[lug] The changing Linux Community was Re: cp and rm

Tom Tromey tromey at redhat.com
Fri Aug 3 19:26:32 MDT 2001

>>>>> "Alan" == Alan Robertson <alanr at unix.sh> writes:

Tom> My impression is that SuSE has this problem even worse.  As I
Tom> understand it their distribution isn't free software.

Alan> There are one or two pieces of their distribution which require
Alan> licensing to redistribute.  You can use the whole thing in your
Alan> organization without further ado, you can even enhance those
Alan> small pieces -- but you can't redistribute the whole thing
Alan> outside your company without SuSE's agreement.

Thanks for the info.

Alan> Red Hat has several "open source" pieces to their distro which
Alan> are "gated" communities - where the software is open source, but
Alan> the development community is completely controlled by them and
Alan> effectively closed to outsiders.

Which pieces are you thinking of specifically?

Anyway, I think this is an undesirable approach on Red Hat's part.  I
think control is overrated.  Even with a very open project you always
have all the control you need -- if you need something, you can always
do it yourself (which you were going to do anyway).  Now, there are
corner cases where nobody else on the project wants what you want, and
they're not willing to accomodate you.  But that's pretty rare,
especially if you started the code base.

On the other hand, giving up complete control can be very, very
beneficial.  Volunteers come from nowhere and implement cool things.
This is a big help.  I saw this in action with gcj.  Once we opened
the runtime, we started getting contributions.  A volunteer wrote our
Java bytecode interpreter.  Another volunteer has done huge amounts of
work all over the place.  Hans Boehm found out we were using his GC
and has started contributing very important code.  None of this stuff
was on our priority list -- but we benefit greatly from their work.

Alan> I know of recent cases where Red Hat has castigated very large
Alan> potential customers for even asking for LSB-compliance and told
Alan> them they don't want it (really!).  [This info came directly
Alan> from the customer].

Interesting.  I know we have people involved with the LSB.  People who
attend the meetings and help out in various ways.  I don't know what
our level of committment to it in terms of engineering is though.

Alan> I think only Debian has their entire process open.

There are plenty of degrees of openness to inhabit.  And corporations,
especially free software ones, aren't really monolithic.  Parts of Red
Hat and parts of SuSE work in open ways.  Parts don't.

Alan> In terms of openness, I think the distros besides Debian are
Alan> pretty similar - but the faults are different for the different
Alan> distros.  One or the other of their "faults" may offend you more
Alan> than another's - but that's more a matter of what offends you
Alan> most.

Yeah.  I would like Red Hat to be more open than it is.  I think it is
the smartest long-term strategy.


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