FreeBSD, Anybody?

I know, I sound like a broken record on some topics, like FreeBSD vs Linux. But this morning’s email highlighted a couple of interesting articles in serendipitous juxtaposition. First was yet another story about SCO’s lawsuit against IBM for patent infringements in Linux. Linux-lovers believe SCO is full of baloney on this issue, and they may well be right. And IBM’s formidable legal team certainly isn’t going to cave in to a bluff. So this may not really be the threat to Linux that SCO claims it is. But immediately following that was another story.

This one cited a recent study that found 283 patents that may be violated by Linux, including 27 held by Microsoft. The study was not sponsored by SCO, or Microsoft, or any other corporate ogre hell-bent on destroying the Linux threat. It was actually funded and conducted by organizations interested in protecting open-source software from lawsuits.

As the legal turmoil seethes, corporate IT bigwigs are understandably hesitant about abandoning Microsoft and betting the farm on Linux. But, with all the constant press hype about Linux, Linux, Linux, we still don’t hear much about FreeBSD. It’s amazing how blind people can be, ignoring a technically superior alternative without the legal hassles, just because it’s not trendy this month.

Of course, in all fairness, it’s possible that the same kind of Unix patented material that seeped into Linux could also have found its way into FreeBSD. The folks who did the Linux study said “The conclusion we came to is not that Linux is doomed and that this is horrible. It’s very similar to the result you would get if you investigated any other software program that’s as successful as Linux.”

So maybe if FreeBSD became as popular as Linux, it would be subjected to the same scrutiny, and found to be equally infringing. Maybe I should be happy that the corporate morons are keeping the lawyers busy chasing Linux, leaving us geeks free to play with FreeBSD unthreatened by legal challenges.

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