The SCO Group, it seems, has finally read the GPL; the company has announced
that it has suspended shipments of its Linux distribution. It does not do,
after all, to be claiming proprietary rights on code which has been mixed
into a GPL-licensed product. SCO stands every chance of losing its right
to distribute (at least) the kernel in any case; better to take the step
ahead of time.
Of course, other interpretations are possible. The company's Linux
shipments have, most likely, dropped to something approximating zero in any
case. SCO, having lost in the Linux marketplace (even before the lawsuit)
appears to wish to bring that whole market down in flames. It's hard to
come up with another motivation for statements like:
The SCO Group, the owner of the UNIX operating system, today warned
that Linux is an unauthorized derivative of UNIX and that legal
liability for the use of Linux may extend to commercial users. SCO
issued this alert based on its findings of illegal inclusions of
SCO UNIX intellectual property in Linux.
SCO has also sent an
unsettling letter to some 1500 companies worldwide.
As FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) attacks go, it is hard to be less
subtle than this. If you use Linux, SCO has just threatened to sue you.
So much for them not having anything against the Linux community. (The
company's posting of a page of
quotations from "Linux leaders" - such as noted kernel hacker Richard
Stallman - also gives a hint as to what their current attitude toward the
SCO has also trotted out the
Gartner Group to drive the point home.
System administrators must be admonished to submit open-source code
to inspection for potential violation of patents. An open-source
quality assurance process should determine and approve allowable
code for production systems. Such efforts may slow adoption of
Linux in high-end production systems of critical applications.
Of course, the SCO suit has nothing to do with patents, but it is time to
adopt procedures which "may slow adoption" of Linux just a little bit. Of
course, Gartner has no suggestions on how anyone might verify that a given
chunk of code does not violate anybody's patents. To top it off, Gartner states
"However, one thing is certain: The community process is fraught with
risk to users." (The report does also note, for what
it's worth, "In Gartner's opinion, SCO's claim that IBM
misappropriated trade secrets from AIX will be difficult to
SCO's action, which was once presented as a simple contractual dispute
between two corporations, has now been clearly exposed as an attack on
Linux itself. At some point, however, SCO is going to have to stop talking
and demonstrate some stolen source. If the company actually has something
to show, it's past time to put some cards on the table. As it is, SCO
gives the impression of trying to destroy the Linux community away with words
that have little backing in the real world.
Comments (29 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
Finding a laptop that is Linux-compatible can be a daunting task. Buying
a laptop with Linux pre-loaded is pretty much impossible if you want to
buy from major vendors like Dell, HP, IBM or Toshiba. HP recently announced
a low-end Linux laptop for sale in Thailand. This sounded like exciting
news at first, but it turns out that the HP laptop is being underwritten by
the Thai government and won't be offered in the United States.
Dell and IBM have offered Linux on some of their laptops in the past,
but both companies have stopped doing so. Lindows.com -- not a major
company, but important in the sense that they have managed to put
machines with Linux pre-installed into some traditional retail channels
-- announced a budget Linux-based portable computer this year, but it's
not widely available (it's only available through one of Lindows.com's
resellers) and it's seriously underpowered.
So what is a Linux user to do? The only real options for Linux users are
to buy a notebook or laptop computer that comes with Windows
pre-installed, or to go to a smaller vendor that offers Linux on a
portable. A few of the vendors that sell Linux pre-installed on laptops
or notebooks are Emperor
Linux, Qli Linux Computers
There are a number of reasons why you probably won't see Linux being
offered by any of the big retailers anytime soon. For one thing, a
vendor like Dell or IBM has a hard time offering what Linux users really
want -- the most recent distribution on cutting-edge hardware. Lincoln
Durey, president and founder of Emperor Linux, said that when major
manufacturers have tried to offer Linux laptops they've tended to be at
least one revision behind a distribution -- and usually only offer a
choice of one or two distributions. And, when they have offered Linux they
didn't offer a dual-boot system with Windows as well, something Durey
says many of his customers are looking for.
Durey also noted that all or almost all major components of a laptop
will change every four to six months, which causes major difficulty for
anyone trying to test compatibility with Linux as well as Windows on
those machines. Ray Sanders, founder of Qli Linux, says that they're
"almost guaranteed" that sound, video, USB and integrated Ethernet will
work but "we never expect modems to work under Linux." Durey added that
"PCMCIA is a perennial nightmare." Of course, that's a chicken and the
egg problem. If the Dell, Toshiba and other big vendors started
demanding Linux-compatible parts, it wouldn't take long before their
upstream vendors responded.
It's not as if there isn't demand for Linux on laptops, though it's not
in the same kind of mass quantities that vendors like Dell are used to.
Durey says that most of the demand they see is from university and
government researchers or others who are buying a Linux laptop because
that's also what they use at work. In other words, demand is increasing,
but there still isn't a great demand from home users clamoring for a
Linux notebook, at least not relatively speaking. Sanders says that
Qli's sales of Linux laptops is "brisk," at least by their standards.
"In my mind, moving a couple hundred notebooks a month is fantastic,
whereas IBM and Dell need to move thousands of units to make it
worthwhile." Durey said that Emperor's sales have been growing by 12 to
15 percent a year, after the initial boom in 1999 when the company hit
If Linux is going to gain mainstream acceptance, it's going to have to
be available on laptops through normal retail channels. More and more
people are choosing to buy a laptop for home use instead of a desktop
PC, so it's vitally important that Linux be there if it's to catch on in
the desktop market. Wrestling Linux onto a laptop designed only to run
Windows can be a daunting task, and it certainly isn't something that
Linux newbies want to attempt. Until the demand reaches a higher level,
however, alternatives to installing it yourself will remain scarce.
Comments (23 posted)
Recently, the "Open Forum Europe" released a
in favor of software patents in Europe. Those signing on to
the statement included Graham Taylor "...as a representative of the
Linux/Opensource world." Of course, many people in the Linux community are
not particularly sympathetic to an expansion of software patents, so they
were something other than pleased with this "representation." Mr. Taylor
has since backed off
from any claims that he was representing the open source community. But
the question remains: who does
represent this community?
The Linux / free software / open source / whatever community does tend to
share a common set of beliefs. We wish to retain control over our
computers (and our lives). We have little tolerance for limits - technical
or legal - on what we can program. We have, through voluntary
contributions, created a vast commons of increasingly capable software, and
we intend to continue doing so. We respect technical excellence and
working code; we have less faith in words.
And, as a community, we have little patience with those who would position
themselves as our leaders or representatives. We are a very
independent-minded community that has managed to bring together a very
broad spectrum of people and get them all to work together in a productive
manner. But we are, as a community, not even remotely coherent enough to
be represented or led by anybody.
There is a certain Wild West charm to a leaderless, institution-free
community. We see an itch in need of scratching, submit our patches, and
ride off into the sunset. Our code speaks for us, and we need not tolerate
some bozo making statements we may not agree with in our name. It feels
On the other hand, we are a large community of highly talented people who
have changed the software industry, and, increasingly, we are creating the
software that runs the world. And, yet, our voice in political and
industry circles is tiny. Governments happily adopt free software, while
passing laws that make the software harder to develop and turn some of our
hackers into criminals. With few exceptions, the computing industry pays
little attention to free software in the development of its products.
Once you look beyond the actual code we have published, we are a marginal
force, dependent upon a handful of companies to pressure representatives,
obtain hardware information, and extract protocols for us. The partnership
with those companies has done the community much good, but we should not
confuse their agenda with ours. At some point, one can only hope that the
community will develop institutions that can express our common beliefs
with a louder voice. Creating those institutions is unlikely to be an easy
task for anybody who tries, however.
Comments (7 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: What is "unauthorized access"?; new vulnerabilities in the kernel, kopete, xinetd
- Kernel: The "must-fix" list, CGL shopping list; security modules; device classes
- Distributions: Vector Linux for Low-End Hardware, The LWN Distributions List
- Development: Imview for image viewing and analysis, new versions of: JACK, POE, Twisted,
PyKota, Tiki, VimZopeEditor, netRhythmbox, WaveSurfer, Mozilla, ScummVM,
Wine, AbiWord, GnuCash, KFLog, and Anjuta.
- Press: IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer, Red Hat on Fujitsu computers,
Oracle in China, Csound now open-source.
- Announcements: ActiveState Active Awards nomination, Ghostscript bug bounty,
Linux Migration Quick Reference, International Lisp Conference 2003 CFP,