Bonum Certa Men Certa

Linus Torvalds is Wrong on Some Technical and Legal Issues, Set Aside All the Political Correctness 'Hooey'



Summary: Some people would rather talk about words, not code; and the aim seems to be removing lots of people who actually do all the coding, not much of the talking

UNLIKE some people, I sympathise with Linus Torvalds and I mostly view him as 'oppressed' by the Linux Foundation (which he may find hard to leave because of his salary, now approaching 2 million dollars a year, including compensation/bonuses). Torvalds may not be a very likeable and amicable person (speak to people whom he blasted or rejected, such as Con Kolivas), but let's face it -- he gets the job done. Well, he used to anyway.



His job is being further complicated by people who push crappy code and then complain about the response to that crappy code. Can teachers be reprimanded by parents for grading their children's exams to the point where these children cry? Omitted from the above video is the somewhat rudely framed question (given its context). It was a so-called 'question' (more like an attack) that feels a bit like an ambush, in effect inviting Torvalds for a long-winded Q&A in a Debian event only to greet him with grilling and rather impolite accusations 'at the altar' -- within minutes of him stepping on the podium. Notice how Torvalds responds to the applause. What the heck was that? After this sort of 'entrapment' they tried to 'cancel' him, as this morning's leaks show. There's no way to 'win' such 'arguments'; it's more like a 'set-up'. Jono Bacon did this to me 11 years ago on live TV. I never forgot that; he tried to hold me accountable for things said by some person whom I merely exchanged a couple of E-mails with (and did so without even knowing that person!).

The Free software community is clearly under some form of sophisticated attack and we do, over time, improve our general understanding of it (more on that later, maybe a separate post some other day). A lot of that comes from moneyed interests, nothing idealistic or a legitimate difference in ideology (unless money itself is officially an "ideology" now).

What we've been seeing is a bunch of people whose technical skills boil down to removing a line from a "Planet" syndication list (i.e. censorship) or passing some "code of conflict" (censorship guidelines), which has nothing to do with code but social policing for the most part. Tinkering with people and gossip rather than something of a truly technical nature. Like arguing over which filesystem beats others, based on particular merits.

There's much to be said about the diversion of discussion to shaming and patronising tones. We really should be talking about issues such as copyrights and patents, not some choice of words in a mailing list few people bother reading.

Several hours ago Ryan reminded us that with WSL, for example, Microsoft distributes Linux (or even through Novell in 2007 if not 2006; then there's the whole Azure thing) the patent issue is being mostly removed, but Linux is GPLv2, not v3.

In Ryan's words: "GPL 3 significantly interfered with more Microsoft-Novell style deals. Ironically, it dealt with one of the issues Torvalds called bullshit on. "We own everything and there's 217 patents Linux infringes on, but we won't show them to you.". Putting a big chunk of the OS that would be difficult if not impossible to replace under the GPL 3 stopped one particularly nasty way that Microsoft was going to the sleazier "Linux" companies and entering into secretive deals. We don't know what the deal with "Linspire" and "Xandros" were. They might have paid THEM to make it look like companies had settled."

Microsoft paid Michael Robertson a lot of money to change the name of Lindows to Linspire, recognising that Windows was a weak trademark Microsoft would likely lose if a legal battle went ahead. We know this based on people close to Linspire and Robertson (former employees). They recently told us about it in the IRC channels.

"It was impossible for anyone to miss how corrupt Michael Robertson was," Ryan noted. "I laughed that while he was putting that MP3 locker thing into bankruptcy he was still selling annual subscriptions and the site didn't mention the bankruptcy. Unexpired subscriptions to a service that goes bankrupt is like HH Gregg gift cards."

The name "Linspire" is still around, but not the same people. Linspire -- like Novell -- we used to fight fiercely after it had joined Microsoft patent/FUD attack on GNU/Linux in 2007. Those are the sorts of things we ought to be discussing, not some CoC enforcement nonsense (because some people feel hurt when other people dislike them or can't stand their code/program). The Debian-Private mailing list archives from 1996-1997 contain many examples of banishment and expulsions, as well as a lot of apologies and cases of amicable reconciliation (we won't cite examples because of people's dignity/privacy, but we've already spotted about half a dozen, often boiling down to misunderstandings). Thought-policing in the Free software community is an impediment to Free speech rights; we cannot have software freedom if we cannot learn to tolerate opinions we strongly disagree with. Bombings and blackmail are a lot more objectionable (or "offensive") than the F word in some mailing list (not even an article, just some E-mails few people read).

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