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Sun Microsystems

Sun to release Solaris source code 278

According to this story on ZDNet, Sun has decided to release the Solaris Source code under their SCSL (Sun Community Source License). It seems Sun wants to copy the success story of Linux. What do you think about it?
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Sun to release Solaris source code

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  • Especially considering the recent developments in the Mitnick case. If I was more paranoid, I might think it was timed to be after...
  • this this news really big enough to deserve being posted 3 times?
  • I thought I'd heard about this months ago, and I could *swear* it appeared on Slashdot then, too.

    Regardless, this isn't really important to anybody. It still bears Sun's license, which prohibits developers from doing anything with the code and retaining their contribution. It all goes back into Sun's pockets. Their license is useful - it lets you look at the code of their products, which might be very handy in an educational environment - but for real world work, it's only a good license if you don't mind handing all your work back to Sun.

    Question: would it be possible to look at how Sun's code does something (say, for example, SMP) and then use the *ideas*, not the code itself, to improve areas of Linux?
  • i think it's great! even if HeUnique posted it 3 times :)
    now with BSD and Linux and SUN there'S choice
  • Okey, now we are going to see, whether the argument "Linux would die if Solaris was free" has any content. I know, this doesn't mean Solaris is free or GPLd, but how many people will jump ship.
    My guess? Not a big number...
  • The SCSL still doesnot promote the growth ( or infestation as some would say) that the GPL does. Hell even a BSD license would be better than Sun's poor excuse for openness.

    It seems that I got some problems with connection to the BackSlash (where you write what will be posted) and I mistakenly clicked 4 times cause it didn't want process the feature.

    I erased the remaining 3 posts.

  • My thought is the more 'open' any software becomes is a great advantage to everyone. Regardless of
    who wins (linux or solaris) the point is that the
    user community wins (read consumers).
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:12AM (#1646223) Homepage Journal
    As people here know, Sun's SCSL is a kind of "embrace and extend" for free software/open source: pretend to offer the efficiency gains, but hold back the freedom so you can still hold your customers in thrall and mess them about at a later date.

    The trouble is that a lot of people are going to mistake this for a real open source release. In some ways, it's the nightmare scenario that RMS has been trying to warn ESR of, though I don't think his methods for combating it are the most effective: most people out there still think "free software" means gratis, not libre.

    So, how can we spread the word? How can we let people know:
    • that free/open source software is all about software freedom, not just low prices and local bugfixing
    • that software freedom is worth having, not just for starry-eyed idealists and people who talk about troublesome ideas like ethics, but for anyone who needs their software to have a future
    • and that the SCSL doesn't grant it, not by a long way?

    This is a pretty complex message, and getting across even the simplest ones is difficult. How shall we tackle it?
  • I just said that yesterday.. except the SCSL is a bit restrictive. (IMHO). Are they afraid that Linux is getting to much hype and are they grasping at air? It will be interesting to see the response of this, not only from the Linux community, but the UNIX community.
  • IF you view Sun's moves recently as all mainly attempts to hurt MS and place itself at the top, this makes just so much sense. Whether or not the SCSL has enough of the advantages of the GPL and BSD licenses to make it as useful, it's still something Sun's done that MS hasn't. Having to send your changes back to Sun doesn't mean you can't mod the source for your needs, which has got to be an advantage.

  • but for real world work, it's only a good license if you don't mind handing all your work back to Sun

    But it is good in the sense that if you want to use Solaris as your OS you surely are going to be more happy if you know that the source is out there and being scrutinized by many more people than some other commercial UNIX.

  • [Question: would it be possible to look at how Sun's code does something (say, for example, SMP) and then use the *ideas*, not the code itself, to improve areas of Linux?]

    That would be educational use of their source; doesnt sound problematic as long as you dont steal the actual source of course.
  • by djarb ( 6628 ) <djarb@highe[ ] ['ner' in gap]> on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:15AM (#1646228)
    that /. posted a 'what if' story about that yesterday, and today Sun does it.
  • Sure, so long as the code's only can copyright `expressions'---specific ways of presenting ideas, but you can't copyright an idea.

    Thus, if I wrote a book about a crazed whaling captain wanting to take vengeance on the beast who'd munched his leg, Herman Melville would have no kick so long as I told it my way, not copying his words or (I presume) too much of his organization.

    If the code was patented, on the other hand, it's a whole 'nother kettle of cetacea...

  • This is great news but I find it hard to believe. They can't just be abandoning their opportunity to make money on Solaris. Big companies never really want to go opensource, they only care about the bottom line, not morals. Open source and linux are buzzwords, I am very suspicious of big companies supporting open source/linux. Example: Corel trying to avoid open source untill they were flooded with email from angry open source fans.

    In my gcrystalball I forsee a story on slashdot in the near future of Sun in some way attempting to exploit the open source community.

    (this is not flamebait aimed at Sun fans, just wariness of anything with an IPO going opensource)
  • Solaris still isn't free. The license under which this source code is released is very prohibitive. According to the article, this will be released under a similar license as Java....which certainly isn't free (think speech) and Solaris will still cost money for commercial use which istn' free either (think beer).

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:16AM (#1646233) Homepage
    Keep dreaming, Sun.

    What'll happen here is that any "nice" parts of Solaris (and I'm so angry with Solaris lately that I can't think of a one) will be assimilated into Linux and the other open source OS projects.

    Reasoning: If you thought getting started with Mozilla was tough from a learning-curve point of view, just imagine how tough it would have been on a much larger scale (like this is). Besides, anyone out there interested in doing operating systems development is already likely working on Linux, and I can't see any compelling reason to switch over to working on Solaris. After all, linux's success was a right-place-at-right-time occurance as much as anything else.

    Besides, Sun's instituting Yet Another License, which is always discouraging to those of us who think that the GPL is still the only really honest way to go in terms of open source licensing.


  • THis is true....but there won't be nearly the number of people looking for bugs (and fixing them) as if the license was more along the lines of BSD and/or GPL.

  • SCSL simply doesn't inspire community support. SCSL only gives Sun the marketing advantages of Linux, not the real advantages. While this _may_ encourage some businesses to stick with Sun, I suspect this can only slow the domination of linux, not keep it from happening. Linux will continue to grow as free software, and solaris won't. This is just a marketing ploy to capture companies that are interested in 'that open source thing'.
  • I wonder how this will affect LINUX development. The source code to Solaris should help solve some of the scaling problems linux has. Not to out right rip the code, but it should help point the way to more scalable kernels.

    Of course, what else is there in Solaris that it does better than LINUX?
  • I could be wrong on this, but it seems to me that maybe Scott is a bit scared. There have been a number of developments at Sun that look great on the surface, but several /. readers have questioned Sun's motivations behind the moves (the SO acquisition for one). One reader suggested that Sun is using Linux not because it's a pretty viable computing solution (which is rapidly getting better), but using it rather as a tool to help kill Microsoft. "Linux is a good starting point. When you're ready to graduate, here's Solaris" is the impression I get from Sun. Maybe this move indicates that they've realized the Linux juggernaut is a threat not only to Microsoft, but to Sun as well. One of the stated goals of the Linux community is "Total World Domination" and that idea probably covers the entire OS spectrum. We've made exceptional strides into the server market (and 2.4 should help alleviate some of the scalability issues holding Linux down), and with KDE 2.0 on the horizon (as well as the rapid changes in GNOME ;), the desktop shouldn't be too far off. I think maybe Sun is trying to hold on to *their* position here, but I have been called an idiot more than once...

  • This a day after 'Would Linux survive if Solaris was free'.... That article seemed to be concentrating on free beer, but the response was mainly that free speech was more important, and now it seems to be happening.

    But 'Copying Linux's success?' - surely this is more like copying BSD's success, because of the way the Sun Community license works.

    Should we be worried? From the way hackers have reacted to other Sun Community releases, I doubt it - the open source community seemed, and continues to seem severely underwhelmed by Sun's have-hearted effort to go open-source. When they GPL stuff, then we should be worried - or conversely we needed be worried at all, because ultimately if the Open Source community can use stuff from Solaris and vice versa freely, everybody wins - that's the point of Open Source.
  • Sun is hoping that by simply having the source code available, programmers will trust the software more as they can now see its inner workings.

    Surely being able to view the source code will make it much easier to develop exploits to break Solaris security? The guy that cracked the PCWeek SecureLinux box [] used the source of the photoad cgi script to develop an exploit. Access to the Solaris code will help too - especially in the short term. I'm sure Sun haven't done a line-by-line audit of the code.

  • It has been a while since I looked through the SCSL, but if I remember correctly, it doesn't allow derivative works. You can download the source code, look at it, say Gee-Whiz this is neat, you can even compile it for your own entertainment, but you won't be seeing Debian Solaris or RedHat Solaris. You can't re-distribute it.

    Heck, Sun won't even accept bug fixes for Java from the developer community. You have to log your bug report at the Java Developer Site, hope people vote for it and that Sun actually fixes it.

    It's a little more open (as in transparent) a process than Microsoft's I guess, but it is a far cry from genuine open source development!

  • Well, its closer to the BSD lisence agreement then the EULA. :)

    (read: could be worse)

    Though I'm sticking to fully-free linux for the time being.
  • As much as it makes me uncomfortable, this is the type of situation where ESR's certification that a license is or is not truly derserving of the name Open Source(tm) is called for.

    It would be easy, if there were an official set of criteria to measure by, for a group of people (say ESR's group) to say "This license is not open enought to get our label."

  • by Squirtle ( 73289 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:20AM (#1646244) Homepage
    Putting the Linux angle to one side for a sec...

    Solaris surely represents a couple of billion dollars worth of intellectual property. Sun's preparedness to give this away at the click of a mouse makes you ask "what is the value of a technology company"?

    To me, Sun are saying that source code is worthless without the ability to support that code, to evolve it and to use it to provide value to their customers.

    So the value in buying Solaris is not in Solaris per-se, but in the people at Sun.

    Or maybe I'm just up myself and they want to sell more hardware. It's important to know whether the x86 version will be available.

  • by John Fulmer ( 5840 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:21AM (#1646245)
    I use Solaris, Linux, and *BSD almost every day, and I can't say that this does anything to really change the way I feel about Solaris.

    I tend to use Solaris in situations where I either have to have it for commercial applications, or places where I REALLY want Sparc hardware (which is very nice to work with in a server environment). And I use it because it works well and is rock solid.

    However, with Linux, and to a lesser extent *BSD (NetBSD in my case), I don't just use it; I feel like I OWN it. It's mine and no one can a) take it away; b) Change it to where I can't stand to use it any more; or c) go out of business and leave my OS of choice unsupported. I'll never have that feeling with Solaris, since it isn't free; either in cost or in the way it's developed.

    This sense of ownership has been the prime reason why I've used Linux as my primary desktop for over 4 years, even before there were any hints of good application software or decent emulators.

    my 2 cents..


  • With Linux having a little "stability" in the market today will this move by Sun really matter? Are the Linus' out there going to port this over to x86 or other architectures? I think not. The most I see happening with this is a small increase in the SUNW stock graph and maybe a few optimization tweaks for Linux or the other FreeNIX's, and possibly some new "Sun-derived" admin tools for these boxes.
  • I agree. First, Sun bought Star Office. Now, they're trying to release their OS as open source. Probably this is all a results of LInux fame. I still don't see this as some threat to Linux.

  • Im certain that this is the 5th time this has been mentioned. Let me predict the future here, sun is not going to get a host of developers sweeping in and adding all sorts of useful functionality to solaris

    There might be some perusal of the source, and maybe a bug fix or two, but it is not going to make any difference at all

    Firstly, for them to gain any benefit from the release they have to have a whole support structure in place, they need a developer mailing lists, they need an open development cycle, open knowledge of what they plan, what needs to be fixed, and an idea of who will do what. Sun are not doing any of this, its purely a dump of the source, take it or leave it. What benefit is that to anyone, including sun themselves ?

    Secondly, its not really all that open, the community licence twaddle is just "yet another licence", and at this stage for developers licence fatigue has set in. Why code something for solaris, when you can do the same work for linux, and use a licence which is understood. Sun are giving away with one hand, and due to this licence holding on tight with the other

    Sure we all want open source, and this is better than nothing, having the source available makes life so much easier for developers to make their drivers work under solaris, advanced system programmers can read through it and see problems for their products, and so forth. But this type of source release basically benefits existing solaris users. There will be no grand influx of users to solaris coz of this, and there will be no flood of developers helping sun, my only fear is that this lack of interest will be pointed out with a "look, open source does not work"


  • You've got to be very careful here to avoid even the appearance of plagarism. The best thing to do would be to use a 'non-coding' person or group to scrutinize the code in question and put together a specification document describing how it works. Then the coder(s) can write to that specification without being 'tainted' by exposure to the original source code. Also it is important to document this walled-off approach so that you would have evidence if challenged by owners of the original source code.

  • I agree with you completely. The only way to let people know is by telling them, by making it clear that truly free software (in the free speech sense) is better for everyone than proprietary, closed software licensing, even Sun's supposedly "open" SCSL.

    When I first read the piece, I thought, "Neat, now I can get the source for Solaris and maybe get it to work with the hardware on my x86 box." You see because of its open development model, Linux supports more hardware than any other OS available. (Sure NetBSD may have been ported to more platforms, but Linux has drivers for far and away more hardware.) So, I thought that this looked like an opportunity to write some Solaris drivers and hack the Solaris kernel. But then, I thought, "Why do Sun's work for them?" That's all this is, an opportunity for Sun to make money off the backs of all us free software fanatics.

    I'm not jumping to Solaris. I'm sticking with GNU/Linux or possibly even some form of BSD. I won't be joining Sun (or Apple's Darwin) until they come up with a better license. It doesn't have to be the GPL exactly, but it does need to be more open and more free than the current one.
  • The interesting thin about being open is that "secret" security techniques can be quickly shot down and fixed to become something truly secure.

    Just look at OpenBSD. It's open source, yet it's the most secure *nix OS on earth.

    Another example is RSA encryption. The source code is available, but that doesn't help you crack the algorithms.

  • The haven't abandoned their ability to make money. The SCSL requies you to pay for commercial use of the product. At least that's what it says in the article linked at the top of this page. :)

    So, the money they make from Solaris HAS NOT CHANGED. You can already "buy" a free copy of Solaris for personal costs like $20 or something to get it shipped, but that's not much. All they've done is attempt to get the source code out there so that people can find and patch bugs.

  • That pretty much sums it up. I don't really want to work on any "pseudo-free" code, debugging for some large corporation. The whole idea behind GNU/Linux, and other free UNIXes is that it IS in fact free of sleazy constraints imposed by marketing managers etc...

    Of course, I haven't read the Sun license in detail, and what I read made my eyes cross. Am I wrong? Is it better than I suspect?

  • So this is kinda offtopic...but I wanna know how Solaris competes with Linux right now.

    Looking to purchase a Toshiba Satelite 2595 (or something similar) in the next few months and it really grinds my eraser that the only options I seem to have when it comes to watching DVD movies on a laptop (don't laugh) is using Win98 or a Mac. Not even the wonderful Multimedia OS (Be) has it. So...remembering that Solaris is free for personal use...I trotted over to their webpage to see what they offer in terms of x86 notebook compatibility (ie drivers) and DVD Movie support. Didn't find much to help me.

    Perhaps there isn't such a strong market desire for the DVD movie-on-a-computer under Linux. But Couldn't Corel or IBM or one of these big rich helpful companies buy the licenses and help things along...? I'd pay a bit of cash for a binary if it would let me watch The Matrix (barring other problems) on laptop in a bunk on a boat, without having to have WinClunk. (Which IMHO is not worth trashing a $2100 machine with. My old compaq play-machine that sits in front of me yes, but not such a long-term investment.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:27AM (#1646256)
    If you sign up for the SCSL stuff, please don't *ever* contribute to Linux. The SCSL is basically a non-competition clause, so the lawyers will easily skewer Linux if it is contributed to by someone who signed up for the SCSL. Not that they would win, but who can afford the legal fees?
  • You gotta wonder what Sun is up to with this. Maybe they need some help to get ready to compete
    with Projet Monterey []. Once this project is complete there will be few competitors for the "big iron" applications.
    I didn't follow this one too closely, anyone know why Sun is not participating in Monterey?

  • by SoftwareJanitor ( 15983 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:28AM (#1646258)
    Of course access to the source helps in the short term developing exploits, but as quickly as those exploits appear in open source they are fixed, making the code stronger. Its a bit of short term pain for long term gain. In closed source such exploits can exist in code for years before anyone finds them, and generally it takes a lot longer for closed source vendors to fix the problems and distribute them once the exploits are publicized.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:28AM (#1646259)
    As people here know, Sun's SCSL is a kind of "embrace and extend" for free software/open source: pretend to offer the efficiency gains, but hold back the freedom so you can still hold your customers in thrall and mess them about at a later date.

    Really? I am under the impression that Sun is releasing the source code to there products not looking for free hand outs but simply to add value to their products. If you have the source it is easy to fix small problems which come up from time to time on your own workstation or server. It is also easier to find and fix security holes.

    The trouble is that a lot of people are going to mistake this for a real open source release. In some ways, it's the nightmare scenario that RMS has been trying to warn ESR of, though I don't think his methods for combating it are the most effective: most people out there still think "free software" means gratis, not libre.

    The words open and free have different meanings to people who live in the real word. It was stupid for them to call free software "free" and open software "open".

    So, how can we spread the word? How can we let people know:

    that free/open source software is all about software freedom, not just low prices and local bugfixing that software freedom is worth having, not just for starry-eyed idealists and people who talk about troublesome ideas like ethics, but for anyone who needs their software to have a future and that the SCSL doesn't grant it, not by a long way?

    Well the above is all opinion other than the last. The SCSL is not a free or open license and it was never ment to be and it isn't Suns problem that people get it confused with various internet software movements.

    I personally am glad Sun is helping their customers, these are the people who benefit from this. Just like people who use Star Office in a work environment will benefit from access to the code. They are not trying to give hand outs to the Linux community.


  • In my opinion on of the truly incredible things about Linux is that you can make changes to the system and *if* you can convince others that the changes are good they get incorporated and acknowledged as being yours. Once incorporated you can always look at that piece of code and say "I did that, I own that." For me that is the greatest allure of Linux.

    Now with the Sun Licence (as with Apple's) you can make changes, but you can never own the change or - probably - even get acknowledgement. And that is the biggest hinderence for Sun's experiment.


  • This is a typical Sun move. In the face of overwhelming odds, they pretend to make the right move. Let me elaborate:

    Why it's too little: Their community source licence is not really open source. They still keep final control of the sources. Yes you can look at the source, but it's not really open source the way the GPL is. They are trying to ride the open source success, not more and not less. Given their history and their (BSD) roots, this is basically an insult to the intelligence of open source developers.

    Why it's too late: A few years ago, a true open source release of Solaris would have won them over the hearts and minds of developers all over the world. But now? Who cares. Yes Solaris is still ahead of Linux in high end scalability, but I am quite certain that Linux will catch up with and overtake Sun even in the scalability game within a few short years. On the desktop Sun has long since lost any lead they might have had (check out the discussion about the OSOpinion article yesterday for some anecdotal evidence about this from other Slashdotters and myself) and the basic Solaris installation is rather pathetic when compared to a modern Linux distribution.

    I'd much rather spend my time futher developing Linux where I'm ensured that the sources will remain public and accessible to everyone around the world, than fix Sun's bugs for them and not get jack squat in return ... what really surprises me about Sun is that it seems that they just don't get what the open source movement is really about ...

  • Actually, to be completely honest I think the thing that really kept the Civil War going as long as it did was really inept generaling on the part of the North.

    The North always had far superior manpower and a larger industrial base. McClellan could have marched to Richmond and destroyed the confederate capitol during the Peninsula Campaign if he hadn't been so completely psyched out by the southern commanders (who he outnumbered heavily, but was convinced that the opposite was true).

    After that, the North cycled through one inept commander after another. Lee knew how to beat each one until Grant came along. Grant had a fairly simple approach to the whole affair; he set his "acceptible loss" numbers very very high and just pushed.

    So, Grant actually managed to keep Lee busy. At about the same time, Sherman's army cut loose from their supply lines and gutted the South's infrastructure (Atlanta was the big railroad hub -- burning it like you saw in Gone With the Wind would have the same effect as nuking O'Hare, LAX and JFK all on the same day).

    Not that the war didn't become about emancipation, I just didn't want you to think that was the deciding factor.


  • I think Sun will not have people beating down their door with contributions to the Solaris code base. Aside from the restrictive license that puts developers in a subservient role to Sun, the OS is in a "mature" state. They will suffer a similar fate as Mozilla, which opened its source too late to receive vast outside support.

    What's special about Linux is that there is no "inside" or "outside" to the extent that Linux/Alan don't really match up to Sun as a faceless corporation. Time and again, they have shown that their primary interest with Linux is to make a great operating system and not to cut corners. This generosity sets an example to other programmers and encourages development.

    Does Sun inspire the same feelings? Would you, as a developer, contribute code knowing that some giant company was going to make tons of money off of your efforts - and if you wanted to do the same, you'd have to pay them royalties?

    Sure, people will look and learn from the Solaris code, but when they want to leave a lasting legacy, that'll be through contributing to GNU/Linux. With Solaris, you're still putting your eggs into one basket. What happens to the source code if Sun goes under? You'd have to destroy the internet itself to destroy GNU/Linux, which is available on countless servers.

  • Bah.. /. needs to have submit be preview... accidentally hit enter and *poof* off it goes.

    anyway, i've noticed that people have a habit of "picking on" source-release commercial packages. That is, people find bugs in the source and keep them to themselves (it is a commercial environment, after all--you must pay for anything). There are two major reasons the Free software (i don't side with RMS or ESR on this, both are extreme, both have good points.):

    - Users feel an obligation to the community
    - Users get an ego trip out of doing the most

    The second one is probably more of a reason to fix things than the first, as it's more powerful.

    In a commercial environment, users lack that incentive. The primary motivator is money, so it doesn't make sense to just "give away" something that benefits Sun. I think this explains the restrictive license.

    But there is one group that will find this to be a boon: crackers. Having the source code to a package makes it easier to crack if you know what you're doing. For example, look at all the TCP/IP DoS attacks Linux has been through. But those were found and fixed by people within the Community. Why? probably for the ego boost and a sense of duty. Crackers don't like revealing their technique to begin with, but they have a Real Ego Problem. So the ego trip really helps get their secrets out into the open. The Sun model doesn't really provide for this ego trip.

    What i'm getting at is this: expect to see Solaris get cracked a lot more Real Soon Now. Unless they bothered to do security Right the first time, which seems to be less than probable.

    send flames, comments, thoughts, etc to, as this has made me think. i'll get back to you with my Real Address from there ;^)

    (again, sorry for the double posts.)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I dunno about Sun. Sure it's nice to have the source, but is it really worthwile to even touch it if it has strings attached? Maybe they are
    hoping some of the source will be incorporated into linux and then they can claim partial ownership to the kernel.
    Don't mean to be paranoid but couldn't this
  • The SCSL is not a free or open license and it was never ment to be and it isn't Suns problem that people get it confused with various internet software movements.

    Snarky answer: then we'll make it Sun's problem =)

    Less snarky answer: waitaminit ... Sun may not have originally intended the SCSL to be open source definition-compliant, but the fact is they seem to be making a lot of noise about "opening things up." Whoever originally caused the misperception that the SCSL is an "open source" license, Sun now looks like it wants to profit from the conflation, so yes, it is their fault.

  • I wouldn't say they're abandoning Solaris as a revenue stream. I would assume they make loads off of support contracts, which cover software problems as well as hardware failures. Trust me, most companies would much rather pay Sun what amounts to an insurance premium for support than to pay employees or contractors to wade through the OS code to fix their problem. As long as they control what contributions make it into the standard Solaris distribution (thereby making support no more impossible than it currently is), they'll still make some $ off Solaris. Speaking of the impossibility of supporting an OS, I wonder if they'll impose conditions on firms wanting to contract Sun for support. I also wonder whether they'll maintain their OS subscription program after the release, with the benefit of an easy-to-install precompiled OS. Sound familiar? paisleylad
  • by IIH ( 33751 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:35AM (#1646269)
    For those interested in conspiricy theory, here's another possible reason for Sun to make source viewable. Consider this...

    Sun release the source, and almost definitly, many linux people being curious hackers, will look around, to see how things work. Then, one of them at a later date includes a patch for improvement in the kernel, which Sun attempt to claim is using copyrighted code from their source. It could be impossible to claim "clean room" situation, if they have looked at it, and even if it wasn't true, it would be a major hassle.

    This is actually more likely than you think, as I'm sure Linux is still missing some features that Solaris has, so the possibility of a patch including that feature would be subject to closer investigation. Consider scalability, say a patch is included that makes Linux more scalable, and a lot of the kernel is rewritten to take accord of the new structure/spinlocks, whatever. Then Sun contest that the scalability is theirs, and the kernel has to backtrack. (even if they lost, the impact could be major)

    It might sound scarey, but it would be well worth considering the worst case, before looking at Sun's source, especially if you may add something to linux at a later date. If this happened, it could seriously slow, or scupper Linux development, if you have to keep looking over your shoulder at Sun.
  • by stevew ( 4845 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:36AM (#1646270) Journal
    What is funny is that we've returned to the late 60's/early 70's. Back then the manufacturer GAVE you copies of their OS so it would ease THEIR maintenance problems. You had the code. If you could fix did, then gave them the results to share with other users.

    Linux (GPL/BSD) goes beyond this though with the viral nature and not locking things up in copyright, so you can use the code as a base for other work.

    So I don't see the big deal in praising Sun for doing something IBM use to do 30 years ago.
  • >The SCSL is not a free or open license and it was never ment to be and it isn't Suns problem that people get it confused with various internet software movements.

    You are incorrect, sir. You apparently did not see any of the announcement broadcast of Sun's purchase of Star Division, where they *explicitely* called the SCSL an Open Source license, with references to the Open Source movement, and other "institutions" that are part of the "true" Open Source movement as we know it.

    I have just sent off a letter to Sun investor-relations ( complaining about the terms of the SCSL and Sun's apparent intentions with respect to the license. The nice thing about that is that I get to complain as both as customer *and* a stockholder! :) (though if they continue in this vein, I'm not sure how much longer I will continue to be either)

  • I coined the phrase "Forever Free" because I think it captures the sense of ownership jf talked about above. Linux is forever free. It cannot be forked into a closed branch where my contributions may even be debugged without me getting to see the fixes. Open source was a good catch phrase for getting businesses to open up to some new and scary ideas but for me and I think many others the real appeal lies in the GPL and how it makes things Forever Free. Whilst Sun opening up things like Star Office and Solaris is a good thing it won't slow down or distract those of us focused on projects like Linux and KOffice.

  • This is classic Sun strategy. Sun has always attempted to wow and amaze the audience into thinking that they should be/are top dog in the arena. The truth of the matter is that they are the Microsoft of the Unix world. By releasing their source code, they have taken one step towards beating MS, and at the same time are going to "wow and amaze" enough open sourcers to be slave labor for them. What good is their license if we can't do anything with the source code? If I'm going to work for Sun, then I expect a paycheck at the end of the month.. :)
  • I wouldn't be too worried about Solaris stealing a significant amount of Linux's steam through this, for a few reasons:
    • Solaris is immense. The sheer amount of time it would take for people to familiarize themselves with that much code and actually launch a coordinated development project with it would be equally as immense. Linux, in contrast, was built from the ground up and obviously doesn't have those problems. There are people (Linux, Cox, others) that know that kernel like the back of their hand, which is an immeasurable plus when it comes to fixing bugs, etc. Thus Linux is a lot more attractive for code hackers who are just looking to pitch in.
    • Most developers who have decided to release free code do it "all the way" e.g. they are very savvy on licensing issues and recognize the Community Source License for what it is: code grubbing by a giant corporation. "Here's our source, now fix it and oh, be sure everything you do makes it back to us to that we don't waste actual money on engineers to fix that same problem." Right. How many hackers that support Open Source in the libre sense are going to go for that?

    There's also a positive offshoot for Linux in that we are free to steal a lot of Solaris's cool features. I don't mean plagiarize the code (Not sure what the SCSL has to say about that), but this should speed the development of, among other things, XFS for Linux, which was announced several months ago but since I haven't heard any news on from either the Sun or Linux camp.
  • Sun's community source license has done nothing but get in the way of java on linux. i don't think it will do anything for solaris.

    why are they releasing the code to solaris, anyway?

  • "But then, I thought, "Why do Sun's work for them?"

    You could make this exact same argument for any of the linux distros if you wanted to. Other people do the work, and they sell it.

    I need a better argument than that to be convinced that the SCL license is any worse than the GPL.

  • The biggest difference between Linux and Solaris is that you will have to negotiate with Sun when you want to ship an app that is commercial. THat is a new concept. Will they be rereleasing the PowerPC port too?I realize that this was a CHRP port? But hey a PowerPC dual boot Linux/Solaris system. Not bad.
  • There are lots of reasons why Sun might be doing this... e.g.

    Sun are moving x86 towards the server market, what with NT forcing x86 hardware makers to actually produce decent fault tolerant hardware and decent SMP etc., x86 is gonna be Sun's other server market. x86 Solaris looked like it was gonna be Sun's desktop baby, but the with the Ultra 60 etc., it seems they're more into producing top notch desktop gear, and servers. Where does that leave x86 desktop users? Kinda fucked, without Sun making new device drivers etc. This way, most likely Linux drivers will be ported to Solaris.

    Somebody reckoned that Solaris will be cracked to bits because of open sourcing the kernel - Good!
    Security through obscurity etc. Every release of Solaris has had root exploits in it, this way there'll be more caught quicker, at the very least, there's a mountain of Solaris customers wanting their kernel to do different things. Many a college project can now be done messing with Solaris.

    The reasons for this being released is money.
    But that doesn't make this a BadThing(tm). This is a GoodThing(tm).

    I wonder will Sun distribute "devoloper" patches, or simply unofficially get somebody to do it, ala ?
  • Sun plans to eventually make the entire code base of Solaris available. "There's nothing we are scared of in that space," he said. "We only see it as an upside opportunity."

    While we've known that Sun were going to do this for some time now, it's a pleasant surprise that they're making the entire codebase available. Until now, it was always going to be desktop Solaris that was community sourced, but they were planning on keeping the high end stuff (clustering, massive SMP, etc.) proprietary. Sure, the license sucks, but it's better than nothing. We can still take the best ideas (although not the code directly) and incorporate them into Linux, *BSD, etc.

    Personally, I'd like to see DG/UX opensourced. It's probably the best Unix kernel available today, and I'm sure that EMC are going to drop DG/UX like a hot potato as soon as their contract lets them. They were only ever after CLARiiON anyway...

  • by IIH ( 33751 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @04:50AM (#1646285)
    As has been pointed out, the Sun licence is not "open source" according to the accepted meaning of the phrase, so I suggest we give it a new type, making a total of four: (and use this instead to stop the "watering down" of the term "Open Source"
    • Closed source - speaks for itself
    • Open source - as per the definition (ala say Debian)
    • Free source - a la GPL/BSD
    • Viewable source - a la Sun licence

    We could even explain it to NT people by comparing it to NT permissions of None, Change, Full Control, and Read, in that order. (For those unfamiliar, the main difference between change and full control is that the latter can change permissions/owners, the former can't)

  • They are obviously trying to get at Microsoft to become the premier software/hardware provider to the x86 market. If they want to release the source code under a non GPL license then fine. Embrace and extend will not work too well for them since there are three BSD incarnations and various platforms for Linux. Both of these enviromnents offer the dependability and reliability that Solaris has without a for-profit-only motive. I wonder if Sun has really thrown in the towel to the open-source movement or is just trying to circumvent some R&D expenses.
    Before anyone gets too riled up and makes refences to Gates of Borg, try playing the theme music for the Empire from Star Wars. It's more appropriate.
    As for Soloris, I don't care. I never use it anyway. I will stick to Linux and WINNT (gasp!-have to at work).
  • I guess you didn't read the article...

    What worries me is the same response to the microsoft 'crack this box please' challenge: *why* should "our lot" of open-source developers work on something for Sun, for free?
    We don't get anything out of it, really - we have our own OSs, we don't need to fix Sun's bugs for them!

    Given this, it's a nonsense to hope "we'll trust solaris because we can see the source". We can just see the bugs in the thing some of us used to trust anyway...

    Besides which, the restrictions on commercial use probably violate one or other open-source license...
  • It'll be interesting to see what Microsoft makes of this. Sun's done stuff like this before, with Java and SPARC (I think), but I wasn't really expecting them to do this with Solaris. Microsoft could very well release their own source code. But what if MS didn't release *all* the source for NT? What if they just released the source for the Win32 subsystem? Or what if they released the source for their scrub OS Windows 98?

    There's the possibility that Sun, by releasing Solaris, will make a lot of *Windows* developers happy.
  • You're all worried about communicating with the so-called "average user" here. I personally doubt that this person even knows what Solaris is, and if they do, only because they own stock in Sun.

    The potential for real misinformation here is very low because it will be off the public's radar screen by Monday afternoon. -cwk.

  • Since it's under the Sun community license, this doesn't mean much. It probably wouldn't mean much even if it was truly free.

    It will be interesting to see the solaris internals, I've heard all sorts of rumors about the quality of the code. I'm also curious about the implications of cross polination. With xBSD and Linux, there is some code sharing and the kernels are different but for the most part they perform very similar. I'm not trying to start a war here but BSD had the same problems that held linux back in the mindcraft study. To really see a difference you have to run a pretty extreme environment and even then I think a lot of Linux people are of the opinion that linux can be tuned to operate similarly to BSD. There really just isn't a lot for linux to take from BSD and drivers and hardware support are what BSD can take the most of from linux.

    Solaris is a different beast, it is a known performer on the highend. I don't know if they use a single kernel for all solari or if a 64-way server kernel will be "open sourced" but SMP and multiprocessing have to be one of the key areas where BSD and linux could potentially benefit from Solaris. Now it is probably illegal, I haven't read the license but I know that we couldn't simply drop Sun code into Linux or BSD but they could potentially give us a road map to highend scalability. Who do they sue if we were to emulate their code?

  • I'm curious what will happen to the CDE/Motif portions of Solaris. Surely they'd have to be released in source form too, but I doubt the OSF will go for it...?

    Anyone heard about this little thorn?

  • I am disappointed with those that are disappointed. There has been a lot of criticism of the SCSL here, and rightly so. However, I wish more people would vocalize their support for actions like these.

    Okay, so the SCSL isn't nearly as open as a lot of us would like. But before you complain endlessly stop and think. Last year did you have access to the source for Solaris or StarOffice? Will you next year? This is a step forward right?

    Just as ESR reluctantly congratulated Microsoft for their stance on instant messaging [] we should be praising SUN for taking these steps and encouraging other companies to do the same. If SUN saw the advantage to using the SCSL, maybe if we rationally and respectfully submit our case for going full open source they will see the logic of that soon. But if everyone criticizes SUN for being just another corporation that does not understand open source we are discouraging other companies from even going this far.

    Can we really say that SUN has made things worse with this move?

  • by Yebyen ( 59663 )
    I wonder where they got that idea...

    Article on Slashdot about a day ago []

    LOL what a coincidence

    And don't flame me, yes I realise that no company changes their business strategy this quickly based on a bad article, but they're so close together it's just funny! Kinda makes you wonder...

    Patrick Barrett

  • i can imagine a PHB specifying non-open source solaris for some projects. will this make it easier to get linux in the door? will it alienate some segments of solaris users?

    do i care?
  • I never read my licenses, i could care less what people think of the license. When i buy/download/use something i don't carry a lawyer with me to debug the license.

    solaris is a superb operating system, i could care less if it kills linux, things are a fad, things will die, things will pass on.. nothing stays around forever..

    but having the code, and having an OS freely available is great.. now whenever i run into a problem under solaris and i said "damn i wish i could have the source, this is a simple problem" i can now fix it..

    so what if i don't get the claim to fame on my patch, screw all you hippies out there who have to have that.. i'm getting my job done, and thats what counts..

    congrats sun, congrats apple.. both of you have great unix systems, and i applaud anyone opening up technology..

    and i pitty the fool who cries over licensing all the time, when really its not anything to cry about.
  • Assuming a lot more people start looking at Solaris code, what will the impact be on Linux from a legal perspective?

    It could really help Linux to have access to Sun drivers and perhaps also to glean ideas from other parts of the OS. Does anybody with a legal/intellectual property background know what the pitfalls are? Under what circumstances is it bad to have intimate knowledge of a competing product?

    I'm pretty sure automotive engineers are allowed to fiddle with competitor's engines, but chip manufacturers seem to think you need to be "uncontaminated" by a competing product. Who's right and under what circumstances?

  • Nop.

    If you'll move an ACTUAL source code from Solaris OS to Linux kernel and claim it's your and Sun will find out (and they will - they got their people looking at the kernel mailing lists) then:

    1. Sun will sue you to your last penny.
    2. Linus will be informed about this and he will remove this code from the kernel at that same second, no matter how this feature is important

    (number 2 is only for the Linux Kernel)
  • Here's one:
    Sun can pull their license whenever they want. The "Free Software" they're offering depends on their continued generosity.
    Truly Open Source software does not rely on a companies generosity or even existence for that matter. Open Source software is the property of whoever holds one license of it. I have a RedHat CD and the Linux Source. With that, I could become a distributor of Linux and not be dependant on any other company. That's the difference.
  • by |ckis ( 88583 )
    XFS is being ported and given away by SGI, not Sun. I was at the Linux University thing in DC a couple of weeks ago and heard Kent Koeninger from SGI give a talk about XFS and CXFS. The main reason that XFS is taking so long is that SGI is creating a separate version of XFS to be GPL'ed, while keeping a proprietary version for IRIX. SGI, unlike Sun, is gaining major points with the Open Source community because they are GPL'ing everything they release.
  • Because there's nothing stopping *you* from putting together your own distribution, or simply copying one.

    You can't do that with the SCL.

    Of course it's still your choice about whether you want to help Sun or not - I certainly wouldn't hold it against you. But, it's understandable that many people are less than enthused with the idea of contributing work to something which they don't get anything out of.
  • Doesn't Sun's license conflict with the Open Source Definition? []
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:03AM (#1646306) Homepage Journal
    I've read the SCSL in breif, and was quite pleased to see this step forward for Sun. Releasing Solaris code will help them to strengthen their operating system, and will allow individual users to effect bug-fixes for their own needs.

    It will not create an Open Source effort out of Solaris, but that's OK. Closed-source is a business model that deserves to compete toe-to-toe with open source. Solaris is a very nice operating system in a lot of ways (though I have little respect for their suite of tools and utilities). It does do threading in a way that I think is genius. It handles multi-processor SPARC systems in ways that Linux and the *BSDs should aspire to.

    Bravo Sun! One small step for Sun; one giant leap for Solaris.

    If this works out, perhaps they will see the value of going completely GPL and sucking in code from the Linux kernel. Then the waters will get very muddy! ;-)
  • The operating system they sell is far from their primary business.

    True enough, but I doubt the hardware is, either. Yes, the hardware division is almost certainly very profitable, but I'll pretty much guarantee that Sun makes most of their money from support and services, just as all the others do (IBM, Compaq, SGI, etc.).

  • You are assuming Sun is an Open Source vendor. They're just releasing the source code. In all other aspects Sun is a proprietary company. I wouldn't assume they'll be as fast with the fixes as the Linux or BSD communities. I'd imagine they'd have to run things through legal first, then make sure it's tested, etc. Don't expect to have a fix for a problem reported in the morning by the end of the day.
  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:22AM (#1646331)
    There's a good article at The Register [],Info World article [] and the Motley Fool [].

    I'd like to make some points:
    *) Sun's SCSL license is not open source, nor trying to be.

    *) Not all the source code will be made available straight away. Like with their other stuff released under the SCSL, you'll only have to pay Sun money if you plan to make a profit on it yourself. Sun also require you to fully publish the specs for any new APIs you add, and are very hard on compatability - ie they don't want it corrupted/code forked. btw, you will need Sun's compilers to compile it, and they haven't (yet) made the compilers SCSL.

    *) I don't think this is really aimed at the general public (of coders) - it's mostly aimed at commercial compains who currently want to liscence Solaris to make their own products, and there are a few, and also at developers who already use Solaris.

    *) I think the two main advantages they hope to gain from this is more developer interest, and better quality software - by getting better feedback. The reliability of Solaris is very important to Sun - there are managers whose salary and bonus are tied to it's reliability.

    *) This is part of Sun's relatively new, general attitude towards development - first with Java last year, some of their microprocessor designs, some high end software (Sun Cluster Tools 3), Star Office, new software (Jini and Jiro) and now Solaris. I've heard it said that Sun plan to make all their software available under the community source unless there is a good reason not to.

    *) Sun have very good reasons to worry about protecting their software - Microsoft would love to damage Sun, like it did Netscape.

    *) The descision to go with their "community source" lisence would not be new. Sun have very long lead times on development for Solaris, and because Solaris contains quite a lot of other people's IP (which they'd have to get a new lisence for, or do their own version) as well as tidy up the source for public release, they would have to make the descision very early in the product cycle. Solaris 8 (which will be the first to have some source code freed) went into alpha about 1 year ago, and has probably been in code freeze for about 3-6 months, and it'll be released in about 4-6 months. And Sun aren't even adding that many new features with Solaris 8. Co-incidentally (probably not), when Solaris first went into alpha, was about the time I first head Sun execs talking about making Solaris open source.

    *) Some people have said that Sun might be worried about Linux, or Project Montetery wiping them out or something. Currently, as with the past few years, Sun has been having very stable and reliable growth (20-25% per year) and I haven't seen the slightest indication that they're "hurting" from Linux (the opposite in fact) and Monterey isn't even finished yet, and even at best won't take off for another 2 years.

    Btw, what's new in Solaris 8 you might ask? Well, they're putting in their cluster tools software as standard (currently a seperate product), doing IPv6, including perl (perl 5.0005_03 to be precise) as well as some modules to access parts of Solaris, some bits for Java, new diagnostics tools and such. btw, Sun will support everything that comes with Solaris for 5 years after they stop selling it.

  • With everyone coming up with ideas of WHY Sun decided to do this, no ones mentioned the primary reason why they would open it up.

    Sun has NEVER made money off of Solaris

    That's right.. Not one dime. It costs them more to continue development of the OS then they recoupe in licensing costs. Sure, the license costs can be a bit steep, but that's more to cover the COST OF SUPPORT, NOT the cost of development. It does them NO HARM to open up the source. It's been available to educational institutions for a long time.

    That, IMHO, was the deciding factor. They get several things out of opening it.

    A: Free press coverage.

    B: Free additional hardware support, at least for the x86 tree.

    C: A little bit of a cash flow for anyone who uses it to make money.

    D: Possible bug fixes to things they've never seen before

    The question is, why would they NOT open up the source more earlier? It costs them $0.00.
  • by Brandon Hume ( 73471 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:39AM (#1646346) Homepage
    Again, we have many posts from people speculating about Sun's motives. I really have to wonder what kind of effect Oliver Stone has had on people.

    Can we at least ACKNOWLEDGE some things here?

    1) Sun is going to be opening up the source to their *FLAGSHIP PRODUCT*. Does anyone grasp what kind of step that IS? People are getting pissy about it NOT being a GPL, or Sun controlling the modifications that get added back into it. So WHAT? Would people rather they not do any of this? What would people gain?

    2) Sometimes, centralized control is a GOOD thing. Linus keeps control of what goes into the Linux kernel (to generalize a bit), and this is a good thing- because who better than Linus to judge what modifications are good and what are going to break things, or what mods are just plain stupid? What is the difference between one person and an organization doing so? Is it actually so wrong for Sun to want to try to avoid some keener rewriting a piece of the kernel using MMX asm? Fine, every monkey who knows how to 'gcc hello.c' has the right to alter things the way he likes it, but does that same person have an automatic right to influence the executables that *I* run on *MY* system?

    3) Not being accepted into the main source tree does not necessarily stop you from publishing your own mods. Fine, you didn't make it into the real tree. Publish a patch on your website. Let the public decide how useful the thing is.

    4) Sun may be releasing the source to Solaris because... wait for it!... they think letting the public at the source is a GOOD idea! Whoa! No diabolical plans toward world domination. No teams of assassins waiting to "retire" RMS or ESR as soon as the public's attention is diverted. Can't something just be what it seems to be? Are there always secret plots behind everything? Scott McNealy has usually been vocal and forthright, sometimes even to his own detriment.

    5) This whole source thing MAY NOT HAPPEN. There's a lot of stuff in Solaris which Sun doesn't personally own, and they might not have the right to open the guts of those items to the world.

    There's more to say, but I don't think it would matter. Sun is damned if they do and damned if they don't. I'll leave people to return to their regularly-scheduled evil plot weaving.
    Brandon Hume
    hume -> BOFH.Halifax.NS.Ca, http://WWW.BOFH.Halifax.NS.Ca/
  • I've got a buddy I've been trying to push towards Linux (gently, most of the time). I was talking to him about OSes (and maybe NCs?) in general and mentioned "Solaris". He had no idea what I was talking about (Then I mentioned e-bay and crashes, that opened a glimmer of recoginition).
    My Point: anyone who (at this point) uses and develops for OSS would know the difference in licenses is not cosmetic, but cosmic. We'll see, but there's (plenty) enough paranoia about Big Business(tm) in the community and it's dogma to combat these tactics.
  • I don't think disappointment with those who are not praising Sun is appropriate here. SCSL freedom is like "don't ask, don't tell" freedom for gays. It makes a problem less obvious without solving it, maybe even slowing a true solution.

    We've been thru the "if we politely point out the advantages of true open source, maybe they'll switch" business twice already with Java and StarOffice. If you read their page on the principles of the SCSL [] you'll see they know the difference quite well, and simply don't believe in the bazaar model of development. They want control over the specifications and interface, and the absolute right to prevent forking because they actually think it makes their product better.

    In an abstract idealistic sense Sun may have made the world a little better by allowing people read access to their sources. However, IMO, this is outweighed by the obfuscation of the meaning of "open source" and the potential to draw developers away from really free OSes like Linux, *BSD, and Hurd.

    Compromise is appropriate sometimes. Other things, like pregnancy or freedom, are more difficult to compromise on, either you are, or you aren't. I'm reminded of the 70's when long hair on males hit the mainstream and Nixon made peace signs. Co-option is the biggest threat to any popular movement.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:16AM (#1646367) Homepage Journal
    Yes, this has very little value to the world at large, and limited value other than PR for Sun.

    Having worked in the business world, the biggest frustration is with declining levels of service in the software industry. The reason I think business should be interested in open source is that it forces developers to compete on service rather than on the fact they have exclusive access to the software your company has standardized on.

    Thus, if a security hole costs you tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity, Microsoft can in effect say "HAHAHA you stupid bastard! It'll cost you a hundred times as much to retrain your users." And you'd have lay down and take it, because it would. Under open source, you can kiss MS goodbye and go to some geek in a garage if he'll give you better service.

    If the software is not free in a commercial environment, then if you're a business Sun is telling you to fix the problem yourself, and by the way they effectively own the fix. It's the old Tom Sawyer gambit, they're planning to make you do _their_ work for them, and they're pretending its going to be some kind of special treat for you to do it.

    I'm also concerned about the potential for infringement suits. I think it is risky to look at any non-free code, and then code anything that is free that does something similar. You'd almost have to refer back to make sure your code doesn't inadvertently reproduce Sun's code.
  • The SPARC and x86 versions of Solaris had their source trees merged a number of years ago. Only the device-specific parts are different. This is one reason why porting nearly any Solaris SPARC program to x86 is as simple as moving the source to the x86 box and typing "make".

    Solaris has a LOT to offer, and the people here on /. generally don't realize what an excellent job Sun has done on many of the hard bits. (Oddly enough, while leaving some of the easier bits mostly undone - like, say, NIS+ management tools)
  • Call it a little piece of bait. I mentioned that it was used to run major web sites, then I metioned the e-bay crash, then I mentioned how the admins missed a couple patches. If you'd like a full written transcript of the conversation send a self-addressed stamped envelope with $2300 to the email dress above.
  • Not really.

    Remember, Sun is a corporation that's trying to gain some points in order to combat NT. If Sun actually sued, or threatened to sue, a Linux developer, there would be thousands of people who would vow to never, ever use Solaris or other Sun products again. In fact, this is true almost without reference to any fault on the part of the developer!

    This isn't to say Sun is a perfect company, nor that they wouldn't do their best to support Solaris in favour of Linux, but they're not going to sue. Forget it.


  • by Ledge Kindred ( 82988 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:56AM (#1646381)
    Free Software as defined by RMS is Open Source as defined by the OSD, but the reverse is not true. You *can* have Open Source that isn't *free* source. Things like Apple's license, Mozilla's, the QPL, etc, are "Open" but not "Free".


  • by dublin ( 31215 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:59AM (#1646384) Homepage
    It's amazing to me that the folks here are so willing to bash Sun mercilessly for taking a bold and quite significant step here.

    Most people here act as if Sun wanted to control everything - look at their history:

    - Bill Joy wrote Bekeley Unix, the first widespread implementation of a "source available" modern OS. One can make a good argument that without this impetus, Unix (and yes, Linux is a Unix) could not possibly exist as we know it today.

    - Sun built and promoted NFS, which created the entire modern concept of reading/wrinting files over the network as if they were local. Then they did not try to make this proprietary, but made licenses available to all comers, even their competitors - unheard of at the time. This last time around, they made sure to involve many people from outside Sun in setting the NFS v3 standards.

    - After falling into proprietary-think with NeWS and OpenLook/OpenWin, they realized their mistake (to their credit) and returned to the NFS model with the introduction of Java. Even that license has recently been opened up significantly, and now no longer requires improvements to be returned to Sun. (The only reason for that provision in the first place was to ensure the the entire community benefited from what anyone added, and was not a proprietary lock, but a non-proprietary lock.)

    - Now, Sun is opening the source to very significant software products, Solaris and StarOffice.

    It's true that Sun retains some control, but their motive, as shown repeatedly over time, is one of promoting consistency, not control. (Although the rise of Microsoft has pushed them back towards control - reasonably enough, they don't want competitors to take Sun's IP and club them over the head with it.)

    In general, there may be some reasons to be wary of Sun, but their past actions show that they have been good stewards. Perhaps they should be given a chance before bashing them.

    Sun's desire for "control" in each and every case can be shown to be a desire to ensure that their vision of computing can be carried out, and not co-opted by others with more proprietary intentions. Sun almost single-handedly revolutionized the computer industry by opening things up. unfortunately, most of the objectors I see speaking here are doing so from a position of arrogance and ignorance. Bother to learn the facts before you flame, and keep an open mind, for open source is no good without one.
  • You could make this exact same argument for any of the linux distros if you wanted to. Other people do the work, and they sell it.

    I need a better argument than that to be convinced that the SCL license is any worse than the GPL.

    Ok, how about Linux Mandrake then? That was based on a straight RedHat+KDE and they turned it into a commercial product and sold it.

    Try getting a copy of the Solaris code under Sun's SCSL and try selling your own boxed set of Solaris. You'll be sued to Mars and back by Sun's lawyers.

    If you still don't get it, you just won't get it.


  • Finally a non religious post that makes sense. I don't see how this could be interpreted other than good.

    As has been pointed out before, SUNs main interest is selling hardware, not selling software. The increased openness of Solaris will make it more popular and will thus boost hardware sales. Microsoft is in a fundamentally different position since they don't sell hardware (except for some input devices). Unlike MS, SUN has no interest in locking up their software. They have no interest in giving it away either. So they choose a nice compromise. Everybody can see/change the source, only if you are going to use it for commercial purposes you are required to pay a license fee.

    So what does opensource mean from SUNs perspective:
    - public APIs. Since the source is available the APIs are available too. This alone is an advantadge over closed source. Companies like MS are infamous for not diclosing their APIs.
    - People with an interest in getting bugs fixed (i.e. solaris users) can do so themselves if they think SUN is too slow (this is the argument that is used over and over to promote Linux).

    I think SUN is doing smart things lately. Their community license (which currently is being applied to about anything they have) is great for marketing since they can now claim their stuff is open. At the same time they are not giving it away since they still can ask money for commercial usage.

    There seem to be people who are worried that SUN will turn out just like MS. A few comments on that. Both companies are fairly large, both companies are pretty arrogant in their marketing, both companies use all dirty tricks that big companies use to protect themselves. So what. There are also some differences. SUNs products are far more open than microsoft products. SUN listens more to developers than MS (basically all the current Java APIs were developed in an open process where developers had the opportunity to suggest changes).

    Of course SUN is not a perfect company. My point just is that they are more open than MS and that that is good for both SUN and its clients.
  • Yours is one of the few posts which IMHO has a sensible opinion about this whole thing. I'll continue your position, play devil's advocate a bit, and hope I don't get flamed too badly. :)

    Yes, Sun is trying to profit off of the confusion between SCSL and a real open source license, as others have mentioned, and so we need to do some education to counteract that, pressure Sun to check their marketers a bit, and make sure people know that there are strings attached. Beyond that, I say more power to Sun! If I need to use Solaris, or Java, or StarOffice, for a project, I'd much rather have the source code than not.

    As for those who say, "Sheesh, this is just a sneaky way for Sun to get us to fix their bugs for them, we better not let them," I think that if you work for a company that's going to use their products anyway, and you do find a bug, and you're a good enough debugger that you have a chance to fix it yourself rather than wait 6 months for Sun to do it, and if you can fix the bug on company time, then you're much better off fixing the bug, your company's better off, and so I'm glad that employees of companies which are already using Solaris have that option. In a sense this is no different than if you find a bug in Linux and fix it on company time, since you're getting paid either way, and either way you get the good feeling of knowing that you've helped made a critical piece of software is more reliable.

    But, you might argue, "Well, if I help make Sun's software better, then they're going to make more money, and we can't have that now, can we?" You neglect the fact that Sun would've made just as much money and had just as many customers with or without your bug fix, and so the only real difference you've made is making life a little bit easier for the community of other users who are forced to deal with Solaris. And after all, that's why they call it a "community source license", because Sun really does want to make things better for their community of users, and hopefully in the end, with your bug fix, and thousands of others, they will have a slightly more reliable product and ultimately make slightly more money. And if that's a problem for you, then don't contribute! Some other Solaris user will likely find and fix the bug you would have fixed anyway.

    But what if you go beyond fixing bugs and start adding new features to Solaris? Well, then, I can see some justification for being upset with the licensing terms. Suppose you add some better x86 hardware detection code to the Solaris installer and contribute it back to them. Then when Sun releases the next version of Solaris, they proudly point to their new WhizzyCoolInstall(tm) feature, and raise the price by $200. They sell a zillion copies of Solaris/x86 and cut into the Linux market a little. You're perceived as a sell-out, and nobody's happy, except Sun, and they stop being happy when everybody sees how you were treated and nobody else is foolish enough to add features to Solaris. What then?

    In that case, I'd say, "don't do that then." If you have an idea for a great new feature, make it a loadable module. License it under whatever terms you want. With access to the Solaris code, you can easily make it work under Solaris, and you (or anyone else) can make it work under Linux too. If you were planning to release WhizzyCoolInstall under open source, then you weren't going to make any money off of it anyway, and this way, Sun can't turn around and use your new feature against Linux, because both OS's will have access to it. Everyone's happy, and the community of people who have to use Solaris, as well as the community of rabid Linux fan^H^H^Husers are both happy.

    Honestly, I'm starting to think that /. has become physically incapable of seeing loaded issues like SCSL in their proper contexts. In the business world, most people are going to be thinking like me, so you might as well get used to it, and come up with some sort of realistic response, rather than "Sun must die." Especially since Sun's going to do it anyway, and their customers are going to be happy, and if you don't look at the issue from the POV I just gave, then you won't understand what happened.

  • will this make it easier to get linux in the door?

    By itself, no. Or at least not most of the time. But it does seem to be part of a general trend towards a loosening up on 'source code available' projects be they truly 'open source' or not.

    will it alienate some segments of solaris users?

    I doubt it. The fact that source wasn't readily available for commercial products like Solaris never really comes up except as brought by open source advocates. I don't think that any arguments that closed source is more secure are going to carry enough weight with any significant number of PHB's to make a difference.

  • You are right up to a point. Sun isn't going to be a truly 'open source' vendor. And Sun may never be able to match truly open sourced products in terms of speed to respond with fixes (although it seems like for a proprietary company, they are faster than average). However, it does mean that bugs will likely get found and reported quicker, and legitimate people who find said bugs can not only point out the problem, they can point out a solution. Also, they can probably release small source level patches without running afoul of Sun's licensing if they don't include any significant parts of Sun's source.

    So while a true open source commitment from Sun would be better, it is hard to see even a partial opening up from Sun as anything other than a good thing.

  • by Eccles ( 932 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @11:33AM (#1646428) Journal
    Quick question: how much do you have to pay for the compiler to compile this free source?

  • No, completely wrong, Sun is definately not a services company.

    85% of Sun's revenue comes from hardware, the rest from software and services. Sun's gross margins on hardware are also about double that on software/services. ie they make about 90-95% of their profit from hardware.

    (however, their fastest growing devision is the Enterprise Services division - ie supporting Starfire systems... But that's from a small start)

  • This isn't the biggest deal since sliced bread you realize, Solaris isn't Sun's cash cow. Someone said the other day that if Soalris was open sourced it would be more popular than linux for servers. I think this is true for the most part, for super huge servers linux will work but FreeBSD would probably do it better while SOlaris would do it damned well but until now you couldn't just obtain a copy of Solaris. I see this as more of a push for linux onto desktops rather than big servers where it could do the job but not as well as other things. Sure some people want linux toothpaste but personally I would like to use what works for the job it needs to do.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken