December 21, 2006 1:03 PM PST

Open-source leader leaving Novell for Google

Jeremy Allison, a high-profile open-source programmer, has resigned from Novell because of objections over its patent deal with Microsoft and is moving to Google.

In his resignation letter, Allison said Novell's patent pact with Microsoft has crippled the Linux seller's relations with the open-source community. At Google, he'll continue his work on Samba, the open-source project he helped launch. Samba is software that lets Linux servers share files on Windows networks.

Jeremy Allison
Jeremy Allison

"Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place there is nothing we can do to fix community relations...Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs," Allison said in the letter, quoting from an earlier message he sent to Novell management. Allison joined Novell in 2005 after working at Hewlett-Packard.

Groklaw, a site that monitors open-source legal affairs, published Allison's resignation letter Thursday. Allison on Thursday confirmed the letter's authenticity, saying he had sent it to an internal Novell mailing list, but declined to comment further on his departure from Novell.

Google is a major open-source software user and participates in several open-source programming projects. Andrew Morton, a key lieutenant to Linux leader Linus Torvalds, works there, for example.

Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry declined to comment on Allison's views, but said the company still employs two Samba programmers. "We wish him the best," Lowry said.

You win some, you lose some
Meanwhile, Novell has rehired another open-source figure, Hubert Mantel, a co-founder of Suse Linux. He left the company in November 2005, but returned in December of this year. "I had more than one year of time to think about my future and came to the conclusion that the thing I'm most interested in still is Linux," he said in an interview with the online magazine Data Manager.

Mantel also defended the Microsoft deal: "I understand that many people don't like it as Novell is collaborating with the 'evil empire,'" he said in the interview. "But I don't like this way of thinking. We are not working against somebody, but we are working for Linux. Fundamentalism always leads to pain. I think it is a good thing, especially for the users."

Under the Microsoft-Novell partnership, Microsoft purchased coupons to sell 350,000 copies of Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server and agreed not to sue Suse users for patent infringement. The two companies also are working to make elements of each other's software work together. Microsoft is paying Novell a net amount of $308 million for the five-year deal, much of it for Novell agreeing to not to sue Microsoft over patent claims.

But Allison said the Novell-Microsoft deal violates the open-source principles of giving equal rights to all users of a particular program, even if it doesn't technically violate the General Public License (GPL) that governs Samba and the Linux kernel.

"My issue with this deal is I believe that even if it does not violate the letter of the license it violates the intent of the GPL license the Samba code is released under, which is to treat all recipients of the code equally," Allison wrote.

The deal caused rancor among open-source fans. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and original author of the General Public License (GPL), said in November that Novell's Microsoft partnership doesn't violate version 2 of the GPL but that changes coming with the version 3 under development will preclude such deals.

Linux rival Red Hat has pounced on Novell's move, as well. Mark Webbink, one of Red Hat's top lawyers for the company, called Novell's move "appeasement...the sacrifice of principles" in his blog, likening it to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's ill-fated "peace in our time" announcement that he thought would stave off World War II.

And although Novell and Microsoft have scrapped over some particulars of the deal, both companies have defended it. Last week, Novell and Microsoft touted survey results that showed most customers approve.

See more CNET content tagged:
Jeremy Allison, Novell Inc., Samba, open source, GPL


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Although I cannot write as clearly as Jeremy did, I would like to expand on the issue which he explained so well. Novell has avoided breaking the LETTER of the current GPL (Version 2), but the sneaky legal agreement by which they have done so is:

#1: totally against the SPIRIT of the GPL, which is described within the document (you must confer ALL of your rights to software which you distribute). Using a 3rd party's promise to "refrain" from suing users, and insisting that WE (Novell) do not possess "rights" from that 3rd party, is a disgusting trick. and;

#2: extremely likely to be prevented by legal updates in the license terms in the future.

Novell *is* the new SCO, Microsoft's new tool to threaten lawsuits upon Linux users unless they pay $$$ to 'license' unspecified MS "intellectual property" under restrictive conditions which MS is free to change when they like.

Anyone who says otherwise is either very stupid, or has chosen to be shill for this sneaky legalese trick.

My thanks to Jeremy for his loud and clear repudiation of Novell's strategy, and also to Google for providing him with a more decent home.
Posted by Rick S. (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Talk about sneaky! Check Out The GPL!
The GPL was meant to subvert our constitutional rights to works of art, including software patents. What a joke all of your are fretting on the Microsoft-Novell deal. I hope Microsoft essentially continues on its quest to lock up the so-called open source movement, stop it in its tracks and essentially nullify the GPL. Microsoft is brilliant!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Link Flag
Talk about sneaky! Check Out The GPL!
The GPL was meant to subvert our constitutional rights to works of art, including software patents. What a joke all of your are fretting on the Microsoft-Novell deal. I hope Microsoft essentially continues on its quest to lock up the so-called open source movement, stop it in its tracks and essentially nullify the GPL. Microsoft is brilliant!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Link Flag
You know...
the truth is that the world doesn't need Linux.

When Novell first bought Suse and decided to end Netware I was sad. Then when I got my first version of Suse after the Novell merger I was sad and wished that Novell had gone with debian distro. Now I wish Novell had gone with BSD.

The reality is that had Novell made this deal with anybody other than Microsoft it wouldn't have been a big deal. The truth is had a company like Red Hat made this deal it probably wouldn't have been as big a deal.

People like drama and that's all this boils down to.

I was hoping to migrate to Linux from XP (not going anywhere near Vista), but it looks as though Apple will be my next computer.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
How much is your soul worth? ie How much is MS paying you to spout the party line.

The GPL is a legal document that is completely rooted in copyright law.

It is a not an economic nor a political movement.

You however, are a moron.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"An economic theory which stresses that the control of the means of producing economic goods in a society should reside in the hands of those who invest their labor for production. In its ideal form, social classes cease to exist, there is no coercive governmental structures, and everyone lives in abundance without supervision from a ruling class. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels popularized this theory in their 1848 Communist Manifesto."

I guess I was wrong. Communism and open source are completely different. My apologies to the open source community.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Proving your cluelessness yet again.
OSS is a license, not a political or economic movement.

You think that OSS is a free-for-all with no structure or control by a body or person? If you do, you are more retarded then anyone could possibly imagine.

OSS is a license, nothing more. Like all licenses, it has requirements for its use. Unlike many proprietary licenses, it is actually grounded in, and supports copyright law.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft EULA = Fascism
You call the GNU GPL communist, well I call the Microsoft EULA fascist. With the EULA you are getting a license which says you cannot compete via reverse-engineering, resell what you paid for, or rent it. You are also considered a criminal by default and must prove your innocence via registration.

To me the GNU GPL is the license closest to Adam Smith's ideal for a capitalist license. It enables defacto competition and lowers prices to the consumer. It is the manifestation of the Invisible Hand of the market pushing the cost of software copies to near zero: the defacto cost of a copy.

Microsoft merely distorts the market. They are stuck in a backwards fascist mindset, harking back to the days of mercantilism and feudalism. Welcome to the enlightenment!
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I would agree with that.
I assume you were directing that at me.

Let me put myself in perspective a bit since I'm sure everybody think I'm trying to start a flame war.

I don't like Microsoft. I refuse to buy Vista because of the license and a few other things. And I'm sure, given the chance, Apple would be just as bad if not worse than Microsoft when it comes to monopolistic practices.

Let me also say that I don't believe I ever called the GPL communistic. I did compare open source to communism. If you go by what Karl Marx was thinking then it's fairly close I think.

What's got me upset with Open Source lately is this attitude from some that everything that doesn't conform to our way of thinking is bad. I'm also not real happy with how people have reacted to the Novell/Microsoft deal. Even before anybody spent time to review the agreement they called it a bad deal simply because it was with Microsoft.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
You = Communist
You call the Microsoft EULA fascist, well I call you ignorant. So you think you should be entitled to reverse-engineer, resell and rent Microsoft Windows Vista? You are not considered a criminal by default, you are simply not considered owner of a legal copy of Microsoft Windows Vista until you prove so, which is perfectly reasonable for any unbiased human being. I don't doubt you'd love to not have to register your copy of Microsoft Windows Vista and thus use an illegal copy of it without paying Microsoft a dime. Nobody has the right to force Microsoft to favour its competitors or sell 5 years of research and development at bargain prices, there is nothing anti-competitive in Microsoft EULA, if you don't like/want Microsoft Windows Vista nobody stops you from using Linux or buying a Mac. Unfortunately for you we live in a capitalist world, not in a communist one. Microsoft is merely better than the competition. Maybe you should look at yourself and at your ideals and maybe you'd realize you're the one stuck in a pre-historic communist mindset, harking back to the days of the URSS.
Welcome to the real (capitalist) world.
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
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