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SCO Never Can Say Goodbye

I’d almost forgotten that SCO was still around until PJ at Groklaw reported the company was in the process of switching from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. In bankruptcy talk that means the company’s stance has changed from we’re-going-to-come-out-of-this-alive to it’s-call-the-priest-for-last-rites-time. The trouble is, this is SCO, so you know it’s not going to be that simple. They’ll come up with some stupid request for the court that confounds logic, which they’ve done.

If I’m reading PJ right, SCO wants to both eat and have cake, which is pretty much what they’ve always wanted. This time they want to go bankrupt and leave their creditors without a dime but still stick around to continue litagation against IBM for alledgedly giving Linux all sorts of code. Here’s how PJ intreprets what SCO is telling the court:

“…the money is almost all gone, so it’s not fun any more. SCO can’t afford Chapter 11. We want to shut the costs down, because we’ll never get paid. But it’d look stupid to admit the whole thing was ridiculous and SCO never had a chance to reorganize through its fantasy litigation hustle. Besides, Ralph Yarro and the other shareholders might sue. So they want the litigation to continue to swing in the breeze, just in case. But SCO has no money coming in and no other prospects, so they want to proceed in a cheaper way and shut this down in respects to everything else.”

In other words, SCO accepts death only if it’s allowed to reawaken if the case against IBM ever bears fruit. Wouldn’t SCO’s old CEO Darl McBride be proud? The company he once headed still employs his convoluted thinking style.

Like many over the years, I’ve scratched my head on more than one occasion trying to figure out just what the folks at SCO were thinking when they decided to sue IBM and Novell, as well as a couple of former customers, AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler, over Linux.

If memory serves, the only evidence we ever saw were some clumsily disguised lines of code from Linux that matched Unix code line for line. There was a good reason for the match; it was BSD code dating back to the infamous settlement between AT&T and Berkeley.

When SCO first showed this code, I jumped to the conclusion that the clowns there simply didn’t know anything about the history of Unix and BSD. Maybe McBride or one of his henchmen just happened to notice some code in Caldera, SCO’s Linux distro, that matched code in Unix and jumped to the conclusion that intellectual property theft had taken place.

On closer examination, that explanation probably doesn’t make sense. McBride had spent eight years at Novell, starting as a manager and ending up a general manager of the company’s Embedded Systems Division. I suppose it might be possible to spend that much time at Novell without learning any of the history of Unix, BSD and Linux, but it seems unlikely. In the end, all we can do is shrug our shoulders and ask the rhetorical, “Who know why they did what they did?”

Of one thing we can be sure, they squandered a boatload of money and damaged more than a few careers. Probably the only career open to Darl McBride anymore is one he makes for himself, which he’s trying to do with Me, Inc., which hawks the old SCO Mobility platform he purchased from SCO for $100,000 just six months before his termination as CEO. These days he posts a picture of himself that depicts a much different man than the clean cut, close shaved business suited gangster we remember from back in the day. He now sports a growth of beard that gives him a kind of scary Larry Ellison look. He lists occupation as “entrepreneur.”

Without a doubt, SCO’s actions upset the FOSS community. Some say their shenanigans began the legal assault on Linux that’s resulted in the big bucks Microsoft’s making from Android handset makers like Samsung and HTC. This is probably not true. Our problems with the likes of Cupertino and Redmond most likely have nothing to do with SCO. We don’t know what the legal climate would’ve been if the Caldera Linux distro hadn’t turned on us as SCO, but we do know that Microsoft would still be wanting to shut us down.

If I feel sorry for any of the SCO players, it’s Blake Stowell. I don’t claim to know his motivations, but being SCO’s Director of Communications couldn’t be an easy gig. No one could make McBride’s actions look good and there was no way that SCO was going to come out ahead following his lead, which Stowell must have known. His career seems to have survived intact, however. These days he’s a senior manager for Analyst Relations at Adobe in Provo. From a picture he posts on a social site, his appearance hasn’t changed that much, but he looks more a computer tech type than the wannabe executive we remember.

It’s time to put this episode behind us. SCO should go to go to sleep and never wake up. The bankruptcy judge should ignore any of their oddball requests and just kick the ball out of play, declare an end to the game and give IBM whatever rights are behind SCO’s claims, to keep them from starting even more trouble even after they’re gone.

There will always be an SCO lurking in the bush. Right now we have legal pressure from both Apple and Microsoft, and others are sure to follow. We don’t need to worry about these creepy clowns from Provo. The judge needs to just let SCO die.

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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.

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