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OpenSUSE Lacks Independence

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE at 7:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ukraine monument of independence

Summary: The issue of OpenSUSE’s ties to Attachmate gets revisited; The new “OpenSUSE strategy” leaves some people unhappy

A FEW months ago we repeated our suggestion that the OpenSUSE volunteers should do what Mageia developers did (found true independence) and just branch away from Novell/Attachmate/SLE*, which is principally about selling proprietary software*; this triage views OpenSUSE as s product, not a community. It is exploitative and it is harming the brand. But the matter of fact is, many OpenSUSE volunteers have already left while some are eternally involved. We named a few notable departures, including the project’s boosters, who hardly show up anymore (with exceptions) and the project nowadays is driven mostly by paid staff. Recently, this paid staff was trying to recruit more people to become involved as volunteers. In the “Strategy Community Statement”, for example, it said that it “has many sponsors including Attachmate Group/SUSE BU as main sponsor.” It also said that it “should not depend on any of the sponsors doing everything.” Let’s not forget the money from Google for GSoC, which is still going on [1, 2] along with events like IPv6 Day at SUSE.

“If you wanted to join Apache OpenOffice, could you? Did you guys vote on the Attachmate announcement regarding all that before it was released?”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
Ted Haeger once explained: “I parted ways with Novell for the very same reasons that you cite about the MS agreement–not its evilness, but the careless disregard for the people that the company never bothered to consult (including me).” He was one of the main community people at the time, working for Novell. Even back then OpenSUSE was excluded from decision-making. Groklaw, which has been sceptical of the independence of OpenSUSE, asks: “If you wanted to join Apache OpenOffice, could you? Did you guys vote on the Attachmate announcement regarding all that before it was released?” We wrote about this announcement when Novell’s (Attachmate) PR department published it on behalf of SUSE. Was the SUSE community consulted at all?

One person’s “thoughts about the openSUSE strategy” show that there is disagreement even from within (this person is blogging about OpenSUSE and syndicated in the Planet). It says: “The current SWOT does provide a lot of useful information (keep in mind this document was produced by the community), and this information isn’t translated in the current strategy document. It would be a waste to neglect the SWOT Analysis that was made in the past, which provides very accurate information on things to work out and things that can become a problem. Now, if we have information on what’s not working, what needs to be improved, shouldn’t this information be used as a basis for the strategy statements and shouldn’t it be clear and objective?”

The truth of the matter is that Attachmate still controls OpenSUSE by the trademark at the very least. The OpenSUSE Medical distribution is getting new leadership [1, 2, 3, 4], but this project too depends on the trademarks it cannot own. As OpenOffice.org shows, the trademarks play a considerable role and OpenSUSE is no exception. There is apparently a plan for another OpenSUSE release in quite a while from now:

systemd is coming for next openSUSE (12.1) scheduled next fall.

Someone recently asked us why there are not any SUSE forks in existence. To fork SLE* would be hard for reasons we explained some years ago (Novell makes it difficult) and for OpenSUSE to be forked would probably make sense.
* The Attachmate-owned Novell is still occupied with Fog Computing hype while “Novelldemo” releases many videos on Vibe (hosted) and abend.org notes the new releases of proprietary software [1, 2, 3]. Novell/Attachmate is far from a FOSS-embracing company. It may only be exploiting FOSS, but then again, so does Apple.

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