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Sun's McNealy Lives and Learns
Sunday, June 26 2005 @ 07:10 PM EDT

There's an interview by Stephen Shankland with Sun's Scott McNealy, where McNealy comes across a good deal more honestly and sincerely than I've seen before. Take a look. Here's an excerpt for those who never bother to click on anything: Is there anything we've learned new around community development?

McNealy: During the late 1980s and early 1990s we let Solaris get encumbered as we were trying to build features and compete with mainframe OSes. Plus the fact that we did the AT&T Unix System V Release 4 base, which required us to buy our way out of the SCO license. It just occurred to us, probably six or seven years ago, that we can't do what we want to do with the source code here. We spent a long, long time getting the encumbrances out. They kind of spaghettied themselves deeply into the operating environment. The one thing we learned was just don't let the stuff get encumbered again. That was the mistake we made, by going too fast too quick. By going a little slower and letting the community help, we wouldn't have gotten encumbered. We would have been in better shape if we'd kept it open source along the way.

I still have issues with Sun over the CDDL-GPL/LGPL incompatibility, but fair is fair. This is the right lesson: Get away from proprietary code, because it won't let you do what you want. And it will cost you heavily, one way or another. I think it's safe to say that this is particularly true with SCO code.

If it even *is* their code. Hmm. . . .

TO: Scott McNealy
RE: About all that money you paid SCO for "their" code.

Just kidding. I'll assume SCO has the right to collect license fees for it. Except, if in the end, it turns out that no one has clear copyrights to this code, and after following SCO v. Novell and reading the 1994 USL-Regents once-supersecret settlement agreement, it's at least the right question, then what are you guys paying through the nose for? Public domain code? Code that might in some cases be copyrighted, but by Novell, not SCO? Just raising the questions, folks. Sometimes it's good to get back to basics.

Oh, one more question: how come, pray tell, Sun gets to open up, for all the world's eyeballs to see, code that SCO is telling Judge Kimball and Judge Wells and Judge Jones and the world is so secret and confidential, they have the right to chop your hand off at the wrist if any licensee shows it to anyone or shares it with anyone, especially Linux? I'd like to see that license agreement between Sun and AT&T, wouldn't you? No protection in it for methods and concepts? How can that be, if SCO's witnesses are to be believed that AT&T never allowed any licensee to avoid restrictions on methods and concepts? And now that it is out there, including the methods and concepts, how is SCO going to police that code? Remember clause 7.06(a) of IBM's original license agreement?

"If information relating to a SOFTWARE PRODUCT subject to this Agreement at any time becomes available without restriction to the general public by acts not attributable to LICENSEE or its employees, LICENSEE'S obligations under this section shall not apply to such information after such time."

If it even *is* their code.

I believe these questions can be answered in the SCO litigation, and I hope they will be. But for sure, I expect that last question -- about Sun being allowed to "open source" this code -- to come up in every courtroom where SCO has planted its bully flag.

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