Red Hat tells Sun's Schwartz to get a dictionary

Reacting to claims by Sun Microsystems COO Jonathan Schwartz that Red Hat is a proprietary incarnation of Linux, Red Hat's vice president of open source affairs Michael Tiemann believes Schwartz should get his facts straight and expressed doubts over how open any open source Solaris is likely to be.

"I don't know which dictionary he's using but I don't think it's an English dictionary," Tiemann said when asked about Schwartz's proprietary Red Hat connection. "Red Hat has put its software out under open source licences and for him to call it proprietary is, I think, a rhetorical trick."

Tiemann said for an end user to port something from Red Hat to Debian [GNU/Linux] with a fast computer is "five minutes work".

"In Jonathan's case maybe from his perspective, the facts are the enemy of the truth," Tiemann told Computerworld.

On Sun's open source Solaris ambitions, Tiemann said it could mean that the company is subscribing to the age-old 'if you can't beat 'em join 'em' mantra in its battle with Linux.

"Sun has said that it is going to make Solaris open source but it hasn't identified a licence. So we're still forced to take it on faith that it is going to actually open source Solaris as opposed to simply claim it has done it without proving it," he said. "The second issue is that we haven't yet seen what the governance model is. Sun says on the one hand that it knows where it is going with Solaris and it is going to drive the roadmap and is investing x billion dollars in software R&D, but on the other hand open source is all about letting go of control. Sun hasn't told us how the governance model is going to support that. Is it going to be limited to simply allowing people to look at code?"

During an interview with Computerworld last month, Schwartz alluded to code sharing between the two companies as being subject to a licensing discussion. Tiemann views this stance as corrupt.

"I think it's a corruption of the concept of open source if special rights need to be negotiated in order to participate," he said. "So there's a big discussion about open source licence compatibility and there are definitely some issues there, but in my mind it is an open source best practice to choose a licence which is most compatible with the community I am most interested in serving. If Sun chooses a licence that forces every collaboration opportunity to be subject to a licensing discussion that is not an open source best practice."

Declining to speculate too much on what Sun might or might not do with Solaris, Tiemann said the company is doing a "great job" with its work on the open source Gnome project.

"We would like to see Sun [uphold] Gnome as a best practice and when it holds up Java it should recognize that compared with Gnome," he said. "Whether it's OSI-approved, until we see five different versions of Solaris from five different companies, how do we know that the market is offering choice?"

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