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Why Do We -- Why Does Anyone -- Write About SCO?

Why Do We -- Why Does Anyone -- Write About SCO?

I had originally titled this piece "Why SCO Is Irrelevant." However, if the SCO Group were truly irrelevant, why would I be writing about it? Why have so many bits been wasted and why has so much ink been spilled over an organization run by litigious drones with a penchant for mediocrity? The answer seems obvious when you examine the elements involved in the circus better known as SCO.

Who is SCO?

Lest we forget, Darl McBride, the CEO of SCO, was formerly employed at IKON Office Solutions as Sr. Vice President for Technology Services. One of his goals was to make IKON a major player in the technology services area. Where are they today? Surely not a major player in the field. McBride's biggest accomplishment with IKON seems to be the lawsuit that he brought against his own employer over benefits. With such an impressive resume, it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to determine the goals of a company who would make such an individual their CEO.

SCO's litigation and antics since filing the litigation are nothing more than a publicity stunt on a grand scale. In the same way that a drunken fan who runs onto a football field provides a measure of entertainment (until they get tackled by security or crushed by one of the players), the SCO circus has created a fleeting interest in an otherwise irrelevant company.

Linux is not owned by a company in the U.S.

One of the biggest problems with any litigation against the Linux kernel is that it's not owned by anyone and certainly not owned by anyone in the U.S. How exactly SCO plans to collect royalties for software in the worldwide public domain will be a challenge, even for the mental giants and the equally talented legal counsel at SCO.

More importantly, SCO has not found any offending code within the official Linux kernel. The code in question apparently shows up within custom revisions of the kernel put forth by commercial Linux players. Since Linux is open-source, there's nothing preventing someone from grabbing the source of the kernel and pasting in pieces of stolen code. In fact, this may be what happened. However, the alleged thief is the same individual who is reporting the theft.

SCO contributed to Linux and to Open Source

SCO, through Caldera, has contributed to the very software that they now bring litigation against. I find something inherently wrong about such an action. This seems akin to letting your friend borrow your car and then reporting it stolen after he pulls out of the driveway.


SCO: "My car has been stolen..."
Police: "Where?"
SCO: "From my driveway..."
Police: "When?"
SCO: "After I gave the keys to the person who stole it and told him to use it."

Just as interesting is that SCO continues to distribute Linux-based software. If Linux code contained bits that were believed to be infringements, it occurs to me that you would do your best to distance yourself from it, rather than adding to the problem. What's next, someone at the RIAA running an MP3 server on the side?

The Genie Is Out of the Bottle

Finally, it's time to everyone to come to the conclusion that the genie, in the form of the Linux kernel and Open Source software, is out of the bottle. Circus acts such as SCO can do nothing to stop the momentum that the Free Software Foundation started.

Gartner Group recently recommended delaying Linux and open source implementations until the SCO circus leaves town. I see no reason to do so. In reading Gartner research over the last few years, it seems they suffer from institutionalized misconceptions about Open Source. The grass-roots nature and true power of Open Source can easily be overlooked and discounted when viewed through a closed-source lens.

I find it curious why no such recommendation came forth when Microsoft was encumbered by countless anti-trust suits. Yes, it certainly could be because Microsoft has a huge war chest from which to pay any settlements. I'm sure Gartner understood that fact and thus made no recommendation to delay Microsoft-based implementations. However, just as Gartner understands Microsoft, they obviously don't understand Linux and Open Source. If they did, then no 'go-slow' recommendation would've been given because of the SCO circus.

Conclusions...

In the end, the SCO lawsuit is meant to prey on people's Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). The recipe goes something like this:

  • 1 cup fear of the unknown with Linux
  • 2 tablespoons of perception-is-the-better-part-of-reality
  • 1 tablespoon uncertainty over the outcome of litigation
  • A pinch of deceit with smoke and mirrors at the circus

    Unfortunately, when FUD gets involved all common sense seems to go out the window. The decentralized nature of Linux and Open Source hinders any attempt to counter the FUD. There is no marketing or spin control wing of the Open Source community.

    I'm looking for common sense to prevail among decision makers responsible for evaluating the best solution to solve a business need. It's quite clear that Linux and Open Source provides that solution in many areas. We'll all be able to look back on the SCO circus as nothing more than the last gasp of a small and irrelevant company.

  • More Stories By Steve Suehring

    Steve Suehring is a technology architect and engineer with a solid background in many areas of computing encompassing both open and closed source systems, he has worked with a variety of companies from small to large, including new and old economy, to help them integrate systems and provide the best use of available technologies. He has also taken a hands-on approach with many projects and frequently leads teams of engineers and developers, and has written magazine articles as well as a book on the MySQL database server. He has also performed technical editing on a number of other titles.

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