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Brodie Robertson - Never Criticise The Linux Foundation Expenses (With Transcript)

posted by Roy Schestowitz on May 20, 2024

Video: Never Criticize The Linux Foundation Expenses

Never Criticize The Linux Foundation Expenses

Brodie Robertson has a new video about the Linux Foundation: Never Criticize The Linux Foundation Expenses (open format)



Brodie Robertson: Honest question, when did it become taboo to criticize the Linux Foundation? I remember a couple of years back when people saw the Foundation report being made on a Mac and everyone was like ha ha look at that they're called the Linux Foundation but they don't use Linux. This is just funny and everyone had a laugh and everyone joked about it. Now, credit where credit is due, the Linux Foundation is the biggest employer of Linux kernel developers. Without this money, the project simply would not be viable at its size and at its scope. There are a lot of people outside of this this that do work on the kernel. But the key kernel maintainers are paid by the Linux Foundation. However, this is not the only thing they support. And this is no secret whatsoever, it's not even the main thing they support. Linux kernel development is about 2 to 3 percent of the funding, depending on the year.


That number is correct. But there are some inaccurate numbers that do get spread around from time to time about how the rest of their money is spent. And I've absolutely been at fault for spreading this around myself because I just didn't know the numbers were inaccurate. So you'll sometimes see a graph which looks like this. And you'll see 4 percent block chain, 12 percent AI and Machine Learning, and so forth and all of these other branches that make it look like this is how the rest of their funding is being spent. Because you do see that 2 percent there for Linux, so it's very easy to make the connection between the two graphs. That's not exactly how it goes though. So, instead, there is a separate graph that shows their expenditures. This has Linux kernel development at 2 to 3 percent depending on the year. And in 2023 the project support was at 64%. Now, how that 64% gets divvied up amongst the things on the other graph


is not entirely clear. We do know these are the categories they are supporting we just don't know if they're all weighted equally, and it's really possible they're not. There's not really any clear indication in the rest of their reporting exactly how the numbers are split up. So these numbers absolutely are up for debate. What is not up for debate is how much they spend for Linux kernel development. This is crystal clear in their expenditures. And this is a very small part of what they spend. This has led some people like René Rebe, the developer of T2 SDE, to say things like this:

René Rebe: I've said this before, the Linux Foundation, it's seen in their own stats, and they have here only annual 3% or so on the Linux kernel, right? Like everything else they spend 97% on random bullshit because they're the Random Bullshit Foundation?

Brodie Robertson: As we already established, his numbers there are wrong it's 2% to 3% on Linux and then not 97% on random other things but 64%. But the main point


still holds true. I also want to make it clear that a lot of what the Linux Foundation is spending money on is going to a good cause. I'm not here to say, oh look the Linux Foundation is burning money on random things that don't matter. They spend money on things like the Open3D Foundation, RISC-V, Automotive Grade Linux, the Open Voice Network, GraphQL, OpenPOWER. Let's take this out of the tech context for a second and look at it in another context. Let's say you have the Feed Hungry Kids in Uganda Foundation. And then they say, ok we're going to start digging wells in The Congo. That is also doing incredible work and that is amazing. But maybe you're not the Feed Hungry Kids in Uganda Foundation any more, maybe you're the Help People Who Need to be Helped Foundation. And back to the Linux Foundation, if that's what they want to do, that's ok, they can do whatever they want with their funding. However, I am well within my rights


to be critical of how the Linux Foundation is operating. And the fact that I really wish the Linux Foundation spent money on the Linux desktop. And having this opinion may have started a bit of an argument over on Twitter with Richard Brown the maintainer of OpenSUSE Aeon. OpenSUSE Aeon formally known as Micro OS Desktop. OpenSUSE's immutable GNOME desktop. Now, to be fair with the argument I kind of feel he started it with making this remark before, but hey, let's just say that I started it for the sake of argument. Now, I want to be clear that I don't hate Richard, he might hate me, I don't know, it's his life, he can have whatever opinion he wants. But also do not go and contact him. That's weird, don't be weird. The Linux Foundation exists to serve the interests of its members, linking to members' page and they already employ the vast majority of kernel devs in the world implementing the features they want. On this list you can see companies that you've absolutely heard


of like Intel, Huawei, Hitachi, Microsoft, Oracle, Qualcom, Google. Why is Google not a platinum member? I don't know. A bunch of other companies you've probably heard of, and going down the list some you may have heard of depending on what space you exist in, others which you probably have never heard of before.

"So those members want their membership dues being spent in areas where it's less effective than for them all to spend individually. Investigating blockchain, ML whatever the trend might be is a good use of Linux Foundation money. More kernel spending ain't needed by the members of the Linux Foundation."

Now I don't know how this information started getting spread around but, yes, this is correct. They do absolutely spend money on blockchain development. For example, they own and founded and run the Hyperledger Foundation. Also in their 2023 report, they specifically funded the OpenWallet Foundation. These are just two very notable mentions.


Going back to what I said before, 4% being the number on blockchain and then 12% being the number on machine learning, those are inaccurate. But the number is absolutely not zero. Ignore this highlighted segment here this is when I've not been corrected on the blockchain number yet. The rest of this is still relevant. I personally don't see the value in spending that money on blockchain development and machine learning and would prefer to see it spent improving the existing Linux ecosystem. Not just those two categories, blockchain and machine learning, but a lot of the other random things funded by the Linux Foundation. Again, a lot of these are really, really good projects. But why is the Linux Foundation funding them? I know, it's because the members of the Linux Foundation want their dues being spent on that project. But why is that being done through the Linux Foundation? There are


other foundations specifically for those thing they want to work on. The Linux Foundation literally has Linux in its title. I would love to see the Linux Foundation chuck a few million at KDE, GNOME, Wayland development, XDG portals, libinput, which is severely under maintained. This is a key part to do with input on a Linux system and there's basically no one that maintains it. There's like a very small number and these other aspects of the Linux desktop that we all use and could all greatly benefit from more funding. Now considering that Richard runs OpenSUSE Aeon, he probably doesn't disagree with my point that these projects need more funding. But he does disagree with what I'm saying about the Linux Foundation,

"unless you're a sponsoring member, unless you're actually paying the Linux Foundation, your opinion of how the Linux Foundation should spend their money is utterly irrelevant. And none


of those things are in the business interests of the Linux Foundation membership. Why should the Linux Foundation waste their sponsors' money on topics that are not interesting as sponsors. Why do you think, do you have a right to declare how anyone else spends their money?"

He is correct that I don't have the right to force them to change how they spend their money or demand they change how they spend it at the threat of violence or I don't know something. But I absolutely do have the right to have an opinion on the way that any project operates. They don't have to listen to me, and they probably won't. But I absolutely have the right to have an opinion on it. I'm sure you also have an opinion on things you are not personally involved in, to which he gives the pedantic answer that the Linux Foundation isn't a project, which is not my point I know it's a foundation it's in its name but not the point I was making there. It doesn't change what I was saying. Foundation, company, project, I feel the same way about all of them. Nobody has to listen to my opinion but I do have the right to have it and the right to say it.


"I personally work really hard to avoid crossing the line between criticism of what other people are doing and making demands on what people do with their time and money. I think you've crossed the line and I find that distasteful."

Which he didn't define how that's what I'm doing here at all. That's not what I'm doing. I'm literally providing criticism like he's providing criticism. Yes. As I said, do not contact him. He's an overworked maintainer, probably stressed out and lashing out at people because that's what people do on the Internet. Also he is absolutely right that the Foundation exists to serve what their members want. That's true. My issue is what their members want. I would not want to become a member of the Linux Foundation just to have an opinion on how they spend their money, and I don't think anybody else should become a member either. If you want to support the development of Linux, the Linux Foundation is


one of the worst ways that you can spend your money. Find a developer on a project you like, find a project you like and support the project directly. Find a kernel developer, find I don't know some single issue foundation or at least a foundation that is not stretched as much as the Linux Foundation. Whether it's the EFF, whether it's the FSFE [sic], FSF, or I don't know the RISC-V foundation directly. Find a place where you know where your money is going to go and find a place where you know it is actually going to have an impact on the things you care about. We constantly talk on the Linux desktop about how underfunded so many projects are. Going back to the Tweet before, KDE, GNOME, Wayland development XDG Portal, libinput. But not just those. All of these random, little libraries


that nobody even knows about but hold your desktop up and actually makes it viable is maintained by one person. Cases like xz before xz was co-opted. This only happened because the maintainer was burnt out and didn't have other people working on the project he wasn't getting funded for and just didn't want to work on it any more. That whole situation would have been mitigated if it was a well-supported project. And every single developer that operates in the Linux space, that isn't already employed by some major company, who is just doing this because they want to have fun, every single person agrees with this issue. They agree that we need more funding, we need more support, but somehow it is not ok to call on the foundation that calls itself the Linux Foundation to maybe move a little bit of money, not a 100 million, not 50


million, but maybe like 1 million a year, 2 million a year off of projects like blockchain development, A.I. web development, devops, cloud, containers, visualization, and give some of that money to the people that are trying to make the Linux desktop a viable platform. I know the Linux Foundation does not care at all about the Linux desktop and that's the problem. Right? Like, imagine for a second if we had a foundation like the Linux Foundation backing the Linux desktop. We wouldn't have situations like the GNOME Foundation and the KDE Foundation where they can afford a couple of fulltime developers and they can do some contract work and they can have some interns and things like that but they can't have a big development force behind these projects and instead the development on these projects is primarily done by companies outside of these foundations, and we have the Linux


Foundation here, all of this funding, and I don't think it is wrong to call on the Foundation and call on Foundation partners to maybe divert a little bit of money to supporting the Linux desktop. Nobody has to take my opinion seriously. And nobody in a position of power is likely going to do so. But it doesn't change the fact that this is how I feel about the Linux Foundation. And this is not a new opinion I hold. And this is not some weird, fringe opinion that nobody out there has except like three or four people. I have heard very similar sentiments made by tons of people on the Linux desktop. But nothing is going to change. It would be nice if it changed. But, hey, we can only work with what we've got. At least there are really cool companies out there like Valve actually supporting the Linux desktop. At least there are companies, I know sometimes people don't like them, at least there are companies like Red Hat working on desktops


like GNOME. At least there are companies selling PCs like System76 and developing their own desktop. It's not like there's nothing out there, but I certainly wish there was more. But, what do you think? Let me know you your thoughts in the comment section down below. Would you like to see more support from the Linux Foundation? Do you think what the Linux Foundation is doing now is perfectly fine, and that's ok? I'd love to know. Let me know down below. If you liked the video, go and like the video. And if you really liked the video and you want to become one of these amazing people over here, check out the Patreon subscribers linked in the description down below. That's going to be it for me ... and let's play the clip again.

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