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Torvalds: "I'll Be Really Happy If Sun Ends Up Being A Good Open-Source Player"

"I'll just wait to see what [Sun] actually does as opposed to what [it] says," remarks Linus

  • Where Is Sun Going with Linux?
  • McNealy: "We Invented Open Source, Gang"
  • JDJ Opinion: "Java is Back!"

    Speaking at Sun's event last week to launch Solaris 10, Sun's president and COO Jonathan Schwartz again took the opportunity of rubbing the Linux community up the wrong way.

    Alluding to Eric S. Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," in which Raymond sets out the advantages of open-source development, Schwartz claimed that - while the Java Community Process has, as he put it, "900 participants out there who are happy" - the Linux world is altogether less harmonious. Some see Linus Torvalds as a barrier to getting their proposed changes in to the mainstream Linux kernel, Schwartz insisted:

    "They're frustrated with their inability to get their changes in."
    "They don't get a vote," Schwartz said of companies trying to influence the code in the Linux kernel. "That seems awfully cathedral-like as opposed to the bazaar of the JCP."

    When LinuxWorld asked Eric S. Raymond to comment on this he was adamant that Schwartz has misappropriated the point of The Cathedral and the Bazaar:

    "The essence of the bazaar is not voting - a concept I never mentioned in 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar' and don't endorse - but the right to fork."

    "Sun can vapor on about voting and committees all it wants," ESR continued tartly, "but at the end of the day JCP is still a single point of control, the Java reference implementation and class libraries are under a proprietary license, and nobody can legally fork them."

    Raymond's tone then become stronger still:

    "As long as that continues to be the case, Java will be firmly stuck in cathedral-land and any claim otherwise will be disingenuous crap. I don't dispute Sun's right to make whatever business decisions it thinks it needs to. They wrote Java, and they have the moral right to set any licensing terms they choose on it. I will defend them against anybody who claims they are in any way obligated to open-source Java. When you pay the piper, you get to call the tune.

    But any time they try to use my work to justify retaining proprietary control or argue that Linux is somehow less open, that's either culpable stupidity or dishonesty and they should expect to get kicked in the teeth for it by the entire open-source community, starting with me."

    When a reporter relayed Schwartz's comments by e-mail to Linus Torvalds, he was characteristically undaunted, e-mailing back:

    "Hey, [Schwartz] can ding me however much he wants; I'm OK with that. I'll just wait to see what he actually does as opposed to what he says."

    "I'll be really happy if Sun ends up being a good open-source player," Torvalds added. "They have a great history from the '80s. Let's see if they can actually get back to it."

    Torvalds did not mention the fact that JCP Chair Rob Gingell, Sun's chief engineer, a Sun fellow and vice president, very recently abandoned the JCP chairmanship and indeed Sun itself, to take up a new position as CTO at Cassatt Corporation, which is based like Sun in Santa Clara, and headed up by BEA Systems co-founder Bill Coleman (the 'B' in BEA).

    Gingell was succeeded as JCP Chair by Onno Kluyt, well known in the Java community and the director of the JCP Program Office. But this is the first time that Sun hasn't had a senior executive in the chair of the JCP.

  • Where Is Sun Going with Linux?
  • McNealy: "We Invented Open Source, Gang"
  • JDJ Opinion: "Java is Back!"
  • More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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