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Editor's Note: Shaving SCO with Occam's Razor

Dec 05, 2003, 23:30 (10 Talkback[s])

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Y'know, I had my column all set in my head this week. It was going to be a thing of metaphorical beauty, as I related to you how I had a traditional Danish holiday meal instead of the US Thanksgiving turkey-fest.

Readers would have watched in stunned amazement as I related the difficulties in getting a pork roast with the skin on is in the US, and how my hosts had to buy such a roast online to have their traditional holiday meal (even though they were doing it at Thanksgiving to accomodate my family... normally, I was told this is a Christmas dish).

I would have bedazzled you with my metaphorical prowess, as I related how I felt this roast crisis directly related to the problems with proprietary software, summing it all up with a dessert of open-source advocacy that would have had your mouths watering.

Then SCO had to come and open their big mouth, ruining any appetite I had for metaphorical wanderings.

(This may have been the first positive thing SCO has done for Linux Today readers, ever.)

When I first read Darl McBride's latest letter, I was personally stunned by the rant-like nature of his missive. Let's face it, at the end of the day, I'm going to look at things with an editor's eye. And my editor's eye caught the look of a document that was trying too hard to say what it wanted to say.

I'll be honest with you: when I first got the open letter from the SCO Group yesterday, I debated running it in its entirety on Linux Today. I reconsidered when I decided I did not want LT to be a platform for a rant. I don't have to agree with the opinions expressed here, but if they are rants or flames, then I am very likely to link them out.

Here's a little professional tip: if you use the same phrases over and over, that's a big sign of a rant. I caught the quote McBride used from the US Constitution about useful arts about four times in that document. Not a lot, but when strung together in sequential paragraphs, it tends to make you blink and step back a bit.

Over and over, I kept seeing a bombastic run of citations and legal quotes. IANAL, as the popular jargon goes, but in my mind I kept thinking how ridiculous this open letter was because Darl's Not a Lawyer, either. Clearly, though, this document is aimed at Others Who are Also Not Lawyers, in the hopes that they will be cowed into thinking twice about associating with us commie open sourcers.

(And wasn't that just the height of American arrogance to shove the Constitution in the faces of citizens and subjects of other nations? Even if McBride's assertions on the GPL were right (see Cold Day in Heck for that statistical probablilty) does that automatically prevent another nation from saying the GPL is valid? But, I digress...)

Before I was an editor, I was a student of physics, and as such, I tend to apply linear thinking to life's little situations. Because of this I lean heavily on Occam's Razor: "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything." In other words, the simplest answer is usually the right one.

Why go after the GPL? Because there are only two possible outcomes of the SCO v. IBM case: SCO's code is in the Linux kernel or it isn't.

If SCO's code is proved to be in the Linux kernel, then in five seconds or less IBM will turn around and say, "but you knowingly distributed it under the GPL, so you released the code yourselves." So clearly it is in SCO's best interests to try and invalidate the GPL.

If SCO's code is not proved to be in the Linux kernel, then these attacks against the GPL will have still have served their shorter-term purpose: the increase of revenue from customers SCO hopes will come knocking on their door instead of using Linux.

Because (and I am sticking to this metaphor) this whole anti-GPL thing? That's the distraction, the big magic trick flourish, that SCO counts on everyone to see while this whole thing drags on.

While we hopefully forget that SCO has to eventually show the code and where it came from.

But now, thanks to IBM getting its motions to compel granted, the magic show may be over within 30 days and the truth revealed. No NDAs, no anti-GPL diatribes.

Definitely a holiday season I'll remember.