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Odds and Ends
Saturday, May 01 2004 @ 06:57 AM EDT

"If you would like a copy of the GPL source code in Linksys products on a CD, please send $9.99 to Linksys for the costs of preparing and mailing the CD to you."

As you can see, there is a happy ending to the Cisco-GPL issue. Their Linksys "GPL Code Center" page has the above announcement. Netcraft has some background.

Melanie Hollands continues her series on SCO's stock.

And Sun's Jonathan Schwartz announces maybe they'll GPL Solaris. Unfortunately, he kept talking.

Here is some of what he had to say:

"Though Sun executives have been cool on the GPL in the past, Schwartz said there was 'not a lot' preventing Sun from releasing Solaris under the GPL. . . . 'We view the GPL as a friend. Remember, (Sun) was built off of BSD and the BSD license,' he said, referring to the open-source Berkeley Software Distribution license.

"Still, Sun has its apprehensions. 'What worries us about the GPL is its capacity to encourage forking, because what's happened in Linux is that Red Hat has forked. Not in the sense that the kernel is different ... It's forked because if you write to the Red Hat distribution, you can't go and run on Debian.' . . .

"'We are starting to migrate people off Red Hat and on to Sun, and the reason is that our customers have had the epiphany that open source does not mean open standards,' he said, echoing a comment delivered by Mary Hanafin, Ireland's Minister for State, at a recent Microsoft-sponsored conference in Ireland.

"'It is important to remember that open standards are not the same as open source,' Hanafin said, according to a report by ElectronicNews.Net. Ireland had been examining the use of open source software for its e-government initiative, but determined that 'the long-term cost of open source may outweigh the short-term savings,' according to Hanafin."

So, the "open standards is better than open source" comes from a Microsoft-sponsored conference. There's a coincidence, that Sun and Microsoft are singing the same song. Weiss says if they don't clarify their position, Sun will lose customers:

"Sun's simultaneous embrace and disparagement of Linux and the GPL may ultimately prove confusing to customers who turn to the company for guidance on where Linux might be appropriate, said George Weiss, an analyst with the Gartner Inc. research firm. 'Unfortunately, I think Sun is going to have to be a little bit more thoughtful about the way they articulate their thinking, because they have a lot of users confused,' Weiss said.

"The market has clearly decided that there is a role for Linux, Weiss said, and to hear Sun promote Solaris as a cheaper and better alternative for all roles may ultimately undermine the company's credibility. 'If they don't clarify (their Linux positioning), users are going to be reluctant to use Sun, whether it's Solaris or Linux,' he said."

Mr. Schwartz may be a bit confused himself, if he thinks you prove your friendship with the GPL by using a BSD license. That's not an attack on the BSD license, just pointing out that there are significant differences between them. Maybe a crash course is in order.

You might be interested to know that the UK has been considering open source and their revised standards are available for download and public discussion. The paper, "Open Source Software -- Use Within UK Government", version 2, details government policy on the use of FOSS within the UK government. It's a draft document, which is still being considered and discussed until June 11, and you can find it here. The main change in the new version is a statement that "If no commercial or community shared exploitation route is used for publicly funded R&D software an OSS default will apply. Licences compliant with the OSI definition will be used". Here's the old version.

Then there is SCO, saying they do too think the GPL is unconstitutional. They just don't intend to explicitly say so in a court of law. What better place to say it, if you think you can prove it? Of course, one has to actually prove things in a court of law, unlike in the media or in letters to Congressmen. I've gotten email asking if this means the GPL won't have its day in court. Remember that IBM's counterclaims include a copyright infringement claim against SCO for violation of the GPL, so it's still on the table.

Alexander Wolfe had an interesting article on eWeek, "Microsoft Assembles Hefty Patent Arsenal". He reports that in the last two years, Microsoft has gotten about 1,000 patents, or an average of 10 a week.

"David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of business development for intellectual property, said the company has strongly taken up the licensing mantle. 'We've provided people with a clear sense that we are willing to do outbound licensing. This is now a significant focus for us,' he said. In many cases, Microsoft's licensing model will likely take the form of cross-licensing, rather than simply paying out or taking in cash, Kaefer said.

"'These patent cross-licensing deals signify an industry that's getting more mature,' Zuck said. 'Companies are having to balance customer demands for interoperability with IP protection. So, patents are taking on a more significant role than they have in the past, when companies could rely on trade secrets for protection.'

"Zuck noted that Microsoft recently formalized its model for licensing its patents to other companies. 'The trend going forward is for transparent sharing of portfolios,' Zuck said. 'I think we're going to see a lot of patent cross-licensing, and that's a good thing.'"

Good depends on your point of view. Bruce Perens says he is worried that Microsoft will use its patents against Linux like this:

"'Say that you need a particular patent to implement a standard,' he said. 'Microsoft sues an open-source developer. The developer has to settle because he doesn't have any money. The result is that open source cannot interoperate with other programs that use the standard.'"

A spokesman for Microsoft responds in the article like this:

"'We'll make our IP available to all comers, open-source or not.' Kaefer added that Microsoft isn't focused on what garage-shop developers are doing but that if a major corporation is using its IP, 'We would need to look at it'." And the company isn't just talking about the US. According to the Boston-based Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts, Microsoft is looking to establishing a new IP practice in China:

"The prospectus for an IP attorney job opening reads, 'The Intellectual Property and Licensing group at Microsoft is starting a phase of international expansion and is looking for an outstanding IP attorney to build and develop the IP legal function in greater China. The position is based at Microsoft's new Beijing facilities in the downtown area.'"[emphasis added]

Just like SCO, Microsoft doesn't care if you use GNU/Linux in noncommercial settings. They just don't want you using it for your business. Of course, that is where the antitrust analysis could enter the picture. Miguel de Icaza has another area of concern, in an interview by Netcraft:

"Q. What do you see as the greatest danger to the continuing adoption and progress of open source?

"A. Microsoft realises today that Linux is competing for some of the green pastures that it's been enjoying for so long; I think that Longhorn is a big attempt to take back what they owned before. Longhorn has kind of a scary technology called Avalon, which when compounded with another technology called XAML, it's fairly dangerous. And the reason is that they've made it so it's basically an HTML replacement. The advantage is it's probably as easy as writing HTML, so that means that anybody can produce this content with a text editor.

"It's basically an HTML Next Generation. A lot more widgets, a lot more flexibility, more richer experience - way, way richer experience. You get basically the native client experience with Web- like deployments. So you develop these extremely rich applications but they can be deployed as easily as the Web is. It's just like going to a URL: you go to Google, and you get the Web page and it works. So it's the same deployment model but the user interface interaction is just fantastic.

"Of course, the only drawback is that this new interaction is completely tied to .Net and WinFX. So we see that as a very big danger. A lot of people today cannot migrate to Linux or cannot migrate to Mozilla because a lot of their internal Web sites happen to use IE extensions. Now imagine a world where you can only use XAML.

"It's massive - I'm so scared."

Finally, I can't resist telling you this. I was trying out a new search engine, or new to me, Ujiko.com. Of course, I searched for Groklaw, and I found this:

"I have been reading an excellent blog called GROKLAW which is a widely read resource on court cases involving a software company called SCO.

"The various legal actions that SCO has triggered show how the IT landscape is changing. It pitches SCO, with apparent financial backing from Microsoft, against IBM and draws in many of the players in the Linux and open source software worlds.

"Groklaw is a good example of how a blog can be used to present information on a complex legal and technical subject. It is still pretty daunting but Groklaw at least offers a way through it all."

The blog is written by Richard Allan, a member of Parliament in the UK.


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