LWN, like many publications, is not immune to the temptation to make
predictions as the new year comes. We also like to look back at the end of
the year to see how well our crystal ball actually worked. Predictions
offer a clue to how the world appeared to us one year ago, and can thus
help us to understand how our view has changed.
Besides, there's usually at least one hilarious error which is good for a
smile. So, without further ado, let's look back at LWN's 2004 predictions.
Enterprise Linux. We concluded that the "enterprise Linux" business
would do well in 2004 - not a particularly difficult prediction to make.
Red Hat's business has indeed done well, and SUSE/Novell is coming along
too. The future still looks bright for the enterprise Linux field.
We also predicted a growing backlash against enterprise Linux and their
supporting business models, and the possible emergence of free
alternatives. Certainly, resentment toward the enterprise distributors
continues to exist in some parts of our community, and some of those people
are doing something about it. But many of the projects which aim to
undercut the enterprise Linux business model - CaOS, Whitebox Linux,
UserLinux, etc. - appear to have made little progress over the last year.
Perhaps the largest surprise in this area is the emergence of Ubuntu Linux,
which is an attempt to provide the best of a 100% free Linux distribution
with longer-term support options. Ubuntu has succeeded in making a big
initial splash; whether that will turn into a successful business remains to
Desktop Linux. From our viewpoint, it looked as if the KDE/GNOME
flame wars of the past could return, driven by the distributors' need to
minimize their support costs and choose one desktop or the other. Certainly that
commercial pressure continues to exist, as witnessed by Ubuntu's choice to
offer very much a GNOME-oriented distribution. But the desktop development
projects have little interest in fighting with each other, and the flame
wars show no real sign of returning.
What we are seeing instead is increased cooperation over bits of
infrastructure which are useful to both projects. And when a distribution
emphasizes one desktop over the other, the community tends to fill in the
gap. See, for example, the Gnoppix
efforts. One year ago, we failed to fully appreciate the maturity of the
desktop development projects. They are far too busy creating great
software to be bothered with fighting each other.
We also made the obvious prediction that desktop Linux would make great
progress and amaze us. We failed to see some of the specifics, however,
especially the mainstream attention attracted by the Firefox browser.
Firefox has arguably become the best browser available on any platform and
the world is beginning to notice.
The SCO case. We figured that SCO might find a
"backbone-challenged" Linux user who would choose "licensing" over a court
fight; SCO found such a user in the form of EV1Servers.net. The EV1
agreement did not help SCO much, however, in terms of public relations,
stock price, or cash flow. Neither did SCO's other suits, launched against
DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone. The DaimlerChrysler case appears to have
died outright, and the AutoZone suit (which has little to do with Linux)
looks weak at best.
We predicted that "by the end of 2004, the SCO cases will probably still be
alive in some form, but the end will be in sight." That much seems about
right. If IBM's summary judgment motions and Novell's copyright ownership
attacks do not do the job, SCO's cash situation may well bring the whole
show to a quick end.
The GPL. We suggested that the GPL might finally be tested in court
in 2004. That happened in Germany as the result of an enforcement action
by the Netfilter project. The GPL was upheld by the German court; its
detractors can no longer say that no court has ruled on its validity.
Meanwhile, SCO has backed off from its attacks, saying that it never meant
to question the GPL's validity as a license. It seems that the company
has, belatedly, figured out that nothing else gives it the right to
continue to distribute GPL-licensed software.
Security. We worried that the string of attacks against free
software development sites would continue into 2005. Certainly there were
problems, such as the recent compromise of freedesktop.org, but the attack on the
community as a whole - if that's what it was - appears to have stopped for
Our prediction that hardened Linux systems would be more widely deployed by
the end of 2004 now looks optimistic. Work continues toward that end, but
hardening a Linux system (while keeping it usable) is a difficult task, and
progress has been slower than many people had anticipated.
Kernel. The prediction that the 2.7 development series would start
seemed obvious, but it was wrong. We did sense that the development
process was changing, however, and predicted that the next development
series would differ from 2.5. The pressures which might lead to a new
development series still seem to be mostly absent - mostly because the 2.6
development model tends to prevent those pressures from building up.
What we missed: LWN would like to apply a small patch to its 2004
predictions to fix a few bugs. So we now predict that, in 2004:
- Despite all appearances, software patents will not be enacted in the
European Union. Yet.
- Mandrakesoft will emerge from bankruptcy, shake off much of its debt,
and start to function as a profitable company.
- Longstanding frictions within the XFree86 project will force it to
split; the core of X development will reassemble under the X.org
- New FUD attacks against Linux will target total cost of ownership and
intellectual property concerns; none will have much success.
- The Debian "sarge" release will not happen, and, in fact, will appear
to be no closer at the end of 2004. Increasingly, Debian offshoot
distributions will handle the task of creating release-ready versions
of that distribution.
- Some large companies will publicly promise not to use their patents
against Linux users, or, even better, to use their patent portfolios
to defend (at least some) Linux users against patent attacks.
And so on.
We did get one thing right, though: 2004 was an interesting year in the
free software world. We may just have to reuse that prediction for 2005 as
Comments (9 posted)
James Barry Corbet, your editor's father, passed away on December 18,
2004. To say that he will be greatly missed is an understatement; he lived
a life which was full in the extreme, and he touched the lives of a great
many others. This is a sad time.
Barry grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. He attended Dartmouth
College, but never completed his degree; instead, he moved to Wyoming to
pursue his great loves of that time: skiing and mountaineering. He married
Mary French, and was father to three children: Jonathan, Jennifer, and
He was in the group which performed the first ascent of the Southwest Rib
of Denali. He was a member of the 1963 American Everest expedition, where
he helped place the highest camp on the West Ridge ascent and lost one of
his best friends to an avalanche; he also helped to film the whole
exercise. With John Evans, he made the first ascent of Mount Tyree in
Antarctica. If certain
accounts are to be believed, he participated in an expedition to plant
surveillance hardware in the Himalayas to monitor China's nuclear missile
Barry also worked as a ski instructor in Jackson Hole; the infamous ski run
Couloir was named after him. He started the Jackson Hole Mountain
Guides, and a mountaineering store as well. He joined Roger Brown's Summit
Films, and the two of them created a classic series of ski movies,
including the seminal Ski the Outer Limits.
Much of this came to an end in 1968. While filming a ski event in Aspen,
his helicopter crashed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Many
people would have responded to such an event with depression and surrender;
Barry Corbet was never one of those people, however. He built a new life
for himself in a new house in the Colorado mountains. He continued making
films, traveled around the country, and, increasingly, began to write. He
learned to kayak, to the point of being able to roll up even without the
vital hip muscles normally required for that maneuver. He spent three
weeks rafting down the Grand Canyon, got dumped into
the Colorado River when his raft flipped in Lava Falls, and swam his way
out. He went to Korea to watch his daughter compete in the Olympics.
Disability was another mountain to climb. Barry accepted that challenge
without hesitation, despite his full knowledge that he would have to climb
for the rest of his life and still never catch sight of the summit. He
wanted to show the world how far he could get. As time went on, however,
he left this phase (which he called "supercrip") behind and turned his
attention to helping others cope with disability. He traveled across the
U.S., talking to spinal cord injury victims and learning how they had
rebuilt their lives; the result was a book called Options, a
concentrated distillation of experience with spinal cord injury. The
message from Options was clear: it is possible to live a good
life with disability.
Other books and films followed, along with a long period as the editor of
New Mobility magazine. He feared no
topics; his article
on life with ventilators attracted much attention, but the annual
issue on sex and disability was often the most controversial. Consider this
classic quote from the Associated press:
Barry Corbet and Larry Flynt have at least three things in
common. Both use wheelchairs. Both are in the magazine
business. And both have been accused of peddling filth.
New Mobility has put up a collection of Barry's
articles which is worth a read.
Barry's end came sooner than he had expected, but far later than anybody
would have predicted after his injury in 1968. He ended his life as he
lived it: in his own house, surrounded by family and dear friends, and on
his own terms. In a letter sent to people he loved, he wrote:
I've had love overflowing, impassioned careers, a life of adventure
and everything I've ever wanted. Nothing missed and no regrets.
Barry's accomplishments in his life are amazing. But what your editor
remembers most is a loving father who insisted that his children be
prepared and willing to follow their dreams, wherever they may lead them,
and despite any obstacles that may appear in the way. He was an example of
what life can be when it is truly lived without compromise. There is a
huge empty space where Barry Corbet used to be, but the memories live on in
the minds of the many people whose lives he touched.
A web site is being created at BarryCorbet.com for stories and photos.
Comments (86 posted)
SCO's teleconference on Tuesday may be more significant for what wasn't
discussed during the call, rather than what was discussed. Darl McBride,
SCO's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Bert Young, SCO's Chief Financial
Officer, handled the call for SCO. McBride and Young discussed the
company's fourth quarter results, provided a very brief summary of the
company's legal situation, and answered a few softball questions from a
handful of reporters and one private investor. Once again, LWN's reporter
was not among the chosen few graced with an opportunity to ask a question.
What wasn't discussed during the call? Plenty. There was no mention of the
of Control Agreement filed with the SEC by SCO on December 10,
2004. This agreement would allow "any stock, stock option or
restricted stock" granted to listed officers to vest immediately
upon takeover of the company. Officers listed in the filing include:
Sr. Vice President and General Manager of the SCO Source Division, Chris
Sontag; Sr. Vice President and General Manager, of SCO's UNIX Division,
Jeff Hunsaker; SCO's Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Ryan
Tibbits as well as McBride and Young.
The fact that Thomas Raimondi, President and CEO of MTI Technology Corp.,
resigned from SCO's Board of Directors, was not mentioned during the
teleconference. The Canopy Group shakeup that forced CEO Ralph
Yarro and CFO Darcy Mott out over the weekend was not discussed. The Canopy
Group is SCO's parent company. Both Yarro and Mott are on SCO's Board of
Directors, Yarro is the chairman of SCO's board. Yarro has been replaced by
William Mustard, formerly a managing director at the Smooth Engine consulting firm. At
this point, there's no way of knowing what effect, if any, Yarro's removal
will have on SCO.
Perhaps even more telling, McBride was even more subdued during this
conference call than during the Q3 teleconference held at the
end of August. In August, McBride was still taking the occasional potshot
at Groklaw and blustering that IBM
had not delivered all documents that the company had been ordered to
deliver by the court. The tirades against the GPL, Linux and IP "theft" are
gone, and McBride sounded -- at least to this reporter -- quite
deflated. In fairness, perhaps McBride is only suffering from the same cold
that has plagued this reporter for the past week and a half.
It's also interesting to note that the company's teleconferences are
getting shorter over
time. The June teleconference was 65 minutes and 52 seconds, according to
the SCO website. SCO's August teleconference was a mere 47 minutes and 22
seconds, and Tuesday's teleconference was only 36 minutes and 58 seconds.
So what was discussed during the call? SCO's dismal financial results were
trotted out by McBride and Young, though the pair tried to put the best
possible spin on the results. The company's revenue dropped to $10,075,000,
compared to $24,290,000 during the fourth quarter in 2003. This includes a
drop in SCOSource revenue, from $10,316,000 in 2003 during the fourth
quarter, to $120,000 in 2004. The $120,000 is not from a new licensee, but
holdover from the EV1 deal. In short, SCO realized no new revenue from
SCOSource during the fourth quarter. Overall, SCO's 2004 revenue is
$42,809,000, compared to $79,254,000 for 2003.
McBride also announced that the update for OpenServer, code-named "Legend,"
will be released in the second quarter of 2005. Previously, the company had
said Legend would be released in the first quarter of 2005. SCO's UNIX
product revenues were about $8.3 million. It would seem the only source of
revenue for SCO in the immediate future is the Unix products line.
SCO did pocket $500,000 recently, thanks to a deal with Vintela, though
it won't show up on the books until the first quarter of 2005. Back in
April 2003, SCO sold everything related to its Volution product to Center 7
in exchange for a $500,000 promissory note. Center 7 has become Vintela, a company that provides
products that allow organizations to manage Unix, Linux and Mac systems
with Windows technologies like Active Directory. Vintela has been in the
news lately due to a deal with
Microsoft that puts about $10 million into the company. Canopy is also
an investor in Vintela, though it's hard to tell from the Canopy Group website, which no
longer proudly lists companies it has invested in. In fact, it's only a
short walk from the Vintela offices to the SCO offices. Apparently, both
companies are housed in the Canopy complex in Lindon, Utah.
SCO's Unix business brought in about $8.2 million, after expenses of $1.7
million. The company continued its "restructuring" during the fourth
quarter, which has reduced head count to less than 200 employees. It's worth
noting that SCO's head count in 2002, prior to filing suit against IBM, was
about 340 with revenue of about $15.5 million for the fourth quarter of
SCO is not the cash-rich company it once was. The company has had to place
about $5 million in escrow, and owes Boies, Schiller and Flexner about
$24.3 million at the end of this quarter. The company had a closing cash
balance of $31.4 million at the end of the quarter, according to Young,
leaving SCO with about $7 million going forward.
McBride was sure to emphasize, several times, that the company had capped
its legal fees with Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The company has also
increased Boies, Schiller & Flexner's contingency fees. Should SCO
prove successful in any of their legal attacks, Boies, Schiller &
Flexner stand to get between 20 and 33 percent of the booty. McBride
offered a very succinct summary of their legal position with IBM, and said
"we feel our case is developing well, and the specifics of this are
laid out in our filings with the court." It's worth noting that, in
past teleconferences, McBride has been significantly more upbeat and
effusive about SCO's legal developments.
McBride essentially admitted there was little left to the DaimlerChrysler
case, saying that "we determined that it would not be a wise use of
resources to pursue the timeliness claim alone." The court has
denied SCO's motion to stay the case, and the case has been dismissed
without prejudice with approval of SCO and DaimlerChrysler.
For those interested in listening to the teleconference in its entirety,
there is an archive of SCO teleconferences on the SCO website. Groklaw also
has a transcript
of the call.
Comments (4 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Responsible disclosure; New vulnerabilities in cups, cvstrac, ethereal, groff, kdelibs, krb5, libtiff, perl, php, samba, ...
- Kernel: Rethinking four-level page tables.
- Distributions: Distributions in 2004; Patrick Volkerding returns home; Fedora Extras, Fedora Core CVS Open
- Development: Stable Version 2.2.0 of the GIMP is out, new versions of
MySQL, Rekall, Samba, Sendmail, Sussen, Analog, Ardour, flrec, PythonCAD,
PyX, XCircuit, Qt, PiTiVi, BEAST/BSE, Gnumeric, OpenOffice.org, RSSOwl,
MuSE, Epiphany, Mozilla, Guile, SPE.
- Press: Quickbooks: the missing link, grad students uncover Unix flaws,
SCO conference call, Poland refuses software patents, Linus on Solaris,
Loads of Linux Links, Linux Game Tome, OpenVPN setup, KPilot review.
- Announcements: Astaro 5.1 new features, SCO Q4 results, FSF Europe on Microsoft ruling,
2005 MySQL Conference registration, new online software translation sites.
- Letters: Popularity and security; Open source mandates; Wanderlust.