Monday, November 22, 2010

Be careful what you ask for

Remember just four years ago, when Novell entered into the now-infamous joint patent agreement with Microsoft? Remember the hue and cry that went up to boycott Novell? So that Novell would be driven out of business, and thus punished for entering into that "evil" agreement with the enemy?

Well, guess what.

It looks like all those righteous free software folks are going to get their wish. Novell entered into an agreement with Attachmate to be acquired by Attachmate for roughly $2.2 billion. And along the way it sold over 800 patents to a consortium led by Microsoft for an additional $450 million. Not bad for Novell. But not too good if you're wondering what impact this may have on Linux.

You see, earlier this year the courts established that it was Novell, not SCOG, that owned the intellectual property to Unix. For all you free software elites, let that critical fact sink into your thick skulls for just a moment. You all decided to punish the very company that literally held the keys to the kingdom. The same company, Novell, that has for years donated considerably to the overall free software ecology (far more so than Canonical). The same company that put up with the long legal battle against SCOG, that resisted Darl McBride's initial offer to work with SCOG to shake IBM down. The company that finally won over SCOG, to tepid praise at best.

Novell tried, they really did. Whether it was SLED/S (Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server) or the community OpenSUSE, Novell supported and produced a good quality Linux distribution. But that wasn't good enough, especially for jerks such as Jeremy Allison who abandoned Novell over so-called objections to Novell's patent deal with Microsoft, to head to a conveniently ready job at Google.

Frankly I hope Microsoft does have Linux by the short hairs over this. If Katherine Noyes of PCWorld is finally right for once, and Microsoft is indeed looking for a new, more potent way to make Linux vendors "an offer they can't refuse", then all I can say is suck it up; you asked for it.

Sleep well tonight, all you self-righteous open source software heroes. Sleep well in the bed you've made for yourself.

A Link to my Past

Attachmate goes back a long way. It was Attachmate that purchased the remains of Digital Communications Associates in 1994, a communications gear manufacturer that got its start in Atlanta, Ga. I was hired to work for DCA in January of 1982 by Paul Matthews. I'd been working for the First National Bank of Atlanta as a CICS programmer for a security guard's salary. That's because I started to work for the bank as a security guard so I could finish up my engineering degree. When I took the bank's internal programming course in COBOL and IBM 370 assembly programming and passed with flying colors (due, in part, to the fact I had an engineering background in my back pocket), the bank's management conveniently forgot to raise my salary. It got really bad when I had to cross train computer science new hires from Georgia State who were coming in a good $10K higher salary-wise than what I was being paid at the time. I protested to my supervisor, who did nothing and said nothing until the day I walked in with my two weeks notice. At which point he said he had been working to get me a comparable raise.

For the next three years I worked first as a costumer engineer and then a software engineer. In the end I went back out into the field and opened a field support office in Orlando, Fl. What's interesting is how DCA abandoned the communications gear that got it on the map, instead purchasing other companies that allowed DCA to move into more mainstream PC products and services.

One of those products was the IRMA, the 3270 terminal emulator that lived long enough to be eventually abandoned by Attachmate in 2005. DCA purchased the company that first created it, Technical Analysis Corporation (TAC), in 1982. That deal pulled in a lot of really bright people, such as Charley Brown. It also pulled in the first and only Apple Lisa I ever saw. I learned quite a bit working for DCA. It was a magic time I hope I never forget.

Update 24 November

Well, it looks like it's not as dire as originally forecast for Linux. Looks like Attachmate will retain the Novell Unix copyrights after all. Maybe next time. Besides, orchestrating the usual anti-Groklaw smear campaign on behalf of my closest Microsoft friends is taking a bit of my time and effort.

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