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This week in open source

HP's top Linux executive has a message for open-source programmers who don't like the idea of software patents: Get used to it.

Hewlett-Packard's top Linux executive has a message for open-source programmers who don't like the idea of software patents: Get used to it.

"At the end of the day, software patents are a way of life. To ignore them is a little bit naive," Martin Fink, HP's vice president of Linux, said at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Boston. It's fine to object to software patents, but it's foolhardy not to try to acquire them, he said.

"Refusing to patent one's ideas is leaving oneself exposed for absolutely no good reason," Fink said. "For some, (getting patents) may seem like selling out. You can comfort yourself that it's what you do with the patent that matters, not the fact that you have one."

Meanwhile, the Open Source Initiative is devising ways to cut down on the rising number of open-source licenses attached to software. Open-source software makers are concerned that a proliferation of licenses could hurt the spread of open source by creating compatibility problems and complicating potential sales.

The OSI, an influential nonprofit group that issues certifications for open-source licenses, has been investigating the topic since last year. Involved in the discussions are members of the OSI's board and of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry group dedicated to making Linux better suited for corporate customers.

One surprise at the conference was news that top Linux seller Red Hat had updated its premium Linux software, leapfrogging rival Novell and expanding an effort to coax customers away from Sun Microsystems. Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4 is the first time Red Hat's commercial product includes the newer 2.6 kernel, or heart, of Linux.

Although Red Hat's previous version included some 2.6 features, it was Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 that was first to include the full list last August, including improvements to communications and memory subsystems.

Red Hat also announced that its next product for Linux enthusiasts will support two significant new features, the first for IBM's Power processor and the second for software that lets the same computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously.

The features are planned for version 4 of Fedora, a Linux edition geared for enthusiasts who want the latest technology but who don't need much in the way of technical support. Red Hat uses Fedora as a proving ground for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which comes with long-term support but, unlike Fedora, isn't available for free.