06.29.20

The GNU Project is Bleeding Into Microsoft (Updated)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:35 am by Guest Editorial Team

By Thomas Grzybowski

The bleeding roses

Summary: “A large part of this “loss of integrity” is simply a lack of desire to resist competition, or even recognize the nature of the threat.”

WITHIN the conduct of human endeavors we usually think of Work in the categories of various forms of interpersonal reporting hierarchies, even if sometimes modified into something of a web. You can see these hierarchies when we discuss politics or corporate structures. Yet these paths of influence can often cross nominal boundaries, such as state or national boundaries, or corporate boundaries. Sometimes we can see the boundaries breaking down, with new inter-and-intra-community structures forming. In this flux I see the the GNU Project bleeding into Microsoft.

There are a number of empirical signs of the breakdown of boundaries between Free Software and Microsoft, such as the “Windows Subsystem for Linux”, but most insidious is the movement of GNU development processes onto the Microsoft-hosted platform, GitHub.

If one goes to the GNU Home site where they list their official packages there are some alarming observations to be made:

When you click on: https://gnu.org/software/nana/
Where you actually end up is: https://github.com/pjmaker/nana/

I find this deceptive and very concerning. For a number of important reasons, hosting GNU development on a proprietary Microsoft platform should be verboten. And for users to be programatically redirected away from the GNU site to the Microsoft site is ethically criminal, and foreboding institutional death.

Now try these other GNU projects:

https://gnu.org/software/macchanger

https://gnu.org/software/jwhois

https://gnu.org/software/fribidi

https://gnu.org/software/httptunnel

https://gnu.org/software/which/

https://gnu.org/software/guile-dbi

A sad situation. Interestingly, most of these redirections seem to have made fairly recently, not long after Richard Stallman was ousted. (see update here)

And then there are other disturbing development projects – if you take a look: GNU Bison consistently sees quite a lot of very current activity on GitHub (https://github.com/akimd/bison); and Flex, an important component of GNU Bison, is located entirely GitHub, provided under a BSD license.

https://gnu.org/software/flex/flex.html –> https://github.com/westes/flex ; https://github.com/westes/flex/blob/master/README.md .

GNU Radio, also a GNU project, goes a step further and conducts the major parts of its development cycle on GitHub. It’s not clear that they use the GNU sites for anything other than mirrors.

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gr-dpd/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/pulls/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/issues/

The growth and attraction of GitHub is based upon a number of factors, especially the social nature of the software development environment. Microsoft primes the pump for a “network effect” through the GitHub project sponsorship program:

https://help.github.com/en/github/supporting-the-open-source-community-with-github-sponsors/about-github-sponsors

Monetary grants given to projects make moving there more attractive, and the monies can be used by the project leader to make the project more attractive to developers. Because the Free and Open Source Software world is interconnected, as each particular migration or action takes place, the effects connect to the community on a global scale. As more and more developers and users become focused towards Microsoft GitHub, the resources and interfaces there become increasingly difficult to resist depending upon, and the paths or streams of community influence become too strong. The GNU Project is being swept away in a river of powerful influences.

Some folks have seen the process described above as a “loss of GNU integrity”, and it is that. But a large part of this “loss of integrity” is simply a lack of desire to resist competition, or even recognize the nature of the threat. Most importantly and most immediately the very core machinery of the Free Software Movement is being undermined and swept away by strong currents into a Microsoft-controlled domain: github.com

Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA.

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