November 03, 2006

Linux under threat

The Linux operating system is one of the biggest revolutions in the history of computing. It has changed the world and still changing. A project by Linus Trovalds, has changed computing world a lot in its 15 years of existence. Linux now drive world’s super computer to mobile phones and many other gadgets. Linux and the open-source software movement have got billions of dollars of investment from IBM, HP, Red Hat, Google. But will this all stop? Is it in endanger not by its rival “Microsoft” but from world’s greatest hacker – Richard Stallman? He the creator of FSF (Free Software foundation) and GNU, the leader of Freedom movement in computing. A Guru, hacker etc…

Now let me take you to year 2005 when Richard Stallman visited our VIT campus on his mission to propagate Freedom. I was excited to see him and attended his speech in which he talked about calling Linux “GNU/Linux” as GNU supported its growth and existence. And from that day on I called it that way, giving respect to GNU. And I do respect GNU. They have started the revolution for free software and Linus just fitted the pieces to form the complete system. This is one instance from my side.

The second one: I was one the first subscribers of the magazine “Linux for you”. A well known Linux magazine in India. One of its initial issues contained an interview with Stallman who said the magazine should have been “GNU/Linux for you” or “GNU for you” as Linux is just a small part of GNU.

Richard Stallman is now waging a new crusade that could end up toppling the revolution he helped create. He aims to impose new restrictions on IBM and any other companies that distribute software using even a single line of Linux code. They would be forbidden from using Linux software to block users from infringing on copyright and intellectual-property rights ("Digital Rights Management"); and they would be barred from suing over alleged patent infringements related to Linux. Now don’t you think that’s breech of freedom? And Torvalds doesn't like GPL that would prohibit companies from using GPLv3 code to create digital rights management (DRM) schemes. Torvalds says he won't adopt the new license and will stick with GPLv2 instead.

The Problem is, Torvalds only controls the "kernel" of the operating system, which is just 5% of the total operating system. Many of the other parts will move to the new license thus causing a big split. This will cause problems for companies like Red Hat, Novell etc.
Another problem is that the two licenses seem to be incompatible. According to Diane Peters, It's not clear yet whether companies can ship products that merge v2 code with v3 code. So what will happen next? The Linux world would be spilt into two… “v2” camp (corporations) and “v3” camp (extremists)!

Extremists say they don't care. "People can go run another operating system," says Bruce Perens, a free-software advocate who supports Stallman. He also says if Torvalds doesn't adopt GPLv3, extremists will create a new operating system using a different kernel. So now we have “forking” of Linux Operating System and this would create many incompatible versions of the OS.The biggest beneficiary of this is the proprietary software giant: Microsoft, which pitches its Windows operating system as "safer" than Linux, and Sun Microsystems, with its open-source version of Solaris system, which doesn't use the GPL.And the looser could be Stallman himself. He is risking loosing the empire he helped built. Loosing would make him an irrelevant person in the community and would be considered a crack who tried bringing down his own empire!

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