Story: Sun versus Linux: The Real StoryTotal Replies: 9
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Nov 23, 2004
9:55 AM EDT
This article talks about alot of the things I have tried to stress in the past.

Sun has a problem with spinning things, definately, but they are not all bad.

I have been the Doc Maintainer for for the past 3+ years. I have worked with Sam for alot of that time. I am not a Sun employee, but have worked closely with CollabNet and Sun for that time.

Sun has issues, but so does every single business that tries to make money in this world.

Nov 23, 2004
11:23 AM EDT

Thanks for working on the OOo project and for your post.

Microsoft's dream is to have Sun and Linux fighting each other.

Their biggest nightmare: Sun and Linux working together harmoniously.


Nov 23, 2004
11:38 AM EDT
tadelste: "... Their biggest nightmare: Sun and Linux working together harmoniously."

Right now, more like a narcotic dream than reality. On this I fault the Sun side much more than Linux partisans.

Nov 23, 2004
1:25 PM EDT

You're probably right. It's not the Linux partisans. You should fault the Sun side - that's the absolute correct view. It is more like a naroctic dream than reality.

No other explanation exists.


Nov 23, 2004
3:47 PM EDT
tadelste: my comment was not to be taken with either a snide nor condescending tone. The claims that Sun has made on opening Solaris have been mixed with attacks on Red Hat and spin tactics. Only in one interview have I seen a straight forward explanation. Indeed it was enlightening to learn that Sun's payment to SCO was in no way related to funding the latter's attack on Linux. Moreover, it seems that it is Sun that has been cozying up to Microsoft with technology sharing.

Let's also look at some past Sun actions: e.g. their earlier pass at Linux with their purchase of Colbalt. My most benign interpretation was their closing down that venture so quickly was incompetence. I think the more likely explanation was their heart was just not in it.

I am not wedded to a fixed view of Sun, and I really hope that my growing cynicism about the leaders of that company are proven to be entirely false. I do not have the close association that you seem to have with that company and I am certainly not privy to their real plans of execution regarding either the opening of Solaris or their Linux plans. However, I am neither compromised by personal friendship. You may chalk it up to marketing when their Linux desktop is called a Java desktop, but to me it is too self serving.

With all the foregoing complaints, I would only be too glad to state publicly that I was totally wrong. However, I have no intention of doing so until I finally see Sun's plans for both Solaris and its relation to Linux concretely spelled out. I think that Solaris is a quality product, but my interest was damped upon investigating the license for its use.

My apologies for the semi-rant, but you misinterpreted my words.

Nov 23, 2004
7:24 PM EDT

No apologies needed. I actually don't have any personal friendships at Sun and certainly nothing invested in them emotionally or in a biased way. I'm pretty frustrated with them too.

I'd like to take your concerns one at a time and tease them out.

First, Cobalt. Cobalt used the Red Hat distribution to built their appliances and hacked the kernel to work with MIPS processors. When Sun bought Cobalt, Sun was losing market share at ISPs because the industry was moving from dial up accounts to hosting. Sun missed out on the move to the low end hosting business. After the purchase, Sun continued to follow the Cobalt roadmap and went with Intel technology.

Red Hat discontinued their Sparc distribution at RH 6.0 and went after Sun's hack called Ultra-Penguin for 64 bit Sparc processors. Red Hat moved on everyone that based a Linux distro on Red Hat. That meant Cobalt had no OS. So, the Cobalt servers became Sun servers, the code went into GPL and the name was discontinued. The appliance business for ISPs faltered. So, Cobalt wasn't a slam against Linux. In fact, many of the people I know at Sun are from Cobalt. They're still there. Peder Ullander, who recently went to Monte Vista, ran the JDS Linux desktop Group and he was a former Cobalt guy.

The leaders of the company have their own agenda. They're in a reorganization and they do and say different things depending on circumstances. The industry is in a state of disruption and they're attempting to balance both worlds - Solaris and Linux. They're a hardware company and they need to sell boxes. So, sometimes they talk to their existing customers and the press uses it to make it seem like they're in a holy war with Linux. That's not the case.

Solaris is another thing all together. The Solaris guys remind me of the FreeBSD people back in 1998-1999. A holy war went on between the Linux and FreeBSD until around the time Mac adopted OS X. For some reason that all died down. The Solaris developers don't know what kind of license they'll have and they're already talking about people forking their code and coming out with variants like what's happened to Linux. The development effort reminds me of Linux. They think the Linux guys hate them and they're getting a little huffy about it and defensive.

The Java Desktop System is a branding issue. The Java workstation is the x86 hardware platform. I used a Java Station a few years ago and a Java Point of Sales system back in 1998. Then they have the Java language. Sun has used the Java logo and trademark on different products and they have nothing to do with applets or Java Server Pages.

The Sun staffers and management don't like Microsoft and they still want to take them down. The OpenSolaris project which I referred to above is filled with people who want to see Microsoft go away. The only contact about which I know is between Bill Joy and Bill Gates. From what I heard, nothing's happening there. The JDS team is getting ready to beta Release 3 and it's heavily samba based. You might see some cool things that they've added to make their desktop play better with Windows infrastructures similar to things Xandros does. But none of it comes from Microsoft - not one thing. Linspire licensed the Windows Media Player Codecs - I guess to play DVD's - but Sun doesn't have anything in their Java or Solaris systems from Microsoft.

I've followed different distributions on my beat as a writer for five years. I know most of the players personally. I'm covering JDS and NLD at the present time. I'm adding Fedora to that for the next six months because I'm writing a book on Essential Linux System Administration. So, you'll see me take a slant on those three distributions. I might also write some pieces about Solaris if asked. It's what I do when I'm not writing my Government web column for Linux Journal or consulting.

I publish at Lxer because it's fun. I could put my articles other places, but I've know Dave for a long time and he makes it a great place to publish. I also have some web sites, but they're specialized and I write for those too.

If I could have it my way, I'd have peace in the Middle East and people working together to extricate Microsoft the way they did WordPerfect, Lotus, OS/2, Apple, Novell, Digital Research, Real Player, Lantastic, Netscape, etc. Not because I feel any love loss for those companies, but because I worry about the future of Linux and I want the M$ threat to go away.

In the long run, it's all pretty meaningless anyway. I mean, who will care about this stuff 250 years from now. The thing is I care about it now and that's what matters.


Nov 25, 2004
1:54 PM EDT
tadelste: busy, but I loved the response. I will feed back a few impressions in a day or so.

Nov 26, 2004
6:52 AM EDT
tadelste: I do not know the details, but I remember Cobalt arising from Corel when it was entering the Linux market (until its CEO was pushed aside).

It was one of its principles of Corel that pushed the idea of a small, stand alone and simple Linux server. When the development approached maturity it was spun off. Later I even read a nice review of the hardware in PC Magazine by its old editor (NOT Miller!). I even toyed with the idea of getting one, but the price tag (of a bit below $2K USD) was a bit too hight for me. I had hopes for the system when Sun purchased the company and was later dismayed with its dissolution. I had thought the marketing power of Sun would have increased the visibility of Cobalt and perhaps reduced the pricing with a larger production run. Afterwards, each time Sun began to make noises about reentering the Linux market I always wondered why: when the botched it so badly on the first try. [As an aside, I get the same feeling now when reading about the current plans for the potential 4 way AMD machine - sounds nice, but will they persevere? My gut feel is: No.]

They really used Red Hat? Odd when Corel went with a custom Debian.

Feel free to correct my misunderstandings and obvious bias.

Dec 11, 2004
11:31 AM EDT

Cobalt arising from Corel ?

You must be mistaken here. Xandros arose from Corel Linux not Cobalt.

Cobalt has it's root with the inventors of ACT! - Pat Sullivan and Mike Muhney. They sold it to Symantec. Stephen W. DeWitt took over the ACT! product line and then went to Cobalt and then to Sun.

They have no relationship.


Dec 11, 2004
3:25 PM EDT
Here is a quote from an article from 2000:

"NEW, a Canadian manufacturer of small Linux computers originally designed by Corel, will add servers using Transmeta's Crusoe processor to its product line, the company said today., based in Ottawa and formerly known as Hardware Computing Canada, sells a line of Linux servers that are based on Intel's StrongArm chip. will add Transmeta's designs to that NetWinder line, the company said at the PC Expo trade show here. "

I thought this item became the Cobalt line of small linux servers. Here is a link:

Let me know where I went wrong on my interpretation.

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