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Sun's Schwartz to Linux's Linus Torvalds

Jonathan Replies in Blog to Note by Linus Torvalds

Linux creator Linux Torvalds was fairly harsh in his criticism of Sun Microsystems in a recent response to a question about GPL2 and 3 at LKML.org.

Part of what he had to say:

"(Don't make) the fundamental mistake of thinking that Sun is in this to actually further some open-source agenda. Here's a cynical prediction (but backed up by past behaviour of Sun):

- first off: they may be talking a lot more than they are or ever will be doing. How many announcements about Sun and Linux have you seen over the years? And how much of that has actually happened?

- They may like open source, but Linux has hurt them in the marketplace. A lot."

Torvalds (pictured left) also observed that, "(Sun) not only drools after our drivers, they drool after all the _people_ who write drivers. They'd love to get kernel developers from Linux, they see that we have a huge amount of really talented people. So they want to talk things up, and the more "open source" they can position themselves, the better.

Furthermore, he wrote, "They may release the uninteresting parts under some fine license. See the OpenSolaris stuff - instead of being blinded by the code they did release under an open source license, ask yourself what they did *not* end up releasing. Ask yourself why the open source parts are not ready to bootstrap a competitive system, or why they are released under licenses that Sun can make sure they control. So the last thing they want to do is to release the interesting stuff under GPLv2 (quite frankly, I think the only really interesting thing they have is ZFS, and even there, I suspect we'd be better off talking to NetApp, and seeing if they are interested in releasing WAFL for Linux)."

Schwartz responded in his blog with an open letter to Linus, noting that "I'm glad you give credit to Sun for the contributions we've made to the open source world, and Linux specifically - we take the commitment seriously. It's why we freed OpenOffice, elements of Gnome, Mozilla, delivered Java, and a long list of other contributions that show up in almost every distro. Individuals will always define communities, but Sun as a company has done its part to grow the market - for others as much as ourselves."

Schwartz (pictured left) said he draws a sharp distinction between the Linux community and companies that leverage Linux in the marketplace, with the succinct observation that "companies compete, communities simply fracture."

He then had some comments regarding the issues that Linus raises, to wit:

"Now despite what you suggest, we love where the FSF's GPL3 is headed. For a variety of mechanical reasons, GPL2 is harder for us with OpenSolaris - but not impossible, or even out of the question. This has nothing to do with being afraid of the community (if it was, we wouldn't be so interested in seeing ZFS everywhere, including Linux, with full patent indemnity). Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we're starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate. Indulge me when I say It's different than starting from scratch. I would love to go faster, and we are all doing everything under our control to accelerate progress. (Remember, we can't even pick GPL3 yet - it doesn't officially exist.) It's also a delicate dance to manage this transition while growing a corporation."

Schwartz concludes by inviting Linus for a "mashup" or sorts, ie, dinner at Jonathan's house: "I'll cook, you bring the wine." A nice Oregon Pinot Noir, perhaps?


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