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Relaxing with Linus in Australia
Monday, January 19 2004 @ 06:43 AM EST

There is a charming interview with Linus on Australian IT. They spoke with him while he was attending Linux.conf.au in Adelaide. He says it is one of only two conferences he likes to attend, and he tells why. Of course they asked him about SCO, and he says they make him angry sometimes. He is finding the experience of seeing a lawsuit up close interesting, but it's not something he'd ever like to do again. (Amen.) And he talks about the new kernel and what is next for him, including some funny bits about user reports.

Linus has written a tool to index his email, thanks to SCO's subpoena, which I hope he releases to the rest of us eventually, because I surely would like to have it as a memento when SCO is dead and buried. The pearl in the oyster from the SCO irritation. Besides, if the US gets any more litigious, soon we'll all need an application to help us to efficiently turn over our email in discovery when we get subpoenaed.

Linus would like a Linux phone but he can't get one. So far you have to be in Asia to get one. Here's Samsung's Linux phone that you can get in China, which is voice activated ("Open Browser" -- it's bilingual, actually, and "understands" both English and Chinese). I find it personally comical that they view it as a selling point that you can get a Linux phone that can sync with Outlook and interoperate with Word, but, hey, whatever. Samsung is Samsung. That just wouldn't be a plus in selling *me* a Linux phone. But I do get that Linux is the underpinning, not the sales point, and it's hitting the big time in mobile phones, which means a much wider audience than just little old me. Anyway, I really would like a Linux phone where I can "dial the phone, launch applications, and look up contacts without using the stylus or touch screen." I wouldn't care what else it did.

Motorola makes Linux phones too, so far for the Asian market, but they say most of their handsets in the future will be Linux phones with MontaVista Linux. You remember MontaVista, I'm sure, from the OSDL Legal Defense Fund announcement and their strong stand against SCO. Here's what else MontaVista has been up to, according to this press release from last March:

"Hundreds of products are already in development using MontaVista Linux, including mobile phones, PDAs, advanced remote controls, high definition televisions, HDTV, PVRs, set-top boxes, digital receivers, automotive telematics, musical instruments, gaming machines and karaoke systems. Recently, Sony and NEC released new consumer products built on MontaVista Linux. Several leading manufacturers are also currently building next generation mobile phones based on MontaVista Linux."

Linus knows about those two phones, but rumor has it, according to Maureen O'Gara, who is usually right, that there is another Linux phone in the works from DoCoMo, Japan's number one mobile carrier, for release in the second half of 2004, so Linus may just get his wish someday:

"The company, which expects its 3G phones to hit 25 million units by 2006, is supposed to have given suppliers like NEC a Linux spec to work with to cut development and manufacturing costs.

"Japanese reports are positioning the move as a way to checkmate Microsoft’s ambitions. It said DoCoMo wants to establish a standard ahead of Microsoft. It’s supposed to have worldwide ramifications."
Some of you may remember that SCO's Darl McBride made a trip to Japan last July reportedly to try to talk Japanese companies out of using Linux. If you want to take a funny trip down memory lane, with two of our favorite analysts, you can read about it in this article in EETimes from last summer.

Of course, one reason companies are doing this is because it's cheaper. That's an aspect some economists don't seem to factor in when looking at the impact of open source software on the economy. If companies can make a phone cheaper because it runs Linux, and they can, then they can either make more profit or sell the phone cheaper, and that means either way somebody is bound to have some money to spend on other things. You'd think economists would grasp that more money in your pocket is good.

So let's relax a bit with Linus. Here are the snips about SCO, but you'll enjoy the entire interview. You might want to grab it and view it locally, because there's a whole lot of flash going on. It takes forever to load and I kept losing the contents of the page if I tried to stay on the page too long. It's nevertheless worth it.

**********************************************

"Linus: I would like to get a Linux phone. I think there's two that are being sold, one's being sold in China and one's in Taiwan, Asia somewhere - so I can't actually get one.

"Q: Do you think that's good, seeing Linux being used in little devices, Xboxes and all sorts of places it wasn't meant to be?

"Linus: One of the must fun things was I bought my wife one of those electronic picture frames... I didn't even know it - I just decided I wanted to buy it because we'd just bought a better camera, and we had some good pictures of the kids. So I went out and bought it, and only when I was uploading my pictures, the night before Mother's Day, I was uploading them and looked at the technical specifications and found out it ran Linux!

"That's much more fun than big machines. . . .

"Q: Okay, here's the difficult question. What do you think about this SCO business right now?

"Linus: Right now I'm actually fairly calm, because they haven't made any huge outrageous claims in the past 12 days or so, so they've been quiet for a while. It hasn't been that bothersome, but every once in a while, when they make some new claim, it really riles me - I mean they've literally claimed copyright on files I can prove I wrote personally, and that's very irritating.

"But at the same time, the fact that their claims, when you step back, are so clearly bogus and not worth worrying about, is - that makes me worry a lot less. They're clearly scraping the barrel and coming up empty handed.

"So it's irritating but I can live with it. I'm just hoping it's going to finally come to a head soon, because it's just dragging on - it's been dragging on for something like eight months, and it's getting pretty tiresome.

"Q: It doesn't seem to be having much negative impact though on the use of Linux - that must be encouraging?

"Linus: I don't see any customers anyway, but apparently... customers aren't reacting very much, especially not much any more. But it has for example forced me to - they've subpoenaed me for a lot of emails, and I spent literally a week writing a tool to index all my emails, so that when they give a better criteria for me, what they really want, I can actually produce it.

"So it's led to some wasted time, but it's been interesting to some degree. I've never seen a lawsuit up this close and personal before - and I don't want to see one again - but at the same time, I think the most interesting part has been learning and realizing just how personally you take these things. And just thinking of how angry I become at some of the claims - it's kind of interesting looking at how you react, yourself.

"Q: It's understandable, something that you've put so much into over the years.

"Linus: Yes, but what you start realizing is this is something that must be pretty common in the business world. From a Linux standpoint this is something very new and the first big lawsuit, but at the same time apparently this goes on all the time, and in that sense getting a feel for what any lawsuit will do to the people involved is interesting."


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