Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Linux.com | openSUSE holds public IRC Q&A on Microsoft/Novell deal

"Nat Friedman: That's a good point. Also one thing to consider is indemnification being offered by other companies. So for example, Red Hat and Oracle both claim to offer patent indemnification to their customers. If you are customer A, and you buy Linux from one of those companies, they promise to step in and protect you from any patent lawsuits. But that promise is only for their customers. So if you make a copy of the software and give it to customer B, who did not pay Red Hat or Oracle, the promise does not extend to customer B.

This is similar in concept and in form to the promise Microsoft is making to Novell's customers. So my guess is that GPLv3 will need to be compatible with the existing business practices of all those Linux companies. Hewlett-Packard offers that, too, I believe. "

Sure, Nat. They're similar in the same way that paying someone not to beat you up is similar to paying someone to stop a bully from beating you up.

Nat thinks that GPLv3 needs to take companies into account, and I can understand why he thinks that. It completely misses the point of the GPL, but Richard Stallman hadn't yet given his speech when this little IRC session happened.

Companies don't have to use GPL-licensed software to build their businesses, they can develop closed, proprietary software on their own and keep it locked up if they want to. They choose to use software licensed under the GPL because the terms of the license suit their needs. If the terms of the license no longer suit them, they can choose to continue on with software licensed under terms more friendly to their goals, or they can choose different software.

Maybe I'm just jaded, but there appears to be plenty of spinning going on in this li'l interview...like someone from Novell/openSuSE ("Adrian L") hinting that Ubuntu is actively violating the GPL. Read up.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MacOS X 10.8 - "Liger"

qwertmonkey, you owe me a new keyboard...

Salt Lake Tribune - IBM's Sutor: 'open source' is not at risk

I hope you brought your salt-shaker...you might need a grain or two to make it through this article. Bob Mims begins with a comment or two by IBM's Bob Sutor:

"In the mythical land of "Open Source," an egalitarian, global network of software developers sacrificially contribute programming code to the greater good.

But in today's real world, open source minds and corporate technology giants are finding they need each other to survive and thrive, says Bob Sutor, IBM vice president of Open Standards and Open Source.

We've shown that we can have proprietary software with Linux running on top," Sutor said. "We can have both. There's no religion here; it's just what makes good business sense for us and the open source community."

Well, in the "real world" of Bob Sutor, there appears to be software that the Kernel (Linux) runs on top of...I suppose IBM may have created a bootloader or now-ubiquitous BIOS that I haven't heard of. That's really just me picking a nit, but the other Bob (Mims, the article's author) then proceeds with some more serious misunderstandings...or maybe FUD.

As a follow-up comment to one about IBM contributing various code to open-source projects, Mr. Mims says:

"SCO contends IBM illegally contributed bits of its proprietary Unix code to Linux. IBM denies the allegation, saying it only released applications it already owned, or had been made open source previously."

Well, actually, no. SCO doesn't contend that, although it once did...or didn't...depends on what day, month, and year you're talking about. SCO currently contends that IBM illegally contributed bits of IBM's own to Linux, but that any code developed by anyone anywhere that at one point touched code that SCO purports to own (ownership that Novell disagrees with, by the way...Novell says they never gave SCO the rights it says it has) belongs to SCO.

I know that's hard to make sense of, but it's just about the shortest way to say what the actual issue is in front of the courts (as of today, anyway).

Next, we come to another issue that is usually carefully kept seperate from SCO's litigation:

"Microsoft has been a prime funding source for SCO, but earlier this month stunned open-sourcers by announcing a development pact for Novell's Suse-brand of Linux.

IBM is watching the apparent about-face with interest - and skepticism."

There's just a tiny bit of spin in there. Microsoft did indeed stun "open-sourcers" by announcing a deal with Novell. You might go so far as to say they were momentarily speechless. You might also say that when they found their voices, it wasn't to laud any apparent "about-face", but rather to condemn a blatant attempt to fracture the development efforts of every open-source project simultaneously with threats of patent litigation.

If Bob Sutor of IBM really said that IBM is watching Microsoft's actions with interest, then I would very much like to know what they find interesting. I'd like a chance to make it clear that people in the open source community may share the skepticism (multiplied a million-fold, maybe), but not the interest.

A simple oil change...

...turns into a really bad day

EDIT: Sadly, "linky no worky" anymore :(
Did an Asteroid Impact Cause an Ancient Tsunami? - New York Times

Interesting article...asteroids (big ones) may strike the earth more often than we think...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ballmer on Novell, Linux and patents

I'm far from the first to write on this, but I'm once again in the need of duct tape to keep my head from exploding (as Glen Beck puts it).

There are some insightful comments at the end of that page:

"because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft."

I thought suse users had only paid protection money to avoid being sued for unspecified violations of Microsoft's alleged IP. Is he saying that suse customers have actually paid for a licence to use Microsoft's alleged IP? First it isn't a licence, then it is a licence. No wonder everyone is so confused over this. Even Steve can't keep the story straight.

What *is* Steve [Ballmer] saying exactly? Earlier, it was a license, then a covenant, then an agreement. Now Microsoft seems to be saying that it *is* a license. After all, if you pay someone in order to "properly" use (he avoided the word "legally", there, I note) their "intellectual property", what kind of agreement does that sound like?

It sounds a lot like a license, to me, and if it's a license, then Microsoft must consider itself to be the rightful owner of some specific patents or copyrighted material to be found in Linux. I wonder if the agreement spells out what those materials are, exactly? I know that if I was going to pay a premium and face lock-in with a single Linux vendor over a license, I'd want to know what I was paying for. I'd want to know that I wasn't being conned.

Let's get this thing over with, Microsoft. Either sue somebody for infringement, or quit acting like you might. It's put up or shut up time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PJ, I should've known you were right

So. I am unfortunately no longer in disagreement with you as to the necessity of GPLv3 vs. v2. I was being to optimistic.

I finally and definitively changed my mind today after reading this (which PJ wrote about today. I was hoping for a more intellectual "what-if" situation, in which PJ laid out exactly how a wily corp could take advantage of GPL-licensed software (well, aside from Tivo...that's been talked over already). Unfortunately, instead, I got a maddening series of press releases, statements, and covenants from two corps that quite obviously don't have the best interests of the people who actually create Open Source software at heart.

I am more comfortable than ever with my recent decision to uninstall OpenSUSE from the several machines I had been trying it out on (switched to Ubuntu).

John Dragoon, I hope you get a chance to read this someday and reflect on it.

Here's what John said in an email response to Roger Parloff (responding to Eben Moglen's statements about making changes to GPLv3 to make it obvious that the Novell-Microsoft pact violates it's terms). Comments are inline:


Novell remains committed to its historic agreement with Microsoft regarding Linux and Windows interoperability. This agreement was in direct response to the hundreds of thousands of customers who use both Linux and Windows who simply wanted both operating systems to work well together. Mr Parloff suggests he has discovered similar support from enterprise clients who "just want to be able to use free and proprietary software, to have them interoperate smoothly..."

Hmm...Novell is now the mouthpiece for Linux, apparently. Did those clients say that they didn't care if they had no choice but to use Linux from Novell? All of them? Did you read my note above about uninstalling SUSE specifically because of the recent deal? Know that I'm an IT Consultant who recommends things like versions of operating systems? Know that I will definitely never feel comfortable recommending a Novell product while this deal exists (actually, I'll actively campaign for current, future, and past clients to not use Novell products and/or to replace existing ones).

I'd just as soon install Windows as Novell Linux, and Windows is an easier sell to people who don't know technology.

Our second objective remains the growth of Linux and Open Source. By addressing issues of interoperability, we advantage Linux in the marketplace and in doing so make it a more compelling alternative to UNIX and other operating systems (yes, even including Windows). While Microsoft may believe they are advantaging Windows, we believe in the power of the open source community. In any case, it's called competition and the ultimate winner is the customer. The technical and business collaboration elements of the Novell and Microsoft agreement are the most compelling and valuable agreements from the customer perspective and they will serve to promote open source

You don't grow Linux and Open Source software offerings by alienating the people that write them and telling them they can only do it if they work for free or for Novell. If having to wait longer for interoperability is the price, then so be it. Create a full-blown replacement for MS Exchange that's fairly easy to do basic set up on, add in a free client, and you don't *need* interoperability.

If Novell had something like that to sell, customers wouldn't be clamoring for interoperability, they'd be clamoring for Linux, and if Novell was the big innovator, they'd probably be clamoring for Novell Linux. The power of the Open Source Community is in that such an undertaking is possible, and that Open Source software can be improved by others and incorporated into larger bodies of software. You can't believe in the power of Open Source software and fail to understand how it gets created.

We dealt with the current GPL license (GPL version 2) when we worked on our partnership with Microsoft. We reaffirm that our patent cooperation agreement is compliant with GPLv2. The fact that Mr. Moglen offered no opinion on this question is instructive. As to GPLv3, which is still a work in progress, Novell has supported the Free Software Foundation's pursuit of transparent discussions that surface and address the needs of all relevant constituencies -- customers, developers and vendors. For GPLv3 to be viable and relevant, it will need to address the needs of these constituencies, and Novell maintains that its partnership with Microsoft benefits those constituencies. The GPLv3 efforts should not be turned to a task designed to undo a transaction that will actually promote the enterprise-wide adoption of Linux and one that will best address the computing needs of customers.

Somebody should have told him prior to Wednesday that the GPL doesn't discriminate between "vendors", "customers", and "developers". A user is a user. All users have needs, and all users have the *same* rights under the GPL. They don't get different rights based on who they happen to be in a business relationship with or who they are paying money to.

I was of the opinion before that the GPLv2 was good enough, and generally would have argued along the same lines as Novell. The evident purpose of the agreement at hand, however (trying to scare open source developers away from paying jobs and torpedoing Linux in the process) turned my stomach. The GPLv3 should be written in whatever language is necessary to protect the freedoms it is intended to convey. The enterprise-wide adoption of Linux will happen when it is sufficiently attractive to the enterprise as a whole, not because of a patent deal that attempts to break the existing working environment of Open Source development.

Novell has entered into a transaction with Microsoft that will address a real customer issue: getting heterogeneous IT environments to function better. Novell has been a leader in the open source community; one who has made important technical contributions and one who has been on the forefront of providing legal protection (through indemnification for our customers, our patent pledge, and our co-founding of the Open Invention Network alongside IBM, Sony, Philips, and Red Hat). Novell has contributed more than 10 million lines of code to Linux and the open source community, and we support more than 250 engineers whose full-time job is to develop open source software.

Pardon me, but I believe the Brits would say "p*$$ off". You've made a contribution or two to Linux at Novell, and that's great. In case you hadn't noticed, other companies have as well...other individuals have, too...other companies pay people to work on Linux. Novell is not a "Special contributor" to Linux or Open Source. They may be a large company, and they may have contributed more than some other companies, but that's the point. Open Source works because the little guy *and* the big company can contribute, and the good code is what goes in, regardless of who wrote it.

What was the point of your patent pledge and involvement in the OIN if you signed this agreement with Microsoft? If Microsoft has no valid claim, then why enter into the agreement anyway? Why did patents and control of developers enter into the discussion? I sense a forked tongue.

There are various opinions about the Novell-Microsoft agreement. We continue to believe that by focusing on the needs of the market and the long-term growth of Linux, the agreement will generate the results that Mr. Parloff thought possible last week when he was imagining a more "hopeful era." Our customers hope so, too.

John Dragoon
Senior Vice President - Chief Marketing Officer

Well, I'm certainly glad that Novell has hopeful customers. I'm not one of them, and won't be until the situation drastically changes, but hey, for now (until Microsoft decides to start suing them into bankruptcy (assuming they have a way to do that)) at least there are *other* companies that distribute their own versions of Linux.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We can live without fear of Microsoft lawsuits

So, after I wrote that last post, I learned of a FAQ that Novell has posted. There are a number of relatively unsatisfying answers to those frequently asked questions, and a suprisingly good message buried beneath all of the angst. Let's roll through the first few of them, shall we?

Q1. How is this agreement compatible with Novell's obligations under Section 7 of the GPL?

Our agreement with Microsoft is focused on our customers, and does not include a patent license or covenant not to sue from Microsoft to Novell (or, for that matter, from Novell to Microsoft). Novell's customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft. We have not agreed with Microsoft to any condition that would contradict the conditions of the GPL and we are in full compliance.

Novell's end user customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft for their use of Novell products and services, but these activities are outside the scope of the GPL.

Okay...let's take a very close look at this one. There's a reason they placed it at the beginning of the list (the same reason that it was at the very end of CBR Online's article, IMHO). They want it dismissed quickly.

Novell says that they are not in violation of section 7 of the GPLv2 because they personally don't give their customers an offer of freedom from lawsuits for their use ("use" was not defined, by the way) of SUSE Linux. As another hypothetical exercise, then, let us imagine this...

I purchase a subscription to SUSE Linux from Novell (interestingly, there is no mention so far of openSUSE). Assuming this makes me a "customer" of Novell, my use of the software is just fine with Microsoft.

In the Linux world, it is common for users to take a particular distribution (debian, for example) and modify it or customize it and then re-distribute it as its own distribution. So, hypothetically, if I was a Novell customer, and distributed a modified SUSE Linux distribution named "NoMSTaxLinux" I would be covered by the patent covenant from Microsoft to Novell's customers, since Microsoft's covenant not to sue prevents a lawsuit.

Brad Smith said:

We recognized that we would need to build a bridge that would really respect the needs of both models, both business models, that would respect the intellectual property rights and needs of people and companies in both of these parts of the industry. And we would need to do it in a way that ensured that both of our companies remained in compliance with all of our other licensing and legal obligations, given the varied range of license agreements we were already using, and to some degree subject to in our industry.

To do that one of the things we fashioned was an approach that will ensure, for example, that every customer who purchases a subscription, for example, for SUSE Enterprise Linux, will get not only service and support from Novell, but will get as part of that, in effect, a patent covenant from Microsoft.

Here, things darken a bit, but hang in there, they'll get better. If I purchase a subscription, am I lawsuit-fodder once the subscription runs out? If I download a modified SUSE distro created by a Novell customer, can I be sued?

It's interesting to look at where openLinux specifically fits into the scheme of things. It's not a requirement to get any subscription to use it, and it's still available for download, so am I facing a lawsuit by downloading a copy of Linux from the only distributor that Microsoft has made a deal with? Keep reading...

Let's assume that the worst is true, and openSuse and SUSE with no subscription will get you in trouble. In that case, there *are* restrictions on use because of an agreement entered into by Novell. If I refuse their subscription fee, from Novell's perspective, I am using software that will get me in legal trouble. If I pay the fee, to that specific vendor, I am considered "legal". It's difficult for me to see how that doesn't constitute a restriction on the terms of the GPL. If it *does* constitute a restriction, then Novell's right to distribute goes away, and then we have a whole new legal battle.

That's a lot to write about just a single FAQ answer, but there's plenty more to discuss (just not right now). Suffice it to say that I think Novell's offhand "No, it doesn't violate section 7" is severely lacking...besides which, I'm pretty sure it's moot, now that this FAQ is public...keep reading.

Q2. Why did Novell make this deal with Microsoft? Was Microsoft threatening a lawsuit?
Novell started discussions with Microsoft in order to solve problems for our customers by improving Linux/Windows interoperability in areas like virtualization, heterogeneous server management, and office document compatibility. By securing a commitment from Microsoft to support the use of Linux and open source software, we have allayed any potential concerns for our customers and removed a barrier to enterprise-wide Linux adoption.

There was no threatened litigation.

Again, Microsoft has plenty of programmers...bias aside, pretty darn good ones, too...Microsoft has done the embrace and extend dance plenty of times before (I just found out that they bought sysinternals.com in July, for example). With GPL-licensed software, improvements (like the kind that Microsoft would have to make in order to have really good interoperability between Linux and Windows) have to be given back to the project in the form of source code and under the same terms as the original version. That means that Microsoft can't make money from them.

With the Novell deal, Microsoft gets a steady royalty stream from Novell (who Microsoft is trying to drive everyone to with threats of lawsuits) instead of giving code improvements away for free. It's getting pretty obvious what's driving this decision, and it wasn't patents, it was money. Leave it to Microsoft to figure out a way to try and make money off the backs of thousands of coders working at developing a free alternative to their software.

Q3. Is this agreement an admission that Linux products from Novell infringe Microsoft patents?


Patent concerns did not drive our entry into this agreement. Novell makes no admission that its Linux and open source offerings infringe on any other parties' patents. Our position has not changed as a result of this agreement.

A very revealing answer, really, especially when paired with the ones that precede it in the FAQ list. Here we get to see exactly why you don't have to worry about a lawsuit from Microsoft for using Linux or any of the open-source offerings that Novell distributes, regardless of who you get them from. Novell entered into an agreement that protects their own customers from patent claims by the other party to the agreement, but Novell doesn't believe that its Linux and open source offerings infringe.

What does that mean, exactly? Does that mean that Novell believes that its Linux and Open Source offerings are substantially different in areas where there are patent concerns? Does it mean exactly the same thing that the agreement says (If you're using Novell Linux, Microsoft says you're kosher)? Does it mean that Novell believes that Linux doesn't infringe any patents, but entered into an agreement that gives its users pointless coverage against lawsuits for some reason?

Because of the word "its" in the FAQ answer (which I'm sure was run by Novell's legal team a few times), I believe that the second of those guesses is correct. It looks *way* too much like an instance of saying something very specific that looks like the opposite of what it says. I need to do some more digging through public statements to see if anyone in Microsoft or Novell has actually said that Novell believes that non-Novell-sourced Linux and open-source code doesn't violate any Microsoft patents.

The upside of that statement, of course, is that it clarifies whether it is safe to use openSUSE (or RedHat or Fedora or pretty much anything else). If Novell's Linux and open-source code doesn't infringe (and they just told the world that it does not), then I should be able to create a distribution from it and do some extremely heavy customization, and redistribute it, and not have to worry about any Microsoft lawsuits. Beyond that, software patents cover processes, not specific code, so other open-source code for the same programs also doesn't infringe.

Novell has just assured me that any such lawsuit would be impossible, since their code infrines no other parties' patents.

On that happy note, I'll call it quits for this article. Whoever releases NoMSTaxLinux, at least give me a mention, okay?

CBR speaks of doom and gloom for Linux...

The headline sounded fair enough:

"Microsoft-Novell peace deal could create two-tier Linux market"

That's true, of course, it *could* do that. I was hoping for a reasoned explanation of how it might, as well, but that seemed to be missing from the article. If you aren't someone who follows the news about Linux and "intellectual property" issues (copyright, patent, etc), reading the article would probably give you the impression that Microsoft has made it known that it has patents that make it illegal for anyone running anything other than SUSE Linux to use their computers.

From the article, we hear the following from Steve Ballmer of Microsoft:

"This does not apply to any forms of Linux other than Novell's SUSE Linux. And if people want to have peace and interoperability, they'll look at Novell's SUSE Linux. If they make other choices, they have all of the compliance and intellectual property issues that are associated with that."

The implication, of course, is that there are numerous and sundry problems related to copyright and/or patent infringement in Linux. The implication raises a number of interesting questions (and has an oh-so-charming resemblance to certain implications against Linux bandied about by another company whose initials rhyme with "SCO").

One has to wonder a few things:

  • What exactly is alleged to be infringing?

  • How widespread is the alleged infringement?

  • When was the alleged infringement discovered?

  • What steps have been taken to protect the copyrights and/or patents from the alleged infringement?

  • Does Novell have a right to distribute code under the GPL if persons that recieve the code cannot distribute it under the terms of the GPL?

Aside from that last question (which is important, and gets a very short mention at the end of the CBR Online article), you might find a common thread. So far as I am aware, Microsoft has not publicly stated any specifics to patents or copyrighted material that is infringed, and Novell hasn't either. I, for one, am extremely curious as to what Novell believes it is protecting its customers from.

I imagine Novell's prospective customers will be curious as well. If some company needs to choose a Linux distribution, and Novell mentions their patent covenant with Microsoft as an advantage, then I would imagine that a discussion of what (specifically) is being offered would be in order.

Here's a hypothetical situation for you. Suppose that Novell and Microsoft enter into an agreement wherein Microsoft says "hey, do a cross-licensing deal with us...well, more like a patent covenant, but we'll throw some business at you when people want Linux and you can make sure you have a version that somehow works better than others with Microsoft software (wink, wink) and we'll threaten to sue anybody that uses any other distribution...what do you say?". Suppose that Novell replies "Hmm...not much downside. We don't have to sue anybody, we get to be an important OS vendor again, and we get lock-in? Let's do the deal."

Of course, that hypothetical situation may well be far removed from reality, but then again, it might not. Regardless, after a hypothetical situation like that, we must consider a real concern that was raised (but not given much attention in the article). CBR Online reported the following:

"...the Free Software Foundation's general counsel, Eben Moglen, has reportedly stated that it could therefore be a violation of the GNU General Public License.

While admitting that he was yet to see the terms of the agreement, Moglen postulated that it could fall foul of section seven of the GPL, which requires distributors to pass on the right to distribute software without additional permission."

Section 7 of the GPLv2 says exactly this:

"If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

If any portion of this section is held invalid or unenforceable under any particular circumstance, the balance of the section is intended to apply and the section as a whole is intended to apply in other circumstances.

It is not the purpose of this section to induce you to infringe any patents or other property right claims or to contest validity of any such claims; this section has the sole purpose of protecting the integrity of the free software distribution system, which is implemented by public license practices. Many people have made generous contributions to the wide range of software distributed through that system in reliance on consistent application of that system; it is up to the author/donor to decide if he or she is willing to distribute software through any other system and a licensee cannot impose that choice.

This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed to be a consequence of the rest of this License."

That first paragraph is important, I think, in this deal for Novell. I'm not sure if they fully understand the implications of what it says. I *am* fairly sure that Microsoft understands it, since they managed to insulate themselves nicely from having to deal with it...they are not, after all, creating their own Linux distribution (which they could very well have done, as long as they complied with the terms of the GPL).

What I suspect is afoot here is some maneuvering by Microsoft to turn Novell (who is a company with a very successful Linux Distribution) against the rest of the Linux community and sow a bumper crop of FUD around Linux itself. If SUSE remains successful, Microsoft gets to watch a proprietary Linux rise. If SUSE tanks, Microsoft has left open its litigation path (assuming it has something to actually litigate).

Microsoft doesn't need to work with Novell on Linux/Windows interoperability. The code is right out there for anyone to see, on the Linux side, and has been for a decade and a half. Microsoft has its own developers that I'm sure are capable of looking at assembly code and C and APIs and figuring out how to interoperate with them. There's the WINE project that has made great strides in getting Windows apps to run on Linux, and SAMBA that has tried hard to make heterogeneous Linux/Windows networks a reality. So, If Microsoft doesn't *need* to work with Novell and enter into a patent covenant, one is left to wonder...what exactly are they *really* trying to do.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I have been having a small back-and forth with PJ (Groklaw's supreme goddess, long may she reign) over just how bad the Microsoft-Novell deal is.

In case you hadn't heard, Microsoft and Novell entered into a patent covenant agreement in which each vows not to sue the other over the use of certain patents that either party might have rights to.

One interesting thing to note is that the technology Novell is "protecting" with this covenant is Linux (which Novell doesn't own).

To me, this is all about the serious mistake that Novell just made and the backlash they're going to feel. Thousands of open-source devlopers who have contributed enough code to give Novell a Network Operating System capable of competing with Windows just got told that none of that matters, but thanks, and now Novell is safe.

Microsoft is only offering protection to Novell as a distributor of open-source software, which means that they can, if they so choose, begin arraying lawsuits against various and sundry linux distributors. I think that if you look around, you can find in the neighborhood of 400 diffrent distributions, large and small ( linux.org gave me 431, including unmaintained projects).

That's a lot of lawsuits, not that I don't think Microsoft's legal department is up to the task. The largest single commercial software maker in the world has ample lawyers.

So, let's imagine a world in which pretty much every linux distributor is facing a lawsuit, or several lawsuits, over patent claims and s faced with having to stop distributing. That's bad...really bad.

I admit that thinking about that makes me a bit ill, and I'm not at all happy with Novell or Microsoft at the moment.

Thinking about that, though, got me thinking about how the players in this little saga are currently reacting, are likely to react in the near future, and how they will likely react to those reactions.

Microsoft, for its part, is probably rubbing its proverbial hands with glee. They now have leverage to use to try to squash Linux (aside from what Novell puts out).

Novell is feeling good, listening to all the right people tell them that they made a good move and thinking that they now have a serious edge in the world of Linux.

Open Source and Free Software developers are swearing silently between clenched jaws and trying to understand how Novell could have done something so monumentally horrible.

That's current reactions, so now we head to the near future. The FLOSS community has put countless hours of work into a huge volume of software that runs on everything from umstick-sized single-purpose computers to massive compute clusters to standard desktop PCs. As someone who has written software before, I can say with a fair bit of certainty that I'd be less than pleased to hear that the code that *I* helped create could now only be distributed by a single company, and that 99.9% of the people I had hoped would be able to likewise contribute to it would not be allowed to help out the way I had from now on. There are a bunch of pissed-off developers out there right now, and they like to work together.

Novell, while basking in the glow of its recent foolishness, will start to realize slowly that if the FLOSS community can't write code under the terms they decided to write it under, they probably won't continue to do it, at least not most of them, or at least not in the manner they have used up until November 2nd. With no developers to improve, create, extend, and innovate Linux and GNU software, Novell will have to do all of its own work (a point I'm sure the FLOSS community will make abundantly clear). So, soon, Novell will have to realize that unless it's ready to compete on its own, head-to-head, against Microsoft, it's not going to be a rosy future.

Microsoft, noticing that Novell is turning a bit green around the gills, will probably seize upon it's easy-out clause in the license agreement and sue Novell (hey, they must have thought there were patent problems in Linux, or they wouldn't have signed the agreement, right). The achilles heel that Microsoft keeps getting cut by is antitust issues, and while suing a single distributor might not raise immediate alarm bells, doing so against Linux distributors en masse would probably be enough to get the DOJ involved.

Just ideas of what *might* happen, mind you. I'm ever the optimist, and often hat means I'm blindsided by the dirty tricks that get played, but I don't think Novell or Microsoft truly realize the magnitude of what has just happened, or how bad it can be to have a collectively brilliant, determined, and meticulous foe actively engaged in derailing your efforts. The FLOSS community is that and more, and I have the feeling that it will soon be apparent that these two old-line software companies have just bitten off more than they can chew.

hope this cloud has a silver lining.