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MeeGo & SUSE: What’s Up With That?

I’m wondering why Attachmate is interested in MeeGo.

Okay, I might be getting ahead of myself here. Actually, I don’t know that Attachmate is interested in MeeGo. All I know for sure is that yesterday Jos Poortvliet, the openSUSE community manager, wrote an article for LinuxUser in which he offered openSUSE as a new home for MeeGo:

“As I love MeeGo and what they do, I asked the MeeGo community to join openSUSE. We’re a community much like MeeGo – young, flexible, innovative, open. Continuing to build MeeGo on top of openSUSE would be possible, especially now there is an openSUSE ARM project…”

I found this to be very interesting, especially since he starts the post by expressing the belief that there are very few safe havens for open source projects, that lots of FOSS projects exist at the fickle pleasure of their corporate sponsors. SUSE, according to Poortvliet, is one of the few exceptions:

“I’m not talking about companies like Red Hat or SUSE. They depend on the communities behind their products. But that’s not always the case. Some companies build community around something, but drop it on a whim.”

Call me a cynic, but this made me chuckle a bit.

I agree with his assessment of Red Hat. As far as I can determine, there’s not a for-profit company on the planet more dedicated to both the spirit and letter of the GPL. But SUSE? The distro that crawled into bed with Microsoft under Novell’s ownership, and remains Redmond’s Linux lover under the stewardship of Attachmate?

Excuse me, but I think we can depend on SUSE staying the course about as much as we can depend on Apple not suing Samsung.

I have a feeling that Poortvliet is probably a decent enough sort of open source guy, but I figure he’s got a pretty serious case of denial going on. Does he realize that SLED has an indemnity agreement with Microsoft that’s only legal under the GPL because SUSE lies about their end of the bargain? Or that SUSE is like a kept lover, that Redmond regularly pours $100 million chunks of cash into the company?

So, when I hear the community development project openSUSE is opening their arms and offering MeeGo a home, I have to wonder if the suits at Attachmete, SUSE’s owners, are behind this. Then I wonder, what’s in it for them?

Maybe it’s simple and innocent. Maybe they realize their love affair with Microsoft is a public relations disaster and they’re opening up a home for orphaned open source projects as a way of building up some FOSS cred. That wouldn’t be so bad, but if that’s the motive I wouldn’t count on it lasting very long if I were involved with the MeeGo project. There’s also the possibility they have some idea of having a mobile OS that’s highly integrated with their server OS. I can see where that could have some potential value for enterprise customers down the line.

My fear, however, which may be entirely unwarranted, is that this somehow has something to do with SUSE’s close relationship with Microsoft. I have absolutely no idea what this could be, except I’m pretty sure that Windows Phone 7 would somehow be involved and that ultimately it wouldn’t be good for Android or any other open source mobile OS. In other words, I smell some sort of FUD attack in the making.

I hope my suspicions are unfounded. I hope that Mr. Poortvliet’s offer is entirely altruistic, and that he isn’t being manipulated by the folks at SLED or Attachment. But I still have to wonder, what good is an orphaned mobile operating system without the support of a wireless provider or handset maker?

I find this all very curious.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

25 comments to MeeGo & SUSE: What’s Up With That?

  • Jack

    Well, Novell did a great job for Microsoft wrt document formats. OOxml became ISO approved, and it’s impossible to even come near Excel spreadsheets with LibreOffice without having to check and fix every single cell, formula, link and format. Thanks to Novell who signed a contract to omit essential elements. Without the Novell involvement I seriously doubt that ISO acceptance would have taken place.

    That alone was worth billions of USD. The Mono spectacle was never profitable disregarding the bribes from MS. And those MS payments are clear statements of where the value is.

    I rather use Windows proper than SLED/OpenSUSE. Using SLED/OpenSUSE is like being intimate with someone you know will infect you with HIV. Utterly stupid.

    As far as I know, Poortvliet are handling Attachmate/SuSE’s interest in OpenSUSE. Thus he is not safegarding OpenSUSE but SuSE.

    I do not consider Attachmate/SuSE a friend of FOSS/Linux. On the contrary, they are facilitating the demise of FOSS/Linux. May Attachmate/SuSE pass away and then rest in peace.

  • crapsvadd

    I totally agree with your assessment of RedHat. The Novell+Micro$oft$$ affair has caused more harm then good to FOSS. It’s because of Novell Microsoft could make 500 million out of android patents. Don’t get me wrong there are a few great developers @ SUSE , but it’s management is totally anti-FOSS. I am quite sure that Meego praising is an attempt by Micro$oft secretly steal some GPL code or design of Meego and integrate into Window$ phone.

    I have been reading your posts , good job!

  • @Jack Yep. You seem to understand. I’m still surprised when I see how popular openSUSE remains. But I agree, if you’re going to run SUSE, you might as well run Windows. Good point!

    @crapsvadd Red Hat never fails to surprise me with how they always manage to come down on the proper side when FOSS issues are concerned. Even when they have to do something borderline to keep Oracle away from their customers, they seem to put a lot of effort into making sure they manage to keep it free. As for SUSE, it’s a shame that the oldest commercial Linux distro has been subjected to this. Oh, and thanks for reading!

  • […] a new blog post from Christine Hall she warns about this type of plug for OpenSUSE, where Jos Poortvliet tries to recruit people using MeeGo as […]

  • Nelson Marques

    Hi all,

    Disclaimer: I don’t have any relation with Novell, SUSE or Attachmate. I’m just a contributor that does minor contributions in stuff that I personally use. I’ve started with SuSE Linux 5.2 (1998) till SuSE Linux 7.1, then moved to Red Hat/Fedora and returned to openSUSE during the 11.1 cycle. I don’t plan to change.

    First of all, since someone used the term FUD, let me give you my own vision about FUD:

    * opinion makers and journalists should know that journalism is FACTUAL. Without facts, it’s all FUD.

    With love from Portugal,
    Nelson Marques

  • istok

    … meego has certainly come a long way since they threw fits over smeegol.. not.
    sometimes these projects just want to die. maybe this one should be left to do that.
    as for novell, i have no particular comment :)

  • r_a_trip

    @Nelson Marques

    What is not factual about Novell/Attachmate skirting the provisions in the GPL V2? What is not factual about Novell/Attachmate getting payed for skirting the provisions in the GPL V2? What is not factual about MS FUDding the world with unsubstantiated patent threats? What is not factual about Novell/Attachmate mucking about with technology that is too close to MS to be healthy?

  • Nelson Marques

    And where’s the evidence, please provide such, or take your pain someplace else.

  • Jack

    @Nelson Marques:

    I don’t know anything about you. Therefore you don’t exist. For anyone being non-existent you are extremely naive. The music is playing and you have cheeze in your ears (Renée).

    Read Groklaw.

  • nick

    I have to agree with Jack, there has been more than enough articles in Groklaw over the past few years about SUSE that we dont have have to rehash it for Nelson.
    You can waste your time and show him all that and he would just go “lalalalalala, I cant hear you!”.

    And no, Christine isnt a cynic.
    SUSE served MS extortion purpose, as “Non-Compensated Individual Hobbyist Developer” I was more than fully aware of the implications of their pledge.
    I also know that MS and Ballmer used SUSE as a proof of a company that respects MS IP rights and is LEGAL while users of Red Hat such as myself owe MS money..
    They werent used by MS, they sold themselves plain and simple.

    Nelson can ignore the past 5 yrs all he wants, some of us dont take to extortion lightly. “You have nice children/restaurant Mr. X… it would be a shame if something happened to them.”
    And those who work hand in hand to make this extortion possible are accessories to the act which by the way is criminal in nature.

    When I read the Jos post at lunch, I had CCed it to some coworkers and by the time of our PM meeting with the senior devs, there were juicy comments flying pretty low.

    One called the very idea of SUSE being a haven for Linux akin to having Dracula guarding a blood bank.

    Thanks Christine for saying what 15 of us agreed today.

    Im a RH guy when it comes to servers and Debian/Gentoo/PCLinuxOS on the desktop so I have some bias but I agree that Red Hat has shown over and over that they can do business the right way while respecting the GPL. And that deal with MS they made isnt an indictment against them like some claimes but a blueprint of how to get things done and not endanger the whole community. The fact that they use a professional killer on their board makes me feel ill (with almost 1000 army bases in 175+ countries, we can easily call the largest military empire in history by its bloody name. 35+ bombed countries since WW2 is self explanatory.) so Im not an RH nuthugger.
    But when it comes to GPL and Linux, they seem to always do right. Unlike Ubuntu, where Shuttleworth speaks a very free software language but whose company sometimes seems to be led in different directions (but thats nitpicking).

  • stefan

    “I’m still surprised when I see how popular openSUSE remains.”

    Are you crazy? openSUSE is the best KDE dsitribution. And the most active one in KDE project.
    Their benefit to FOSS is great – far more greater than, for example, Canonical.

  • @Jack @nick Thanks to you both from saving me the trouble of having to respond to Mr. Marques. And Nick, as soon as I saw Poortvliet’s sweet and innocent post, all sort of red flags went up, prompting me to write this post. It’s nice to see that so many share my suspicions.

    @stefan No one is denying that SUSE is a great distro with a rich tradition. It’s the ethics of the folks who currently control SUSE that give us pause.

  • I see moreof the technology match here.
    Since suse/novel/attachmate got rid of those ximian suckers and don’t need to do see-carpet bullshit anymore, they remain a purely KDE/QT/rpm driven company.
    We all know about the technology changes of meegoo in the past, one comming with gtk/.deb and one with QT/.rpm and the troubles they had to get everything changed back and forth.

    Imho, if Nokia had bought Ximian, and Novell QT way back then, we would all be in a much better position right now.

    So, SuSE/Attachmate comming with experience in KDE/QT/rpm and development resources with that, plus Meego with QT/rpm simply put is a good match.

    Whats SuSEs win here? I’d say lots of embedded knowhow from the meego guys. And in opposite to de Icasa, who officialy told in an Interview that he doesn’t see any future in Linux on the Desktop or on a Handset, SuSE does.

  • Jack

    Poortvliet just does his job and that’s ok. As long as it’s clear that he is handling Attachmate/Suse’s interest in OpenSUSE – and not safeguarding OpenSUSE. They do offcourse need OpenSUSE and their community. Without them there is no SUSE.

    As regards OpenSUSE the community was less than enthusiastic (me being polite) about Novell pushing Gnome and Mono down their throat. OpenSUSE was always KDE sentric (between 3/5ths and 2/3rds KDE), and Novell had no respect for that. Finally the OpenSUSE community had enough and made a point.

    There are many reasons for Microsoft paying Novell:
    – It allowed Novell to undercut prices thus reducing the economy of Red Hat which contrary to Novell was a real threat to Microsoft.

    – I’ve already mentioned document formats.

    – Moonlight was supposed to make Silverlight edible as “Xplatform”. It never was usable for anything.

    – KDE became really really good with the 4 series – to the extent that it is far far better than any UX Microsoft ever presented.

    – Gnome were limited wrt economics thus the money financed Gnome through Novell. Gnome was needed to get Mono into the game, an exersise which would have been impossible with KDE. (No intended pune towards Gnome – they were used by Novell and de Icaza).

    – The Gnome/Mono combo opens the door for Microsoft patent/licence attacks on Linux.

    – Ubuntu is the major infector wrt Mono into Gnu/Linux.

  • Jack

    de Icaza was never famous for his winning personality and social skills. He is a Microsoft buff. Always was, always will be. I have no respect whatsoever for the guy:

    http://www.itwriting.com/blog/4925-miguel-de-icaza-talks-about-windows-8-and-the-failure-of-linux-on-the-desktop.html

    http://adtmag.com/blogs/watersworks/2011/05/interview-with-miguel-de-icaza.aspx

    Hard to blame Novell for Mono’s failure.

    Wrt Attachmate DUMPING de Icaza: Good riddance.

  • So much hate over SUSE/openSUSE but intentionally glossing over the many contributions made and the fact that the “marriage with MS” was essentially Novell’s and not SUSE’s decision to make.

    Novell was managed by people with no interest/knowledge in FOSS. openSUSE like Fedora is a community project sponsored and somewhat guided by its corporate sponsor. If you think that the community is evil and bad, I am sorry to say, you do have some other issues to deal with. I use Fedora/RH at work, openSUSE/Gentoo/Ubuntu at home. I don’t see a problem with that. If the openSUSE folks want to assist MeeGo, then let them be.

    Jim Whitehurst of RH also mentioned that they don’t see a future in Linux desktops – so why single out De Icaza?

    I am just trying to be fair here. If you don’t like openSUSE/SUSE for its technical merits, that is fine. But to blame the entire community for the decisions of ignorant directors is unfair. Can we say that RH as the company is ignorant in saying that they don’t see a future in Linux desktops?

    So why don’t other companies who the “suitable” FOSS cred step up and adopt MeeGO? Or are we content to have Google’s version of Linux be the poster boy of the mobile segment?

  • SuSE also sponsors the alsa project with manpower; Some important Xorg developers work for suse; its the home of quiet a lot of kernel developers.Many of the SuSE guys were happy to have been divorced from novel by attachmate; I guess getting rid of de icasa was an event like fiorina being fired at HP.

  • Jack

    @Eric Yeoh:

    I certainly don’t critisize the OpenSUSE community. Never did. Novell and de Icaza is a different story all together.

    Novell/de Icaza were the ones aiding and obeying Microsoft in their efforts to reduce Linux competitiveness. RH never did such thing.

    The Microsoft investment in Novell was an investment where the intention was to inflict damage to Linux. They never earned even a cent pr dollar they invested in Novell. Still it was a great investment – and the profit is measured in damage to FOSS and Linux.

    If you want to ignore that – be my guest – but they just got another batch of usd 100 mill, and putting SuSE in charge of MeeGO? Well, there are lots of analogies for that – few suitable in print.

    You are using the term “hate”, and the usage is a technique intended to place Novell/de Icaza into the victim’s role.

    Novell and de Icaza never were and never will be hate victims. They are alphas who failed.

    I don’t hate anyone. But my contempt for de Icaza and Novell is profound. Indeed..

    It has nothing to do with technical merits. It has everything to do with moles and treason. Be a part of it if you like. I won’t.

  • Jack

    @dothebart:

    That’s indeed true. de Icaza was Novell’s huge dark cloud. Never the less – he’s blaiming Novell – who let them play with mono for years. A lot of Novell “fans” prefer to separate Mono from the Microsoft payments. In that case – how could they justify keeping it alive for so many years when the company actually were loosing money every single year (when disregarding Microsoft money).

    The departure of Mono and de Icaza provided some hope, but as we all know – Attachmate/SuSE signed another 100 mill deal.

    Mono has (by face value) left the bulding – but the Microsoft ghost are still lurking around. Accepting money from a true and natural enemy is a big nono.

    It makes SuSE inedible also in the future.

  • Eric Yeoh

    So much hate for Microsft and SUSE but love for Jobs? A little schiczo eh?

  • Jack

    I don’t hate Microsoft and i don’t love Jobs. It’s technology not friends and family. I further suggest you leave mental illness out of the equation. It is insulting. Not to me, but to all those suffering from it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Forbes_Nash,_Jr.

    You seem to seek and take pleasure in the victim’s role – reminding me about Jeffrey Steadfast, the king of monomoaning.

  • Hi Christine,

    A quick response.

    The blog and column were prompted by MeeGo people who asked me to invite their community – it wasn’t even my idea. So no big plans for Attachmate/SUSE. I invited people on my own accord because technically we can help MeeGo and SUSE wouldn’t block it. I’d say their track record speaks for itself.

    SUSE let openSUSE choose another desktop as default, change their release numbering, start an ARM project, do Smeegol and they help out with setting up an independent foundation… Care to guess how our competitors would react to such initiatives from their community?

    Last, I said I’d be happy to see MeeGo people join ANY other Free Software community and I stand by that.

  • @jospoortvliet Thanks for your comment Jos. I’m glad to hear that the folks at SUSE are giving openSUSE a good deal of autonomy. I want to be clear that I have no argument with the community development. I had hoped, however, that when Attachmate bought Novell and split SUSE into a separate entity, to see an end to the components of the relationship between SUSE and Microsoft which I find to be troublesome for the FOSS community.

    That being said, I hope you will do your best to keep openSUSE free and open.

    Christine

  • Thanks, Christine. I surely will.

    About the MS deal, I personally know little about it as it’s on the Business side. As far as I know MS is a reseller of SLE licenses and cooperates on technology interoperability and certification. Just like SAP and VMware and many other partners. I’m OK with that as it pays the bills of FOSS developers and gets us better software (eg samba, virtualization, docx support in LibreOffice).

    I’m personally less thrilled with the little I know about the legal side but frankly, after 5 years of that deal with Novell the world didn’t end so it’s not a big deal for me. Then again for people who are more into the legal side of things I can understand it’s an issue.

  • jack

    The “DocX” shame and blame game.

    I’ve done the exersise a few times. Opened a MSO 2010 document / spreadsheet in LibreOffice. It’s totally dysfunctional and has served Microsoft well.

    Real value for money on Microsoft’s side, who is totally free to keep it dysfunctional for as long as they wish. For LibreOffice and desktop Gnu/Linux it was the final nails in the coffin. Despite the fantastic potential Linux on desktop is dead whether Linux enthusiasts realise it or not. I tryed to donate Linux machines to african charities. They immediatly replaced Linux with Windows 7.

    EVERYBODY in public sector are abandoning LibreOffice and Gnu/Linux og desktops in my home country. ISO and Novell should really get the credit they deserve for that.

    Unless you are prepared to check every cell, format and formula every time – keep MSO and LibreOffice files apart – always.

    The Novell/Microsoft format mumbo is definately the reason for me abandoning Linux and LibreOffice. Until I replace my gear with Apple’s gear I’m stuck with Windows 7.

    Thanks a lot Novell/SuSE – you remain Microsoft’s best friend.