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01.04.11

OpenSUSE’s Future is Doubted Even by OpenSUSE Sympathisers

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, SLES/SLED at 6:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stars and Christmas tree

Summary: OpenSUSE critics from the project’s own base of supporters are coming out voicing their discomforting opinions

SUSE means a lot to me historically. It has always been one of the leading distributions, but when Novell liaised with Microsoft its reputation took a tumble. There is not so much news about OpenSUSE anymore. Sure, there is still the occasional security alert, the Weekly News (in need of writers), and an attempt to fill up the vacuum left by departing members. Many people seem to be leaving the core of the project, not just as users.

Groklaw worries about Novell’s betrayal and worries for OpenSUSE’s future [1, 2, 3]; it’s about user confidence, which is being lost in this Novell aftermath. Today Groklaw warns about OpenSUSE’s foundation and to quote some portions from a very long post:

Wikipedia’s page on the OpenSUSE Project says it’s sponsored by Novell, AMD and IP Exchange, not just Novell, and OpenSUSE’s sponsor page confirms those three and adds B1 Systems GmbH as another. Then there’s the community of programmers that develop and maintain the project, judging by this OpenSUSE development page, which says “the openSUSE distribution … consists of around 3500 applications, libraries and utilities. All of them are cared-for by openSUSE Package Maintainers who integrate, polish, update and maintain them. Maintaining packages is the bread and butter development task that is done in the openSUSE project.”

So why is the trademark Novell’s alone?

It doesn’t feel right, does it, when you look at it like that? My point is, there’s more than one stakeholder in the OpenSUSE foundation being set up, and you’ll see that discussed in the log. Trademarks have economic value, and if the community is helping in building that value, I think it’s logical that they should gain a share of ownership rights so as to get some share in that value and some say in what happens with the trademark.

[...]

Don’t be fooled by who from the community signs up with the foundation or think you can rely on them to play fair with you. No matter who the foundation hires or puts on a committee, nothing changes with regard to developers. You have to look out for your own interests. Microsoft has buckets of money. The staff are paid. You are not, so your interests and the corporate and hired interests are not identical, even if they are really nice guys. So keep your guard up, read the bylaws, and notice the licenses that a foundation is using too. If the license allows for taking the code proprietary, as per the Apache License (they call it “keeping your modifications secret”, which is allowed by the license), then it’s maybe Open Source but not Free Software in the sense that the GPL guarantees. It means there is no guarantee that modifications to the code will remain free. That’s why Oracle turns red at the thought of the Apache License on Java, I would imagine.

About a month ago there were signs of progress amid release delays (affecting the milestones even after Novell had slowed down release pace):

openSUSE 11.4 has feature freeze with Milestone 5 to be published on December 16th. So, it’s too late for a full review of all 11.4 features in time – and thus the team will only a review and push a few features.

Novell is reaching out to the community with a new survey. While some users like Dedoimedo and Andy still write about OpenSUSE, it sure seems like the community once fostered by Novell keeps slipping away and a longtime supporter of OpenSUSE makes predictions for 2011, claiming that “OpenSUSE will die”:

openSUSE will die. Or at least as we know it. Attachmate is still beholden to Microsoft for helping them come up with cash to purchase Novell. MS did not do this so that Attachmate could continue developing openSUSE. So what I see is openSUSE being put to rest by Attachmate and a spin off will be created by freelance open source developers.

Another person who supported OpenSUSE (Brian Proffitt) is as sceptical as us about AttachMSFT’s poor assurance. In his summary he claims: “One-on-one interview confirms fates of SUSE Linux, openSUSE tied together.”

Yes, it seems like AttachMSFT might do with OpenSUSE what Xandros did with Linspire and Freespire, in due course.

It is sad to see all of this. Important projects suffer, whereas unwanted projects like Mono and Moonlight are still around. Here we have a new post about a Mono program from Novell and an overly optimistic roundup of 2010 from the OpenSUSE Web site. “Integration with Banshee” (Novell projects that’s a no-no) is shown as something positive there. If OpenSUSE considers .NET to be a selling point, then maybe the demise of OpenSUSE won’t be all that terrible after all.

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