Thursday, November 09, 2006

» A call to dump SUSE Linux ? wtf

My reply to yet another piece of clueless FUD, this time calling for a boycott of SUSE Linux - just in case they don't post it.

Amazing how many "open source voices" and tech writers know nothing about IT business.

The author forgot one reason for Novell to do the patent non-aggression pact with MS, and believe it or not, it's the right one. As you're most probably not working in an IT business of a non-negligible size nor have IT customers of that size, you don't understand how customers (well, their decision makers) think.

There is most probably no case for patent infringement in Linux distributions, be it SUSE Linux, Debian, Fedora, whatever. That is still Novell's opinion and position (as stated in the FAQ).

The point is that it is not sufficient to the large number of MS shops that have been considering using Linux since some time but are afraid of potential patent litigation claims, because of all the FUD MS and SCO have been spreading.

That's why Novell made that part of the deal with MS. Novell's position is: there is currently no part of the SUSE Linux (or SLES or SLED) distribution that infringes patents, but if there is, at some point, then MS (yes, MS, not Novell, read the announcement again, as well as the FAQ) is giving you a guarantee, as a SLES/SLED customer, that they will not sue *you*. They may still sue Novell, and Novell may still sue MS for patent infringements.

Now, you're calling for a boycott of a Linux distribution that is a combined effort of Novell employees and community members. Those community members have no less merit than the folks contributing to Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, whatever. This is a childish call for a distro war because you happen to like Debian and not SUSE Linux. That's fine, Debian is a great distribution, and use whatever you like, but bashing the work of people who believe in FOSS and contribute their free time on it is distasteful.

Also, it's "interesting" to see how so many people like to reduce Novell to this one agreement with MS (that is actually an agreement between MS and SLED/SLES customers) and fail to see how Novell contributes to a large number of FOSS projects (Linux kernel,, Samba, KDE, GNOME, ... ...).

"This is not religious fanaticism" - this *is* religious fanaticism because all those FUD spreaders fail to read the announcement and Novell's FAQ about it. Instead, they are drawing hypothetical scenarios out of their mind and bully against a FOSS community and a business that is a major contributor to many FOSS projects.

And the point about Novell violating the GPL is just totally wrong. The GPL states that you *may not* publish source code that is known to infringe patents under the GPL unless the right to use those patents is granted to everyone who uses that source code: "Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all." (GPL v2, Preamble)

So, *if* a FOSS project contains source code that is proven to infringe a (valid) patent, the project itself violates the GPL. If the patent holder is MS, they may still sue the authors for patent infringement. If that project is included on SUSE Linux/SLED/SLES, MS may still sue Novell for patent infringement. The deal Novell has made with MS just means that if you are using SLED or SLES, MS will not sue *you* as a customer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about the GPL in the original article is valid. Without the details of the deal being made public, Novell may be distributing Linux in violation of the GPL. Once the EFF and OSF have examined the terms, they can decide one way or the other. Until that happen, there appears to be an issue, and avoiding doing business with Novell is the easiest way to pressure them to allowing the determination to take place.

Blogger Loki said...

Sorry but that is just pulled out of nowhere.

Or, as stated by Eben Moglen, the attourney for the FSF:"If you make an agreement which requires you to pay a royalty to anybody for the right to distribute GPL software, you may not distribute it under the GPL."

Novell is not paying MS to have the right to distribute GPL software. Novell's position is very clear. It's just that the author (and many people spreading the FUD) just have no clue about how decision makers think. Novell has taken that deal as a competitive advantage against Red Hat because for those who fear, they get a guarantee (from MS) to not be sued by MS.

They don't need it, but they're not smart enough to know that.

Obviously, the GPL is the reason why Novell must go on record with the assertion that neither Linux nor its other open source offerings infringe upon any Microsoft patents. To say otherwise would be to admit Novell is violating the GPL.

SLED and SLES also contain non-GPL software (there are many other OSS licenses + proprietary software as well).
SUSE Linux, OTOH, only contains FOSS + an addon CD with non-FOSS software if you want to (Realplayer, Flash, Adobe Reader, ...).

However, if its assertions were true, there would be no reason to pay Microsoft royalties on the sales of Linux and open source products in order to protect its customers from patent infringment lawsuits.

The author just fails to understand business tactics and what is needed to get more Linux into businesses.

Here, Novell's actions speak much louder than its empty words. No, Brad Smith's words speak even louder, because his statement is pretty clear that Novell is paying royalties to Microsoft in order to prevent Microsoft from suing its customers. Once again, we must conclude that one of the two explanations above must be true. Only in this case, either Novell is paying Microsoft FUD money, or Novell is violating the GPL.

Hypothetical interpretation. Novell is buying a competitive advantage over Redhat to sell SLED/SLES to those customers who are afraid of using Linux because of the MS+SCO FUD.

And, as said, if a piece of software under GPL violates a valid patent, that piece of software violates the GPL in the first place.
So how could Novell be paying royalties to MS for not suing people using GPL software ?
They're paying royalties to MS for not suing their *customers* (there's a little more than just GPL software in a Linux distribution, especially in an enterprise distribution like SLES or SLED).

Blogger knocte said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for all the info.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just hope that M$ doesn't pull something from its bag to slap Novell.


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