of this retrospective
ended in October, 2002, when LWN adopted its current subscription model.
That change brought a certain amount of stability for LWN (too much, we
might argue), but, in the wider Linux world, things continued to happen.
This installment picks up where the last left off.
During this period, the business of Linux was relatively quiet - not that
many acquisitions, but not many failures either. But quite a bit was
happening around legal issues, copyright enforcement, and more...
- October 10, 2002:
BitKeeper flames return as the non-compete clause in its license comes
The sendmail source distribution is trojaned.
BitKeeper flames were a more-or-less constant feature in those days, but BitKeeper
became an established part of the kernel development process anyway.
In the October 10, 2002 edition, your editor wrote: "If Larry
McVoy (or his board of directors) wakes up hung over one morning and
decides to end free access to BitKeeper, the show is over." That
was, unfortunately, an example of your editor's crystal ball working rather
better than usual.
The trojaning of sendmail was the first of a few such incidents. It looked
like a scary trend for a while, but, in fact, the frequency of this kind of
attack has dropped quite a bit in the intervening years.
- October 31, 2002: the
first cryptographic code is finally merged into the Linux kernel. The
first Reiser4 snapshot is posted.
- December 19, 2002: The
Creative Commons project is launched. ElcomSoft (Dmitry Sklyarov's
employer) is acquitted of DMCA violation charges. Kernel developers
start to complain that the 2.5 feature freeze is thawing.
- January 16, 2003: The
U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of unlimited copyright term
extensions. MandrakeSoft enters bankruptcy. The SCO Group starts
making noises about its "Unix IP."
- January 30, 2003: SCO
forms SCOSource and makes rather more dire noises about Linux.
By this point, there was a certain amount of discomfort over the direction
SCO was taking. But nobody had any clue of just how weird it would
Remember the days of disruptive worms? MS-SQL was one of the scariest, in
that it did most of its propagation in just a few minutes. We don't see to
many worms like that anymore; contemporary crackers prefer to turn systems
into zombies and rent them out.
And so it began, with SCO telling the world that the Linux community could
not possibly have achieved what it did unless the work had been stolen by
For the remainder of this retrospective, your editor will attempt to keep
the number of SCO-related entries to a minimum. It has been quite an
experience to go back and reread all of those
McBride/Enderle/Boies/DiDio/Lyons/etc. quotes, and it is tempting to put
them all here. But that temptation will be resisted; those who want to
relive that bit of bizarre history in more detail can read the LWN pages
directly or dig through the considerable resources at Groklaw.
SCO is about as scary as Y2K now, but, in 2003, the SCO suit was a
frightening event. To many of us it seemed possible that, maybe, one out
of thousands of developers might have slipped something improper into the
kernel code base. And, in any case, we were under attack by a company with
millions of dollars to burn and a loud-mouthed CEO. The whole thing cost
us a lot of time and anxiety - and, for those most directly involved -
Nonetheless, your editor will reiterate his claim that, overall, the SCO
attack has been good for us. We needed to improve our legal defenses; as
Linux grew, there could be no doubt that people would attempt to use the
legal system to grab a piece of the pie. In SCO we had an arrogant assailant
with no substance; we were attacked by a clown. We got the ability to
straighten up our processes, arrange better legal help, and prove that our
code is clean without the inconvenience of facing a complaint with a bit of
legitimacy. The community is now close to immune from copyright-based
attack, and is much better poised to deal with similar attackers (patent
trolls, for example) who could still do us some serious damage.
- March 27, 2003: Keith
Packard is kicked out of the XFree86 core team. Red Hat Linux 9
- the last Red Hat Linux release - is announced.
- May 15, 2003: SCO
suspends Linux sales and sends a warning letter to 1500 Linux users.
- May 22, 2003: The GNU and
Ghostscript projects part ways. Microsoft buys a $10 million
Unix license from SCO.
- May 29, 2003: Novell
claims that it, not SCO, owns Unix. Kernel developers get upset about
the fact that there has been no 2.4 kernel release for six months.
The 2.5 kernel gets a reworked char device layer, IDE tagged command
queueing support and the USB gadget subsystem - seven months into the 2.5
feature freeze. The city of Munich decides to move to Linux.
Novell's claim was clearly significant at the time, though it fell below
the radar again for several months. In the end, of course, this was the
factor which killed SCO. That is convenient, but almost unfortunate too:
there would have been value in seeing the substance of SCO's claims
demolished in court.
In these days of fast releases, it is interesting to consider that, for the
first half of 2003, there were no stable kernel releases at all.
- June 19, 2003: Linus
Torvalds moves to OSDL. The kernel gets a massively reworked ext3
filesystem - eight months into the feature freeze. SCO raises its
claim for damages to $3 billion and "terminates" IBM's AIX
license. Software patents return to the European Parliament.
- July 10, 2003: Andrew
Morton moves to OSDL.
OSDL was often controversial in the Linux community, but nobody doubted
that providing a home for developers like Linus and Andrew was a good
thing. Until now, neither had held a job where working on Linux was their
Meanwhile, few suspected how big the software patent battle in Europe would
become - or that the anti-patent side would emerge victorious (for now).
- July 17, 2003: The
2.6.0-test1 kernel is released; it includes the new anticipatory disk
I/O scheduler. Slackware celebrates its 10th anniversary. The
Mozilla Foundation is created.
- July 24, 2003: Red Hat
gets out of the boxed distribution business. Mozilla starts
requesting donations from users.
Selling Linux in boxes was how Red Hat got going, so the end of that
business was a clear sign that things had changed. The separation of
Mozilla and AOL (which had bought Netscape) was a little scary at the time;
it seemed that the project could fade away before the Mozilla browser became
truly ready and that it was an Internet Explorer future for all of us.
Things were a little lean at Mozilla for a while. Now that Mozilla is
bringing in tens of millions of dollars every year, the idea that it once
sought donations is amusing.
- August 7, 2003: Novell
acquires Ximian. Red Hat files suit against SCO. SCO offers the
"intellectual property license for Linux." SELinux is merged for the
- August 21, 2003: SCO
shows some "copied code."
SCO, remember, "encrypted" its slides of "copied" code by switching them to
a Greek font - a scheme which the community, somehow, managed to overcome.
The code in question was straight from ancient Unix; it had been
contributed by SGI, and had already been removed by the time it was
revealed. After this, nobody worried that SCO might come up with the
"millions of lines" of code that, it said, it could prove it owned.
- September 25, 2003: The
Fedora project launches. Software patents pass in the European
Parliament. Sun's Jonathan Schwartz says "We do not believe
that Linux plays a role on the server. Period."
- October 16, 2003: Under
pressure from the FSF and others, LinkSys releases source for its
Fedora started with all kinds of talk about what a community-oriented
project it would be. The reality was rather slower in coming, but is
beginning to be visible now. Meanwhile, Fedora was a useful (and used)
distribution from the outset.
The LinkSys settlement was the result of a long battle. It was an important
early GPL enforcement action which led to the creation of a number of
distributions created for the sole purpose of doing interesting things on
LinkSys routers. The ironic result is that LinkSys almost certainly sold
quite a few more units than it would have if it had continued to hold on to
- October 23, 2003: SCO
gets $50 million from BayStar.
- November 6, 2003: Novell
acquires SUSE. A fight erupts over the "Linux Gazette" name.
- December 24, 2003: SCO
claims ownership of the Unix ABI. The 2.6.0 kernel is released. Red
Hat acquires Sistina. The Mozilla Foundation asks for more
2.6.0 took almost exactly three years after 2.4.0 came out. For the few
developers who had observed the 2.4 feature freezes, their code - which
could be four years old at this point - was only now making it into an
official mainline release. It was not yet understood at this point, but,
once 2.6.0 came out, the "new kernel development model" started to take
shape. Never again would we go years between major stable releases.
- January 22, 2004: SCO
files its "slander of title" suit against Novell. Linus gets dunked.
- January 29, 2004:
UnitedLinux dies a quiet death. SCO sends a letter to the
U.S. Congress. Version 2 of the Apache License is adopted.
- February 5, 2004: XFree86
leader David Dawes changes the project's license.
There had been trouble in XFree86 for a long time, but the license change
brought it all to a head. This was the move which killed XFree86, led to
the creation of the revitalized X.org, and, eventually, brought life back
to X development.
The first Grumpy Editor
article was never intended to be the beginning of a series; your editor
was simply grumpy that the Galeon browser had gone the route of many early
GNOME 2.x applications: less configurability, fewer features, and worse
performance. The persona proved popular with readers, though, and the
Grumpy Editor has been making irregular appearances on LWN ever since.
- February 19, 2004: The
Netfilter team settles its first GPL enforcement action in Europe.
- February 26, 2004: X11
development moves to the freedesktop.org project. MandrakeSoft is
ordered by a French court to stop using the "Mandrake" name.
- March 4, 2004: SCO sues
AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler. EV1Servers.Net buys an expensive SCO
license - a move they certainly still regret. FreeS/WAN shuts down.
The attack on Linux users had been long foreshadowed - and feared.
Regardless of the validity of its claims, SCO could certainly make life
hard for Linux by attacking those who use it. The attacks were so
laughable, though, that they had no appreciable effect, even in the short
- March 11, 2004: The
Anderer memo surfaces, tying SCO to Microsoft. The tenth anniversary
of the green card spam.
- March 18, 2004: Open
Source Risk Management launches. MandrakeSoft files its plan to exit
For those who don't remember, OSRM was a scheme to sell insurance against
legal attacks to users of free software. But, by this point, nobody was
all that worried about SCO, and OSRM never did take off. On the other
hand, MandrakeSoft did succeed in getting out of bankruptcy and is still
- March 25, 2004: BitMover
claims that the pace of kernel development has doubled as a result of
the adoption of BitKeeper.
This installment started with BitKeeper, and will end there. For all the
complaints about BitKeeper and its associated "don't piss off Larry"
license, few could contest the claim that kernel development was proceeding
at a much faster pace. We needed a tool like that. To this day, it
remains discouraging that we were not able to develop a distributed
revision control system for ourselves until Larry McVoy and BitMover showed
the way. If there was ever an itch in need of scratching, this was it.
The next installment (which will most likely appear two weeks from now)
will start with April, 2004 and come fairly close to the present. Stay
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