Grokline Launches - Come and Help, Please

by Pamela Jones

May 24 2004

I am happy to tell you that we have Grokline 0.1, so to speak, up at We are ready for you to start to help by contributing what you know about UNIX to our UNIX ownership living history project.

We hope with this Grokline project to be able to identify any conceivable legal issues that those wishing to block, slow, hobble or tax GNU/Linux may try to use in future legal assaults on the community. If there are litigation risks, even just from nuisance lawsuits, particularly with respect to patents, we want to find those risks, hopefully before they do, and mitigate or resolve them now. I am personally convinced, as you no doubt are too, that the next wave of attacks on GNU/Linux and the GPL will involve patents.

Grokline's research results will be incorporated into a copyright, patent, and trade secret-enhanced version of Eric Levenez' famous Unix History chart [ ], something he has kindly granted us permission to do. Our chart will be made available noncommercially under a Creative Commons License. Currently, the Levenez chart traces the code and its influences but not the ownership history. Grokline's research will fill in that vital gap. UNIX historian Peter H. Salus, author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" has agreed to contribute his knowledge and skills to the Grokline Project as technical and historical adviser. Frank Sorenson has taken on the daunting technical task of managing the chart revision.

We ask you to help by contributing your knowledge, your memories, any code you have legal authorization to contribute, and documents. Most of the authors of UNIX are still alive. Many of you used the software at work. You don't have to read about UNIX in a book. You lived this history. You know where to find proof of the history of this software or can provide first-hand accounts. Many of you have old manuals, contemporaneous legal documents, software, both binary and source code, and textbooks. Your collective memory, and proof of what you recall, is a powerful resource. No piece is too small to contribute, because the power is in the aggregate. So please come and help us on Grokline.

As with all new code, there may be bugs. We have more features we are planning to add. You may see ways we can improve Grokline as we go along. Your input and ideas are valuable. This is a community project. It would be impossible to do Grokline without the help and support of an entire community that cares about free and open source code.

I am deeply indebted to MathFox for his coding mastery for creating Grokline's code, and to John Crowley for the design of the Grokline site, and to Alan B. Canon, Frank, and John for helping MathFox prepare the site for launch. Lots of tweaks, lots of bug fixes, lots of work, and not much sleep this last couple of weeks. I view it as an honor and a privilege to know and work with such wonderful people. Please come and join us.

04:10 PM EDT

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