Open source fun

Put the words “conspiracy”, “Microsoft” and “Linux” all in one headline and you have a recipe for an online headline hit. As a result I know SCO’s run at Linux is an issue generating a lot of amusement or concern, I’m just not sure which.

The context includes the SCO Group’s March filing in Utah of a $US1 billion IP-theft lawsuit against that great prop of enterprise Linux — IBM. Then there was SCO’s recent licensing agreement with the perceived enemy of Open Source — Microsoft. Throw in Novell, a previous owner of Unix System V, now barracking for the open source movement. That company’s CEO, Jack Messman, has reportedly sent a letter to SCO saying that the sale of Unix System V to SCO’s predecessor Caldera International in 1995 did not include the transfer of the Unix System V rights. (So you buy the company but don’t get the IP? In any case, Messman wants to win open source friends after issuing a written apology and clarification in April for angering some sensitive Linux types in the community when he dared to call Linux “an immature operating system” in an interview with US Computerworld).

Add in Linux creator Linus Torvalds with this offensive comment disparaging of poor Americans, “quite frankly, I found it mostly interesting in a ‘Jerry Springer’ kind of way. White trash battling it out in public, throwing chairs at each other. SCO crying about IBM’s other women...”, and I’m left wondering if Australian IT managers should be giving a rat’s about the whole situation.

Two weeks ago I said it’s just a money-grabbing stunt by a small company dwindling into obscurity. Now I’m not so sure. Chris Sontag, SCO senior vice president and general manager of the SCOsource Division, reckons that Linux-committed CIOs are “running their business on an operating system that has an intellectual property foundation that, by almost everyone’s admission, is built on quicksand”. A local IT manager who previously said in Computerworld that he wasn’t concerned is now taking a harder look at the legal risks.

This month, SCO promises to show hundreds of lines of code (under nondisclosure agreements) to interested parties which it says will prove that System V code is present in the Linux kernel.

Even if analysts aren’t that interested in taking up the code viewing offer, surely if such “proof “ is good enough for a US court there will eventually be implications for commercial users and vendors of Linux. One way out, says SCO CEO Darl McBride, is for IBM to buy SCO.

Will be fun to watch this one.

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