07.13.19

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Linux is Doing ‘Well’ Only for Those Who Dislike Software Freedom and Love Control Over Users

Posted in Deception, DRM, GNU/Linux, IBM, Kernel, Microsoft, Red Hat at 9:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Azure Running GNU/Linux Isn’t About ‘Love’ But About Control

Microsoft loves control

Summary: Linux, the kernel, has become a corporate playground or a sandbox that’s used to upsell proprietary software, including surveillance; freedom in Linux is gradually being diminished if not completely obliterated and it does not worry the foundations entrusted to guard against it

THE urgent need to return to old topics (hence this reader consultation) was realised some time last year, especially after we had seen various groups — OIN included — becoming mouthpieces of Microsoft and its PR/reputation laundering campaigns (e.g. "Microsoft loves Linux" at OIN). Months ago we also saw Microsoft staff (on Microsoft’s payroll) entering the Board of OSI, then speaking for the OSI in the OSI’s official blog. We responded similarly to the Microsoft/Novell deal, which yielded various other lies. Now there’s the IBM/Red Hat problem. As we noted last night, Alexandre Oliva, who refused to pursue (software) patents at Red Hat, very recently left the company. It’s pretty significant because he was one of the few in that company who truly valued Software Freedom (as in Free/libre software in its purest form). He told me he had declined this push for patents and days ago he told me that he no longer works for Red Hat. These companies no longer attract these high-calibre developers. These companies become incompatible with them. It’s not the developers who change; it’s those companies that change (Oliva cited problems associated with the company’s move to “the cloud” and some likely proprietary, privacy-hostile tools).

All of these things very much matter to Software Freedom (perhaps we should start capitalising that). “It is relevant to the OSI because the LF [Linux Foundation] is using its position to weaken and undermine the GPL rather than advance its for its advantages,” one reader told us. “However … As mentioned, I think the fundamental premise of the LF is wrong: it’s currently about representing the members’ interests inside Linux rather than advancing Linux itself and representing it to the world. That would be a very hard situation to turn around now that it has been allowed to develop for so long.”

We often feel guilty for, having covered European matters so closely for a number of years, dropping the ball on the LF situation. We barely wrote about it until earlier this year, whereupon sources came forth and gave us a lot of additional, invaluable information. Days ago Benjamin Henrion quoted his deceased friend, who suggested starting new initiatives rather than trying to repair broken ones. “I was thinking of that as an option as one way of ‘turning around’ the situation,” one reader then told us, urging us to cover these things at Techrights rather than pressuring the likes of OSI or LF to do the same. “For a new [Linux] foundation to have any relevance,” he added, “it falls nearly 100% on Linus being willing to pull up stakes and move to it. He still owns the trademark but is probably still uninterested in the bureaucracy. And all of that will involve a lot of money. I presume the current group has him tightly by the mortgage and college bills.”

Speaking personally, I’ve become more sympathetic towards Torvalds after what they did to him last year, indirectly removing (or shaming) him from his own project, even if just temporarily. It reminded me of what happened in Docker after Microsoft had gotten involved (Docker is nowadays in Microsoft’s pockets and the founder, who originally came from Red Hat, was pretty much ousted).

Looking at the latest from the Linux Foundation and Linux.com, I am rather frustrated. It has a very long history (OSDN, OSTG, then the golden days with Tina Gasperson and others under SourceForge). Over the past few days I kept asking my wife whether to cover this or how to even approach the issue without offending anyone*. It seems as though some generally good people have been ‘co-opted’ by the Foundation (and its corporate overlords), so I don’t think they deserve blasting, let alone naming. Attached to the pockets of millionaires like Jim Zemlin, these people are just desperate for a job or a gig (they’re vulnerable, poorly-paid writers swimming around ‘big sharks’ like Zemlin, funded by proprietary giants). Linux.com essentially shut down back in April, leaving some people unemployed or partly employed. Days ago we noticed that Linux.com sort of came back to life at a very limited capacity of just a couple of paragraphs a day, authored by “swapnilbhartiya” (the RSS feeds give that identity away; he’s sometimes linking to his own blog, where Foundation puff pieces get posted).

“Looking at the latest from the Linux Foundation and Linux.com, I am rather frustrated.”Well, if the Foundation is trying to revive Linux.com with just one writer doing about 2 paragraphs a day, including Microsoft promotion, then it’s using a site called “LINUX” (.com) to promote “Microsoft” and other Linux-hostile interests. Just before the weekend they advertised Microsoft, rendering it not too hard to see what these sellouts really are…

Some time on Friday they published: “Get a digest of original Linux and open source news and tutorials from Linux.com delivered to your inbox weekly.”

So there is at least some intent or a plan to make something of the site. On Friday morning Google News search results for “Linux” included several items from Linux.com, but 50% of the results were actually about Microsoft (promotion of Microsoft and Azure) and a quarter came from the Linux Foundation, so who’s this good for? You search for Linux, you get Microsoft (articles like this one or this one.) This is what Microsoft wants us to see in search results for “Linux”: Azure, WSL and so on.

“Linux.com essentially shut down back in April, leaving some people unemployed or partly employed.”Eric Brown, who used to write for Linux.com, has just done this Azure piece; there are also AWS pieces in similar sites about devices. What we see here has been brewing for a while and it’s getting worse all the time. My wife too complains about it. She wants to post news stories about Linux in Tux Machines, but RSS feeds are stuffed with Microsoft instead. Whose kernel is it now? IBM’s? Microsoft’s? Intel’s? Can we support Linux if it’s led and controlled by companies that use it to spread DRM? And Microsoft patent traps? Remember that Microsoft is still suing over it.

“Can we support Linux if it’s led and controlled by companies that use it to spread DRM?”We recently began wondering if Linux still holds the same promises of freedom the GNU project initially put forth. “I’d say yes for now,” one reader argued. “And especially support Linus himself. If he moves, follow.”

And when asked “what about other OSes?” (as in supporting Hurd, Guix etc.) this reader said: “Yes, though with caution. The FreeBSD Foundation has a very different structure and goal than the LF but is no less out of the sights of Microsoft. OpenBSD is quite insular but maybe a higher priority for Microsoft to crush. There are also trivial side projects like Haiku OS and ReactOS. I’m not in favor of the latter though it still deserves some respect as an Open Source project. There are also major disruptors flying for now under the radar. Fuchsia is the main one there and it carries a lot of danger along with its positive potential.”

This reader went on to expressing his concerns about IBM. “I really don’t know what to do about the IBM/RHT thing,” I confessed. “Or rather, not sure… that too needs to be clearly defined and time will tell (depending on what IBM does)…”

“Proprietary stuff gets built around “Linux” and then sold/rented. That’s not freedom; that’s arguably a ‘lesser’ form of digital slavery.”“I’m neutral on that,” the reader replied. “Close to 20 years ago, IBM invested $1 billion in the kernel and got that money back with profit within the year. So this purchase might turn out to be quite beneficial for RH. However, there is also a different generation involved at IBM now. Some of these have grown up on anti-GPL rhetoric and some have intentionally funded Poettering to name one of their money attacks. The risk I see from IBM is that they might be following the decommoditization strategy outlined in The Halloween Documents. They are in a position to do so, far more than Microsoft is. However, Microsoft is really trying that with Azure and, I suspect, moving more and more departments’ budgets under Azure to give the illusion of growth. Fake-it-till-you-make-it is admired in the business community and those chumps are Microsoft target still.”

IBM won’t profit from “Linux”; it will profit from stuff like RHEL subscription (supporting systemd and Wayland or other Red Hat-centric things when they break); Microsoft profits from Azure and WSL helps Microsoft push Vista 10 at the expense of GNU/Linux. Surely the likes of Torvalds understand that. How they feel about it and what they do (if anything) about it is another question altogether. Proprietary stuff gets built around “Linux” and then sold/rented. That’s not freedom; that’s arguably a ‘lesser’ form of digital slavery.

“Torvalds is wealthy enough to run the kernel on his own, even without a salary.”The Linux Foundation was supposed to prevent one single company from controlling Torvalds (and by extension the kernel) through salaries; at the end, however, it controls him collectively on behalf of companies that are largely hostile towards freedom. So what is really achieved by that? Torvalds is wealthy enough to run the kernel on his own, even without a salary.
_____
* I’ve said dozens more things in microblogs over the past week or two, but they were not too significant and might cause offense (although likely to those who deserve it… for helping foes of Linux).

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2 Comments

  1. ccady said,

    July 14, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Gravatar

    I think, as a community, we need to excise linux.com and the Linux Foundation. One of the most effective ways to do this would be for Linus to fork Linux, or possibly just leave the foundation. I cannot make that decision for him, as it is a good salary. As a community, it is easy for corporations to come up with enough cash to pay some salaries, but is it possible for “the community” to do so?

  2. Canta said,

    July 14, 2019 at 2:04 pm

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    @ccady
    Names matter. I still know of people who install openoffice not knowing of libreoffice and its history. If we let the “linux” name to the enemy, I believe it will be a great defeat that will haunt us for the whole next decade at least.

    What you suggest about paying Linus salary is technically possible (and I want it to happen), but I think it’s overal unfeasible. It’s the “indie” economy, where a bunch of followers pay the rent for the content creator to keep on working. That’s the youtube and gaming economy, that started more like in music, and historically goes back to rich people backing up talented artists. But a collateral damage of that is the creation of different star systems, where a few faces get money and a lot of other important people does not. Also, this “indie” systems are weak to corporate attacks, and they can sue a defenseless project for whatever reason, or even buy the project like nothing.

    I don’t think there are any easy solution to this. We, as the community, need to form standard bodies (or whatever formal organization for the matter) that have enough power to push an agenda and at the same time resist the constant big corp aggression. The problem I see is that big corp has too much power on tech standars, and common people barely has any voice if at all.

    I believe, in the current context, it should be faced as problems for we, the tech people, as labor problems. For example: when I started using GNU/Linux back in the 2000′s, it wasn’t because I was aware of the FSF work, but because I was tired of Microsoft constantly changing the way I was supposed to do my job: by 2007 (I don’t fully remember) I felt I had like four different “proper way” to connect to a f$@*&ng database to do the same queries I was doing for years whithout ANY problem, with no real benefit for me, but very closely related in timing to new Microsoft products launch (like new .NET framework or SQL Server version). It was madness to stay up to date, and I felt it as a LABOR RIGHTS problem (and not HUMAN RIGHTS in general, as the FSF work). I felt I needed protection against a commercial practice that was an abuse, and was making my job unhealthy. That’s how I got to GNU: by running away from M$ LABOR practices. Yet, to this day, I don’t see people organizing against that kind of things in IT: they most likely feel the unnecesary constant change as a natural thing that we need to adequate to, and call it pretty things like “innovation”. And it’s not: it’s big corp business and culture. Next decade it happened again to web frontend, and now something beautiful an simple as html+css+js is a tremendously overcomplicated thing.

    Those examples are somewhat unrelated, but this we’re seeing in LF and Linux.com is the same kind of things anyway: big corp feasting on our work and culture. And it will continue to happen unless somebody put a limit on it.

    The same way this may be felt as labor rights problems, they may also be faced as consumer rights problems: there SHOULD be organizations that say “my netbook should still be able to read the news as it did five/ten years ago”. But whatever the context, what I try to say is that we need civil/workers/common-people organizations tackling this issues in order to bring some kind of balance against big corp activities.

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