Torvalds Suggests DiBona for SCO Panel

by Don Marti

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has suggested Damage Studios cofounder and former Slashdot editor Chris DiBona for membership on the panel of experts to which SCO executive Chris Sontag has offered to reveal evidence of copying code from SCO UnixWare to Linux.

Appointing a believable panel would be difficult, Torvalds said in an e-mail interview. "I suspect the people I'd like to see are not people SCO would care for or [who] would be able to sign an NDA on it. The thing I would want is somebody who is able to actually trace things back in time to be able to make a judgment of whether it came from UnixWare or from Linux. Somebody who is technical enough and has enough background in the kernel that he can follow it down without going mad", he said.

However, Torvalds did suggest DiBona as one possible candidate, along with suggestions to consider "the crowd around Tim O'Reilly" or "any journalist who is technically competent".

DiBona said in an e-mail interview that he is willing to look at SCO's evidence, and he does not have any legal "taint" from previous development work that would make him unable to do so. As an experienced programmer with a background in regression testing and security software, DiBona says he would have to consider the possibility that similar code could be evidence of convergence, not infringement.

"In millions upon millions of lines of code, you can likely expect that in two completely different codebases with much of the same desired outcome (OS, printer driver, whatever) you'll find similar code segments", he said.

Torvalds cited a linux-kernel mailing list (lkml) posting from Christoph Hellwig, a former employee at SCO, then called Caldera. Hellwig points out the impracticality of actually getting copied code from UnixWare accepted by the tough critics on the mailing list. "The kernel internals are so different that you'd need a big glue layer to actually make it work and you can guess how that would be ripped apart in a usual lkml review", Hellwig wrote.

Don Marti is Editor in Chief of Linux Journal.

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