On Wed, Feb 22, 2023, 8:50 AM Dan Cross <crossd@gmail.com> wrote:
Has anyone tried talking to anyone at Oracle about possibly getting
the SunOS code released under an open source license? There can't be
any commercial value left in it.

SunOS 4 has a lot of encumbered code in it, especially for i386 drivers. Bits of the
network stack as well. It was hopeless to try to open source. There was a lot of bits
and pieces that Sun had done with contracts that were, at best, ambiguous for
what to do should they want to open source it. At least that's the story I've heard
from people at Sun, both engineers and management.

I know when Solbourne did their OS/MP 4.0 and 4.1 SunOS MP system, there
was a lot of back and forth between Solbourne's and Sun's lawyers to get all
the pieces needed to build the system. For example, initially SunView was not
included in the offering, so my group was formed to write our clone for it (This
would become OI (Object Interface) and uib (User Interface Builder) that we
did in C++ to allow it to present in either Motif or OpenLook).

I also know that Sun tried to donate their VM system to Berkeley btween BSD4.3
and BSD4.4. Had the support of Scott McNeely and was almost a done deal. However,
the lawyers said that the company would need to take a 'write down' loss on the
donation, which would likely tank the stock price of Sun, so it was nixed. So instead,
Berkeley did the next best thing (really the only available thing) and went with the

One can find the sources to 4.1.4 and 4.1.3 online (though not the earlier 4.1.1 or
4.0.x which have the i386 port in it). The newer sources do have i386 bits, but from
my cursory investigation, it's mostly remnants of the support. Of course, if one were
to modify this, and try to distribute it, you'd likely be asking for trouble. At least two
of the abandonware sites have copies. There's also something purporting to the the
SCCS files for the system, but alas, they are not actually there.

Having talked to the VPs that got OpenSolaris released about doing SunOS (after
they'd left Sun, I worked for them), it was clear that OpenSolaris was hard enough.
SunOS 4 was too old by even the point to get all the successors in interest to
agree to modifications of the old contracts to allow source distribution without
significant restrictions to agree to make enough of the system available for it to
be interesting to people.

Oracle has pulled back from OpenSolaris, fired all the Solaris engineers and has
all that on basically life support. I doubt they'd want to do anything for even that
modern code base, let alone something that's ancient history, would be hard to find,
would be difficult to find the old paperwork for it to clear legal, etc.

So, I'm not at all optimistic this could ever happen prior to the expiration of the
copyrights of the original code.


        - Dan C.