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Free Software Foundation Questions UnitedLinux NDA

Free Software Foundation Questions UnitedLinux NDA

The four weak sisters of Linux, SuSE, SCO, Turbolinux and Conectiva, are looking a tad weaker since rival Red Hat pulled the IBM Global Services trick out its fedora the other day. As the UnitedLinux alliance, the four allied companies say they can jointly muster 550 people worldwide. IBM Global Services has something like 180,000.

So far none of the vendors or major ISVs have gotten behind the common United Linux distribution, pretty much a rehash of SuSE's existing Enterprise Server, that's supposed to go into open beta on Monday, September 23. Doubtless they're waiting to see what it looks like when it's finished although it seems they may got a peak at it under NDA during the closed beta cycle the thing's been through for the last few months.

The ever-watchful Free Software Foundation (FSF), who also happens to be the largest copyright holder in Linux, isn't quite sure whether to get its nose out of joint about this NDA or whether it somehow taints United Linux' GPL compliance.

FSF executive director Bradley Kuhn, who publicly asked the new United Linux board of managers to publish a copy of the NDA Wednesday, says that the idea of a closed beta of GPL software is "tricky business" and that the two things may be mutually exclusive. "Our lawyers," he said, "tell us that it is not impossible to write a GPL-compatible blanket NDA, but it is difficult." It "must assert that all the code covered by GPL and LPGL is not subject to any additional restrictions, and that the NDA does not trump the rights and privileges granted by the GPL and LPGL."

He also said that "We at the foundation know of no one nor have we talked to anyone who has ever seen or who has been distributed a copy of this 'closed beta.'"

Things are gonna get a bit more closed when the UnitedLinux distribution is finally productized next quarter. Like Red Hat, the UnitedLinux foursome is in search of business model and like Red Hat Advanced Server, the UnitedLinux distro won't be free. Any commercial use will require a license - UnitedLinux hasn't set a price yet - although both the source and binary will apparently be downloadable for non-commercial use. Also like Advanced Server, it looks like UnitedLinux will charge for maintenance and service rather than the code per se.

UnitedLinux has confirmed the appointment of Paula Hunter as its general manager (LinuxGram vol. 1 issue 6) and has identified the board of managers guiding the operating system's fate as Andy Nagel, director of product management for SCO Linux, Fumiko Doi, chief marketing officer for Turbolinux, Gordon Ho, head of corporate development at Conectiva, Gregory Blepp, VP, international at SuSE and Markus Rex, VP of development at SuSE and also development manager of UnitedLinux.

Starting Monday, the UnitedLinux open beta should be at www.unitedlinux.com.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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