15 Feb 2004

Mr Gates’ Dire Straits

Microsoft is having its problems lately, of which the news that it has managed to convince East London’s Newham Council to stick with Windows rather than shift to free software by providing unsustainably deep discounts in pricing looked like the very worst, until something even more dismal came along. Valentine’s Day found the monopoly coping with the unauthorized release of a large quantity of Windows NT and Windows 2000 source code, apparently stolen from or mistakenly made accessible by a commercial partner with a source code license. The first news item passed for a victory at Redmond, no doubt, in keeping with the “Never Lose to Linux” strategy for public-sector marketing previously propounded in Orlando Ayala’s famous secret memorandum leaked last summer. But the Pyrrhic victory at Newham Council and the Stolen Source Escapade—unrelated as they seem—represent very neatly the two blades of the scissors that are, to paraphrase Mr Gates himself, cutting the oxygen line of the tottering giant.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2004.02.15-00:00.00

07 Jan 2004

Freedom Inside

At the beginning of 2004, with the consumer electronics exposition going on in Las Vegas and LinuxWorld coming to my home base in New York, the trade shows are telling us that this is the year of Free Software Inside. Indeed, a collection of forces is propelling free software into all sorts of devices and appliances near you. That process, now picking up momentum, begins with the simple calculus of cost, but will have surprisingly far-reaching effects on the global economy, and the gap in access to the Net between rich and poor that is known as the Digital Divide.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2004.01.07-00:00.00

30 Nov 2003

Giving Thanks

On November 12, ZDNet UK reported that Bradley Tipp, Microsoft’s UK National Systems Engineer, proclaimed the death of the free software model at the Monopoly’s IT Forum in Copenhagen. Had Mr Tipp been right, our death would have been one of the most temporary on record. From where I sit, two weeks later at the season of Thanksgiving in the United States, the Free World has much to be thankful for in the year now ending, and little to fear from the year to come.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.11.30-00:00.00

19 Oct 2003

Patent Victory

The European Parliament’s rejection earlier this month of the Commission’s proposed software patent policy is a watershed moment for the global free software movement. From both technical and political standpoints, this decision will have far-ranging consequences for years to come.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.10.19-00:00.00

07 Sep 2003

At Last, the Evidence

Last month we finally learned what all the noise is about. Although SCO continues its game of hide and seek with the truth, at least a few of the critical pieces have fallen into place. Naturally, as one would expect given the disingenuous build-up, what we can see of the SCO evidence of copyright infringement in the Linux kernel is almost the square root of nothing.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.09.07-00:00.00

10 Jul 2003

Managing Free Software after SCO

The SCO v. IBM lawsuit may not be a significant legal threat to the freedom of free software, but it does put emphasis on questions of project management in the free software community. SCO’s irresponsible public statements about copyright infringement in the the Linux kernel, and its lawsuit claiming that the same program has included trade secret material wrongly contributed by IBM, have disquieted users. SCO’s legal claims and its less responsible public accusations are likely to fail, as I’ve said before. But users of free software should now get better answers from the free software community about how free software is made, so that they can understand more clearly why it is safe to copy, modify, and redistribute.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.07.10-00:00.00

12 Jun 2003


The lawsuit between the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and IBM has been roiling the free software world this past month. More disturbing than the lawsuit itself have been the public statements by representatives of SCO, which have irresponsibly suggested doubts about the legitimacy of free software overall.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.06.12-00:00.00

12 May 2003

The Europatent Debate

The most important political issue affecting the future of free software in Europe is moving towards a vote in the European Parliament this month. The Parliament will either accept or reject a proposal by the European Commission to alter European patent practice to conform with the US Patent and Trademark Office’s liberal granting of patents for “inventions” implemented in computer software. This threatens to bring US-style business-method and health-method patents to Europe. It also threatens open standards and the very existence of free software.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.05.12-00:00.00

10 Apr 2003

Our Embedded Correspondents

We’ve been hearing a good deal about “embedding” lately. Journalists traveling with an invading army are not exactly like complex software contained inside end-user hardware devices, but the word does get around. In the part of the world you and I live in, where “embedding” refers to putting free software inside, there have also been some interesting developments.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.04.10-00:00.00

17 Mar 2003

When the Tide Turned

I have just returned from the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the Free Software Foundation. This year marks the end of the first decade of my direct association with the Foundation, and with the struggle to make and keep software free. Our Board meeting is always a time for stock-taking, giving us an opportunity to assess where we are and where the movement for freedom is going in the year to come. This year that assessment seems particularly resonant for me, personally, but also especially hopeful.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.03.17-00:00.00