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Axis Vs. Allies 2.0

"Took a class, big fun, Modern Ethics 101
"First day, learned why ethics really don't apply."
--Steve Taylor
"Since I Gave Up Hope, I Feel A Lot Better"

I was thinking about writing up something about Google and their proposed deal with Verizon that sure smells like a reversal on their net neutrality stance.  That has to wait.

Larry Ellison is a name well known to us techies.  Ellison is the founder of Oracle, one of the only companies to withstand the assault of M$ and their product lock-in scheme.  Ellison is a businessman.  Period.  There's no principal other than making money.  He fits in the same box as RealNetworks -- yeah, it's impressive you survived the M$ juggernaut, but that doesn't mean we respect you.  Especially when you exhibit behavior just as reprehensible as who you fought.  My enemy's enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Ellison, a free market cowboy, saw the future shifting to open source and Linux.  So, he had his lawyers look over the terms of the GPL.  Ellison came up with Unbreakable Linux.  It's Red Hat.  Seriously.  He just removed their indicia and replaced it with his own.  His business model was the same as many others who make their own Linux distros -- find a successful distro to minimize dev time (Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, etc.) and rebrand it with your own mix of software, desktop, codecs, etc.  Basically, he wasn't creating his own distro, he was letting Red Hat do the dirty work for him.  This backfired, as the release of Unbreakable Linux saw Red Hat's customer base swell by over 50%.  People didn't want to wait for Unbreakable's patches when Red Hat had them right away.  Plus, Red Hat's customer service is legendary.  Oracle's is considerably less than that.

Ellison then bought Sun in Jan 2010, who had been in negotiations to be acquired by IBM.  The speed at which the IBM talks broke down and Oracle snapped them has a lot of us arching our eyebrows.  Sun used to be open source's greatest enemy.  Their CCDL was specifically engineered to not be compatible with the GPL (this isn't speculation, they openly stated it at press conferences and at dev meetings).  They also did all they could to sully Linux.  Reason?  Sun is Unix.  Unix fragmented and so software for it has compatibility issues if you switch to another version, something the GPL prevents from happening with Linux.  Unix developers were going Linux, and Sun saw their product losing ground very very fast.  Eventually, they saw the light, and tried to embrace open source.  They open sourced Slolaris Solaris and released Java under the GPLv2.  Sort of.  The license is mostly GPLv2, but includes what is called the Classpath Exception, that enables people to create Java programs without forcing it under the GPL.  They also stepped up their support and dedication of OpenOffice.org (even though the indemnity deal with M$ only covers Star Office users, they are no longer hanging that out there).

Many people were scared of what would happen.  Ellison is open sourcing certain projects he thinks are worthless.  Market pressure is keeping him from killing off MySQL, because thanks to the GPL, it can fork and Ellison can't do a damn thing about it.  A lot of people were saying Ellison is just a businessman, he's not really a bad guy.

Bull. Fucking.  Shit.

Today, Oracle has filed a lawsuit against Google over its Android operating system.  Specifically, they are bitching about the Java implementation.  What's that?  Java is GPL'ed?  Yes, the language itself is.  But there are versions of Java that are NOT free, such as incorporating a runtime environment (the actual Java Virtual Machine, or JVM).  Android uses Dalvik, a Java-compatible virtual machine.  The idea was developers could use Java without dealing with the licensing headaches of Sun and Oracle.  Well, Oracle is claiming Android's use of Dalvik violates their software patent on the JVM.  Seven patent counts and general copyright.  The specific beef is that, while Java in general is GPL'ed, the mobile version for phones does not include teh Classpath Exception, so pay up, suckers.  Java for the desktop is free, but the mobile market that has seen explosive growth?  Sun gave NONE of that up.  Now I know why I still didn't trust Sun despite all their open source evangelizing.  This is why I refuse anything associated with Mono or .NET.  I'm trying to remember if Google is part of the Open Invention Network.  If it is, this could get ugly real fucking quick.

I would like to point something out.  Steve Jobs is feeling the heat from Android.  Android just went past the iPhone in market share and is closing in on Research In Motion's Blackberry.  Developers are running to Android's free software instead of Apple's proprietary controls.  Why do I bring this up?

Jobs and Ellison are buddies.

Yeah.  This has all the markings of Ellison acting as Jobs' attack dog.

This has very chilling consequences, because of concerns about virtualization, or running an environment within another.  This could potentially kill things like Wine, CrossOver Office, or any kind of emulator of any kind.  VMware's entire business could vanish in a heartbeat (especially because VMware's own Java clone was engineered by SalesForce, who got the code from SpringSource, who designed Dalvik.  That's a HUGE liability if Ellison's suit has merit).

What are the big seven patent violations being claimed? "Protection Domains To Provide Security In A Computer System", "Controlling Access To A Resource", "Method And Apparatus For Preprocessing And Packaging Class Files", "System And Method For Dynamic Preloading Of Classes Through Memory Space Cloning Of A Master Runtime System Process", "Method And Apparatus For Resolving Data References In Generate Code","Interpreting Functions Utilizing A Hybrid Of Virtual And Native Machine Instructions", and "Method And System for Performing Static Initialization."  I am not a lawyer, but between the Bilski ruling that software has to be tied to specific hardware to be patentable (Java is platform independent.  So much for that) and a lot of these things being needed for basic functionality, I don't see this working.  Copyrights, maybe, but not the big charges.  Oracle is trying to FUD the Android, just like how SCO tried to FUD Linux.
Folks, I'm not anti-big business.  Really I'm not.  If you are successful, you have a right to make money.  But I want to see it earned fairly, not by using legal protections as anti-competitive weapons.  You can be successful and still be ethical.  A shame more time is spent learning to leverage than to be human.

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