12.01.06

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GNU/Solaris under GPL3?

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL at 1:13 am by Shane Coyle

As Richard M Stallman has been pointing out for years, there is a distinction between “Open Source” and “Free Software”, and when you are using “Linux”, you are actually using GNU⁄Linux – the GNU Operating System, Linux variant. Of course, throughout the community and industry we have become intellectually lazy and allowed words to lose their meaning.

One thing that calling your Operating System GNU⁄Linux reminds you that in the end, Linux is as one developer put it “just a f%cking kernel”. Well, with Linus Torvalds publicly stating that he is not inclined to move the kernel to GPL3, could SUN be willing to supplant the Linux kernel for the GNU Operating System under GPL3?

Now that we know GPL version 3.0 is the software libre world’s strategic response to the Microsoft-Novell deal, one intriguing possibility is emerging. If a variant of a GNU system merely requires a superstructure to be built on a GPL kernel and toolchain, could we see a GNU/Solaris system?

Sun Microsystems is sounding increasingly positive about releasing Solaris under GPL 3.0.

Sun has released Java under the GPL, and Stallman gave his thoughts on the announcement recently. In September, Sun’s, er, “open source” officer Simon Phipps suggested that GPL 3.0 could be useful: “I have a growing confidence that what will appear from the process after another 3 drafts could well form the basis of a unification of the Free and Open Source software communities,” he wrote, before news of the Novell deal broke.

He qualified the comment with an observation that the language was “too imbalanced against large portfolio holders,” of which Sun is of course a good example.

Speaking to us today, Phipps sounded even more positive that the GPL 3 process would be useful… somewhere.

“I would not be surprised,” Phipps told us, “if the final GPL v3.0 was not an effective tool for some of the communities that Sun sustains, or will, initiate, in the future.”

Solaris wasn’t mentioned, but the prospect of a Solaris released under a dual license, of which one is GPL v 3.0, therefore looks much more likely today. And certainly enough of a prospect to start talking about the ramifications.

The article is speculative, but a fun idea for sure.

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