Warp 35

Soapbox of a GNU/Linux lovin' guy.
FOSS just works.

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Location: Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

I'm a Dutch guy born in 1974. Growing up I went from a dreamer to halfway mature. In 2002 I met my life partner and I'm living happily with hime ever since. I'm seconded at Stork Technical services since 2001. Right now I'm pretty happy with where I'm at.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Interesting times

We're living in interesting times when it comes to FOSS. Right now I am a little lost as to where the currents flow. There is much going on, but it is all in its early stages. Overall it looks pretty stagnant, but the things that are brewing have the potential for major shifts.

We have Microsoft frantically pushing for Software Patents in Europe. Threatening sovereign states with jobloss if they oppose MS. (Ofcourse purely off the record, because it was "a missunderstanding").

MS is also patenting prior art and the moon to build a bogus portfolio, that will prove to be too expensive to defuse, in effect making it "valid". Does it matter if one patent can be overturned at high expenses, when they have a few thousands more to harass the competition with?

Then they are smudging the lines between Windows XP SP2 and the next UeberWindows, Longhorn. Indigo and Avalon are being backported to WinXP. What's up with that? Wasn't Longhorn supposed to be the must have to get WinFS (withered at the vine), Indigo and Avalon? Even IE 7 will be a standalone again. The only thing of the marketing buzzwords left is WinFX, but that is also partially available as the dotNET stack on XP.

One has to wonder what MS is aiming at. Is MS planning to cancel official releases and provide you with "Windows", an ever changing creature that gains and loses abilities as soon as MS releases or removes them?

Sun Microsystems. Ah, the tragic note of today. Sun is trying to save itself and its Crown Jewel, Solaris. It seems that their bid to make them and Solaris relevant again has been turned down. The FOSS community looked at OpenSolaris and "Cuddle" and said "Thanks, but no thanks." Our big hope is that Sun can gather enough Sun afficionados to build a little "Cuddle" community, like Apple with Darwin. But even then, Apple's Darwin community survives because of the cool gadgets Apple sells. Sun only has mediumsized iron and no iPods.

SCO vs IBM. Well, the SCO part is pretty clear. The plane has caught fire and is hurtling towards the ground. It is not a matter of if it crashes, but when it crashes. The part that is unclear here is the mildly related Noorda vs Canopy Management suit. What does it mean if the founders of Canopy accuse daily management of embezzlement through dubious transactions with Canopy companies (like SCO) and stock deals? No saying how this will unfold.

As for Europe itself. The patents on software question will give an answer on another question. Will Europe prevail with the democratic process or will it succumb to the pressure of the dictatorial lobbying?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

QT4, the toolkit that brings liberty to Windows

Trolltech has announced it is also going to release QT4 under the GPL on Windows. This is a pretty major step. Considering that Windows was QT's proprietary business stronghold. I applaud Trolltech for this bold move. It is a major contribution.

It will mean the chance for KDE 4 to break all barriers and run on the worlds most used OS. If KDE runs on Windows and brings with it all stallward KDE apps like Konqueror, amaroK, K3B, Koffice, it'll mean a further nail in MS's monopoly coffin.

I for one would love to see that big K on every computer, wether it runs *Nix or Windows. We'll see how this will play out in about a year.

Sun. Friend or Foe?

I'm an enthusiastic GNU/Linux user. I don't code, but I do my share of getting the word out. Coding should be left to the masters of the craft. VBA bungling in Excel at work has tought me that much. ;-)

I have become dependant on GNU/Linux for my personal computing needs. There simply is nothing that compares to it ***. It makes me largely defensive, when it comes to influences that could cut me off from this wonderfull form of software. So much so, that initiatives that in itself could be beneficial, but could undermine the wealth of software that I can now enjoy, are met with suspicion and mild hostility.

*** (For the BSD crowd... No, BSD doesn't compare. The overall BSD licensing is based on maximum Freedom, but I see more value in a community licenses like the GPL. I'm not going to spend money on closed source anyways. My money goes to protected Free code).

Recently, Sun Microsystems has begun the process of opening up their Solaris UNIX code under Sun's own CDDL license. In itself a good thing. The CDDL license is a fairly good OSS license, albeit GPL incompatible. Being GPL incompatible is not necessarily a showstopper for me. There are other share-alike licenses that are equally good. It is just a pity that incompatible licensed projects can't synergise by direct code re-use. No, OpenSolaris in itself is not really a problem.

What I do find a problem is Sun's stance towards their intellectual assets and the rest of the FOSS community. When Sun trumpeted the glory of releasing OpenSolaris, they also announced the release of 1670 software patents to the FOSS community. On first sight, a very positive move. Then the FOSS community started to read the fine print. No, the patents are not released to the FOSS community. They are, in fact, only released to the yet to materialize OpenSolaris community. The rest of FOSS developers have no guarantee whatsoever from Sun that they won't be sued for infringing on Sun's patents.

Ofcourse Sun is free to do with their intelectual assets as they please, but it makes me feel a little queazy when they co-opt the FOSS moniker to make this PR stunt make splashing headlines. It is not only that they didn't release their patents to anyone else but their own OpenSolaris project (which is not by any measure the FOSS community, sorry Sun, that is just too much Kool-aid), no it seems that the CDDL contains a patent boobytrap.

Sun based the CDDL on the MPL, but they removed the language that would have required them to disclose any encumbering third party patent that they knew of. This is a little akward, because Sun has signed a ten year patent cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft in their landmark Java lawsuit settlement. So what guarantee does a FOSS developer have that Sun has not included undisclosed patented MS techniques in OpenSolaris. It could be a case of look, reimplement basic ideas in "free" code and be slapped by MS with a patent infringement lawsuit.

Sun brushes these concerns off. They will not sue, although they haven't given that in writing either. But what about third party infringement suits? They are not bound by Sun's license grant and Sun is protected through cross-licensing agreements. It seems that the CDLL in itself is harmless, but when combined with software patents it becomes a little jewel. A neat, nearly undetectable poison pill.

It seems that OpenSolaris is don't watch, don't touch for programmers that want to enjoy the Freedom to code whatever they deem necessary. The first warning signals have flashed. the big question is, did Sun do this deliberately? Or is this an unintentional side-effect of their license wording and their contractual dealings with a predatory company? Sun hasn't clarified these concerns yet. Until now it seems like they only unleashed their employees on the forums to sweep these concerns under the carpet.

How must we see Sun? Must we see them as a clumsy company trying to become an Open Source player or must we see them as an assassin sent to undermine the current empire? I don't know yet. I know I'll keep a sharp eye on Sun in the comming months. I love GNU/Linux to much to let it succumb to poisoning, be it intentional or not.

Monday, February 07, 2005

First Entry

Nothing much yet. I'll see what I'll hurl on this blog later. Just now I've created it. So this is my first unceremonial post. Maybe it gets better later ;)