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08.14.19

Wrong Person in Charge of the Linux Foundation (and in Charge of Linus Torvalds)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel at 4:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Is it the Six Million Dollar Man or a geek?

Jim Zemlin in tuxedo
Photo credit: The Linux Foundation

Summary: There are several glaring issues when it comes to the leadership of Linux’s steward; for one thing, it lacks actual background in… Linux

LINUS Torvalds was never a champion of Software Freedom, but at least he came from a technical background, chose the GPL (after he had chosen to share Linux, initially a proprietary project), and he’s more likely to focus on programming while antagonising those looking to destroy it. Torvalds is a geek. That’s one reason he had gained following (prior to Google shutting down his ‘blog’ along with all the rest). His former employer, OSDL, is no longer around; the Linux Foundation, run by increasingly hypocritical management that does not even use GNU/Linux, now poses a growing risk if not threat to Software Freedom. It wasn’t always a rosy relationship (probably never); but from neutrality came hostility in recent years. The Foundation is actively hostile towards copyleft and unbelievably amicable/cordial when it comes to foremost foes of Linux. This and only this — the latter part — is why we began this investigation earlier this year. It may seem counterintuitive that something called “Linux Foundation” is a Linux-hostile foundation, but that certainly is what’s happening, especially if one assumes that Linux is just an abbreviation for “GNU/Linux”.

“In this post we strictly limit ourselves to what’s publicly known; we didn’t seek or even dig anything private.”Techrights is a huge advocate of privacy. At the same time Techrights loves research and making use of publicly-accessible information (sometimes known as open-source intelligence) seems reasonable, or ‘fair play’. In this post we strictly limit ourselves to what’s publicly known; we didn’t seek or even dig anything private. While guarding people’s decency and privacy we also want to show where they come from as that can help explain their actions at present. The Linux Foundation has always been run by the same person (for 12 years now), so it makes sense to learn his professional background. We’ll come to it in a bit. He’s not a John or a Jane but a relatively famous person with great wealth*. It’s not some vulnerable person being ‘harassed’ by those whom he claims, in vain, to be representing.

Zemlin comes from the world of proprietary software (and not a technical role); he’s named in this old article as a manager at Corio, a past employer. “Corio implements and supports PeopleSoft systems for midsize customers,” it said, “charging a flat fee of $100,000 to $150,000 and monthly rent of about $850.”

“Mr. Zemlin advises a variety of startups, including DeviceVM.”
      –Bloomberg
There seems to be some common mistake about his past though; Bloomberg appears to have wrongly interpreted this page (another such page was removed, perhaps upon request) that said: “Lumity used its proprietary risk model to analyze the [Linux] foundation’s health data and unearthed a significant discrepancy between projected health care expenses and the rates the foundation was paying their carrier. In the previous two years, the overall group health profile had dramatically improved. As a result, Lumity was able to negotiate lower premiums and a wider network plan, and cost savings were reduced without sacrificing coverage. Additionally, employees gained Lumity’s data-driven enrollment software to guide their health plan decisions and enroll in health savings accounts (HSAs) using a single login.”

The “case study” makes it seem like Zemlin works for this private company. He’s listed like an author. So Bloomberg wrote: “Mr. Jim Zemlin has been an Executive Director of Lumity, Inc. since November 17, 2016…”

This is actually false. Bloomberg‘s official page for him (prior to removal) said: “Mr. Jim Zemlin has been an Executive Director of Lumity, Inc. since November 17, 2016. Mr. Zemlin serves as an Executive Director of The Linux Foundation. He served as Vice President of Marketing at OS Group, LLC (also known as Covalent Technologies, Inc.). Mr. Zemlin advises a variety of startups, including DeviceVM. His career spans three of the largest technology trends to rise over the last decade: mobile computing, SaaS and open source software.”

“…I kind of started having a midlife crisis. At that time I thought of becoming a chef, a professional rock climber…”
      –Jim Zemlin
But there’s no connection to Lumity; maybe a mistake in some low-skilled curator’s work. That same page says his “Education” is “Bachelor’s Degree, University of Minnesota…”

In Jim’s own words, “my father was a computer programmer at Control Data Corporation, which was headquartered in Minnesota. At that time, Minnesota was the hub of companies like Control Data Corporation, Honeywell, and 3M.”

So that seems plausible that he studied there**. It doesn’t say what he studied though. In LinkedIn he just says he was VP of Marketing, Director of Marketing/Founder, and Brand Manager…

That’s likely based on skills/qualifications he got at college.

It seems to suggest that he never worked in Japan. Jim Zemlin says he speaks Japanese (we know Darl McBride did as a former missionary). This perhaps relates to “Unknown/Other Education” in Bloomberg, which names Sophia University in Japan. It might be a missing link (where he picked that language), but it’s curious that Zemlin completely leaves out his education from LinkedIn. Zemlin said in an interview 2 years ago: “When Covalent Technologies ended up being acquired by VMware, I kind of started having a midlife crisis. At that time I thought of becoming a chef, a professional rock climber…”

“The deeper we look into it, the clearer it seems that Zemlin lacks background in (and dedication for) FOSS.”Instead he does this openwashing of Microsoft; Based on that same interview, Zemlin wasn’t even involved in “Open Source” until a decade after Linux and 2 decades after GNU. When he ran the predecessor of the Linux Foundation he had a technical person, the founder of Debian, to help him out (that person has since then committed suicide, after altercation with abusive police).

The deeper we look into it, the clearer it seems that Zemlin lacks background in (and dedication for) FOSS. He is a marketing and branding person. Maybe this is what he studied at the University of Minnesota (we didn’t research that far).

The Linux Foundation is a very classic case of pretenders riding coattails of other people’s achievements to make a fortune, usually by looking for rich overlords to serve. Months ago we remarked on the push the get rid of Torvalds. It was based on the most incredulous people's claim that he was rude and unprofessional.

Someone posted a comment further down in LWN, speaking about the hypocritical management that had apparently pushed Torvalds aside for a while. “Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation, boss of Linus) has been complicit in this,” said the person (alluding to arguments in the mailing lists).

“Torvalds was doing absolutely fine before the Linux Foundation existed.”“Here is a summary of his TEDx talk [quoting the Linux Foundation's site]: “His last point is perhaps the most entertaining and provocative. Zemlin talks here about the value of flame wars, defending ideas and ridiculing code. The result? Better software. He cites a UC Berkeley study that found groups that are encouraged to debate rigorously and defend their ideas, opposed to traditional brainstorming where every idea is a good idea, come up with better ideas.”

Torvalds was doing absolutely fine before the Linux Foundation existed. Last week Linux Journal said, in its very last post, that the golden era of Linux was in 2007 (i.e. before the Foundation existed). Being ‘bossed’ by a Mac user with an obscure past (the relationship was explained here) hasn’t made Torvalds more independent and free to focus on purely technical work; it just seems to have silenced him, consciously or not (self-censorship and prior restraint). Can someone who is actually a geek be put in charge of the Foundation? At the moment it’s a career-climbing money-grabbing under-qualified person who doesn’t even use what he claims to be promoting and speaking on behalf of.
_____
* Jim Zemlin apparently has a ‘summer house’ (we don’t know how many houses in total). A decade back there was one in Lake Tahoe, reveals this PDF. When paying oneself so much in salaries and amassing perhaps $10,000,000 in savings one starts to appeal to power, not principles. Jim Zemlin said in an interview: “I’d be a manager of a discreet island hotel that is only accessible by float plane” (article apparently removed or made not accessible). That’s not very green and it’s the same sort of thing Linux was a reaction to if not against. He and his spouse are dancing with wealth and power. Almost a decade ago his wife wrote: “We are bringing in more Harvard Professors and well-recognized graduates. Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard AB and MBA, will be keynoting our Annual Dinner on Thursday, June 10th at the University Club.” Very Harvard-like thinking. It’s about class and serving class. When Jim Zemlin welcomed Microsoft into the Foundation his wife worked closely with Microsoft as a General Manager and Global Vice-President at TIBCO. According to his above-mentioned interview with Jeremy Allison, his wife controls him.

** “Since November 17, 2016, he holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Minnesota,” this page says, but it also says: “He has been an Executive Director of Lumity; he serves the Executive Director of The Linux Foundation.” That Lumity part is not correct, so the page might be derived from misinformation.

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