Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Patents Novell Software Linux

Perens Rains on Novell's Parade 277

unum15 writes "This week is Novell's Brainshare conference. They are touting the Microsoft covenant not to sue as 'good for consumers'. However, Bruce Perens decided to take this opportunity to 'rain on Novell's parade'. Perens read a statement from RMS affirming the GPLv3 would not allow companies to enter deals like this and continue to offer GPLv3 software. Perens even goes as far as to suggest this move is an exit strategy by Novell. There are also audio and pictures of the event available."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Perens Rains on Novell's Parade

Comments Filter:
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:10PM (#18431949) Homepage Journal
    I have a feeling that he'll be commenting here soon, so "Hi Bruce!" :-)

    What Novell did is not illegal but it is a matter of bad faith, Perens contended. The result could doom Novell to becoming a Microsoft subsidiary, he said, because Novell does not write its own software but gets it instead from those small independents.

    Hovsepian scoffed at that scenario. "Them [Microsoft] buying us? I think that's deep in the conspiracy theory bucket."

    Is it just me, or did Hovsepian intentionally misunderstand that statement? Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I read your statement to mean that Novell would effectively become a subsidiary to Microsoft without actually being bought out. Much in the same way that Microsoft "Partners" tend to exist only so long as it amuses Microsoft. When Microsoft grows tired of them, they do something that completely undermines the trust and business model of those partners. (See: PlaysForSure, OS/2, Sybase, Spyglass, Citrix, etc.)

    It amazes me that companies still fall for that trick, but there you go. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish. Bye Novell, it was nice knowing you. :-/
  • I'm out (Score:3, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:27PM (#18432235) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad I sold my Novell stock soon after their parnership with Microsoft. Statements like Perens' nail the lid on the coffin for me. Novell had such potential with their government contracts, name recognition, and experience. But their management's been hurting the company for years. It's all downhill now.
  • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:28PM (#18432257) Journal
    It's typical modern American capitalism. Short term gains don't necessarily mean long term pains... at least not for the CEO involved. Take the million+ dollar bonus, cash out stock options, run/quit/get fired, and who cares if the company dies later.
  • by iPaul ( 559200 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:30PM (#18432291) Homepage
    Simple, if you don't want to answer the other person's point, simply concoct a straw-man argument to respond to. I'm sure he understood the comment quite clearly and probably accepted the situation in the back of his mind. I expect this is the role he's sized up for his company, to be Microsoft's "loyal opposition." I wonder, to what extent, Microsoft leaned on Novell by suggesting a list of possible infringing software and let Novell do the math?
  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:38PM (#18432417)
    People hold high expectations on Novell, and I really don't know why. Of course they "bought" Suse [slashdot.org] in 2003, the Mono project, and some other free software projects. but Novell was, is and will always be a proprietary software company. They don't care about Free Software, they are not into it for the ideals. Back them they saw an opportunity to make money off free software, so they invested, made some money but, in the end, they would dump everything in a heartbeat and partner with Microsoft if it is more profitable for them.

    And that's the beauty of Free Software. They can dump Linux and Free Software all they want, if they do, as fast as it takes, a fork for all projects that they are personally involved (Suse, Gnome, Mono, from the top of my head) will pop up and continue almost as nothing has happened.

    And I really wish that happens. I don't like the way they are handling Gnome, ignoring completely the community in order to satisfy Novell's aims and goals (mostly, appease to Windows "converted" users. The recent created Gnome Control Panel is a copy of Windows Control Panel, except that it is slow and cluttered like Win 3.11 Program Manager). That, and things like bundling Mono, pfff. But that's another subject, that doesn't belong here.

    Just a heads up. Novell has done nothing to deserve your trust. Don't look surprised when they finally misbehave.
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:45PM (#18432523)
    They did not understand Free / Open Source software.

    They paid $210 million for SuSE. Why?

    The more intelligent approach would be to hire developers who would submit patches that you wanted to the various projects that you're interested in.

    Then you Open the protocols that you control that you want to see more widely adopted. And pay developers to incorporate those protocols.

    Novell had the idea that it can acquire Linux by buying Linux distributions and projects. When this didn't pay out, Novell decided to "partner" with Microsoft in search of some more money.
  • by giafly ( 926567 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:47PM (#18432547)

    With so much FUD in the air, I am glad we get our own reports like this, with audio, so we can reach our own conclusions [... Anonymous:] The biggest mistake SCOG has made, and MS is continuing to make from the very begining of targeting Open Source: It's a community the likes of which has never formed before. It's a community without Country borders. A community that chooses to communicate and protect itself the world-wide.
    Groklaw [groklaw.net]
  • nothing good? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:58PM (#18432721)
    The conclusion of the meeting? Nothing good is coming from this deal between Microsoft and Novell.

    My understanding is that, as part of the deal, Microsoft is actually distributing SuSE Linux.

    Doesn't this mean that they themselves are distributing the software they might be claiming patents on? And doesn't that mean that, for practical purposes, have given up their right to assert the patents against any GPL'ed software that is part of SuSE Linux?

    I'm sure this wasn't Microsoft's intention, but it looks to me like it's a result of this deal.
  • Re:GPL 3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:02PM (#18432785) Journal
    That will put them at a significant competitive disadvantage to the likes of RedHat. They will be saddled with maintaining old versions of very complex software (like the entire gcc toolchain, plus binutils and the like) - whereas companies who are not pariahs will just continue using the latest GPLv3 versions of this software. Novell's costs will therefore be significantly higher since they can no longer benefit from the work of the actual package maintainers themselves.
  • by robyannetta ( 820243 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:26PM (#18433169) Homepage
    Every day that goes by, I keep thinking that this Microsoft/Novell deal is nothing more than a prelude to Microsoft outright buying Novell who will then offer some cheap-ass Linux desktop solution.

    With Novell owning the original Unix IP, Microsoft may then eventually have the upper hand. That's a SCARY thing...
  • by Doctor Memory ( 6336 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:35PM (#18433343)

    No alternative currently exists for gcc which is free software.
    I find it hard to believe there are no other OSS/free C/C++ compilers. Yes, I know GCC does more than C/C++, but what more would you need to build the kernel and userland? If the hammer came down, I'm sure it wouldn't be too much trouble to pick up some other compiler and put the work into it to get it to fit in the spot GCC left behind. I mean, GCC's an impressive piece of software, sure, but it's not like you couldn't get another compiler if you had to.

    Actually, now that I think about it, why even worry? What improvements are they going to put into GCC anyway? Additional back-ends for new architectures, some bug fixes, but it's not like C or C++ are going to undergo any radical evolution that'll require massive changes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:53PM (#18433589)
    Ah, but you forget about all the tools that make a kernel useable. There's at last count 5.316 GNU packages - all moving to GPK 3. And the vast majority of them are included in most every Linux distro - including SuSE. It's not just GCC. It's make. configure. bash. gpg. parted. awk. autoconf. binutils, coreutils, fileutils - you know - all the stuff that operates in userspace outside the kernel?
  • by lordmage ( 124376 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:07PM (#18433769) Homepage
    Going to do a reverse and say they did give all licensing to SCO?

    Microsoft lackey Novell Exec "My bad, Here is the papers that say we did give them all UNIX licenses"

  • Re:War is peace (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:09PM (#18433797) Homepage Journal

    and exactly what are "deals like this"?

    The GPL says you can't distribute anything covered by its terms unless the people you distribute to have the rights to distribute passing on all the rights you passed on to them. So whatever benefits I confer when I give you a GPL program, they have to also apply when you give a copy to someone else. It's to stop some sneaky tricks that could otherwise be used to effectively take a project proprietary.

    So, under this clause, Novell couldn't buy a licence from MS (assuming there is in fact any basis for a licence) that would benefit their customers unless the same licence also applied to recipients further downstream. Or at least they could - but that would contravene the terms of the GPL, which would mean Novell had no licence to distribute at all.

    So, instead of MS giving Novell the rights directly, they've made a deal where they grant them to Novell customers, rather than Novell making the grant. It's a technicality used to evade the intent of the licence. If that doesn't sound so bad, imagine (as Jeremy Allison pointed out) Microsoft's likely response if someone found a clever loophole and used it do distribute MS Office without paying MS for the privilege.

    The reason they went to all this trouble is so that Novell can try and pressure people into buying only from them, and so MS can get a cut of the income from Linux. Basically Novell is the skinny kid standing by the school gate saying "see my big friend over there? Well he promises not to beat you up, but only if you give me all your lunch money" Except that Microsoft is muttering under its breath "unless I really feel like it"

    So that's what they're going to stop when they say "deals like this"


  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:34PM (#18434137)

    Complete freedom is impossible. If you have free speech, I can't have the freedom to duct-tape your mouth closed and break your typing fingers just because I don't like what you're saying.

    Just like the US Constitution, as amended, enshrines some rights (like freedom of speech) and bars others (arbitrarily duct-taping mouths shut), the GPL enshrines some rights and not others. The freedoms the FSF are interested in are the freedoms to use and modify software, and redistribute as you like. If you receive GPLed software, you are granted these freedoms, and denied the ability to restrict these freedoms for others. (You also have all the freedom granted by copyright law; the GPL allows you to do things copyright law would normally forbid, rather than forbidding things copyright would normally allow.)

    The FSF objects to Novell claiming by implication that Linux is encumbered by Microsoft's patents, meaning that nobody has the right to modify or redistribute Linux without Microsoft's permission, meaning that Linux is not Free Software by their definition.

  • by Jherek Carnelian ( 831679 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:58PM (#18434491)

    Ahh.. but if the GPLv3 packages place further restrictions on the GPLv2 licensed software it is being included with, you will find 5.316 GNU packages without a kernel to operate on.
    Right! Because the linux kernel license prevents all non-GPLv2 software from running on it!
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @05:14PM (#18434773)
    It doesn't matter. They already reversed themselves on their most important pledge and that is to leverage their patents against anybody who sues an open source project for patent violation.

    They will no longer come to the defense of open source projects if MS sues them and that's what MS was after all along. MS has already gotten the same kind of deal from Sun. If they can get IBM they will be done.
  • Re:GPL 3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ciggieposeur ( 715798 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @09:58PM (#18438059)
    Personally as I see it the developer chooses a licence to avoid the hassle of working out what rights they hand out - but it is THEIR work and does not belong to whatever faction has started playing games in the FSF recently.

    The copyrights to the gcc toolchain belong to the FSF -- they ARE the owners of the work! It has long been a condition to work on the official fork: if you want your patches to go everywhere, you assign copyright. Developers that don't like that are free to make their own forks (as with Emacs vs. XEmacs), but FSF has had enough developers who are OK with it to now have the definitive version of gcc.

    And if you think GPLv3 is a recent "game" from a "faction" in the FSF, you haven't been paying attention for about 20 years. FSF has ALWAYS been about copyleft. They predate the OSS movement by a decade and Usenet is littered with the ashes of long flamewars about the GPL license.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:55PM (#18439083) Homepage Journal
    Hi. What I meant was that Novell's Linux business is going to be hurt by what they've done, long term, because technical people won't be recommending them. And their Linux business has not reached the point of viability anyway, so I don't see how they plan to go forward rather than take as much money as possible before getting out of the business. Look at the customers they've listed of late (only four) and then ask them why they bought. The HSBC guy called the MS agreement FUD in the press, one of the others told me privately they'd rather be rid of Microsoft.

    Will MS buy them? MS tends to work through proxies these days. Is 330 Million a good starting investment? Sure.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @12:06AM (#18439165) Homepage Journal
    The new GPL3 provision says that if you arrange to protect any party from patents regarding the software, that protection has to apply to everyone. We might have the final language to see on Saturday, for the FSF annual meeting, I've not been told but that's what I'd guess.

    Forget about GPL3 introducing major forks. There will be a few small spats. The license is in the interest of the Open Source developers who would use it, and that's all of the developers who want a share-and-share-alike form of licensing rather than an outright gift as in BSD. The folks who mainly would be opposed to it are those who want to benefit without sharing, and to say the community doesn't need them would be an understatement.

    If you believed that GPL3 would prohibit Linux from being used in a system with DRM, you can stop now. There are four places where you can put DRM in a system with a GPL3 kernel and have it work well and not have to give away your keys: in hardware as in a chip that mediates access to the display or audio output, in a coprocessor as with the separate chip that runs the GSM stack in cell phones, in a kernel under the kernel as with Microsoft's "nib", and in a user mode program. Those are also the best places to put the DRM from a technical standpoint. I am currently working on a paper on this, maybe I'll have it out tomorrow evening.



  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @07:23AM (#18441193) Homepage Journal
    So, lets get clear on this to make sure I understand it correctly. You and the GPLv3 are perfectly ok with Tivo implementing DRM in firmware and hardware that stops the player from booting if certain controlled measures aren't present?

    No, it wouldn't work this way. In a compliant system, you'd be able to change the kernel as you liked, the system would still boot, but the DRM would still decrypt and play media correctly without offering access to the unencrypted data stream. The key is that the GPL3 DRM terms mean that the DRM must not lock down the GPL program, and the DRM functionality of playing the media must keep working if you change the GPL program. GPL3 does not say that you have to be able to break the DRM, it only restricts what the DRM can break.

    This isn't going to keep users away from the program. Users don't generally care about licensing as long as they have a clear right to run the program, and they do. Look at the nasty EULAs they sign from MS, much worse than ours. It may keep certain developers away, but historically the GPL share-and-share-alike terms have helped, rather than hurt, to build a large developer community.


Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.