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Talked Fedora over a beer with Bruce Perens

Bruce Perens was in Denver yesterday and today, and I had the chance to
hang out with him in the hotel bar last night. He had just given a talk
at the Colorado Linux Users and Enthusiasts (CLUE) meeting. The subject
of Fedora came up and I thought this might be relevant here.

Bruce cautioned that, if anyone posted what he had to say, to be certain
we emphasize that HE HAS NOT THOUGHT ALL OF THIS OUT YET and so his
thoughts and opinion are still subject to change.

OK, re-read that paragraph just in case...


Now - He did have some interesting comments about the future of Linux,
OOo 1.4, some ideas he has for Debian and how they relate to Fedora.
First, he clearly favors Debian (so surprises there), however not
necessarily for the reasons most people think. It has a lot more to do
with full community ownership as opposed to opening up the possibility
of companies taking their ball and going home.

With respect to OOo, he said its success is critical to desktop Linux.
He then noted version 1.1 provides 100% of the features 80% of the
population needs, and we should all do everything we can to get a copy
into the hands of everyone we know. Give them the Windows version if
they run Windows, but get it to them. We discussed maybe marketing it as
an upgrade to a free office suite. He also said the top priority for OOo
has to be font support. Ugly font substitutions and those venerable
question marks due to missing glyphs is definitely OOo's biggest
obstacle in his mind. He pointed out most end-users see this as
incompatibility with MS Office formats and that, even though it really
isn't, perception is reality.

Bruce expressed strong interest in delivering a community Linux project
that has a *lot* of the same features and qualities that both Debian and
the Fedora Project have, but also said the last thing we really need is
yet another Linux distro. When I asked him what his issues were with
Fedora, he said that really he had no issues with it other than that it
is "dominated by Red Hat". He said if it were dominated by Red Hat and
about 100 other companies, he thinks it would be great, and also seemed
to be tossing around the idea that there might be a way to link up and
cooperate between the Fedora Project and what he had in mind for doing
with Debian - providing a base core of Linux that is fully owned by the
community, available at no cost, and something that big companies would
work together on. Again, he emphasized he hasn't worked all of this out
yet and I am going from my own interpretation of the conversation.

He noted that Red Hat has historically done the right thing when it
comes to the community and he saw no reason why this would change, at
least in the near term. But he also cautioned that every company has a
"Multiple Personality Disorder" that requires the community always
remain vigilant. That MPD is caused by the fact that a company's first
responsibility is to its shareholders. He summarized it up by saying he
wasn't really worried about what Red Hat is today, but he is concerned
about what Red Hat *could* become tomorrow if the values of the company
leadership changed. That, he said, is what happened to SCO - a good Open
Source citizen that, through leadership changes, "became ferrule". He
was definitely less positive about SUSE, by the way. The other criticism
he had was that RHEL AS requires companies not disclose the contents of
service bulletins that come from their support contracts. He said, "That
means there could be a service bulletin about my software and I won't
get to see it." He also said that one of Debian's biggest benefits is
that it keeps companies like Red Hat honest - just in case that MPD
crops up.

Anyway, that's a short synopsis of what I remember over a very good,
late-night Honey Wheat brew and a plate of hotel Chicken Fingers.
Hopefully, this will be useful to someone here. Sounds like Bruce has
certainly left the door open to cooperate with the Fedora Project,
albeit somewhat cautiously.



"If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence,
try orderin' someone else's dog around."
--Cowboy Wisdom

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