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Ballmer slipped on Sun and FreeBSD

    In response to the April 25 Newsmaker column by Michael Kanellos and Stephen Shankland, "Ballmer: No sleep lost over Linux":

    Just an observation of a material mistake in one part of Steve Ballmer's statement:

    "The way things are structured today, from a licensing perspective, in the Linux world nobody will ever commercialize Linux the way Sun (Microsystems) commercialized FreeBSD... The GPL licensing form does that, as opposed to the open-source license for FreeBSD, where you could say Sun took it and commercialized it and can say that they own it. Nobody can ever do that (with GPL)."

    According to "The Design and Implementation of the 4.4BSD Operating System" by McKusick et al., SunOS came out in 1984, a port of 4.1cBSD to the Motorola MC6800 chipset. FreeBSD came out in 1992 as a development of 386BSD, which was a port of 4.3BSD (NET/2) to the Intel i80386 chipset. It was reimplemented as a development of 4.4BSD-Lite in 1993-4.

    Perhaps Ballmer could be a bit more specific in explaining how Sun commercialized something that came out almost 10 years later than its initial product?

    Ballmer continues: "For some customers, that can be viewed as advantageous. But customers will never really know who stands behind this product. If the lead developer for this component chooses to do something else with his life, who will carry on the mantle for that? The fact that it will never be commercialized is assured by the GPL."

    Be assured that the lines of development and succession are well prepared. What I personally would like to know from Ballmer is what about all those (by now) underpowered Pentium 133s, and so on, that are now being donated to churches, community centers, and so on, which have perfectly legal Windows 95 and Windows 98 licenses, but for which Microsoft has repudiated all responsibility for their maintenance? One would think that Microsoft would be only too keen to dump all responsibility for them onto the shoulders of its current users, since said current users can't afford the high charges Microsoft will undoubtedly exact.

    Wesley Parish
    Christchurch, New Zealand