Beyond Linux

First published: August 2001 for Wide Open News.

Matthew Szulick, Red Hat's Chief Executive Officer and President gave a LinuxWorld Expo Keynote today where he picked up the baton teammate Michael Tiemann used at last month's O'Reilly Open Source Conference as a rallying cry to mobilize the Open Source Community toward the hurdles on the tack ahead.

Szulick started by thanking the open source community, the work that has been done and said that "your efforts reach the hearts and minds of new people every day.

"Our challenge as I look into the future is to join together to promote open source." Why the appeal for a united open source front? Szulick feels that the debate on the advantages of open source technology has been limited to the computer industry, focusing on the different licensing issues when the real issues facing open source technology are on the "move to classrooms, floors of Congress"

As an example, Szulick pointed out that the "Philadelphia public school system is being forced to audit all the computers in their 264 schools, because a teacher had illegally copied an application" and that if this school district had used open source software, "[Red Hat] would be encouraging them to make as many free copies as they needed."

Szulick noted that this "is not just a product opportunity" for Linux but that it shows a flaw in how companies operate, approaching our schools "as a marketplace, not as a responsibility." This hurts education because "it forces educators to look to that company for upgrades," and spend what few resources they have on licence fees.

There are of course groups such as the K12 Linux Terminal Server Project which provide low-cost Linux solutions to schools,but these groups lack the resources to overcome the marketing machinery of large software vendors. To help solve this, Szulick proposed the creation of an "Open Source Education Corporation," much like the Civilian Corps of Engineers, whose goal would be to "Open up the spending process of education to welcome open source software; Work with the neediest schools; Create an open source hardware exchange; and create and share educational applications."

The other area of concern to Szulick was the fact that "while your work has heavily influenced technology, your voice has not yet influenced legislation." As an example he pointed to UCITA, the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act saying that while the commercial software industry hadn't written it "it does contain elements that suggest it favors them." "[Red Hat's] position is that we do not support UCITA in its current form," since "proprietary software should include warranties because of the economic benefits they derive from that software," but that isn't necessarily true for open source software, which UCITA currently doesn't address.

These are the reasons, Szulik said, that we must organize." "I am here to pledge my commitment and I will be asking the same of my company." But for truce success, the community has to come together. "No open source company alone has the power or resources to challenge the proprietary software industry."

To close, Szulick asked the open source members for their support, "to take the values systems of open source and to move forward to redefine the computer industry, how students are educated, how your taxes dollars are being used." "I challenge you to think about that, and I would ask for your help, your continued vigilance, to move this agenda forward."

For more information on Szulick's speech visit: http://www.redhat.com/opensourcenow


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