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Red Hat to publish Compaq Linux mods under GPL

All the PC companies love Linux, but the Compaq approach might show how they can prove it

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A support deal announced yesterday by Compaq and Red Hat gives some indication of how development of Linux by commercial PC companies can operate within the open source model. Typically a company like Compaq will have its own systems for modifying operating software, but as these have historically operated in conjunction with, er, Microsoft they're not necessarily much help when dealing with Linux. The model Compaq and Red Hat are implementing, however, seems to have been constructed to alloew Compaq to make changes in the software while keeping firmly open source. Compaq is offering call centre support worldwide for enterprise users of Red Hat Linux, with the trickier queries being escalated to Red Hat. Any modifications or optimisations Compaq makes in response to support queries will be evaluated and tested by Red Hat, and then made available to the open source community under the GNU GPL. This is not of course rocket science - as open source partisans will tell you at the drop of a (Red) hat, all the hardware companies have to do in order to run open source operating systems happily is to release details of their hardware and publish everything they do themselves under GPL. But corporate lawyers don't necessarily agree this is a good idea. Compaq does however seem to have devised a mechanism that will allow it to do this, or at least to move in this direction. And so long as Compaq does put a reasonable amount of development effort behind Linux, there's a possible interesting side-effect. Hardware companies always want to modify software to cater better for their own hardware and their own customers. But when they're dealing with Windows, those modifications are frequently impeded and/or blocked by Microsoft. By working with Red Hat and GPL Compaq could conceivably improve its Red Hat implementations far faster than it Windows one, and the efforts it makes could accelerate development of Linux in general. ®

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