09.23.09

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What is ‘Club SCO’ Doing Near the Linux Foundation with Novell?

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, SCO at 4:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Where’s Waldo?

Linux Foundation

Summary: Respected members of the community complain about SCO players lurking among jesters for the Linux Foundation’s “Fake Linus Torvalds” game

SCO used to contribute to Linux, but a lot of people do not remember this anymore. Some pundits opine that Novell will be the next SCO Group and the company’s increased fascination with .NET is not an encouraging sign. Novell is firing Linux developers [1, 2], one of whom we spoke to in our IRC channel just two days ago. Some of these layoffs occur silently and it should not be surprising that Novell's contributions (patches) to Linux dropped sharply this year.

Microsoft’s indirect influence inside the Linux Foundation withstanding (influence via Novell), it was hard to ignore the fact that an anti-Linux character who promoted SCO was almost a guest of honour at LinuxCon. Boldly enough, the Managing Editor of Linux Today complained about this. She wrote:

And check out the winning Fake Linus– Matt Asay, who I would not characterize as any kind of great Linux advocate; his views on Linux and FOSS change as often as he publishes a new blog posting, which is several times a day. But at least Mr. Asay has some genuine FOSS creds.

Dan Lyons as contestant is just plain baffling. You might recall this is the same Dan Lyons who used to publish reams of anti-Linux trolling and pro-SCO guff for Forbes magazine. So what happened, wasn’t Rob Enderle available? Or Maureen O’Gara? With Ms.O’Gara you get a twofer– anti-Linux troll and your token woman. I suppose it’s a play on his schtick as Fake Steve Jobs, which is about as relevant to Linux and community-building as any random celebrity impersonator. A Fake Elvis would have been better, then we would have some cool music to listen to.

Carla spoke for many of us when she shared the thoughts above. She didn’t speak about the other Fake Linus who is a Novell employee, only the former one, namely Asay. Jason (of Mono-Nono fame) wrote

Linux Today on LinuxCon

[...]

Not Ms. Schroder’s words, but she rightfully points out the baffling inclusion of Daniel Lyons in the proceedings. This is a gentleman who enthusiastically supported SCO’s lawsuit activities for years, never missing a chance to smear and degrade the FLOSS community in the effort.

Among some of Mr. Lyons more enlightened diatribes include “Linux’s Hit Men“, where he goes through great pains to distort the role of the FSF and GPL, even reaching for the good old “comrade” Communism allusion. Or perhaps “Linux Scare Tactics” is more to your taste, where Mr. Lyons opines on the “FUD” from “Linux zealots”? You can hit on any random Forbes article from Mr. Lyons on the topic of Linux to be treated to 100% Microsoft approved misinformation and spin with all your favorite code words and key phrases.

Mr. Lyons is just one example of the less intellectually sophisticated Linux detractors / Microsoft apologists, but he serves here as an interesting example of a strange phenomenon among some in the FLOSS community to welcome, or even vigorously defend those who have spent enormous effort to destroy that same community.

I call it the FLOSS Stockholm Syndrome here because it seems to be part of that same mental abberation of hostages sympathizing or defending their captors!

Looking back at Carla’s post, here is an interesting comment from Antero, who writes: “Linus Torvalds atleast “sabotaged” the good reputation of Linux by that “Linux is too bloat” comment. What a interesting thing, everytime something negative has said about Linux it reaches the headlines. Atleast here in Finland. And don’t you ever think that we here see Linus “The Son of Nils” Torvalds as an “god” at all. Personally i find Richard Stallman as a man who really has something to say. His comment about one traitor might sound a bit “Stalin’s Purge” but honestly – it was rather realistic. Linus tries perhaps subconsciously escape the stalinism (connected always here to his father’s past)

“Microsoft just loves quoting Linux authorities as saying that Linux has technical deficiencies.”Our previous post debunked the whole "bloat" remark, which no doubt will be used by Microsoft against Linux. In its internal anti-Linux presentations, Microsoft just loves quoting Linux authorities as saying that Linux has technical deficiencies.

So anyway, why on Earth was Dan Lyons brought this close to the very same foundation whose cause he was attacking for years, equipped with SCO's slander?

This would not be the first such bizarre incident. Matt Asay, a former Novell employee who is also conspicuously included in this contest despite his professed love for Apple and Macs, joined Dave Rosenberg in citing and inviting Dan Lyons to an audio show, essentially playing along with this vicious character that curses folks like them. Maybe they just don’t know who Lyons really is, but they E-mailed me in advance, suggesting that I propose a question for the show (to be addressed for Lyons to answer). Maybe they know the history of my criticism of Lyons and him linking to Boycott Novell from Forbes Magazine. Another bizarre appearance of Dan Lyons was a keynote at EclipseCon 2008. This is part of a worrying trend where people who speak ‘on behalf’ of FOSS are not even FOSS users and are sometimes anti-FOSS (even secretly).

People who do not know Lyons’ role in advancing SCO’s cause can probably find all the answers at Groklaw, which is now waving an interesting analysis of an amicus brief that favours software patents.

Lineo was, of course, an offshoot of Caldera, spun off in 1999 as a wholly owned subsidiary. Why would it want Hollaar’s web site? For what business purpose would it fund it? According to a report in April of 2002, by Maureen O’Gara, Lineo had ran out of money and was bouncing paychecks. If true, maybe paying professors to put up web sites isn’t a viable business model? I am starting to wonder how long ago the idea of suing over the GPL first began to stir.

Harris replaced Bryan Sparks as CEO of Lineo in 2001, by the way. He started out as VP and General Counsel at Lineo when it began. Sparks founded Caldera, Inc. in 1994. Harris worked for Summit Law Group also, and in fact he was a founding member (more Lineo history at that link), and he was the lead technical lawyer for Caldera in its lawsuit against Microsoft. You’ll find Palumbo in the Caldera v. Microsoft filing also. You can find Hollaar’s other amicus brief submitted by him and IEEE-USA in the Bilski case, the one he filed earlier with the appeals court, on his page of papers.

Starting to feel like the Ozarks, where everyone is creepily related to everyone else you keep bumping into? The point is, there is a connection between Hollaar and Caldera/SCO that goes back years.

[...]

How can a professor of computer science not know that software didn’t start out as proprietary? That came second, not first. And talk about missing the point of the open source development model, where sharing knowledge is deliberate. You could call it the scientific method. It’s like doctors sharing their knowledge from experiments and such, so other doctors don’t have to repeat what they’ve already done. It’s not about keeping that knowledge secret; the whole point is to share, so that the state of the field can quickly advance. The FOSS community shares on purpose, in order to share knowledge, also so the knowledge remains available to all. It has nothing to do with cloning anything. “GNU’s not Unix” is a meaningful phrase. And the GPL in no way downplays copyright protection. It is based on copyright law, and the GPL is enforced using copyright law, so his footnote is grossly inaccurate, not to mention offensive and demeaning, to me anyway.

[...]

Oh, and speaking of small worlds, Hollaar’s bio says “Professor Hollaar is currently working on a new approach to patent reform and laws governing shrink-wrap and click-on licenses.” Speaking of Psystar. And look at a comment submitted, according to Terekhov, by Hollaar to the FSF during the rewriting of the GPLv3:

This is not a correct statement of copyright law, at least in the United States. With respect to “propagate”, it is likely a tautology because of the defintion of “propagate” covering only things “that require permission under applicable copyright law”. But for “modify”, 17 U.S.C. 117 permits the “owner of a copy of a computer program” to make an “adaptation” in particular circumstances, and makes it clear that making that adaptation does not “infringe copyright if you do not accept this License.” It also does not seem to recognize the “first sale” doctrine codified in 17 U.S.C. 109, that permits the transfer of a lawfully-made copy “without the authority of the copyright owner”. Perhaps the interplay between the definition of “propagate” and this section covers it, but it is certainly not made clear and, in fact, misleads one in thinking that the only way to redistribute a lawful copy is to accept the License.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A little like Psystar’s position, isn’t it? A lot like Psystar, huh? Coincidence? I don’t know. But it’s eerie, to me.

[...]

And in 2003, “alexander” posted this comment on Groklaw about how to work around the GPL, a la Psystar, as I read it, and included a link to the SCOX Yahoo! message board, to comments by Alexander Terekhov in support of SCO Group, making the circle complete.

I know what will interest you the most is the Hollaar brief, particularly the arguments on software and whether it is math, but at least you will understand from all this why, despite not knowing exactly how all these pieces fit together, I have come to suspect that the same folks behind SCO are somehow behind Psystar too, and that at its most fundamental, it was and still is an ideological attack on the GPL.

Regarding Professor Hollaar’s disinformation, Dr. Glyn Moody claims that “he doesn’t understand that algorithms are still maths – just ask Knuth”

A connection between Hollaar and SCO would be trickier to understand, but as SCO continues its battle over UNIX copyright, it is clear that Novell is not giving up and it would go all the way for the kill, as LamLaw shows in this analysis.

Novell Files for Rehearing En Banc!(Groklaw)

[...]

But, for the immediate future I do expect the old SCO nuisance lawyers to submit a brief arguing against the petition for an en banc hearing. After all, they have been prepaid for their legal services, right? And even though their hopes of ever getting to the actual trial have all but vanished as the new trustee was appointed by the court, they have been paid and they have been working a losing case all along. And they knew that from day one.

Either you have a transfer agreement that spells out which copyrights you have or you do not have any copyrights. Certainly the SCO lawyers knew that getting into the courtroom (trial court, appellate court or supreme court) would not be enough if Novell, IBM, Red Hat or even AutoZone? insist upon litigating their rights. Even nuisance lawyers are not ignorant of the law. They just think they can cause enough of a stink to get paid off.

Is Novell trying to help Linux (the PR factor) or does it want to keep the “UNIX” ammunition? Novell is not a charity after all.

In a new article from Richard Hillesley, this entire case is called the party that never ends.

Two years ago, we reported the imminent end of the long running legal battle between The SCO Group and the Linux Community, represented by Novell, IBM and others. But like the bad actor in a Victorian melodrama, SCO refuses to lie down, and keeps coming back for more.

It is not hard to come back for more when companies like Microsoft provide funding.

“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO

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