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05.02.08

What Might Be Behind OpenBSD’s Attack Against Peers

Posted in Antitrust, BSD, FSF, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft at 1:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Yesterday I attended an inspirational talk from Richard Stallman that contained many familiar bits, a healthy dose of humour and an interesting questions session, which touched on the AGPL, GPLv3 and other currently-debated topics that are more about the present than about the past.

Stallman’s vision is a very scary one to those who have the most to lose. It puts in jeopardy many of those who suppress and exploit the most, but again, this philosophical discussion needn’t be repeated. What’s more concerning are the personal attacks against Stallman, some of which are intended to distract people from his important message and place focus on things like appearance, politics and various forms of disinformation, including deliberate misinterpretation of Stallman’s jokes. We covered some examples of this before and so has Bruce Perens (also see this response from the OSC).

“We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat.”In the news digests that we post in this Web site we happen to include announcements and reports about the BSDs because they really ought to be our friends. We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat. There is hardly any justification for hostility. So why do we see people fighting?

Theo de Raadt has a good sense of humour and he is very outspoken. He deserves credit for pressuring insidious companies like Intel to open up properly. As you may or may not know, OpenBSD 4.3 has just been released, but Theo is once again taking a shot at Stallman. He did this recently also. Why, Theo, why? Is he once again trying to receive greater publicity by mocking someone whose licence is more widely used?

Several people who are very familiar with BSD seem to suggest that some certain company in north-west America might — just might — be using one rival project against the other. This doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy or that an agreement exists, but such things can be done more gently with subtle moves such as an invitation for a visit or a meeting with Microsoft-sympathetic figures, poisonous messages ‘injected’ into a mailing list, or anything else that incites hostility and encourages division.

Some people would say that all of this is far-fetched and rather silly. Fine. That’s acceptable. This is only a speculation. However, it would be foolish to ignore some things that we are already aware of, such as this ‘smoking gun’ internal document from Microsoft which served as an antitrust exhibit in Comes vs Microsoft (Iowa). The court exhibit [PDF], whose authenticity has already been confirmed, is available from at least 3 sites which hold a mirror. It’s a very large item to explore, so to quote one fragment of relevance (from Microsoft’s own mouth):

Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog. We need to know who their allies are and what differences exist between them and their allies (there are always sources of tension between allies), so that we can find ways to split ‘em apart. Reading the trade press, lurking on newsgroups, attending conferences, and (above all) talking to ISVs is essential to gathering this intelligence.

Yes, Microsoft wants to “find ways to split ‘em apart.” Microsoft needs to do some intelligence work to identify “sources of tension between allies.” BSD versus GPL, anyone?

For more context see this overview of "The Slog", along the marketing “road trip” Microsoft refers to as “Jihad” (holy war). It has been seen many times before (even by myself, e.g. in USENET) that one common technique used by Mucnhkins is to divide people who share common goals.

Sometimes, in order to disguise or reduce suspicion, fake accounts and names are created whose character and postings are made solely for the purpose of defending one half of the crowd that supports Free software and attacking the other half of the very same crowd. Elevation of tensions is the purpose. Microsoft makes ‘civil wars’ beyond ‘enemy lines’ [1, 2]. Militaries use similar tactics and some nations go as far as providing physical ammunition for one country to devastate another.

Disclaimer: I like BSD and I use some BSD-licensed software. The purpose of this post is to make friends, not accusations.

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15 Comments

  1. TK said,

    May 2, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Gravatar

    Theo is becoming trifling and childish in his attacks, at least the bits and pieces that I see. Both of them have issues with each other’s license – we get it, now move on and grow up! RMS _seems_ to be taking the high road on it although I haven’t seen all the quotes from him about Theo. Is Theo just more public about throwing mud?

  2. Blaise Alleyne said,

    May 2, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Gravatar

    I spend a few hours pouring over the OpenBSD misc mailing list this morning, reading the flame war that took place in Dec 07 / Jan 08 (which sparked the song).

    RMS’ failure was to get the BSD crowd emotionally riled up. At which point, they lost all sense of reason. RMS could hav ebeen more clear with his statements, but if you read his posts to the list they are quite rational and quite polite. Theo, on the other hand, dives into expletives and accusations quite quickly, and is more obsessed with name calling than any actual arguments.

    It’s pretty unfortunate…

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 2, 2008 at 9:02 pm

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    I think the key issue was a statement that RMS made in public about firmware. He has also just told me that he corrected the inaccurate statements about his views. Hopefully Theo can move on and not resent forever. It makes both sides look bad and it doesn’t help.

  4. anonymous said,

    May 3, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Gravatar

    Well covered, but a word of advice: be very, very careful when you address the whole BSD/GPL-axis again.

  5. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 3, 2008 at 9:09 am

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    Seeing as how there has been “friction” between the BSD’s and Linux for at least 10-15 years at this point and, more importantly, how Theo is well known to have an extremely short temper, I seriously doubt that Microsoft is pulling the strings here.

    Why, Theo, why? Is he once again trying to receive greater publicity by mocking someone whose licence is more widely used?

    While reading, this begged the question:

    Why, Roy, why? Is he once again trying to receive greater publicity by mocking someone who is more widely respected in the free software community?

    or maybe this is more relevant:

    Yes, Microsoft wants to “find ways to split ‘em apart.” Microsoft needs to do some intelligence work to identify “sources of tension between allies.” BSD versus GPL, anyone?

    Mono vs whatever, anyone?

    Just like we can’t ignore the possibility that Microsoft is pulling at the strings, we can’t ignore the possibility that you are in their wallet doing their dirty work for them:

    Bad mouth Mono and GNOME in order to destroy those projects for Microsoft. Once those are destroyed, you’ll turn toward KDE and whatever else. And so on and so forth until you’ve trashed all of the larger projects that Microsoft has to compete against.

    This theory actually makes just as much sense as any of yours – it also meshes well with the worldly logic of:

    Those who scream the loudest are often the most guilty

    I don’t know of anyone who screams louder than you about how GNOME and Mono (and Novell, but I don’t care so much about Novell the Company as I do the GNOME and SuSE developers) are in Microsoft’s pocket trying to destroy Free Software.

    Given that your proof is never anything more than speculation by either yourself or some other journalist who is known to have a grudge against Novell or GNOME (e.g. Sam Varghese – who seems to have an infatuation with trying to make Jeff Waugh look bad – 5 page article on how Jeff Waugh isn’t fit to be a leader of GNOME, a position he was ELECTED to by the GNOME community over 1 issue? That’s not journalism, that’s propaganda) and given that your only recurring “positive contributions” to F/LOSS are your success stories posted to comp.os.linux.advocacy (which no one but a handful of trolls actually reads – if they even read your posts) which are mere headline copies and sound bites of articles other journalists have written, my theory offers a far larger source of evidence to back it up.

    Microsoft hired you a few years back and had you start posting these headline/quote snippets to comp.os.linux.advocacy where they knew you’d be able to establish some credibility “advocating linux” while also knowing that you wouldn’t be reaching any non-Linux users, thus you wouldn’t actually be converting anyone over to Linux from Windows. Brilliant strategy imho.

    Then, when Microsoft makes this deal with Novell, one of their biggest threats on the side of F/LOSS (for which they immediately went out and purposely riled up the F/LOSS community in the hopes of getting them to hate Novell – I mean, this wasn’t rocket science – had any of the clueless Novell execs mentioned their Microsoft deal ahead of time to their engineers, they would have discovered that this would anger the community).

    Then, seeing this site was created (and this is assuming that the founder of this site is not in their pockets), immediately saw their opportunity to cash in on the free anti-Novell propaganda and had you begin posting your anti-Novell sentiments in an attempt to split the community and create some infighting (which worked). They also knew that the vast majority of the people who were likely to view this site were Linux users, they began having you start taking anti-Microsoft jibes because that would help you increase your credibility with the more easily riled “Slashdotter” crowd (which are a very vocal and easily swayed emotional group inside the Free Software community) so that you’d be able to tap into them as your unsuspecting minions who you could set loose on Novell, GNOME and Mono.

    Think about it. It makes perfect sense… there’s no easier way for Microsoft to destroy its competition than to get a huge mass of people who are easily manipulated (via emotion) to do your dirty work for you. You get them angry at something your competitor does/did by spinning what they did to be against the mobs ideals and bingo, you have yourself a free army intent on destroying your competition for you.

    And best of all (in Microsoft’s eyes), it is working wonderfully.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 3, 2008 at 9:20 am

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    That’s insane to the point of almost being hilarious.

    Has it ever occurred to you that what Novell established with Novell is merely a scheme for banning Free software, at one point or another? There are building blocks in this strategy and one of them is making .NET/XAML/XPS/etc. the ‘standard’ and charging royalties for it. That’s not Free software. That’s just exploitation (using developers as tools) and extortion (charging money for imaginary stuff).

    My opposition to developers whom I criticise is the embrace of .NET when we already have GPL-licensed Java, for example, and the initial implementation of OOXML when ODF is the industry standard that is Free software-compatible. And there are many more examples…

  7. Shane Coyle said,

    May 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

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    Well, I never speak for Roy, but as the ‘site founder’ I can only attest I am in noone’s pocket, I am an employee of my local school district, in a non-technology (nor supervisory) position (and have never been happier since leaving the tech sector – in the best shape of my life, too!).

    I haven’t any direct investment in any of the companies lauded or lambasted here (I am a NYS employee, and therefore my pension perhaps is but I don’t follow it that closely).

    And as far as the idea of cashing in on anti-Novell propoganda – this site makes roughly $1.40 (US) / day in Adsense revenues (very low ad-view numbers compared to visitors because we’re all geeks here and use Adblock and NoScript).

    Honestly, though, this site did pretty much pay for my CD/DVD duplicator, and that allows me to give away more copies of my Live CD than ever before. So, thanks to Novell for that, I suppose.

    I’ve pointed it out before, but Roy makes nothing from BoycottNovell.com (that I know of, anyhow). I have offered him the opportunity in the past to monetize his contributions, and he has consistently declined.

    It’s always been a balance of making sure we pay our bills without over-commercializing the site, and I hope that we strike a happy medium.

    Slightly off-topic, I have stumbled upon an ad server network – adbard.net, that seems to be totally FOSS-related. I just signed up http://www.edu-nix.org, and it seems the network is in early stages, but perhaps we can add a banner to bn.com if things work well, it’s always preferable to promote FOSS.

  8. Natalia said,

    May 4, 2008 at 6:58 am

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    You’re not only stupid, you’ve gone a step further towards being deranged. You should stop breathing or something, it’d make the world a better place.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 4, 2008 at 8:11 am

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    Thank you, Natalia, for the polite and constructive remarks. Care to be more specific so that we can resolve this and maybe put to rest speculations?

  10. Mike Milholland said,

    June 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm

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    Keep in mind that Stallman was going on OpenBSDs site to post smack not the other way around. Theo appears to have a temper, but can you blame him?? Stallman is a weasel. The more he messes with GPL the more it moves towards giving up your rights to free software. GPL V3 or whatever number its on sounds like this:

    You can use this software, BUT….

    If somehow you profit on it you will be raped in jail.

    If you know someone who profits on it you will be raped in jail.

    If one your developers looked at some linux code and it gave him and idea and 3 years later he used this idea to make money on it you will be raped in jail

    Who the fuck even put his guy in charge. Why does anyone even listen to a raving moron like Richard Stallman.

    I am pretty sure that freedom means something like no strings attached. GPL does not make me feel like no strings attached. But, you know what does? The BSD based license.

    Free as in air. Not free as in if I do something that Richard Stallman does not like I will be raped in jail.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Gravatar

    I see a lot of strong words here (“rape”, “jail”), but the argument is not convincing. The “Free” refers to freedom. The developer strives to keep the software free (libre) and spread that freedom. There is nothing that makes freedom and profit contradictory. The GPL(v3) does not forbid making money at all.

  12. Woods said,

    June 17, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Gravatar

    >I see a lot of strong words here…

    Personally, I just stop listening to people using language like that (Jeffrey Stedfast comes to mind…) That kind of choice of words is just a tad bit too disturbing.

  13. Slated said,

    June 18, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Gravatar

    @Dan O’Brian

    “we can’t ignore the possibility that you are in their wallet doing their dirty work for them”

    Oh for God’s sake grow up.

    What is it exactly that you think Roy has to “gain” through his activities, beyond the exposure of the truth? Ad revenue at $1.40 a day? Puh-lease.

    All Roy is doing is exposing some pretty damned obvious, and well documented, corruption that mostly revolves around Microsoft and their partners.

    Are you one of them, because you seem to expend an awful lot of effort stalking Roy and trying to shut him up?

  14. Slated said,

    June 18, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Gravatar

    @Mike Milholland

    How many times were you raped in jail then?

    Here’s some reading material for you, for the next time it happens:

    [quote]
    Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?

    Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part of the definition of free software. Except in one special situation, there is no limit on what price you can charge. (The one exception is the required written offer to provide source code that must accompany binary-only release.)
    [/quote]

    http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowMoney

    Here’s something else that might help the pain:

    http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/100002157.html

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 18, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Gravatar

    The ambiguity in English is truly a shame (the word “free”). People still associate the GPL with currency (or lack thereof) and completely miss the points about control, liability, privacy, education, development, versatility, evolutionary design, integration, customisation, security, etc.

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