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In posts made to the Linux kernel mailing list this week, Linux creator Linus Torvalds once again examined the prospect of transitioning the Linux kernel from the GPL 2 to the GPL 3. Although Torvalds regards version 2 as a superior license, he states that the ability to use code from OpenSolaris might be a good reason to justify transitioning to the GPL 3 if Sun decides to adopt the license. 老域名购买

In the past, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has expressed interest in dual-licensing OpenSolaris to make it available under the GPL 3. In a blog entry written in early 2006, Schwartz talks about the potential benefits of facilitating cross-pollination of code between OpenSolaris and Linux. At the time, I pointed out that cross-pollination wouldn't be possible because of compatibility issues between the GPL 2 and GPL 3.

Various Sun representatives still publicly discuss the possibility of dual-licensing, but evidence hasn't emerged yet to indicate that the company will actually commit to doing so. The GPL 3 license is still technically being finalized, but the text of the license has has practically reached its final form, so we may hear word from Sun soon. Torvalds remains skeptical and points to Sun's shaky history with Linux and the GPL, addressing many of the same points that I brought up back in 2006 when Schwartz first expressed interest in the GPL 3. "[Sun] may be talking a lot more than they are or ever will be doing," says Torvalds. "How many announcements about Sun and Linux have you seen over the years? And how much of that has actually happened?"

In the past, Schwartz has typically been big on talk and short on results, but much has changed at Sun in the past year. Schwartz has followed through and delivered on his most significant promise: releasing the Java source code under the GPL license. Torvalds acknowledges the GPL licensing of Java has a huge step in the right direction, but he doesn't think it's enough to justify giving Sun the benefit of the doubt. "Yes, they finally released Java under GPLv2, and they should be commended for that," says Torvalds. "But you should also ask yourself why, and why it took so long. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that other Java implementations started being more and more relevant?"

Torvalds is concerned that Sun will use the GPL 3 license to leverage useful bits of Linux without reciprocating. He argues that, "to Sun, a GPLv3-only release would actually let them look good, and still keep Linux from taking their interesting parts, and would allow them to take at least parts of Linux without giving anything back."

Schartz responds

In a blog entry today, Schwartz responded with the usual feel-good rhetoric, but he also added a few cogent points about the value of cross-pollination. Schwartz argues that Linux and Solaris are no longer competitors and that Linux can gain as much from OpenSolaris as OpenSolaris can gain from Linux. "But most of all, from where I sit, we should put the swords down—you're not the enemy for us, we're not the enemy for you. Most of the world doesn't have access to the internet—that's the enemy to slay, the divide that separates us," says Schwartz. "By joining our communities, we can bring transparency and opportunity to the whole planet. Are we after your drivers? No more than you're after ZFS or Crossbow or dtrace—it's not predation, it's prudence. Let's stop wasting time recreating wheels we both need to roll forward."

The comments about the digital divide are a rather transparent attempt at misdirection and its the kind of rhetoric that I've come to expect from Schwartz. He is attempting to talk his way around the fact that Linux and Solaris are vying for the same market. Schwartz wants us to think that Linux and Solaris are on the same team, but let's not forget that the vast majority of major Linux server migrations have transpired at the expense of UNIX operating systems like Solaris. Competition between Linux and Solaris is very real and, if anything, Sun's decision to open the Solaris source code reinforces this. Schwartz once condemned copyleft as a form of "intellectual property colonialism" and claimed that it hindered progress in the developing world, so he can't really expect anyone to take him seriously now when he says that he wants to embrace hard copyleft for the purpose of bridging the digital divide.

Although I'm reluctant to accept what Schwartz says about wanting a broad partnership, I do think that there is a lot of substance in his response to the claim made by Torvalds that Sun isn't interested in reciprocation. As Schwartz points out, ZFS has already been incorporated into some flavors of BSD, and it would be advantageous for Linux to be able to adopt technologies like ZFS and dtrace. Schwartz ends his open letter to Torvalds by inviting the Linux developer to dinner. "We want to work together, we want to join hands and communities—we have no intention of holding anything back, or pulling patent nonsense," Schwartz says, "And to prove the sincerity of the offer, I invite you to my house for dinner. I'll cook, you bring the wine. A mashup in the truest sense." Skepticism is certainly warranted, but if the OpenSolaris and Linux communities can find a mutually beneficial way to work together, Microsoft's market share will certainly be on the menu.


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