Escher for Real

cool! []


There must surely be a point where coincidence meets fate; I woke this morning at 0615h, went for my morning bike-ride, came back and sat down with the intent to skim e-mail before hitting the shower.

I was pounced-upon virtually (iChat/AIM) by a Swiss colleague (“GG”) who’d apparently read my mind about an work-related issue about which I have been meaning to blog for some time, and regarding which I intended to “have a go” today.

As a pro-Linux geek, former amateur journalist, and as a technical geek working for Sun’s “Wall Street” team, it is an issue that is particularly pertinent to my work as well as my personal interests.

This colleague (another Linux geek) and I had an extended chat about the matter before I excused myself, showered, and drove to work.

I got a coffee, plugged in my iBook, and began to dig through my morning RSS feeds only to find that my Mozilla maven, friend, and sometime drinking buddy Mike Shaver has also hit upon the exact same issue at the exact same time:


George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, recently described Sun’s “fighting chance” strategy for recovery, as told to him by Jonathan Schwartz, including this first step:

Step No. 1: Make the argument that Linux equals Red Hat. Sun’s view is that Linux is nothing more than Red Hat.

But some three weeks before, Jonathan himself decried that very attitude:

And Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the media (and IBM’s ads) seem to conflate. Let’s start calling a distro a distro.

This doesn’t strike me as the sort of misinterpretation that one would expect to arise from a conversation between the CEO of one of the industry’s most influential analyst firms and the president/COO of Sun Microsystems. I wonder why Sun didn’t make them post a correction.

You’re bang on the money, Mike.

When I first read George Colony’s note I said to myself: That’s not right. I know it’s not right. Moreover, it’ll cause trouble… – and that’s exactly what happened.

George Colony’s comment got picked up by [] which went on to present it as if it reflected Sun strategy, and to speculate thereupon:


Here’s a charming report from Forrester Research’s CEO George Colony about what he says is Sun’s blueprint for survival, in which Sun once again reveals it is no true friend of FOSS, and in fact doesn’t even know what it is.

The plan is simple:

[quote elided]

They wouldn’t be planning on creating some “potentially serious intellectual-property issues” with their new best friend, Microsoft, or anything? You think? Or is it just a matter of ignobly handing out FUDsicles? The plan has more nauseating steps, but I leave you to go read it on your own.

As you can see, Sun’s revealed strategy is built on a mistaken view of what GNU/Linux is. The problem with building your plans on a mistaken fantasy or a wish is that the rest of the world refuses to shake itself loose from reality. Reality doesn’t care what your company wants or needs.

…which would be interesting (if fud-laden and vitriolic) comment, if it reflected some basis in fact rather than being what I believe to be flawed commentary based upon what I believe to be further flawed commentary.

What happened next? Of course! Slashdot got involved [] [] and the trolls, zealots, and – it should be noted – a fair number of Sun supporters piled into the maul.

From bitter experience I’ve learned that there is no point in blogging counter to the Slashdot mob when peoples’ danders were up; the fact that I have a 4-digit Slashdot UID (4035) should attest to my having seen too many flame wars to believe that something any one person says is likely to improve matters.

Now, finally, things have cooled somewhat.

So: partly for the sake of my colleagues who may have been missing this back-plot and who may feel a bit confused about all the recent SOLARIS-VS-[FOO] OPERATING-SYSTEM-DEATHMATCH b.s. – but mostly for the sake of evangelism through wider broadcast, may I please reiterate what Jonathan Schwartz wrote at

Innovation is not a threat to GNU/linux

Headlines like this and this really drive me nuts.

Sun is not a threat to GNU/linux. Innovation is not a threat to GNU/linux. dTrace is not a threat to linux. Nor is Solaris 10, nor Janus. Nor is our new comp plan.

They are a problem for Red Hat. And Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the media (and IBM’s ads) seem to conflate.

To my friends in the media, you are confusing a social movement with a single company – that social movement is all about choice, innovation and freedom. Not dominance or dependence. In that light, no innovation Sun delivers, in comp models or bits, can be anti-linux.

Let’s get specific. Let’s start calling a distro a distro.