OpenSUSE 11.1: A new license signals renewed community

Novell is improving its license for openSUSE to improve the community-development activities that come with it.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

Novell officially released openSUSE 11.1 on Thursday, unleashing a torrent of new features like a Linux kernel, improvements to YaST, and others.

While the new features are nice, it's the improved community development process in openSUSE 11.1 that I think signals the biggest change in SUSE, starting with an upgraded license to open up SUSE to more unfettered redistribution.

I caught up with openSUSE Linux community manager, Joe Brockmeier, who confirmed the importance of the revised license and focus on community development:

This release marks a major milestone for the contributor community. It's the first release to be built in the openSUSE Build Service entirely, and paves the way for much more community collaboration directly in building openSUSE. We've modified the openSUSE license to allow freer redistribution and have removed some non-free components (Agfa fonts, Sun Java, for example) and replaced them with free software components. The non-free software is still available online, but in order to try to make openSUSE the easiest Linux to use and obtain, we've taken steps to simplify redistribution.

Despite the stick that I and others have given Novell for its community-swatting patent partnership with Microsoft, Novell clearly wants to make peace with the Linux community. These moves are big steps in that direction, but Novell has more in store, as Brockmeier told me:

We're looking forward to 11.2 already, and opening up some of our planning processes to the community as well. We're working on opening our feature tracking system and we're already having discussions on the openSUSE-project mailing list about the release schedule and trying to develop a release schedule that works as well as possible for all stakeholders. (This is not easy, given the development cycles of KDE and GNOME -- as they're hitting 3 months after one another, which makes it hard to ship the latest and greatest of both simultaneously.)

Novell has opened up its openSUSE board, but this shift in licensing and platform for openSUSE should expedite Novell's shift away from company development for openSUSE to community development. That's a good shift, and one that may well counterbalance the harm it did with its Microsoft patent agreement.