A rare sense of sanity

With Oracle and BT showing signs of catching up with reality, SCO could be next. Or is that too much to hope for?

There is a saying in journalism that if something happens once, it's news; twice, and it's a trend. On that basis, this week has witnessed a much-awaited return to common sense and sanity in an industry not notable for either.

Let's start with Oracle. In line with the principle of determinative nominalism — which states that what you are is determined by what you're called, hence the splendid Judge Legal involved in the EU vs Microsoft case — we are pleased to note the latest theories about the Oracle of Delphi, from whom the company took its name. These theories state that the Oracle delivered her cryptic utterances as a result of hallucinogenic intoxication caused by the leaking of petroleum fumes into her cave through faults in the rock.

It is possible that fuel leaks from Larry Ellison's fighter jet were at the heart of Oracle's stubborn adherence to its per-processor licence policy long after new technology — and even Microsoft — had made such ideas as antique as a Greek toga, but wherever they came from the fumes have cleared and buying a dual-core server will no longer attract a double-barrelled licence fee.

Then there's BT, whose manifold sins and shortcomings we and many others have covered in tedious detail for years. Until now, BT has been splendidly aloof from criticism — only reacting when prodded hard by the regulators.

It might seem that BT's recent conversion to the idea of proper open access to its national network is merely be the result of a particularly sharp poke, with Ofcom threatening a corporate break-up if socks weren't pulled up, but Ovum says that there is indeed a new spirit of enthusiasm for freedom within the mighty telco. It's far too early to say for sure — as always, we'll have to wait for the market to test the promises — but it is a positive pleasure to be charitable.

There may even be some common sense breaking in the west, with the publication on the inestimable Groklaw of an old internal email from SCO. This says what everyone has known for years, that there is no sign of copyright infringement in Linux. It's true that SCO has managed to transform its complaints against the evils of open source into a licensing issue with IBM, but the timing and content of the email shed a very interesting light on SCO's pronouncements at the time. It's unlikely that any revelations will lead to an early end of the court cases at SCO's behest — the company has precious little else to do but hold out for a positive verdict, whatever the odds — but it should allay any residual fears left over from the initial onslaught of FUD.

Sense, hope and clarity. Not a bad legacy for a week that started with such a deficit in all three.

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