal muscle to his
desire to ensure software freedoms are not curtailed, has always
declined to count himself as a member of any "open source movement".

As his attorney told us recently, in the light of the Microsoft-Novell
deal, his focus on long term values over short-term expediency looks
wiser now than it was once perceived to be:

"What Microsoft did to 'Open Source' was what Stallman always said could
be done to it," attorney Eben Moglen told us. "First you take the
politics out, and when the veal has been bleached absolutely white, you
can cover it with any sauce you like. And that's what Microsoft did, and
'Open Source' became the sauce on top of Microsoft proprietarianism."

Stallman always insisted, too, that Linux™ be referred to as GNU/Linux.
The kernel and the tools to build it are free software, distributed
under the GPL, he said - so credit must go where it's due. The FSF
website goes even further: when you use Linux, it's the GNU operating
system you're using, in "a GNU/Linux variant".

(Stallman was duly accused of credit-stealing, and being an unwelcoming
moralizing curmudgeon. His flavor of moralizing being considered out of
kilter with the get-rich-quick era. )

Now that we know GPL version 3.0 is the software libre world's strategic
response to the Microsoft-Novell deal, one intriguing possibility is
emerging. If a variant of a GNU system merely requires a superstructure
to be built on a GPL kernel and toolchain, could we see a GNU/Solaris

Sun Microsystems is sounding increasingly positive about releasing
Solaris under GPL 3.0.

Sun has released Java under the GPL, and Stallman gave his thoughts on
the announcement recently. In September, Sun's, er, "open source"
officer Simon Phipps suggested that GPL 3.0 could be useful:

"I have a growing confidence that what will appear from the process
after another 3 drafts could well form the basis of a unification of the
Free and Open Source software communities," he wrote, before news of the
Novell deal broke.

Sun open sources Java
Bloggers on a beach: they don't get out much

He qualified the comment with an observation that the language was "too
imbalanced against large portfolio holders," of which Sun is of course a
good example.

Speaking to us today, Phipps sounded even more positive that the GPL 3
process would be useful... somewhere.

"I would not be surprised," Phipps told us, "if the final GPL v3.0 was
not an effective tool for some of the communities that Sun sustains, or
will, initiate, in the future."

Solaris wasn't mentioned, but the prospect of a Solaris released under a
dual license, of which one is GPL v 3.0, therefore looks much more
likely today. And certainly enough of a prospect to start talking about
the ramifications.

You can see the benefits for each party of a GNU/Solaris. Sun has never
been comfortable with the Penguin, becoming quite schizophrenic in
recent years - changing its strategy as often as free software
developers change their socks. Given Torvalds' emphatic public stance
against the GPL 3.0, Sun may very much like to take the weight, with the
marketing bonus that "the new Linux" has a solar trademark. The free
software community may well welcome a major endorsement of what it wants
to be a patent-proof license. Then again, many years ago it was Sun's
ambitions that prompted the rest of the commercial Unix world, led by
IBM and DEC, to create OSF/1 Unix.

Of course much depends on Sun's eventual consideration of the re-drafted
GPL, and the terms under which it may (or may not) release a GPL
Solaris. And GNU/Solaris must be seen and deemed truly "free" before
receiving Stallman's blessing. A lot of ifs, you may rightly say.

But the prospect did raise a surprisingly positive response from one
developer we contacted, who requested anonymity.

"It's just a fucking kernel, and it's time that ass in Portland realized
that," he told us.

The ass in question, being a well known Finnish software developer, and
the trademark owner of the kernel in question, Linux™.

Boys, boys. ®

Bootnote: VA Linux Systems stock rose by more than 700 per cent on its
first day of public trading in 1999: valuing the company at $15bn. Not
bad for a box shifter with an annual turnover of $17m. Two years later
it abandoned hardware; shortly after that, it dropped "Linux" from the
company name.


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