On OpenSolaris

In a recent article, Ted T’so makes some interesting points on Sun’s motives behind OpenSolaris, and how it fares today in the FOSS ecosystem as a result.

“Fundamentally, Open Solaris has been released under a Open Source license, but it is not an Open Source development community.”

It’s quite sad that this is the case simply considering the enormous potential that OpenSolaris had back in 2005, and the opportunities for cross pollination with Linux had the licenses been compatible. Given some of killer features of the operating system, it’s quite a shame that it has not been able to rally the developer community that it deserves.

At this point, I think the only hope for OpenSolaris is GPLv3 and a truly open development process. Then for once, Linus’ kernel will have a strong contender and a raised bar on licensing grounds.

Nexenta (a project unaffiliated with Sun), and essentially a Debian distribution with an OpenSolaris kernel, has been a strong attempt at attracting developers. Debian is by far is the most developer friendly GNU/Linux distribution out there, with a mature and proven development model, and to build an OpenSolaris distribution with user land tools of Debian makes the most sense.

I’ve been a Solaris user since version 6, which I attempted to run (quite foolishly) on a 333MHz Pentium. The user experience was anything but smooth, but still ended up gaining a lot of respect for the platform. Only time can say whether the tide changes for OpenSolaris or whether it ends up relegating to the Minix boat.

Updated: 03 May – Corrections on Nexenta

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Drama

In an unsurprising turn, SCO stocks plummet as a judge rules that Novell owns the UNIX copyrights, and not SCO as McBride would have you believe. Not that I really care about SCO stocks, I really don’t, it’s just nice to see people finally catching on to the SCO bluff. Redmond played it beautifully, or thought they did by financing the smear campaign that was SCO AND striking a deal with Novell to distribute Linux “coupons”, but will they find themselves outwitted by GPLv3 when/if Novell starts shipping GPLv3 code as part of the coupon deal? Now that is going to be very interesting to watch.

GPLv3 Launch

GPLv3 was launched on Friday (29) after close to eighteen months of public involvement in it’s drafting process. This has been an important milestone in the free software world as an upgrade to the GPL to address some of the more modern concerns have been a long time coming. I think Bruce Perens sums this up well when he said:

“When the GPLv2 and GPLv1 were written, we got music from phonograph records,” he says. “The most complicated input device people had in their homes was a touch-tone telephone. The only thing that was even close to digital rights management were these dongles you’d hang on the back of your computer that would authorize you to run software — digital rights management didn’t even really exist.”

You can read the rest of the Wired article — here.

I was at the Free Software Foundation with a couple of my mates and you can find some of the photographs, here. RMS made the announcement in a room rigged with audio equipment, so everyone was really quiet. In a room where the dropping of a pin could be heard, the shutter release of my DSLR came like claps of thunder. So I resorted to just watch the whole thing rather than draw the wrath of the assembled mob of free software types.

GPLv3 has finally taken flight. It’ll be a lot of work to re-license all the GNU tools under GPLv3 but the process has already begun. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens.

Update (14 July): The announcement from RMS.

RMS @ MIT

It was a very eventful weekend. For one thing, the FSF associate member’s meeting was being held at MIT on Saturday. I’m not a fan of social events, but as it turns out, geek hangouts are where I thrive. Made the long and arduous journey to Boston with Supun, a colleague of mine and a free software aficionado, and took the subway to Kendall/MIT. It was a very pleasant day, perfect for some good ol’ curbside hackin’.

The turn out at the meeting was pretty good, and there were some FSF merchandise right outside and I promptly bought a couple of books. Scanning the lounge for familiar faces, I quickly noticed Niibe walking over. Niibe came over to Sri Lanka and participated in a Code Fest held at Virtusa as part of the sixth Asia Open Source Symposium. Niibe is well known for his efforts on the Linux kernel SuperH port.

One of the speakers was the venerable MIT professor Gerald Jay Sussman, who invented the Scheme programming language along with Guy Steele Jr, one of his former students. It was a very interesting talk titled “Software is never finished”.

Eben Moglen followed soon afterwards, followed by Richard Stallman. RMS spoke about the evils of DRM and the new provisions introduced to counter it in GPLv3.

After the presentation, I managed to have a little chat with him in the lounge area, and when I mentioned the LKLUG he was quick to point out that a name change was in order. You can trust RMS not to miss that one. There was a long and heated LKLUG mail thread on this same issue way back in 2004. Thanks to lurker, I’ve managed to dig it up.

Some photographs of the event can be found here.