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05.13.08

Memo to Sun: Make ‘Open’Solaris an OpenSolaris and Even FreeSolaris

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Java, Kernel, SUN, UNIX at 9:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What does “open” mean anyway, especially these days?

[More Open Than Open]: “I am constantly amazed at the flexibility of this single word.”

Jason Matusow, Microsoft (for background see [1, 2])

There’s a lot to a name and if Sun Microsystems believes it can fool people with the name “OpenSolaris”, then it ought to remember the effect of keeping Java closed. Until Sun departs from the CDDL (or duality) it’s better to stick with GNU/Linux and not even poke OpenSolaris with a bargepole.

You can’t beat GNU/Linux with a half-hearted Linux, licence-wise. Sun ought to consider taking OpenSolaris — and probably ZFS too — into the realms of the GPL domain, just like Java. The sooner, the better. If Rich Green was correct, then merging will become a possibility too. Here is the latest decent review of OpenSolaris, but like many others it’s focused on technical characteristics alone. It concludes with:

Although the OpenSolaris development community still has a lot of work to do before the operating system is ready to take on Linux on the desktop, the progress so far indicates that the project deserves further attention. We will keep an eye on future releases to see how the platform evolves.

Licence-wise, it’s worth considering what Groklaw has just had to say.

The CDDL can’t hold a candle to the GPL as far as benefits to programmers or end users. Period. CEOs might love it, but programmers? Why would they? What’s in it for them? Sun needs to make up its mind. Is it open source? ? I don’t care if it chooses to be open, proprietary or mixed, but I can’t see any reason why anyone would contribute code under the CDDL for free, unless you just get a thrill out of helping Sun make money from your unpaid labor, as I explained back in 2005. I continue to view the CDDL as a problem, in part due to the Sun-Microsoft agreement, which includes patent elements, and I remind you of what Dan Ravicher of PubPat.org said about CDDL back in 2005: “My advice is that developers should ask themselves if they really want to work on software distributed by a company that has expressly retained the right to sue them for patent infringement if they don’t give their improvements back to the company.”

On the other hand, a recent interview with Rich Green of Sun indicates that at some point Sun will switch the license to GPL.

At the end, the licences play a tremendous role. Just recall the recent lesson that was taught by Zimbra.

Additionally, as pointed out the other day, Sun appears to be offering OpenSolaris as just a ‘free sample’ that gets young people addicted to the proprietary Solaris. This is something to watch out for and be careful of. What about Sun’s view on patents?

“Business-method patents are an unwarranted and dangerous extension of the patentability standards. As the article suggests, the method in question may have been used for many years in slightly different contexts and is now being transferred to a computerized system; will that now mean that the pencil and paper method becomes an infringing use? And if you as a lawyer advise a client on a tax strategy or a method of doing business, could that advice be a patent infringement? It is too ephemeral for a patent, and ought be knocked down altogether.”

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Bilski!

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