Corporate code releases are always an uncertain prospect. The contribution
of a large body of code is always welcomed, but only time will tell what
sort of development and user community will eventually develop around that
code. SAP released its relational database management system (SAP-DB) to
great fanfare in October, 2000. Compared to some of that month's other
(Atipa acquires OpenNMS, VA Linux hires the Debian project
leader, the PostgreSQL hackers to go work for Great Bridge, EBIZ and the
Linux Mall merge, Turbolinux gets $30 million in venture funding,
LynuxWorks files for its IPO, Progeny Linux ships its first beta
distribution, Linus claims "no show-stopper bugs" in 2.4.0-test10), SAP-DB
has been a raging success. Still, relative to the other free database
systems (PostgreSQL, MySQL, and perhaps even Interbase/Firebird), SAP-DB
has not pulled in a particularly large community.
Nobody can say the same thing about MySQL. This free relational database
manager, despite a lingering reputation for lacking the features that
"real" database systems have, claims some four million installed systems.
MySQL's user community is large and strong, and MySQL AB, the copyright
holder for MySQL, is apparently thriving. But MySQL's "fast, reliable, but
still a toy" reputation (at least in some circles) is probably not helping
MySQL AB win those really big contracts.
announcement of a partnership between MySQL AB and SAP makes a
fair amount of sense for both sides. Under this deal, MySQL AB gets
the right to sell commercial versions of SAP-DB, which will be relicensed
entirely under the GPL and renamed. SAP-DB will thus become a product much
like the current MySQL offerings, but one aimed at "enterprise"
MySQL AB gets a new product to sell which has a lengthy large-deployment
track record and which should prove easier to market to large companies.
SAP's sales force and existing large company customer base should also
prove most helpful in that regard. And, of course, MySQL gets to mix
together the best of both systems to create "the next-generation MySQL open
source enterprise database."
SAP, meanwhile, gets access to a brand with great respect in the free
software community. MySQL AB has a proven ability to create an active
developer and user community around a free database system; this skill will come
to great use in reviving interest in the database formerly known as
SAP-DB. More significantly, however, is the fact that MySQL AB has
figured out how to sell proprietary licenses to a free software product,
pleasing its customers while simultaneously avoiding alienating the
developer community. The company's ability to walk that fine line bodes
well for SAP-DB's future.
If there is a down side to this deal, it is that the SAP-DB client
libraries, which were formerly licensed under the LGPL, will, in the
future, only be available under the GPL. That change is crucial to the
entire strategy, of course; it is the lever that will force proprietary
software vendors to buy a commercial license. But it is a change which
will upset users who were making use of the previous LGPL licensing; a look
at the sapdb-general
mailing list shows a handful of messages from users who are unhappy
with the new state of affairs.
Of course, those users have not really lost anything; the current SAP-DB
release cannot and will not be taken away from them. They simply will not
have the same access to future releases. SAP-DB users have the right to
fork the code base and maintain the code independently, and they might just
do so. But it is hard to see a forked SAP-DB attracting a larger community
than SAP-DB has now, especially when the folks over at MySQL appear to be
having all the fun.
Comments (6 posted)
We were planning to keep SCO off the front page this week. Really. But no
This week's fun centers around a press release issued by Novell. But first
some background: SCO,
recall, has been trumpeting its
ownership rights in the Unix source and patents for some time. The main "SCOsource" page states:
SCO is the owner of the UNIX Operating System Intellectual Property
that dates all the way back 1969, when the UNIX System was created
at Bell Laboratories. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions,
SCO has acquired ownership of the patents, copyrights and core
technology associated with the UNIX System.
The patent claim was effectively debunked
by Don Marti back in March, but the ownership claim has gotten an easier
ride. Until now. Novell, the company which obtained Unix from ATT, has
press release taking issue with SCO's claims. In particular, Novell is
asserting that it still owns the copyrights on the Unix code base:
Importantly, and contrary to SCO's assertions, SCO is not the owner
of the UNIX copyrights. Not only would a quick check of
U.S. Copyright Office records reveal this fact, but a review of the
asset transfer agreement between Novell and SCO confirms it. To
Novell's knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of
UNIX from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights.
We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any
ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently, you [SCO]
share this view, since over the last few months you have repeatedly
asked Novell to transfer the copyrights to SCO, requests that
Novell has rejected.
Novell's claim notwithstanding, SCO has been quoted
reiterating its claim to the Unix copyright (and threatening to sue Linus
Torvalds for patent infringement as well). But SCO's
annual report, as filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, includes an interesting disclosure:
The Company has an arrangement with Novell, Inc. ("Novell") in
which it acts as an administrative agent in the collection of
royalties for customers who deploy SVRx technology. Under the
agency agreement, the Company collects all customer payments and
remits 95 percent of the collected funds to Novell and retains 5
percent as an administrative fee.
SCO, it would seem, is not the copyright owner; it is simply the paperwork
shuffler, working for a 5% cut. That is not quite the picture that the
company has been trying to present.
Whether this turn of events weakens SCO's case against IBM remains to be
seen. SCO rushed out a
response stating that it doesn't matter:
SCO's lawsuit against IBM does not involve patents or copyrights.
SCO's complaint specifically alleges breach of contract, and SCO
intends to protect and enforce all of the contracts that the
company has with more than 6,000 licensees.
In fact, the original
complaint does talk mostly about trade secrets and breach of contract. It
does also, however, assert (once again) ownership of Unix and claim that IBM's actions
have caused a reduction in the value of its Unix assets. Novell's claim
challenges SCO's standing in the case; it may also be used by IBM's lawyers
to question SCO's truthfulness and good faith in general.
Regardless of how the IBM suit goes, however, it now seems clearer than
ever that the 1500 or so recipients of SCO's "Letter
to Linux customers" can simply file that letter next to their AOL
disks. SCO's case is not about patents or copyrights; the company has no
standing to go after random Linux users. This letter was pure FUD and
Novell does not stop with its copyright assertion. The company's
press release challenges SCO to produce its evidence, and hints at legal
moves to come:
SCO's actions are disrupting business relations that might
otherwise form at a critical time among partners around Linux
technologies, and are depriving these partners of important
economic opportunities. We hope you understand the potential
significant legal liability SCO faces for the possible harm it is
causing to countless customers, developers, and other Linux
It is also interesting to note that LinuxTag's lawyers have given
notice to SCO Group GmbH that SCO must cease its "unfair competitive
practices" as embodied in its attacks against Linux.
If SCO can't produce some convincing evidence for its claims soon, it may
well find itself dealing with lawsuits from the other side of the
Comments (24 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
The third Open Source Content Management
(OSCOM) Conference this week has all eyes on Open Source Content
Management Systems (CMS). Well, maybe not all eyes, but Open
Source CMS are certainly getting quite a bit of attention this week.
There are far, far too many Open Source CMS projects under development
to touch on all of them here, so consider this an overview of some of
the more popular, interesting and/or capable CMS projects being used
today. Note that this includes actual CMS systems, not Content
Management Framework (CMF) projects like Midgard, Mason or Zope, which typically require significant
assembly work before they can be deployed for any particular application.
Almost all Open Source CMS projects support features like RSS feeds,
threaded comments, user authentication, templates, integrated search
engines or support for external engines, version control, in-browser
editing, scheduled publishing, support for multiple languages and so on.
Perhaps the most important feature for most developers is which language the
project is written in, and how easily extensible it is.
Slashcode, more frequently referred
to as just Slash, is arguably the
best-known CMS out there. Slash is pretty
much aimed at news/Weblog-type sites, so it may not be best for general
purpose sites. Slashcode is written in Perl, uses a MySQL backend and
is available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Slashcode is
owned by OSDN.
In a similar vein, there's Scoop, the code that powers kuro5hin and a slew of other news
sites and weblogs. Like Slashcode, Scoop is written in Perl with a MySQL
backend and is available under the GPL. If you're looking to run a news
site or Weblog, but prefer PHP to Perl, there's PHP-Nuke, PostNuke and PHPSlash.
For more of a "professional" approach to running a news site, there's Cofax. Cofax ("Content Object Factory") was
mostly developed by
staff at KnightRidder.com and Philly.com with participation from other
Knight Ridder newspapers. Cofax is designed to help simplify the
presentation of newspaper content on a Website, and to speed up
real-time Web publication. One example of Cofax in action is the Silicon
Valley site; it is also used to power more than 30 Knight Ridder
newspaper sites. The Cofax CMS is written in Java, uses MySQL or
Microsoft SQL Server for data storage, and is licensed under the GNU
Lesser General Public License. The instructions on the Cofax site are
Windows-specific, but it has also been tested under Sun OS 5.8, and
could probably be coaxed to work on a Linux server as well.
There are a number of CMS projects for more general sites.
Though Red Hat is best known for its Linux distribution, it also
offers an Enterprise
Content Management System. Red Hat's CMS is written in Java,
requires PostgreSQL or Oracle and a J2EE servlet container and is
supported on Red Hat, Solaris, Windows, AIX or HP-UX. Unlike most of Red
Hat's offerings, the Red Hat CMS is available under the IBM Public
License rather than the GPL.
Another all-purpose CMS is OpenACS.
OpenACS is a little different, in that it is written in Tcl rather than
Perl, Java or PHP. OpenACS has a number of applications such as bug
trackers, chat, e-commerce features and much more. The OpenACS code is
distributed under the terms of the GPL, and requires AOLserver and an
Oracle or PostgreSQL backend. The Creative Commons site is just
one example of a site powered by OpenACS.
Where would we be without Wiki-type sites? There are a number of
Wiki-inspired packages out there, but tikiwiki may be the most
full-featured. Tiki is PHP-based and offers LDAP authentication, webmail, tasks
and notepad features, image galleries, games and a slew of other
features not normally found in Wiki implementations. If you'd like to
get a feel for Tiki, check out the demo site.
Bricolage is another general purpose
content management and publishing system. Bricolage is written in Perl
and uses PostgreSQL to store content. Macworld recently announced that
it is using Bricolage to power its site. If you'd like to run
Bricolage you'll need Apache with mod_perl and Mason. Bricolage is published under a
The WebGUI folks call
their solution a "application framework" rather than a CMS, but it does
the job just as well. WebGUI is written in Perl and can use MySQL or
PostgreSQL as a data store. It will run on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, and
Windows with Apache or IIS. The Law Society of Western
Australia is using WebGUI for their site. WebGUI is available under
the GPL and is developed by Plain Black Software.
OpenCms, is pretty
flexible in that it will run on LAMP platforms with Tomcat or on Windows
platforms with Oracle and BEA Weblogic. OpenCms is used on a number of
sites, including the Tribeca Film Festival site. OpenCms offers a WYSIWYG editor through a Web browser, but only for folks using Internet Explorer. Development for OpenCms is coordinated by Alkacon Software.
This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. There are quite a few
other Open Source CMS projects out there, curious readers can start with the OSCOM Matrix of CMS
Finally, OpensourceCMS is
another site worth visiting if you're shopping for an Open Source CMS.
Especially if you're looking to test-drive Open Souce CMS packages
before actually messing with installation. The nice thing about Open
Source is that you can always "try before you buy" but the
installation process for many CMS packages can be a bit painful, or at
least very time-consuming. OpensourceCMS does not have every CMS project
available, but they have a pretty good list of demos you can try out.
Comments (11 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Missing kernel updates; new vulnerabilities in Apache 2, CUPS, ...
- Kernel: Release management; interrupt balancing; new char device infrastructure; strlcpy()
- Distributions: SuSE Conquers Munich; new distributions: Compledge Sentinel and Pingwinek GNU/Linux
- Development: ZWareHouse shopping cart,
New versions of PostgreSQL, CUPS, WebGUI, Hydrogen, Tkeca, Jazilla,
GNOME Development Series, GnuCash, FLTK, Evolution, OpenOffice.org,
SBCL, PHP, Python, Tcl/Tk, OProfile, SCons.
- Press: More SCO articles, HP Linux Laptops, Bunner DVD case, Wireless security
survey, Playstation Supercomputers.
- Announcements: Munich moves to Linux, AUUG tells SCO to stop, Infosec 2003,
Linux in Luxembourg, new Open XUL Alliance site.