Regarding the 50 SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 activations that I recently blogged, there was a subsequent slashdot thread in which several people have sneeringly commented that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 proprietary. This chaffes me because Novell is part way through a cultural change that I think is nothing short of astounding. Because of open source, the company is becoming a foundary of invention again. We’re finally starting to be recognized again as a place that can really drive new software technology.
So, if you have somehow ended up here having passed through the slashdot firebranding, I ask you to consider some details about SLED, SUSE, and Novell.
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop was developed in open source.
It includes a couple pieces of proprietary software from partner companies, such as the Macromedia Flash plugin for Firefox, RealPlayer, and Adobe Reader. It includes no proprietary kernel modules. Andreas Jaeger recently posted about SUSE’s policy on use of proprietary software and kernel modules. On the SLED10 media, Novell includes a couple proprietary packages developed at Novell, but they do not install by default, as they are all related to using enterprise infrastructural services (such as already-deployed Novell enterprise systems).
- Free Software, but Not Free Updates
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is fully functional free software. It does not require any kind of license key. However, Novell hopes to make revenue on the software update service, as well as enterprise support, consulting, training, and other services. The activation keys activate the update service for one year. (Clever winners of the 50 1-year activations that we are giving away might extend that a bit by using the 60 day eval before they use their activation code.)
- Free Updates? Yes, for openSUSE.
Novell also underwrites another desktop distribution openSUSE, which includes a lot more packages than SLED. Anyone can download it and use it. However, SLED today has some features that were (thankfully) not included in openSUSE 10.1, the current version. (In fact, we had a major screw up with a including a not-ready component in openSUSE, causing a mess that we are still trying to clean up in the SUSE community.) The feature delta with SLED, as well as the extensive extra polishing that SLED received before shipping–have prompted many people in the community to expressed their desire to use SLED. They like what Novell has created and packaged–an amazingly well-assembled desktop system, and they would rather not wait for many of the features and design elements to appear in openSUSE 10.2.
- Novell Contributes…a Lot
Please give Novell some credit for driving many of the great Linux features that have shown up not only on SUSE Linux, but many other distributions. Novell hired David Reveman to complete his work on Xgl & Compiz, which are now available on Ubuntu, Gentoo and other distros. Novell hired Aaron Bockover to create Banshee on the Helix framework so that we could have legal mp3 on Linux. Novell bought Ximian and continues to enable them to create things like the new main menu for GNOME (Jimmy Krehl’s “slab”), and solid desktop search well ahead of Microsoft Vista (which still may not ship with that feature). A major reason why plug and play devices like USB drives, mp3 players and cameras just work today is Robert Love’s project Utopia. SUSE engineers today are pushing upstream Linux kernel code that has been and still is greatly extending battery life. Maybe these examples are still too self-interested? Novell employees a teams to contribute to GCC, which is an upstream contribution the GNU toolchain and yields little competitive advantage to Novell. Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe has stated the reason: you can’t just take, you gotta give back. That’s why Novell is participating and contributing.
Say what you want about our marketing missing the mark. But if you believe that we are too proprietary, or that we are not actively engaged enough in open source, then tell us why you think so. Helpus to understand that thing that you think we just don’t get. Otherwise, is it really justified to berate Novell for being proprietary just because we have offered 50 update activation keys on an awareness campaign?