09.03.20

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Trust vs. Liking vs. Helping vs. Working With vs. Accepting vs. Agreeing vs. Defending

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:36 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Firm handshake

Summary: One year after Richard Stallman (RMS) got ‘canceled’ we look back at the underlying methods used to achieve destruction of Free software, based on Microsoft’s own memos

I don’t trust Bruce Perens or Linus Torvalds, but I sort of like Perens. I accept that Torvalds is the best person to lead the Linux project of those available. I also think he is the best person to choose a successor, but now that will not happen. He would not have chosen GKH, but he will now — the choice is not really his own.

I like RMS; I trust him to make decisions without being corrupted, but not to always trust the right people — not after what happened. I agree with him on a long list of things, but certainly not everything.

“I accept that Torvalds is the best person to lead the Linux project of those available. I also think he is the best person to choose a successor, but now that will not happen.”The phrase “working with” has several slightly different uses, from having co-workers, to being on the same project, to two separate projects assisting each other, to communicating and sometimes cooperating with another person.

I don’t like, trust, accept, nor am I willing to work with Devuan. I used it for a significant amount of time, but compared to Debian the software is slightly better — the community is arguably worse. On the surface of both Debian and Devuan, both are absolutely no problem at all. I would warn anybody against relying on either of them, especially if they intend to have any significant involvement.

Funny then, that I like both Dyne.org and its founder. I think of the Free Software organisations out there, Dyne is one of the better ones. This simply does not extend to every project under their umbrella. Note that Dyne is one of the few organisations that came out immediately to defend rms — but there are other factors that play a significant role in my opinion of Dyne.

“Note that Dyne is one of the few organisations that came out immediately to defend rms — but there are other factors that play a significant role in my opinion of Dyne.”I agree with Perens on many things, and I will defend some things about people I don’t even like. The best reason to do this is because some of those things are more important than the person. Freedom of association is also pretty important stuff, but that does not mean you have to trust someone from a company that is bent on destroying or controlling your project.

Torvalds has generally shown a certain level of integrity when it comes to maintaining the kernel — this will not apply when his input into the project is entirely negated. He has less real say than he used to, and it shows. He is the fall guy for decisions made over his head, though I don’t merely dislike Torvalds as a person — I think he lacks integrity as a person, and when he talks, but I think he shows it when he reviews code.

This doesn’t mean I agree with every decision he’s ever made, just that I would put his decision-making for the kernel in a very high percentile — probably above any competitors. But as a person I think he’s a schmuck, and a shill — I don’t think it matters at all that he’s an asshole (I have no problem with that at all, really) but as a shill he does real damage.

“Linus is capable of making choices that will benefit the project he started — even if I think he is dishonest when he speaks.”Would I kick him out of maintaining the kernel? No, because there is no better person to replace him. Would I hope he chooses a successor? He would have to eventually, unless someone chooses for him. The latter will happen, and it won’t be as good as if Linus chose. Linus is capable of making choices that will benefit the project he started — even if I think he is dishonest when he speaks.

But just because I don’t like him or trust him in general, doesn’t mean I will like the choice he doesn’t get the opportunity to make. Some things are simply more important (even to me) than my general feelings about a person. So I think focusing too much on that to the exclusion of all else is a very big mistake — very likely (we aren’t just going on hunches here) even by design.

Has Torvalds been attacked unfairly? Some of the attacks are certainly unfair — and that makes some of them interesting and relevant. As a recent article pointed out, not every question people have asked Torvalds was an honest or fair question. Are there worse people? Absolutely — I like the people they want to replace him with even less.

“I agree with Linus that respect is something that is earned — I also think there is a base level of respect that everybody deserves to start out with.”Why care about whether someone is fair to Torvalds? Because the same tactics could be used against someone we actually trust and like. But then… we predicted exactly that weeks (and really months) before that actually happened. So does it matter that some of the attacks against Torvalds (schmuck that he is) were part of a larger and deliberately dishonest pattern designed to weaken Free Software? (Do we really even have to ask?)

In the big picture, all of these things actually matter to some degree. They don’t all matter equally, and all of them happen in a context that either mitigates or exacerbates one problem or another.

The goal of P.R. is to downplay problems that will hurt their client’s opponents, and exaggerate problems that (by exaggerating them) will help their clients; to overcomplicate (thus obfuscate) simple truths, and to oversimplify (thus gloss over) complex problems. Treating problems this way actually creates new problems, and the chaos that ensues can be exploited by those who are experienced at handling it deftly.

I agree with Linus that respect is something that is earned — I also think there is a base level of respect that everybody deserves to start out with. This is not always given, and there is probably room for improvement.

“To some people, the Linux kernel is nothing — they use a different kernel, they may have no use for “Linux” at all.”The idea of base level of respect that is given is something that manipulators are keen to exploit, and this is one of the dangers of thinking anybody is really owed respect. A base level of respect can really help everybody, including a project — it can also be used to subvert and decapitate a project, such as the GNU Project or sub-projects within Debian.

Trying to establish a base level of respect for volunteers may prove worthwhile, but doing so while ignoring the pitfalls will only put the project in the hands of those who benefit from its destruction — companies that do not want to compete fairly, but that can afford an army of P.R. people to gloss over any wrong they do — including exploiting and abusing workers.

I have no problem with the way Linus ran the kernel — I have a problem with his dishonest and double standard about what constitutes “hate”. I have a problem with him smearing people without which the Linux kernel would be next to nothing. To some people, the Linux kernel is nothing — they use a different kernel, they may have no use for “Linux” at all.

I would like to be one of those people. But I am still using his kernel sometimes.

“Maybe there is a baseline of trust we tend to give people, much like there is a baseline of respect.”There is nothing likely to improve the kernel at this point, but there are several things on the horizon that are likely to make it worse. At some point, a comparison of Linux and another kernel will likely yield no reason to favour it over something else — no reason at all. We aren’t there yet, but I would like to have immediate options when Linux becomes that poor of an option. I am exploring my options today, in hopes of being prepared for that event.

There are many people I like, trust and am happy to work with, who I do not agree with on the viability of GNU/Linux in the future. Some people will consider this an attack on GNU or an endorsement of non-free firmware. I find that very irritating.

I’m using GNU/Linux right now to type this, but unfortunately (after many years of using a kernel without non-free firmware, very resolutely at that) I have run out of distros that have any respect for freedom that also feature a kernel that removes non-free firmware. The reason for this is simple: there are very few kernels or distros that bother. My interest in a fully-free kernel has not waned, I have amply demonstrated it over many years, and I am still pursuing (and promoting) the use of such a kernel.

It may take time to catch up in that regard, but I refuse to fall much farther behind on other fronts — I refuse to use an OS we have no control over at all, for a kernel that respects my freedom, but only so long as I use an OS with no freedom in its future. To me that is perfectly sound, but it has not been “blessed” while the blessed alternative option continues to erode.

“Sometimes, that competition is us. And they will do whatever is in their power to make that difficult for us to sustain, even if that includes co-opting and destroying our work and our communities.”Some things are glossed over and simplified, others are made overly complicated to mislead. I do not have patience or tolerance for either. I have very little tolerance for any person who insists on being a shill — or for a decent person who is fooled by such nonsense and decides to question my choices based on being manipulated themselves.

Of course, the nice thing for me about my decisions is that they’re mine. That doesn’t mean I don’t care what anybody thinks. It means I don’t necessarily care what EVERYBODY thinks.

Trust, like respect, is earned. Maybe there is a baseline of trust we tend to give people, much like there is a baseline of respect.

But with enough abuse of that respect, and abuse of that trust, the baseline is sure to drop.

“Microsoft tries harder than any other company to kill free software this way.”I’m sure there is someone who can take advantage of that, but I don’t have a very high baseline of trust (or respect) for those people.

This is one thing that current baselines of respect do not take into account. How much lying, abuse and exploitation (of users, of volunteers) are you expected to tolerate before “assuming good faith” and a baseline of respect is null and void?

They gloss over that part. But for those who try to gloss over what I’m saying by insinuating that there is no point — I’ve already said it. Some things are more complicated, some things are simple.

But they like to frame those things in a way that helps their clients, and hurts their competition. Sometimes, that competition is us. And they will do whatever is in their power to make that difficult for us to sustain, even if that includes co-opting and destroying our work and our communities.

“I don’t think you should trust any company that adopts the tactics Microsoft uses.”“Capturing OSS benefits — Developer Mindshare”

“Put out parts of the source code — try to generate hacker interest in adding value to MS-sponsored code bases.”

“Monitor OSS news groups. Learn new ideas and hire the best/brightest individuals.”

“How can we recreate the OSS development environment internally?”

“There is no central set of servers to find, install, review the code from projects outside your immediate scope. Even simply providing a central repository for debug symbols would be a huge improvement.”

“MS has an opportunity to really exploit the web for developer evangelization.”

“But I remember in the late 80s and early 90s, when “Linux” was just getting started, and people didn’t want to pay attention to AIDS because it was considered just something that happened to homosexuals and drug users. You want a cure, they said? Don’t be gay, don’t do drugs.”Obviously none of these decades-old notes on how to co-opt free software are “relevant” to what’s happening now in 2020. They are from the same document, written first by Vinod Valloppillil in August of 1998, and filed as public evidence in January 2007.

Microsoft tries harder than any other company to kill free software this way. That doesn’t mean that other companies don’t adopt similar tactics, when they are shown to work. I don’t think you should trust any company that adopts the tactics Microsoft uses. Microsoft continues to use them, and people continue to work with both Microsoft and other companies making the same kind of efforts to destroy the decades of work Free software has done.

Why? Because some people would rather read an article like this and pretend not to get the point of it, than learn that such tactics were not only used, but planned and then carried out.

“But if you take the time (most people don’t) to get past that P.R. bullshit, you get at the real causes and real effects of the problem, and how to try to fix it.”This is why free software is dying. This is exactly what is killing or has killed it.

But I remember in the late 80s and early 90s, when “Linux” was just getting started, and people didn’t want to pay attention to AIDS because it was considered just something that happened to homosexuals and drug users. You want a cure, they said? Don’t be gay, don’t do drugs.

It sidestepped the reality of addiction, and the reality of AIDS (as science gained importance over from sheer rhetoric, people eventually focused on HIV, the actual cause rather than the symptomatic disease) but this made the public content that they didn’t need to worry about it. Not gay? Not doing drugs? No problem.

Why do more people think free software is dying?

1. It isn’t.

“Pretending AIDS wasn’t a problem for most people actually made HIV dangerous to more people.”2. It doesn’t matter, Free Software (Open Source) “already won anyway”.

3. It’s not dying, people are just complaining about neckbeards and bigots being “cancelled” (which isn’t a real thing either).

But if you take the time (most people don’t) to get past that P.R. bullshit, you get at the real causes and real effects of the problem, and how to try to fix it.

Pretending AIDS wasn’t a problem for most people actually made HIV dangerous to more people. Deciding the problem did exist and mattered to more (most) people, made it possible to get funding (read: “necessary attention from the public”) for finding real solutions and this (rather than blanket dismissal) is actually what brought HIV rates down around so much of the world. Where is the problem the worst even now? In places where there is still heavy denial (or beliefs in the way of a real solution — but also where people are too poor to fix it).

“But with regards to Tobacco, to Oil, the Environment and even the toxicity of substances like lead, there have long been shills that are very well paid and very well organised to lobby government and the public alike, to downplay problems, discredit workable solutions (as ineffective, overly costly, or otherwise undesirable) and even promote non-solutions.”This doesn’t mean I agree with every solution — some treatments are better than others. Lemon juice (used with a sponge) may actually kill HIV and act as a natural contraceptive.

Does that mean it is the best way to do either? Of course not! Whether it’s really even “better than nothing” is a matter for science, but as the page says, “Lemon juice is not recommended by any medical authority that we are aware of.

Not every solution approved by medical authorities is necessarily safe, either — some “cures” come with their own risks and costs, while others prove to be dangerous later, when better testing of those solutions are available.

“It is naive (most especially at this point) to think that the Free Software is immune to all this, or that this sort of thing is not happening to Free Software right now.”But with regards to Tobacco, to Oil, the Environment and even the toxicity of substances like lead, there have long been shills that are very well paid and very well organised to lobby government and the public alike, to downplay problems, discredit workable solutions (as ineffective, overly costly, or otherwise undesirable) and even promote non-solutions.

It is naive (most especially at this point) to think that the Free Software is immune to all this, or that this sort of thing is not happening to Free Software right now.

What’s more, is that one of the best ways you can help Free Software today (as it was with AIDS) is to fight the shills who insinuate that this is only about neckbeards and bigots, and help to bring sunlight to the truth of the matter — that is the route to saving the Free Software world.

Also from 1998: the Open Source Initiative

“What an incredible year that was — what an incredible year 1998 still is, today.”Also from 1998: the DMCA

Also from 1998: “How Microsoft Is Like Big Tobacco”

What an incredible year that was — what an incredible year 1998 still is, today. The big effects we see now, were like a butterfly flapping its wings more than 20 years ago.

The past is even more relevant today than it was at the time. What’s happening now that people could be talking about in 20 years? Probably not that “neckbeards and bigots” were the biggest problems the Free Software movement had in 2020.

“You can only use P.R. to control an IMAGE, or perception — but never a PROCESS! “But as with so many things, that depends who (and what) you put your trust in. Maybe that in turn, all depends on how you decide. But is that process something that can be controlled or manipulated? And how?

Not that it’s anybody’s job or anything. I mean that’s not what P.R. companies like the ones representing Big Tobacco do. You can only use P.R. to control an IMAGE, or perception — but never a PROCESS!

For that, you need lobbyists — they have nothing in common with P.R. people.

“To understand how to compete against OSS, we must target a process rather than a company.” –Microsoft

“The paper on ‘Open Source Software’ provides general process weaknesses. Here, we’ll try to list only the weaknesses that are unique to Linux.” –Microsoft

“A more generalized assessment of how to beat the Open Source Software process which begat Linux is contained in the ‘Open Source Software’ document.” –Microsoft

Long live rms, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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