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Sun misses the bus? This week got off to an interesting start with independent press releases from Caldera Systems, Red Hat, and TurboLinux, all saying that they would be shipping IBM's Java implementation with their distributions. (Red Hat gets special points for claiming to be "the first distributor" with IBM's software, despite the fact that Caldera looks like it will ship first). IBM is apparently licensing the software for free, in the hopes of getting it distributed widely. A deal with SuSE is said to be in the works as well. A high-quality Java implementation will now be a standard feature of most commercial Linux distributions.
IBM's Java implementation may not be truly free, but it looks like it may now be free enough to become the de facto Java implementation for Linux systems. Sun could have taken this position at least a year ago, had it taken a more enlightened approach to licensing of its software. Now that IBM has moved into that space, Sun may find itself frozen out of a part of the Linux world.
Sun looks like it may not care, at the moment. It has finally announced the availability of "free" Solaris 8 - including source code. "Free" has a purely "free beer" meaning in this context; Solaris is far from being free software. The source can not even be downloaded; it is necessary to fill out a registration form, pay $75, and get a CD. The license is quite restrictive, disallowing redistribution of any kind. A separate license is required even "to run a modified binary version of the Solaris software in your own organization." More information can be found on Sun's "Free Solaris" page.
Along with this release have come some fairly defiant words from Sun - Sun will "never adopt Linux," and instead is putting everything into Solaris. Such an absolute position might have made sense two years ago. But in today's world Linux is already moving into Solaris's turf, and will likely continue to do so. Solaris may be the strongest of the proprietary Unix systems, and it certainly still outdoes Linux on a number of fronts. But we predict that (truly) free software will beat it in the end, and a number of Sun's competitors seem to think so as well.
Interviews with Dirk Hohndel and Jeremy Allison The "Linux Conference '99" was held recently in Yokohama, Japan. At this conference, Maya Tamiya of our partner site ChangeLog was able to get interviews with SuSE VP and XFree86 developer Dirk Hohndel, and Samba team member Jeremy Allison. The interviews covered a wide range of topics, from business issues through to free software development. We are pleased to be able to offer the English version of these interviews, and thank ChangeLog for sending them our way.
SGI has released OpenGL under an open source license; some details may be found in the press release. This release is another important step in the preparation of Linux for high-end graphics applications. It is a generous donation to the community; it should also help to preserve OpenGL as the standard interface for 3D graphics.
OpenGL comes out under yet another free software license. This license is interesting to look at. It seems that SGI has a number of software patents that cover code in the OpenGL implementation. The license is thus also a patent license; without that, the code would not be usable in most situations. SGI has explicitly withheld licensing for hardware implementations: "SGI will vigorously defend our IP against any IHVs who make use of these patents in their hardware without executing a patent license with SGI."
The license also does not allow API changes, and does not allow use of the OpenGL trademark. To actually use the term "OpenGL" with a program built with this software, it is necessary to buy a commercial license.
Thus, it is not the freest of software licenses, but it does allow for the normal use, modification, and redistribution cases. It's probably "good enough" for most, though the patent issue is cause for some worry.
The DVD case took an ugly turn with the arrest of Jon Johansen, the 16-year-old Norwegian hacker who first posted the DeCSS code. It seems that programming really can be a crime - even in Norway, where reverse engineering is supposed to be legal. If this attack on basic rights is ultimately successful, expect to see a lot more like it. Those who want to read more about the basic freedom issues here may want to have a look at the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Member Statement on this case.
Meanwhile, an interesting turn in the case may be seen in this News.com article. It seems that the DVDCCA included the DeCSS code as part of the open court records, and left it that way for two weeks. In other words, they have now publicly posted their own alleged trade secret - the very act they are suing others for. It remains to be seen whether they have seriously compromised their case, but the possibility apparently exists.
The LinuxWorld Conference and Expo is next week, in New York City. The usual speakers and exhibitors will be there; the exhibit floor promises to be the largest one yet. LWN will be there - without a booth - and hopefully able to turn in some interesting reports from the event.
Also next week is Linux Expo Paris. Speakers include Richard Stallman, Dirk Hohndel, Michael Cowpland, Bernard Lang, Peter Braam, Jeremy Allison, Miguel de Icaza, and others.
LWN turns two. The very first LWN weekly summary came out on January 22, 1998. That makes us two years old. A lot has happened in that time - and we're looking forward to all that is yet to come. Thanks for two great years; nobody could ever ask for a better community of readers.
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January 27, 2000