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The source code to Solaris will be released under the Sun Community Source License (SCSL). Solaris, of course, is Sun's proprietary Unix operating system; it may well be the strongest of the proprietary systems out there currently. This announcement is interesting from a few different viewpoints.
What is really happening? Details at this stage are scarce, but a few things have come out. The code to Solaris will be released, but nobody has said just when. It appears that it may come out in a number of different pieces over a fairly long period of time. It is possible that some portions of the system may never be released, due to third-party licensing constraints or other reasons.
Since Solaris will be released under the SCSL, it can not be regarded as free software. The SCSL divides users into three different classes, and requires licensing fees for any sort of commercial use. It is not generally possible to pull pieces out of SCSL code to incorporate into other systems.
What is Sun trying to do? Clearly they are after some of the benefits of open source software, in that they would like external people to improve their operating system for them. They also probably want to keep current Solaris users from defecting to Linux. And, in fact, there are certainly Solaris shops out there that will benefit from the availability of the source.
Is this release good or bad for Linux? For the most part, it probably does not matter a whole lot. Solaris has not become an open source operating system, it does not have a Linux-like developer community, and is not likely to be a stronger competitor to Linux as a result of this release. The open source operating system landscape has not changed significantly.
Linux hackers may even benefit from seeing how things have been done in Solaris. It is, after all, a large example of the construction of a high quality Unix system. However...
Solaris source code presents a trap to unwary Linux hackers. Without care, licensing problems could rapidly turn into a legal nightmare for Linux developers and businesses. Please see our separate article, The Solaris Trap, for a discussion of how things could go wrong.
It must be Halloween again. Microsoft put up a page intending to address what it sees as "Linux myths". It is strongly written, and goes straight for the jugular.
Anybody who wondered if Microsoft was taking Linux seriously need only glance at this document. It is worth noting that it differs from some previous attempts by that company to attack Linux. This one is (relatively) well researched and well written. It is the product of a great deal of effort.
For a critical look at this document, please see our response. We had to conclude that it is not a fundamentally dishonest effort; it also will apply very poorly to the Linux of tomorrow. In the end, Linux is moving very quickly, and will overtake Microsoft's criticisms in short order.
And, of course, Microsoft passed over one of the most important points: freedom. They have no answer to the advantages that free software brings, so they simply do not bring up the issue.
There is a crying need for the Linux community to produce a similar document. It too must be well researched and well written, and it should make the Linux (and free software) case in a factual manner. The Linux case is strong, but, unless it is presented in a similar form, it will not be seen by many people trying to decide which system to use. The time has come for Linux to develop its own slick marketing materials.
LinuxWorld Conference and Expo for Japan was held last week. Matthew Cunningham, from Linuxcare, was kind enough to forward to us his conference report. Linux is going to be big in Japan ... but also very different!
Next week, Atlanta! The Atlanta Linux Showcase will be held next week, in Atlanta, Georgia. The Linux Weekly News will be there, with a few firsts for us! We'll be there with our first booth (still have openings for a few volunteers ...) and our first official show page. Keep your eye out for the LWN/ALS Show Page, created in cooperation with the Atlanta Linux Showcase, which will feature information about the show, news updates and reports from the floor.
It will be a busy week, but we're very much looking forward to it. Keep your eye out for Liz Coolbaugh and Dennis Tenney, both members of the LWN team who will be present at the show. Liz will also be giving a talk on Thursday, October 14th at 11am on Linux Distributions, to which you all are invited, of course.
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October 7, 1999