07.28.09

Linus Torvalds’ Attitude Towards Free Software is Not News

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Microsoft at 3:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reading a newspaper

Summary: Setting the record straight on news that’s not news

SEVERAL years ago, Microsoft was accused of spreading the false rumour that Linux had been derived from Minix. It was a lie, and some people still think it is true.

Microsoft’s loadable module for Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] has demonstrated the strengths of the GPL, but Linus Torvalds continues to disrespect those who made the GPL possible. This is not news. FSF disdain from Torvalds has lasted an eternity, yet some people try to characterise his latest interview with Linux Magazine as some sort of change of heart; it’s not. As I pointed out 3 years ago, Torvalds even had a comment deleted for cursing Richard Stallman in Groklaw.

Regarding Microsoft’s loadable module, Free Software Magazine has just written an article explaining why Torvalds’ attitude is wrong.

Torvalds seemed to express indifference to the submission which he dismissed as only being about device drive code. If he looks at it at all it will be after it has been filtered through others, and even then only out of a sense of “morbid curiosity” apparently. The code is concerned with virtualizing GNU/Linux as a guest in Windows. That tells you a lot about Microsoft’s motives. If clients can’t run GNU/Linux on Hyper-V, Windows’ virtualization software, it makes it more likely that they would migrate to wholly free and open source systems running on wholly free and open systems.

Torvalds does the right thing by accepting Microsoft’s code (he hasn’t a choice), but the dismissal of the vigilant as irrational Microsoft Haters© is very unproductive but also very typical.

“Giving the Linus Torvalds Award to the Free Software Foundation is a bit like giving the Han Solo Award to the Rebel Alliance.”

Richard Stallman

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11 Comments

  1. eet said,

    July 28, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Gravatar

    I’m all with Linus on this one. After all I (and you) am running HIS system on my computers, not R. Stallman’s.

    BTW, were you the one who asked Hubert Figuiere ‘Why did you write Gnote?’

    Well, you can read his answer now on his blog: http://www.figuiere.net/hub/blog/?2009/07/27/680-why-i-did-write-gnote

    Some quotes:
    [blockquote]I wrote Gnote to answer two questions:

    - How can I have Tomboy functionality on my custom openSUSE image I made for my EEE PC, that will fit the 2GB?
    - Is it easy to port a C# application to C++?

    For the rest, you all know what happened: the anti-Mono crowd took it as their victory, started FUDing, etc. Barely nobody asked me why I had written that code, compared to the many that actually thought I was supporting their cause.

    And if you still think I hate Mono think again. I worked for the company that pushes Mono (and still wish I was)[/blockquote]

    To summ it up: Looks like he won’t be mis-used as a figurehead for your dubious cause. Hubert Figuiere is a pragmatist; like Linus; like the overwhelming majority of developers, who happen to be level-headed. Unlike certain ideologists who instead of writing software only tell others what software not to use.

    Jose_X Reply:

    eet, I think I’m a little cranky today. Don’t mind the tone below.

    >> I’m all with Linus on this one. After all I (and you) am running HIS system on my computers, not R. Stallman’s.

    If by “his” you mean code over which he owns the copyrights, then I think the Linux I am running has less than 1/10 of 1% that belongs to Linus. [I pulled that number from the air, but keep in mind that would be about 1/1000th. I assume source code lines out of the total. It's an imperfect metric.]

    I’m not attacking Linus. I’m speaking for the many that are less in the spotlight than he is.

    >> BTW, were you the one who asked Hubert Figuiere ‘Why did you write Gnote?’

    The very day of the announcement (or soon thereafter), he had closed discussion on the article quickly, I believe, to keep the anti-mono noise out. [I don't have the link handy]

    Since then, I read him (at least once if not twice) commenting in other blogs also with a tone of sympathy towards mono.

    I would not be surprised if he is or was under NDA because his remarks appear to be of one that wants to say more than he is saying. [Obviously, I'm just guessing.]

    And, changing to C++ likely does not change many important parts of the structure of the app, which means you still can have many significant patent issues. See: http://boycottnovell.com/2009/02/04/the-api-trap-part-1/ .

    His “proof of concept” effectively provides some “excuses” to remain with mono.

    None of this is news.

    >> Unlike certain ideologists who instead of writing software only tell others what software not to use.

    The FSF has many developer-contributors. There are many people (even Linux kernel contributors) using the GPLv3 (or at least GPLv2 or later) and disliking Microsoft.

    There are people not contributing source code who want to help preserve the system in other ways and believe they are helping by speaking of the threats mono poses.

    eet, what software has Ballmer or Gates written lately? You should be on their case for speaking bad about Linux, the GPL, and competitors writing lots of code, etc.

    Maybe the money Ballmer/Gates make is indicative of what one can make when you get aggressive about threats.

    zatoichi Reply:

    I would not be surprised if he is or was under NDA because his remarks appear to be of one that wants to say more than he is saying. [Obviously, I'm just guessing.]

    That’s not “guessing”, Jose, that’s “reaching”.

    Jose, Hub’s writing in his own blog. With regard to whom could he possibly be under NDA?

    eet Reply:

    There are people not contributing source code who want to help preserve the system in other ways and believe they are helping by speaking of the threats mono poses.

    That’s not helping. If it really was about legal risks, you would leave it to the lawyers; this is about Microsoft-hatred and paranoia, nothing else.

    eet, what software has Ballmer or Gates written lately?

    As much as Richard Stallmann, I would say. These three are managers and PR-people; just the kind of unconstructive people without whose ‘contributions’ I could live perfectly fine.

    About Hubert, Lefty has already said it all.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 28, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Gravatar

    “Really, I’m not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect.”
    - Linus Torvalds

    eet Reply:

    How much better this sounds than the preachy stance of RMS, doesn’t it.

  3. zatoichi said,

    July 28, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Gravatar

    Linus Torvalds continues to disrespect those who made the GPL possible.

    This is preposterous, Roy, based on the latest interview with Linus, unless you consider the folks on this site, for example, to be “those who made the GPL possible”. I’d like to see the reasoning behind this statement.

  4. zatoichi said,

    July 28, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Gravatar

    …what software has Ballmer or Gates written lately?

    What software have you written lately, Jose?

    (And since I can’t get an answer out of Roy as to whether he “supports the FSF”—leading me to believe the answer is “no”—do you support the FSF, Jose? if so, how? If not, why not?

  5. Jose_X said,

    July 28, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Gravatar

    [eet] >> That’s not helping. If it really was about legal risks, you would leave it to the lawyers; this is about Microsoft-hatred and paranoia, nothing else.

    Lawyers interpret under the context of law and usually not business strategy or engineering. “Everyone” has access to lawyers, yet many groups come to different conclusions over risks and strategy after consulting their lawyers.

    [zatoichi] >> With regard to whom could he possibly be under NDA?

    I explained why I considered he might be under NDA. It was a thought. And I did say is or was.

    [eet said] >> like the overwhelming majority of developers, who happen to be level-headed. Unlike certain ideologists who instead of writing software only tell others what software not to use.

    [I said] >> eet, what software has Ballmer or Gates written lately? You should be on their case for speaking bad about Linux, the GPL, and competitors writing lots of code, etc.

    [zatoichi replied] >> What software have you written lately, Jose?

    David, you do see the goose/gander connection, right? If people that don’t write software should not be giving advice on software use (as I think eet suggested), then this would apply to Ballmer and Gates as well. Given how much advice and opinions they have given in the past, I would think eet should be hot and heavy on their trail.

    I don’t write software frequently. Hope to start that back up in earnest. However, I did write not long ago javascript (tested on firefox only) that took stock brokerage trades in various formats (from various online brokerage firms) and produced a nicely formatted 1040 Schedule D-1. This was created for my needs, so it is missing functionality and generality. It also involved some manual cut-n-paste to get things going.

    Whenever/if I get back to that, I would like to clean it up and see what format I’ll convert it to so that other people can use it.

    Anyway, you might be making a similar error as eet if you are insinuating that those that don’t write software can’t provide useful opinions or advice.

    For example, lawyers don’t usually write software.

  6. eet said,

    July 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Gravatar

    If people that don’t write software should not be giving advice on software use (as I think eet suggested), then this would apply to Ballmer and Gates as well. Given how much advice and opinions they have given in the past, I would think eet should be hot and heavy on their trail.

    Since when do we take the propaganda from Ballmer or Gates as advice in the Linux camp?

    No; no, this doesn’t apply. We were talking about who to listen to, and Ballmers and Gates, I THINK, we can rule out…

  7. zatoichi said,

    July 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Gravatar

    If people that don’t write software should not be giving advice on software use (as I think eet suggested), then this would apply to Ballmer and Gates as well.

    As surprising as you might find this, I don’t actually take advice from Messrs. Ballmer and Gates on software use. I don’t think too many people take them all that seriously when they talk about the GPL, and—having agreed that there’s nothing wrong with the GPL, after all, and that it’s the right license to use when submitting code to the kernel—they’ll look pretty darned silly if they try to talk smack about it in the future, won’t they?

    It’s a free country and people can talk about whatever they like, Jose. But if it’s wrong for ideologists like Ballmer and Gates to tell people what software not to use, then it’s equally wrong for ideologists on the free software side—and even more wrong if you’re serious about “freedom”, since that has to include other people’s freedom to do think you don’t happen to enjoy—to tell people what software not to use.

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