[conspire] Re: Sun's strategy to discredit Linux.

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat Oct 2 22:42:43 PDT 2004

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at earthlink.net):

> I'm not familiar with the data center industry.  Do you know what 
> market share Red Hat has compared with other Linux distros?

Nobody does -- certainly not me _or_ Johathan Schwartz.

But this is rather beside the point.  I'm not looking at the individual
foot-movements so much as the dance as a whole, and where it takes the

> For some reason, this doesn't bother me.  I see it as vague.  
> "Tightened licensing"?  What does that mean?

I infer that Schwartz is trying to convince people that Red Hat is
proprietary.  You could try to claim that my inference doesn't equate to
Schwartz _implying_ the same -- except that Schwartz actually _does_
persistently call RHEL proprietary, in exactly those words.

Now, if you fall back on claiming that Schwartz means something
different from what I do when he uses the term "proprietary", then I
think you'd be stretching plaubility far past its point of elasticity.
But, hey, that's just my view.

You ask "what does "tightened licensing" mean?  I don't know about you,
but I think it's pretty clear he's trying to convince the unwary through
tricky wording that Red Hat's licensing is somehow particularly
proprietary relative to the norm among Linux distributions.  And it's

> "Most restrictive in the open source world?"  How many shades of blue
> are there?  I would tend to discount this kind of talk as commercial
> puffery.  (Again, maybe I am missing something here).  

My view, yours for a small fee and disclaimer of reverse-engineering
rights:  Schwartz stepped over the line from commercial puffery into 
outright untruth.  I think that, if you apply Ye Olde "reasonable man" 
standard, the reasonable man would walk away thinking that Sun's COO 
had made a factual claim -- in multiple places in his weblog -- that RHEL 
is proprietary.

> Yes, but he's talking about IBM and Red Hat.  Again, in each of 
> these cases, it just seems that what we have here is companies 
> jostling to show 1) they are the best at Linux and open source for 
> their customers, and 2) not wanting to alienate the developer 
> community.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on what I have seen, 
> I am not worried or upset by Jonathan's comments.

I'm certainly not worried or upset.  Schwartz doesn't merit that, nor
Sun as a whole.  Rather, I'm very slightly annoyed.  But hey, didn't I
say that already?

>  I mean, look at what Martin Fink is saying here:
> http://www.forbes.com/technology/enterprisetech/2004/06/15/cz_dl_0615ibmlinux.html
> There, Fink (HP's head Linux guy) strongly criticizes IBM for opposing
> HP's efforts to sell HP hardware with Linux.  This is just sales talk.

I am quite familiar with sales talk, thanks.   My point is that Sun's
COO and employees apparently taking their cue from him have been going
far beyond that, and trying to convince the public of an untruth.

Moreover, I've not been saying HP or IBM guys making a point of coming
with obnoxious propaganda guns blazing onto Linux user group mailing
lists.  Whereas, Sun employees have been notedly making pests of
themselves in many of exactly those places, lately.  Have a look at the
SVLUG archives for an example.

> Okay, now I'm really confused.  Here is what Jonathan says there:

Look, all I was saying is that, as in all the other cases, Schwartz
starts out the blog entry blathering about Linux, and switches in
mid-sentence into complaining about Red Hat.  It gets obnoxious, and
reading it for too long tends to give a dull headache -- as its trait of 
(probably deliberately) ignoring the key matter of all the codebases he
gripes about being open source, hence forkable, hence _not_ under the
proprietary control of anyone at all, is either stupid or willfully
deceptive, and neither is very appealing.

Since Schwartz _personally_ (as opposed to some of his employees) pretty
much does his song-and-dance solely on his weblog and in press
interviews, it's eminently ignorable, but it does them little credit.

> My point in discussing this topic with you, Rick, is that I see lots 
> of people worried about Sun doing one thing or another that is 
> going to be harmful to open source; but I have friends at Sun, and 
> they are all pretty pumped about free software (as Richard would 
> say).  

Good heavens, I'm not "worried".  I'm slightly annoyed.  I'm not in
general particularly concerned with Sun Microsytems at all.  As
mentioned, the excessive shading of the truth by Mr. Schwartz and
numerous members of his crew came to my attention by their attempting it
on Linux user group mailing lists and the OSI's mailing list.

> I do seem to recall that Sun separated itself from the community 
> with Solaris, which I understand to be a flavor of Unix.

{shrug}  Doesn't bother me.

> I know that I hear lots of folks who are knowledgeable about such
> things to criticize Sun as being part of the forking and decline of
> Unix when everyone was trying to claim their own proprietary version
> of Unix.

Please see:  "Fear of Forking" on
http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Licensing_and_Law for background on the
proprietary Unix wars of bygone years.  

> I am active in the OpenOffice.org (OOo) community, and I can tell 
> you that Sun is very gung-ho about OOo.

Yes.  And I could go through the litany of other code and protocol
contributions past and present.  I'd rather not, since it's a rather 
long and ritualised discussion, and not actually relevant to the current
matter in the first place.

> In fact, if I understand your concerns correctly, your concerns stem 
> from that very history.

Nope.  You do not seem to have understood my concerns correctly.

> We truly don't want to see companies start trying to walk off with
> their own "proprietary" version of Linux, and to the extent that you
> believe that Jonathan Schwartz and other are trying to blame each
> other for trying to grab fork GNU and the kernal, I would share your
> concern.  

Er... no.  I have no idea where you're getting that from.  Please see my
Fear of Forking essay, for more information.

> But from everything that I can see, the current day competition to be
> the best Gnu Linux provider is quite different from the competition of
> the Unix days.

Um, yes.  But not relevant to the discussion.

> Sure, Jonathan is trying to talk about Red Hat price hikes and he does
> use the phrase "proprietary" but IMHO that is not a problem. 

IMVAO, that _is_ a problem.  Because it's factually untrue.

> It is just proprietary in that it is all about speed to market.
> Harvard Biz Prof Clayton Christensen talks about using "proprietary"
> combinations of commodities to effect speed to market with mass
> customization. 

Sorry, but these are two different meanings of the word in different
contexts.  In the software context (except when used in the trivial and 
generic sense of "subject to ownership title"), proprietary means not
open source -- on account of restrictions over either redistribution,
creation of derivative works, or usage.

> Ian Murdock is 
> talking about the same thing here:
> http://ianmurdock.com/archives/000225.html

1.  No, he's not.  Read it.  Unlike Christensen, he's speaking
    specifically of software; hence, the context-specific meaning of the
    term applies.
2.  Murdock is deliberately playing games with the term for reasons 
    of drama.  He knows perfectly well that proprietary in the software
    context means "not open source", but wishes a dramatic-sounding 
    excuse to complain about RHEL.  Besides, he's wrong:  RH does _not_ 
    have any reserved right to "distribute RHEL in binary form".  This
    is a common misconception.  And his conclusion about "ISV certifications"
    is simply non-sequitur.

Mudrock, being the original co-founder of Debian (with his wife Debra),
and thus one of us Debianistas, seems to be among the many of same who
criticise Red Hat, Inc. at the drop of a hat -- fairly or not.  It gets

> And Tim O'Reilly praises Ian Murdock's Progeny company for its 
> "proprietary" Dell-like mass customization of open source solutions 
> by creating an integrated architecture across the customer 
> interface, like Dell did:  
> http://tim.oreilly.com/opensource/paradigmshift_0504.html

{sigh}  Yes, I know that essay.  But Tim did not _claim_ Progeny's
solutions are proprietary.

> So to me, this whole discussion revolves around a bunch of companies 
> trying to bring their open source solutions to market as quickly as 
> possible with the best solutions for their customers, and they are 
> competing with each other and trying to convince everyone that they 
> have the best open source solutions.  

You keep trying to change the subject.  Sorry, no.  I made a simple
point:  Schwartz and his guys are going around promoting a factually
incorrect claim about RHEL -- including on Linux mailing lists.  I find
this mildly annoying.  That's all.

> IMHO, I think that you and Jonathan are defining proprietary in 
> different ways.

No, I don't think so.  And I think that, if he's going to speak within
the context of software, and use the term "proprietary" in relation to
Red Hat Enterprise Linux but for some reason _not_ mean that it's
proprietary in the normal contextual sense of the word, he has a strong
burden to make his variant meaning clear.

Since he didn't and doesn't -- much less his employees in their
gamboling about on Linux user group mailing lists -- I conclude that he
implied what I inferred.

> But I see Jonathan and Ian Murdock as defining "proprietary" more in 
> the same way that Tim O'Reilly talks about Google or Amazon 
> delivering open source software in his famous "paradigm shift" 
> article above.  

No, I _know_ that essay.  Tim is very careful to be specific about what
he means, and make clear in particular that he is not referring to
proprietary licensing.  

And please, that is a very long and somewhat convoluted essay, and I
really don't want to delve into it further at this time.

More information about the conspire mailing list