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Just A Thought - The IBM/SCO Range War

by , 2:00 PM EST, February 10th, 2005

Acrid smoke from rolled cigarettes and cheap cigars thickens, and the smell of stale beer mingles with the scent of sweat and dirt, all of which gathers and hang like foul smelling swamp fog.

The clock on the wall behind the bar reads 11:45, and the air beyond the windows and the swinging doors is black as pitch, but no one in the bar notices. All eyes are on the 2 men at a table in the far corner of the bar.

The others in the bar, owners of small, but thriving ranches, sheep herders, small businessmen, mill in the poor lamp lighting and whisper their excitement.

Several hours earlier they came, with hats in hand, to lend their support to a stranger who only called himself Blu. The stranger had come to town looking for a place to settle and wound up buying the old Milford place out by the lake. Blu, it seems, had a bit of money, and was looking to take part in the open spaces the Range provided.

But there was another stranger that came to town also, and he starts buying out small ranches that were on the verge of going under. This stranger called himself Scosdale, and every bit of property he bought he put a fence around it. His fences made it harder for the other small ranchers to move their cattle and sheep around, and it was feared that if Scodales kept buying up small ranches, pretty soon there would be no open spaces left at all.

Blu, however, didn't cotton to Socsdale's tactics. He went out to have himself a chat, but the 2 men couldn't not agree and harsh words were exchanged.

Both men favored the cards, however, and, as luck would have it, they now sat with a poker table between them. There had been others at the table, but luck and strategy had whittled the number down to two.

Blu and Scosdale regarded each other with civility at the poker table, but Scosdale's luck had turned sour, and he sat with a small and dwindling pile of chips while Blu's pile favored a skyline of a big city back East.

As the hands were played the tension in the bar grew until it was as thick as the smoke. Both men where literally betting the farm, and Blu looked to be winning a lot.

Everyone figured the next game would be the last; Scosdale had no more property to bet, and all the cash he had left now sat in a tidy pile in front of him.

Five cards were dealt: Scosdale got a Queen of Hearts, 2 of clubs, 3 of Diamonds, 3 of Hearts, 10 of Spades, and a 5 of Diamonds. Blu has 3 aces, a King of Clubs, and a 2 of Diamonds.

Scosdale figures that the best he can make with his hand in a Heart Flush, which ain't a bad hand, but money has been leaving his pot like forest critters before a fire, and he figures he's got one good bet left before he's busted.

Blu had some problems early in the game, but managed to survive using some prudent strategies, and now has a vast stack of chips that he has to push to the side to look around. He knows that Scosdale is sweating it, and judging from his hand, the odds are decidedly in his favor. If he's careful, and depending on how Scosdale bets, he could go home with fat pockets, and leave the other guy crying in his beer.

Scosdale figures that if he doesn't have the guts, he'll never have the glory, and decides to bet, draw 3 cards, and go for the Heart flush. He figures if he doesn't get the flush he might pull another Queen and, possibly a 3 and wind up with 2 pair. Not a shabby hand.

Blu decides that he might have better odds pulling another King, especially since the Scosdale obviously had, at most, a pair of Kings. But the odds are that the Scosdale doesn't have a pair of Kings, so he calls and tosses the 2 to pull one card.

Scosdale looks at his new cards: 10 of Diamonds, Jack of Clubs, Queen of Clubs. He lets a little smile show, knowing that Blu is watching his every move. The Queen pair isn't a bad hand in 5 Card Stud, he's won bigger pots with less, and he's sure that the pair of Ladies will treat him right tonight.

Blu pulls a King of Hearts, and it's all he can do to keep from smiling like a Cheshire cat. He's got an Ace heavy Full House; he knows there are no other full boats that can beats his, and the odds of Scosdale having Four of a Kind, a Straight Flush, or a Royal Flush are extremely small. He has Scosdale by the short ones, but he keeps his poker face.

Scosdale bets half of what he has left. Blu want to finish the game quickly and get home to some apple pie, so he calls and raises to whatever the first guy has left.

Scosdale is feeling a bit queasy, he could fold, but what's the use, there no money left. He doesn't have enough cash to raise and bluff; he can only call. Well, at least he'll see the other's cards. He starts to call when a stogie smoking, overweight guy dressed in loud red suit steps up and offers to bankroll the first guy's hand.

"Red's mah name, boys, and I'd like to git me a piece o this action."

Blu agrees, and several rounds of betting ensue. Scosdale raises one final time, the amount of his raise is the remainder of the stack of chips Blu has.

Now, Blu wonders if the other is really bluffing, or did he pull 4 Queens. There were no Queens in his hand, nor Jacks for that matter. Of course, it doesn't even have to be four face cards, 4 deuces would be just as deadly. "No guts, not glory," he murmurs, and slides his considerable pile of chips into the pot.

The murmuring in the bar amplifies like someone had shaken a hornetís nest. There's more at stake than just some property and maybe a bruised ego; they know the stogie smoking fat man, he's wants the control the water in the area by building a dam, then making everyone pay fees to him.

If Scosdale wins then the fat guy in red wins as well, and all of the small, but thriving farms and ranches will whither and die, or be forced to pay ever higher fees for water that, by rights, should be free.

If Blu wins then the range will remain open, and the water will continue to run free.

Now it's time for both men to show his cards.

Epilog

I like a story with a happy ending, and while the IBM/SCO War is far from over, there is one indication that the thriving farms and ranches may yet survive. In CNet News article, Federal Judge Dale Kimball has as much as told SCO that it had essentially nothing to support its lawsuit against IBM, and that its entire claim is suspect.

In a statement that came just short of granting IBM its motion for a partial summary judgment, Judge Kimball said, "Viewed against the backdrop of SCO's plethora of public statements concerning IBM's and others' infringement of SCO's purported copyrights to the Unix software, it is astonishing that SCO has not offered any competent evidence to create a disputed fact regarding whether IBM has infringed SCO's alleged copyrights through IBM's Linux activities."

In essence, Judge Kimball couldn't find any real substance to SCO's claim that IBM or others have violated its intellectual property rights. Unless SCO can come up with more concrete evidence of wrong doing on IBM's part, it is likely that SCO's case would be null and void.

And what about the fat guy in red? I'm sure he'll find other ways to attack the small, but growing community of ranchers and farmers who love the open spaces. But at least this is looking more and more like a sunset to ride into.

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