Enterprise Unix Roundup: Open Isn't Free

Enterprise Unix Roundup: Open Isn't Free


March 11, 2004

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We Get Letters

Long-time 'roundup readers may have noticed an occasional variation when we talk about free and open source software. Sometimes we use a slash (free/open source software); sometimes we just say "open source"; and other times we just say "stuff like Linux and Apache."

Several days ago we received an interesting e-mail from none other than the Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman calling us on our use of the term "open source" when referring to the GNU Public License:

"[...] we do not think of the GNU GPL as an "open source" license," he wrote. "'Open source' is the slogan of a movement that was founded expressly to reject our values and ideals."

What's an enterprise Unix column to do? Well, for starters we will no longer refer to the GPL as an "open source" license anymore. The GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation are the sine qua non of what people commonly call "the Linux operating system," and they've earned some right to an identity distinct from the marketing-friendly "Open Source" branding effort.

Beyond that, we'll probably continue to muddle forth with our "free/open source" nomenclature. The story of how there came to be two terms for people intent on giving their source code to users is cut from a fairly standard mold of disagreeable behavior where two or more people come into conflict. While it has the same sort of allure a particularly catty reality TV show can display, it's not really for these pages.

If you're curious about what makes one source-available piece of software "Open Source" and another "Free Software," we encourage you to read the Free Software Foundation's take on the matter. Between pointing readers to that essay and making sure we don't call the GPL "open source," we'd like to consider our responsibility in the matter discharged.

Also worthy of mention is another issue Mr. Stallman raised in his letter; we were incorrect when we wrote "the recently updated Apache license is no longer GPL compatible." According to Mr. Stallman:

"All versions of the Apache license have been incompatible with the GNU GPL; each includes some requirement that the GPL does not include. The precise requirement which does this is different from version to version, but the end result is the same."

We regret the error.

In Other News

» Did they or didn't they? There's been a minor kerfuffle about whether Computer Associates bought one of those SCO licenses or not. Last week, SCO said CA was one of its Linux licensees. Sam Greenblatt of CA fired back a statement, saying, "CA stands in stark disagreement with SCO's tactics, which are intended to intimidate and threaten consumers." So they didn't buy a license? Well, yes, they did. Sort of. CA did receive some Linux licenses as part of a $40 million settlement with the Canopy Group. CA senior VP Mark Barrenechea says they were thrown in and tacked on to UnixWare licenses that were part of the settlement and not explicitly purchased.

Unless Mr. Barrenchea is spinning to avoid the wrath of angry Linux enthusiasts, it seems clear SCO is feeling real pressure to produce high-profile licensees and will stretch things pretty far to name a name or two.

Helping to make the SCO Drama even more operatic was a leaked e-mail that seems to indicate Microsoft funneled money to SCO via a venture capital firm called Baystar. For conspiracy buffs, this is the grand unified theory, bringing the darkest stars in the Linux sky together.

» Although still only alpha quality, Linux drivers for the Intel Centrino architecture are now available.

» Starnet released X-Win32 6.0, an X Window server for Windows 32-bit operating systems. The new release includes enhanced ssh functionality, more fonts, and the "Session Sorter," which allows users to drag and drop X sessions into folders within the X-Win32 GUI.

» SGI says it's taking its Altix 3000 line up to 256 Itanium 2 processors running a single instance of Linux. The company also said that it should have the Altix 3000 (and Linux) up to 512 processors by the end of the year.

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Tips of the Trade

A few months ago we put rsync forward as a great over-the-network backup option that has the benefit of conserving bandwidth by saving only changed files. rsync is great at what it does, but one thing it doesn't do is synchronize in more than one direction, meaning that you can either push a directory into an archive, overwriting changed files, or you can pull an archive down.

Thus, you can't really use it to keep a pair of archives up to date with each other.

Enter unison, which uses the rsync algorithm in such a way that when it's presented with a pair of archives, it seeks to update both of them based on changes to each. Consequently, if files in archive "A" on a workstation were changed, and files have changed in archive "B" on a server, unison sorts out which files should be copied from the server to the workstation and vice versa.

As with rsync, unison is able to use ssh as a tunnel, meaning data is passed over the network in a safe and encrypted fashion. This makes it good for wireless road-warriors as well as people in the relatively safe confines of a hardline network. In addition, the developers provide a Windows version alongside the easily compilable version available for Unix variants (including OS X).

A few things worth noting:

  • unison has the ability to create exclude lists and profiles, making it possible to create a wide variety of well-tuned unison scripts sensitive to specific backup needs (such as limiting the kinds of files a user syncs when he or she is doing so over a slow dialup vs. a faster wireless connection).
  • unison, while compiling and working under OS X, doesn't yet recognize OS X's resource forks. Those using unison on a Mac, should stick to simple files and will probably want to install fink to get at the libraries they'll need to build unison.
  • unison offers build options for a GUI under Unix systems with the gtk+ libraries installed.
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