Linux Meets FUDzilla

Steven J. Searle

Web Master, TRON Web

It may have occurred to some observers that there are a lot of open operating system movements out there in the world. In addition to the open architecture TRON OS, which offers open source code for the µITRON and µCTRON operating systems, there is the open source Linux kernel that uses GNU extensions and the open source FreeBSD operating system. And these are just the famous ones that have thousands upon thousands of programmers programming for them. So the logical question to the casual observer might be--wouldn't it be more logical to have one open operating system movement and have all these engineers contribute to it rather than duplicate their efforts? In a word, no, and there are two reasons why: (1) computing models; and (2) fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD).

Although Linux and FreeBSD are pretty close in their computing models, TRON OS is very different, having been planned from the beginning for real-time distributed processing at all levels in ubiquitous networks. U.S. companies are currently trying to remake Linux into a real-time operating system, but it is too slow for many applications that TRON OS has already been adopted for. In fact, in the T-Engine environment, Linux is actually considered a "middleware environment" rather than an operating system in its own right. But with TRON, nothing is verboten and anything is possible, so the fact that a special version of Linux is being optimized for the T-Engine open development platform, i.e., T-Linux, is no big deal, and no one is losing any sleep over it. In the U.S., however, lots of people are losing sleep over Linux.

The biggest Linux insomniacs are, of course, the denizens of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, who believe that operating system software should be a monopoly, in particular a Microsoft Corporation monopoly. It's officers have publicly called the open source movement and Linux a "cancer," which has become even more cancerous as a result of its adoption by large companies such as IBM Corporation. Wouldn't it be nice, from their point of view, if a scary monster from the proprietary software underworld attacked the GNU/Linux open source operating system movement and destroyed it? Well, someone must have made a wish upon the right star as it passed over the former volcano Mt. Rainer, because SCO Group, formerly Caldera, has decided to exercise its UNIX patents and sue Linux users it claims are violating them.

As a result, IBM Corporation is now the target of a $1 billion lawsuit by SCO, and warning letters have been sent out to 1,500 major Linux corporate users. Yes, the proprietary software underworld has unleashed "FUDzilla" on the GNU/Linux movement, just as Richard Stallman predicted in the Takeda Awards 2001 Forum. IBM has said not to worry. It will either buy out SCO or form a consortium to pay it off. But, but., but--suppose Bill Gates buys out SCO first. Suppose the licensing fees SCO decides to charge are too high. It's obvious that the pro-monopoly Federal courts in the U.S. won't touch Gates, and the chances of U.S. courts ruling that software should not be the subject of patents are nil. So tremendous FUD has been unleashed at the GNU/Linux movement, and to make matters worse, SCO won't say what portions of Linux are the problem. Thus the problems can't be rectified or contested.

There is a lesson here for Japan's foolish corporate leaders who are always quick to jump on the next big software thing from America. Japanese companies rushed to join General Magic, they played around with OS-9 and BeOS, they desperately tried to make Microsoft's Windows CE a standard for PDAs and other consumer appliances, they did their best to help make Sun Microsystems' Jini and picoJava successes, etc., etc. All of these projects ended in failure, and yet the captains of Japanese industry continue following the American lead in software, when the answer is simply to devote their energies to the TRON Project and do things that are new and innovative. A change in attitude is particularly something that is necessary if these same industrial leaders are going to help the Japanese economy recover, for the recovery of the Japanese economy requires spiritual renewal as much as corporate and banking reforms.