Bonum Certa Men Certa

What Might Be Behind OpenBSD's Attack Against Peers

"Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

--Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO



Yesterday I attended an inspirational talk from Richard Stallman that contained many familiar bits, a healthy dose of humour and an interesting questions session, which touched on the AGPL, GPLv3 and other currently-debated topics that are more about the present than about the past.

Stallman's vision is a very scary one to those who have the most to lose. It puts in jeopardy many of those who suppress and exploit the most, but again, this philosophical discussion needn't be repeated. What's more concerning are the personal attacks against Stallman, some of which are intended to distract people from his important message and place focus on things like appearance, politics and various forms of disinformation, including deliberate misinterpretation of Stallman's jokes. We covered some examples of this before and so has Bruce Perens (also see this response from the OSC).

“We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat.”In the news digests that we post in this Web site we happen to include announcements and reports about the BSDs because they really ought to be our friends. We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat. There is hardly any justification for hostility. So why do we see people fighting?

Theo de Raadt has a good sense of humour and he is very outspoken. He deserves credit for pressuring insidious companies like Intel to open up properly. As you may or may not know, OpenBSD 4.3 has just been released, but Theo is once again taking a shot at Stallman. He did this recently also. Why, Theo, why? Is he once again trying to receive greater publicity by mocking someone whose licence is more widely used?

Several people who are very familiar with BSD seem to suggest that some certain company in north-west America might -- just might --- be using one rival project against the other. This doesn't mean there's a conspiracy or that an agreement exists, but such things can be done more gently with subtle moves such as an invitation for a visit or a meeting with Microsoft-sympathetic figures, poisonous messages 'injected' into a mailing list, or anything else that incites hostility and encourages division.

Some people would say that all of this is far-fetched and rather silly. Fine. That's acceptable. This is only a speculation. However, it would be foolish to ignore some things that we are already aware of, such as this 'smoking gun' internal document from Microsoft which served as an antitrust exhibit in Comes vs Microsoft (Iowa). The court exhibit [PDF], whose authenticity has already been confirmed, is available from at least 3 sites which hold a mirror. It's a very large item to explore, so to quote one fragment of relevance (from Microsoft's own mouth):

"Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog. We need to know who their allies are and what differences exist between them and their allies (there are always sources of tension between allies), so that we can find ways to split 'em apart. Reading the trade press, lurking on newsgroups, attending conferences, and (above all) talking to ISVs is essential to gathering this intelligence."

Yes, Microsoft wants to "find ways to split 'em apart." Microsoft needs to do some intelligence work to identify "sources of tension between allies." BSD versus GPL, anyone?

For more context see this overview of "The Slog", along the marketing "road trip" Microsoft refers to as "Jihad" (holy war). It has been seen many times before (even by myself, e.g. in USENET) that one common technique used by Mucnhkins is to divide people who share common goals.

Sometimes, in order to disguise or reduce suspicion, fake accounts and names are created whose character and postings are made solely for the purpose of defending one half of the crowd that supports Free software and attacking the other half of the very same crowd. Elevation of tensions is the purpose. Microsoft makes 'civil wars' beyond 'enemy lines' [1, 2]. Militaries use similar tactics and some nations go as far as providing physical ammunition for one country to devastate another.

Disclaimer: I like BSD and I use some BSD-licensed software. The purpose of this post is to make friends, not accusations.

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