Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Red Hat deal with Microsoft is a bad idea

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In November 2006, when Novell signed a patent licensing deal with Microsoft, the free and open source software community, for the most part, was predictably appalled.

But recently when Red Hat announced that it had signed a deal with Microsoft to ensure that Linux could be installed on PCs that were Windows 8-capable - in other words, those that supported secure boot - there was very little outcry. Red Hat is now trying to justify this act.

In Novell's case, it was a last-ditch - albeit foolish - attempt to try and revive its business. After a series of unwise decisions that saw it lose its number-one position in the networking business (and yes, Microsoft, took it for a ride during those days), Novell had come to the point where it was willing to try anything. SUSE Linux was looked upon as some kind of saviour after Novell bought the company in 2003 but battles between suits and geeks ensured that neither party's tactics were implemented.

Hence Novell got into bed with Microsoft. One of Novell's best and brightest, Jeremy Allison, found the atmosphere suffocating and left the company in disgust, ending up later at Google.

But after Red Hat announced its Judas Iscariot act recently, the scenario is very different. Hell, we even have the announcement of the deal being made by the wispy-thin Matthew Garrett, once a renowned flame-master on mailing lists, but now one of the best and brightest at Red Hat, one who pledges allegiance to peace, civility, diversity, and probably the Dalai Lama too.

No senior engineer from Red Hat has left the company in disgust at its being tricked into signing a deal with Redmond to purchase a key for secure boot for Fedora. Any GNU/Linux distribution can buy its own key if it chooses to go the same route as Fedora. No doubt making this decison was an act of great charity by Red Hat, done solely to point others towards the one true path. (corrected) The cost isn't important - it's just $US99 - but isn't the principle of it the reason why GNU/Linux distributions have avoided Microsoft all along?

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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