Well it finally happened, as we all knew it would. Oracle bought Sun and promptly pissed off a lot of people with its heavy-handed ways. Anybody who has followed Oracle’s past antics shouldn’t be surprised by its behavior since acquiring OpenOffice, nor the reaction from the open source community which can be simply summed up as follows:
Fork You, Oracle!
Yep, that’s about what’s coming to at this point. But before I get into how Oracle is going to be forked over by the open source community, let’s talk about why Oracle matters in the first place.
Why Oracle Matters
The open source community is understandably upset about Oracle taking over two products that are very important to desktop Linux:
OpenOffice.org is arguably the primary office suite for Linux. Sure, there are other office applications and some of them are quite good. But there really isn’t anything that can effectively compete with the sheer power and functionality available in OpenOffice.org right now. It is, understandably, one of the most popular desktop Linux applications available.
VirtualBox is an amazing tool for distrohoppers who savor using different Linux distros and operating systems. It’s available for Linux, Mac and Windows. It provides a fast and easy way to run multiple distros and operating systems on any computer. Best of all, it’s free!
Oracle: Creepy and Sinister
Shortly after Oracle acquired Sun, both products suddenly began sporting Oracle logos and branding. As soon as I saw those Oracle logos, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and an enormous tidal wave of bile rose in my throat! Two of my favorite open source products, absorbed by Larry Ellison and his minions!
I can’t help it, I have just never liked Oracle as a company and I’m not about to start now. There’s always been something sinister and creepy about Oracle. Although I’m no fan of Microsoft, I always rooted for Microsoft when they fought with Oracle in years past. I’d take Bill Gates over Larry Ellison any day.
Some of you will no doubt think I’m mindlessly bashing Oracle. Hey, don’t take my word for it. Read what James Gosling had to say about the company. Gosling is the father of Java, and was a valued employee at Sun, until Oracle swallowed up the company like a ravenous amoeba.
Gosling seems to have gotten screwed on his compensation, lost any semblance of control over Java, and had to endure the creepiness of Larry Ellison:
Gosling says he felt the hand of Larry Ellison in nearly all the decisions affecting Java. Certainly IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano would not personally get his hands into the goings on with an acquisition, even a key one like Sun. But then IBM is not the house that Sam built whereas Oracle is Ellison’s creation. There is a major difference in that.
From this reporter’s view, Gosling paints the picture of Ellison being like a sports magnate. Someone like Al “Just Win Baby” Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, who continually hires coaches and drafts talent only to run the show himself.
Although Gosling said he never had direct dealings with Ellison, “He’s the kind of person that just gives me the creeps,” he said. “All of the senior people at Sun got screwed compensation-wise. Their job titles may have been the same but their ability to decide anything was just gone.
You have to feel for Gosling and his colleagues after reading that article on eWeek. I had to wipe the filthy Oracle slime off when I was done reading it. Ick!
LibreOffice: Open Source Strikes Back!
The open source community is not taking Oracle’s crap; OpenOffice.org has already been forked into a new office suite called LibreOffice. The word libre comes from Spanish and French, and essentially means “free.” Thanks to a new organization called the Document Foundation, that’s exactly what LibreOffice will be: free. It will be free of Oracle’s ethically challenged behavior and Larry Ellison’s controlling hand.
Here’s some of what was in the official press release about LibreOffice:
The community of volunteers who develop and promote OpenOffice.org, the leading free office software, announce a major change in the project’s structure. After ten years’ successful growth with Sun Microsystems as founding and principal sponsor, the project launches an independent foundation called “The Document Foundation”, to fulfil the promise of independence written in the original charter.
The Foundation will be the cornerstone of a new ecosystem where individuals and organisations can contribute to and benefit from the availability of a truly free office suite. It will generate increased competition and choice for the benefit of customers and drive innovation in the office suite market. From now on, the OpenOffice.org community will be known as “The Document Foundation”.
The Foundation will coordinate and oversee the development of LibreOffice, which is available in beta version at the placeholder site: http://www.libreoffice.org. Developers are invited to join the project and contribute to the code in the new friendly and open environment, to shape the future of office productivity suites alongside contributors who translate, test, document, support, and promote the software.
Novell is on board, as is Red Hat and Canonical. Even the folks that make NeoOffice for the Mac are supporting LibreOffice. So it’s off to a good start, so far.
The folks at the Document Foundation have encouraged Oracle to donate its rights to the OpenOffice.org trademark. Yeah, right. While I admire the optimism in encouraging Oracle to do that, I think it will be a cold day in Tartarus before that happens! Oracle’s greed is showing and it will never let go of OpenOffice.org until it has wrung every last possible dollar out of it.
What About VirtualBox?
Much of the media coverage of Oracle has focused on OpenOffice.org, but what about VirtualBox? While some might consider it less important than a popular office suite, I don’t agree at all. Distrohoppers everywhere love VirtualBox, it’s pretty much the best free alternative to VMWare and Parallels for those who enjoy using many different distros and operating systems regularly.
To date, I have not seen information related to a possible VirtualBox fork. I’m hoping that it happens though, and that it happens soon! The sooner VirtualBox is removed from the tentacles of Oracle, the better. The thought of it being exploited by Larry Ellison and his creepy goon squad leaves me cold, to say the least.
If you’ve heard of any kind of VirtualBox fork, please post the info and/or link in the comments. Thanks!
LibreOffice is off to a great start already, and I think it will be a harbinger of even greater things to come. If you want to check out LibreOffice, you can download a beta version of it right now. There are versions out for Linux (32 bit and 64 bit), as well as Windows and Mac versions. You can even download the source code if you want.
Hopefully we’ll start to see LibreOffice appear in various Linux distros soon, so it’ll be even easier to get it. I look forward to seeing it available for every distro I review on Desktop Linux Reviews. The sooner that Oracle and OpenOffice.org are history, the better off we’ll all be.
What’s your take on Oracle’s creepiness and LibreOffice? Tell me in the comments.