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.

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