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How Will SCO Ever Appease Linux Users
Ted Doyle

The last dying, gasping struggles of a big smelly blow fish expiring on the dock. That is the image conjured by an "open letter" from the CEO of The SCO Group, Darl McBride, a few days ago, and the latest event in the continuing fiasco of SCO versus Linux, IBM, SUN and the world, really.

     The Santa Cruz Organization ceased to exist in all but name several years ago, and several versions of legal entity have since owned the name. The present heir to the name is "The SCO Group".

     Darl McBride's letter was a thinly disguised sandbagging, clearly aimed not at its stated recipients, but at the corporates that Mr. McBride would love to milk for some more money. The letter posed as an offer to negotiate ... something or another, and only made that offer after several paragraphs of special pleading, and weasel worded accusations, cloaked in SCO's own brand of torturous legal fright speak.

The letter itself, and some of the most plangent commentary upon it can be found here:

http://www.linuxmax.net/news/001225.html. It is fascinating insight into the mind of SCO.

     Whatever else it may have intended, it was a particularly pathetic act of thuggery. It also perhaps reveals, in part, how history is leaving far behind the old IT world, based as it is the model of corporate America founded by the likes of Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller. This is a very large line of inquiry I intend to return to, at another time. Suffice to say that if I were a large SCO shareholder, I'd be looking for a management team that understood the dawn of a new era when they saw it . . . like the people at IBM (this time, anyway).

     Mr. McBride's letter referred to the Open Source Community as "counter cultural". It was a snide, but clever line aimed at the button down prejudices of the American executive class. And it is precisely what Open Source is not. Open Source is not an example of the Furry Freak Brothers, fixed in the amber of geek mythology, who will have to grow up if they want to produce serious software (a summary of the McBride position). The Open source phenomenon is not an offshoot of the information technology industry, rather, the information technology industry is an offshoot of the open source movement. Unix in particular, was and is a collegiate development. And it can be argued that the birth of Unix was the birth of modern IT. Unix can be seen as the single seed that allowed the development of mini and then micro computers of immense power, using proprietary versions of open source code as the backbone for all sorts of flavors of commercially available machinery.

And for the record SCO does not, and never did own, the IP rights to Unix.

     Unix was not developed by one person, one team, or one company. It was, and is, the fruit of a co-operative effort across the computer science departments and research labs of the world, and it was wide open from the word go. Indeed it was, an is, a body known as The Open Group, http://www.opengroup.org/, which rates a new operating system as a *nix flavor.

     SCO does own some proprietary rights over one flavor of Unix, that known as System V. System V contains many thousands of lines of code which were borrowed from preceding Unix developments, and, as time went on, other lines borrowed from succeeding developments by other, non SCO software writers. The "official" Open source community response can be found here http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/mcbride2.html .

A few days ago, it appears, Linus Torvald decided to reply to Mr. McBride:


"Open letter to Darl McBride -- please grow up."

Dear Darl,

Thank you so much for your letter.

     We are happy that you agree that customers need to know that Open Source is legal and stable, and we heartily agree with that sentence of your letter. The others don't seem to make as much sense, but we find the dialogue refreshing. However, we have to sadly decline taking business model advice from a company that seems to have squandered all its money (that it made off a Linux IPO, I might add, since there's a nice bit of irony there), and now seems to play the US legal system as a lottery. We in the Open Source group continue to believe in technology as a way of driving customer interest and demand. Also, we find your references to a negotiating table somewhat confusing, since there doesn't seem to be anything to negotiate about. SCO has yet to show any infringing IP in the Open Source domain, but we wait with bated breath for when you will actually care to inform us about what you are blathering about.

     All of our source code is out in the open, and we welcome you point to any particular piece you might disagree with. Until then, please accept our gratitude for your submission,

Yours truly,
Linus Torvalds


    It is a model of the sort of polite restraint one has come to expect of the man, and respect him for. And somewhere on an open source blog, this:

     "Open source is not about a business model that monetizes the IP that has been donated by means of public license. Open Source is a sharing of knowledge in the art and science of computers. Many companies have embraced the Open Source philosophy with varying degrees of success. The Open Source movement is not a business model; it is a principle of sharing knowledge in the field of computing that all may enjoy the benefits of the knowledge. As a company that was built and generated profit from the use of Open Source software, the SCO Group has deliberately disavowed its own history to attack Open Source." It's all history, you see. When it became evident that there were several gold mines to be exploited in the business of bits and bytes, then the people who had been selling aluminum siding in the fifties, used cars in the sixties and time share in the seventies climbed on the computing bandwagon. They put their arms around the shoulders of these thick leased, bespectacled young spotty-faces who had written what was not so much a computer program as a meal ticket, and they explained what a "manager" really does.

     Well, as I get older, I get more tired, and too tired to carefully unravel and expose all the greed, stupidity and cupidity in the world's litany of lost great opportunities. Mr. McBride is obviously well under way to lose one for The SCO Group, and all I can think to advise him is: There must be a house out there somewhere that desperately needs some siding, why not get on with it?


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