My Free Software journey starts with The Cuckoo’s Egg. Back in the early 90s a family friend suggested I might enjoy reading it. He was right; I was fascinated by the world of interconnected machines it introduced me to. That helped start my involvement in FidoNet, but it also got me interested in Unix. So when I saw a Linux book at the Queen’s University bookshop (sadly no longer with us) with a Slackware CD in the back I had to have it.
There are many reasons why Microsoft may not join the Open Innovation Network (OIN) anytime soon. First of all, if a company doesn’t want to use patents as a weapon, it won’t, whether or not it joins OIN.
At the same time, joining OIN doesn’t guarantee that a company won't use patents as a weapon. Both Oracle and Google are OIN members and they have locked horns in one of the fieriest battles in the open source world. IBM is one of the founders of OIN and it has also sued companies (like Groupon) over various patents.
So as much as I believe joining OIN sends a positive message, I don’t think that’s _the_ ultimate solution.
Last week, Microsoft got involved in a legal issue and secured patent licenses from Wistron of Taiwan and Rakuten of Japan around Linux and Android technologies. While Microsoft is already making billions with its patents in Android, its history of Linux-related patent trolling isn’t hidden from anyone. The open source community remains frightened of Microsoft as no one knows who could be the next one to get a notice from Microsoft’s legal guys.
In another case that violates the trust of open source community, Microsoft has recently claimed that it came up with the idea for Continuum and “invented” the concept. On the other hand, Canonical has been working on Convergence since 2013, even though it was never released to the public up until recently.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft has made some serious contributions to the open source community and expressed its love for Linux. However, if Redmond really cares, it should work transparently to win the trust of the open source community as any company’s success in the world of open source depends on its users and developers.
Satya Nadella should also consider joining the Open Innovation Network (OIN) and sending a message the open source world to become a trusted member of the community.
The project originally known as the Zettabyte File System was born the same year that Windows XP began shipping. Conceived and originally written by Bill Moore, Jeff Bonwick and Matthew Ahrens among others, it was a true next generation project – designed for needs that could not be imagined at the time. It was a filesystem built for the future.
Fifteen years later, it’s the future. Though it’s a teenager now, ZFS’s features remain attractive enough that Canonical – the company behind the Ubuntu distribution – wants to ship ZFS as a default. Which wouldn’t seem terribly controversial as it’s an open source project, except for the issue of its licensing.
Canonical's decision to offer the ZFS filesystem as default in the forthcoming April release of its Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution has put others in the free software and open source community offside.
The company is being accused of violating the GNU General Public Licence version 2, the licence under which the Linux kernel is released.
This is not the first time that Canonical and its founder Mark Shuttleworth have ended up on other side of the table as others in the community. This has been going on regularly since Ubuntu was first released in 2004.
The source code of the BeeGFS cluster file system has been published by its developers, the Fraunhofer Center for High Performance Computing in Kaiserlautern (Germany). The project is hesitating to making the code available under an open source licence, but is encouraging others to download and use the software.
On last Thursday, Christoph Hellwig and his legal counsel attended a hearing in Hellwig's VMware case that Conservancy currently funds. Harald Welte, world famous for his GPL enforcement work in the early 2000s, also attended as an observer and wrote an excellent summary. I'd like to highlight a few parts of his summary, in the context of Conservancy's past litigation experience regarding the GPL.
First of all, in great contrast to the cases here in the USA, the Court acknowledged fully the level of public interest and importance of the case. Judges who have presided over Conservancy's GPL enforcement cases USA federal court take all matters before them quite seriously. However, in our hearings, the federal judges preferred to ignore entirely the public policy implications regarding copyleft; they focused only on the copyright infringement and claims related to it. Usually, appeals courts in the USA are the first to broadly consider larger policy questions. There are definitely some advantages to the first Court showing interest in the public policy concerns.
The long-running SCO vs. IBM case looks like it might just be over.
A new filing (PDF) scooped up by the good folks at Groklaw sees both SCO and IBM agree to sign off on two recent decisions in which SCO's arguments advancing its claims to own parts of Unix were slapped down by the US District Court.
As The Register reads the PDF we've linked to above, and our informal legal counsel concurs, the new document describes IBM and SCO both signing off on the recent court orders. Those orders left SCO without a legal argument to stand on.
The new filing also points out that SCO remains bankrupt and has “has de minimis financial resources beyond the value of the claims on which the Court has granted summary judgment for IBM.”
Or in plain English, SCO is broke and the only asset it possess of any value is its claims against IBM, and now it doesn't even have those because it just lost a court case about them. That leaves SCO in no position to carry on.
“Accordingly,” the new filing continues, “the disposition of SCO’s appeal is the practical course most likely to conserve both judicial and private resources.” That's the legal sense of “disposition”, by the way, so what the document's saying is that SCO giving up its appeal is most likely to stop the courts spending any more time or energy on this matter. Courts don't like wasting resources. So this is both parties explaining that wrapping things up now is a desirable thing.
The academic article by SFLC about ZFS is troubling and may unintentionally shoot free software licensing in the foot.
When I was at Sun (as part of the team that released the Java Programming Language by starting the OpenJDK project) I often heard community concerns about the CDDL license. At the time the big complaint was about the "Choice of Venue" clause.
I got involved because Sun had developed many essential Java libraries and distributed them under CDDL. The community requested a more permissive license and I was able to convince internal project leaders (and Sun's lawyers) to make a licensing change for a handful of these projects. And there was much rejoicing.
Based on my experience in helping Java to become open source I came to appreciate the legal hacks on copyright which make open source possible. It's the free software license which uses copyright to enable sharing (vs. the default of disabling sharing).