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We May Need Linux Contingencies

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel at 11:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Alexandre Oliva
Alexandre (Alex) Oliva (linux-libre developer) left Red Hat just before IBM took over; Photo credit: Rafael Bonifaz

Summary: Linux development is in very many hands, but not only in good and benevolent hands (especially at the higher levels); in case the trajectory leads towards proprietary software, fallbacks may be needed

ALTHOUGH our main focus is and will remain squashing software patents we are growingly concerned about what’s happening to Linux, a kernel whose development is nowadays facilitated by proprietary software companies with loads of software patents. IBM buying Red Hat only makes that a lot worse (Alex Oliva, the man shown above, refused to pursue patents while at Red Hat and he left the company a couple of months ago; he’s against software patents). Linux in 2019 isn’t what it was in 2009. And don’t get us started about LINUX DOT COM (Linux.com), which sometimes feels like an anti-Linux site* (all the staff was sacked back in April and a month ago the site made a bizarre, low-capacity comeback that makes us think it’s better for the site to just become permanently inactive).

“Some just prefer not to talk about it; they look the other way and hope these problems will go away on their own.”Some readers share our concerns in public, but some share them in private (for different reasons). We have hardly come across anyone who does not agree with us on this subject. Some just prefer not to talk about it; they look the other way and hope these problems will go away on their own.

One reader said, “obviously we are on a similar page about the future of free software and gnu/linux specifically with regards to the kernel, everyone seems to think it is different or immune to the other meddling. By “everyone” I mean most of the people who are aware of the existing problems. I tend to think of kernel meddling as a future problem, though I’m watching the situation like a hawk.”

“Various hopeful people think hurd will save the day (alright by me, I don’t think that will ever happen) or perhaps bsd kernel (I think it will have the same problems as the linux kernel, plus its own — not a diss, I’m not anti-bsd at all), but I think a fork of the linux kernel is most likely.”
Moments ago we linked to a recent video in which Jim Zemlin says "Open Source Loves Microsoft" (which may sound gross, just like “Microsoft loves Linux,” but not exactly surprising coming from him).

“I’m increasingly worried about the kernel,” the reader added, “I say to people all the time, you know we need to think about the future of the linux kernel. Various hopeful people think hurd will save the day (alright by me, I don’t think that will ever happen) or perhaps bsd kernel (I think it will have the same problems as the linux kernel, plus its own — not a diss, I’m not anti-bsd at all), but I think a fork of the linux kernel is most likely. FROM WHOM is the real question.

“We both know Oliva (he says so too) is not a kernel hacker guru, even if he’s one of the most important modifiers of the kernel alive.”
“The future I foresee is one where the FSF is no longer a force in development, and if [Alex] Oliva can’t manage a linux kernel fork, who can? We both know Oliva (he says so too) is not a kernel hacker guru, even if he’s one of the most important modifiers of the kernel alive. The future of free software kernels is at stake — I am very curious who can step up when the time is right. I’m not sure it’s hopeless, I just don’t know who is capable. Nothing Oliva has said on this subject comes as a surprise. I’m familiar with linux-libre, I never took it to mean that Oliva could manage his own kernel. He and I are on the same page there.”
* In the past 20 hours alone, for instance, LINUX DOT COM (Linux.com) linked to a pay-to-read report (“ADD TO BASKET”). The editors there either lack a clue or are played by the firms looking to sell this ‘consulting’-themed ploy. Is there really a lack of news worth linking to? The site has also just linked to Microsoft GitHub. There appears to be just one editor (everyone else was sacked) and he is a megaphone of Microsoft (yesterday in his site he promoted Microsoft’s own report, which is promotional). Is Microsoft paying him (except through Jim Zemlin/Linux Foundation)? Well, given what he did for VMware on the Foundation's payroll, everything is possible. The Linux Foundation and its staff are a hopeless, lost cause… they don’t care about Linux and few of them even use it.

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