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Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises - Updated
Friday, October 13 2006 @ 03:26 PM EDT

I thought you might enjoy to read something written some years ago by Caldera System's Dean Zimmerman on the history of Linux, in a "Channel Marketing White Paper" titled "OpenLinux and Open Source" [PDF]. One of the stated purposes behind writing the paper was to answer Microsoft FUD about Linux. He begins, as one must, with Stallman's contributions, his purpose, and the reasons for inventing the GPL. And since we are currently seeing what appears to me to be a coordinated campaign of smears against Richard Stallman, I thought it would be in the recursive tradition to let Caldera Systems itself answer Stallman's critics.

: )

Because they do, in this paper. And you'll find some other gems in there that prove SCO's claims regarding methods and concepts to be exactly what you thought they were. But it's nice to have proof.

From the opening section of the paper:

A Brief History of Linux

We can all be grateful for the careful and concise writing of Ganesh C. Prasad, whose monumental document, "The Practical Manager's Guide to Linux," includes this brief history:

"From a purely technical standpoint, Linux is just another variant of Unix. What makes it unique is something other than its technology. To really understand the reasons for its amazing popularity, it may be worth delving into a bit of history.

"The GNU project was started in 1984 by Richard Stallman, a researcher at MIT's Artificial Intelligence labs, in reaction to the (then) new practice of keeping source code secret and enforcing software licensing. Stallman saw the withdrawal of source code as a curtailment of programmers' freedom to modify and improve software. He also saw the license restrictions on copying as being at odds with his philosophy of being a good neighbour and sharing ideas. So he set out to rewrite all the software then commonly in use, single-handed if need be, and make it free for everyone to use, modify and redistribute, without any restrictions. (A task as enormous as this would have put off a lesser man, but Stallman's determination, self-confidence and technical skill are now legendary.) His goal was to recreate a complete operating environment that was free of such restrictions, with all the tools and utilities that a computer user would ever need.

"The model he chose was Unix, because it was technically better than the other operating systems of the day. But because he was against the restrictive licensing of Unix by AT&T, he called his project by a recursive acronym, GNU, for 'GNU's Not Unix'.

"(Free software programmers often display a wacky sense of humor. For example, the free equivalent of the Unix Bourne shell is called bash, for 'Bourne again shell'.

"Richard Stallman proved to be a formidable hacker. (He uses the word 'hacker' in the positive sense of master programmer, reserving the word 'cracker' for people who break into systems.) He single-handedly wrote free versions of many popular Unix utilities. Among his lasting software contributions are the GNU C compiler gcc and the emacs text editor.

"Richard Stallman established the Free Software Foundation to raise funds to produce free software. For him, the 'free' in free software refers to freedom, not price. He is not against software being sold for money as long as the source code is available and others programmers have full rights to modify and redistribute the software. As he is fond of saying, 'When you say Free, think free speech, not free beer'.

"Richard Stallman is a great hacker who wrote some really amazing software, but the contribution for which he will probably be remembered is not a piece of software but a legal document. He quickly realized that even if he wrote great software and gave it away, someone else could come along, make a few changes to the code and then copyright the whole lot by claiming it to be a differentiated product. Thus, the aim of sharing would be defeated and he would be foolishly giving away something which others could simply exploit.

"He came to the conclusion that he had to design a special license to ensure that the software remained public and all modifications and improvements, no matter who made them, were made available to everyone. Ironically, as the legal system has no mechanism to protect publicly-owned intellectual work, Stallman had to rely on copyright law itself to design a license that was opposed to it in spirit! The way it works is very interesting, demonstrating that even Law can be a malleable medium to a creative mind. To protect his software for everyone, he first copyrights it, thereby preventing someone else from seizing control of it at a later date, then gives it away under controlled conditions ... The conditions are that anyone modifying the code for later redistribution has to make their source code public on the same terms. No proprietary modifications are allowed, except for private use. This license is known as the 'GNU General Public License' or GPL. It's also called copyleft, because in a deep sense, it is the opposite of copyright. It gives freedom instead of restricting it. (Stallman has often been accused of being a socialist or communist, an anti-commercial crusader, but the reality is probably simpler than that. He is an idealist who just believes very strongly in the 'right' of programmers to share code without artificial restrictions.")

I asked Stallman once pointblank if he was a socialist, and he said no. After all, he's still living, so we don't have to guess or imagine or wonder or impute. We can just ask him, and I did. Even his critics don't accuse the man of being dishonest, and I believe his answer was truthful. He's not a socialist.

The aim of the GPL was from the beginning, as you can see in Caldera Systems' explanation, to enable sharing of source code by anyone and to prevent proprietary tricksters from closing it off or bypassing the "price" of the code, namely sharing public modifications back and allowing everyone to modify. It was very nice of Caldera Systems to defend Stallman's honor, importance, and place in history, don't you think? And to stress the value of the GPL. I guess it isn't "unConstitutional", or void, after all, according to their own white paper, which views it as Stallman's masterpiece.

But of course, the paper is also full of other choice bits that would interest SCO watchers. For example, this paragraph on page 5, on restrictions, or more accurately the lack of them, on AT&T's Unix, in the beginning:

Perhaps because AT&T, the developer of UNIX, had been prohibited from competing in the computer market, they freely licensed the software to universities for a minimal fee. As educators and students began creating programs, they shared them without restriction.

Some of the finest software available on any platform was created during these days -- and it was all shared throughout the computer community.

The story of the Internet is the story of shared computer software on UNIX systems.

That's exactly what IBM has just been explaining to the court in its magnus opus, what I now call IBM's Greatest Hits, the nearly 600 exhibits provided to support its various summary judgment motions. I'll have all the links on that finally finished later today, except for a couple of links to articles where I haven't yet arranged permissions. It's done up to the mid-500s now.

The Caldera white paper goes on to retell the story of Bill Gates defining software he and Paul Allen created for the MITS Altair 8800 computer by "proprietary" terms, and quoting from his notorious flame letter to "hobbyists" 1 about MIT and Harvard students "stealing" his software:

"Most of you steal your software... One thing you do is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing?"

Well, aside from Unix having already been written largely by unpaid volunteers, Stallman and many programmers decided they could continue to do it without being paid, and they did. You see, Gates was the radical. The tradition was openness. Stallman continued that tradition, but he didn't invent it. He invented a way to ensure its survival. Nowadays, folks sometimes paint Stallman as a "radical" but his ideas are strongly rooted in software history from its inception. Commercializing and closing it off was the radical move.

So, in view of history since 1976, with the two competing ideas playing out in reality, was Gates right? At first, it might have seemed so. But look at all the fabulous, professional-level software FOSS has produced by volunteers, and its adoption, and you have your answer. I could be mean and mention Patch Tuesday's problems and Vista's delays and security woes, but why be petty?

Instead, I suggest you put the two men's ideas side by side in your mind, and then ask yourself, how will they go down in history? And deeper, who would you rather buy a used car from?

That's not just a joke. One of the value-adds of FOSS *is* the community values, knowing that the kinds of corporate dirty tricks and sleaze we read about in the news is pretty much nonexistent, and that you can trust that if you do business with the community, you don't have to watch your back every stupid minute to make sure you don't end up corporate road kill. There is competition, of course. But it's not based on war concepts of kill or be killed. It's based on technical merit. Which method is more likely to produce excellent and useful software, looking at it from the public's point of view?

That's why attacks on Stallman and the GPL are short-sighted, even from a purely pragmatic point of view. This value-add is the one thing Microsoft can't embrace, extend and extinguish. It's unique to FOSS. And although some might wish they could separate themselves from Stallman, for whatever reason, such as wishing to appeal to commercial points of view, or ideological differences, or whatever, it just can't be done. He is part of the history, and with all his flaws as you may see them, without him there would be no Linux. By that I mean a kernel can't do much all by itself, you know. The rest was available to the kernel because of his determination to make it available. And it was the GPL that made it popular and protected it. And there is no way to rewrite that history without being dishonest.

I point that out because sometimes corporations can be short-sighted. They might imagine that if they could just can the ethics and emasculate the GPL, they'd have a winner and their bottom line would be enhanced. But what they might not have understood is that the values behind the code are what made -- and make -- it popular. It's why I buy it and use it. And it's a large part, therefore, of what makes it valuable in the market, just as this Caldera paper told you.

And it's the truth. If the corporate side managed to overthrow the ethics, the majority of the community would simply walk away and let the corporations try to figure out on their own how to do what these volunteers did without them.

Yes. They will.

Thanks to the foresight of the GPL, nobody needs the corporations, not to put too fine a point on it, to keep the software body of work going and available, although their participation is certainly valuable and, by me, welcome. The corporations, however, do need the community. Frankly, if the corporate guys knew how to develop FOSS or Linux, they would have done it themselves, instead of having to hop onboard an already moving train. If they were to be foolish enough, bull-in-a-china-shop style, to muscle their way into the engine car, toss the original engineer out onto the field on his noggin, so they can drive the train themselves, they would find most of the cars on the train decoupling from the engine and happily running along a different, faster and eventually more popular track, and then we'd be right back where we started in 1976, with some unnecessary damage just another blip in the road.

1 A volunteer sought and received permission to publish here that Gates statement, and this is the time and the place, but somehow I've misplaced it. If you are that volunteer, can you please resend it? I'll put it right here.

Update: Here is the letter, which Bob Crotinger resent. Thank you so much for going to all the trouble on our behalf. And a huge thank you to the publisher for allowing us to present it here:

Reprinted from Radio-Electronics, May 1976 issue. Copyright Gernsback Publications Inc. 1976.


Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises - Updated | 309 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off Topic
Authored by: DannyB on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 03:37 PM EDT
Post off topic things here.

Make links clickable.

The price of freedom is eternal litigation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Thread
Authored by: tuxi on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 03:44 PM EDT

Just in case it's needed. Place your corrections here.


[ Reply to This | # ]

fallacy of the exluded middle
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:07 PM EDT
Stallman or Gates? I choose Torvalds.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The corporations are an integral part
Authored by: TB on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:07 PM EDT

... nobody needs the corporations ...

I think that's going just a little too far. Granted, in purely technical terms, FOSS was around before there was significant corporate participation, but it wasn't until some corporations recognized the viability of a business model that didn't rely on proprietary code that the quality really got to a viable point (by quality I mean more than just not having bugs, but having actual value to users).

What we have now is a symbiotic relationship that is thriving. That vitality would not be possible if there were not corporations willing to pay developers to work on FOSS (even longhairs gotta eat). So while from a technical point of view that statement might be true, from a practical point it is anything but.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Very refreshing
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:13 PM EDT
Thanks PJ, I almost felt like Linux and the Free Software model are the right
thing to do. With all the troubles surrounding it lately, it was a long time ago
I had that feeling.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:21 PM EDT
What goes around comes around...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:24 PM EDT
Can't keep it all away !.
From 2001:
[copyrights NEWS.COM - respected].,14179,2807197,00.html

Caldera wanted change, and Unix was to change thanks to linux.
The *code exchange* is talked about in the above article link #2.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Gates Stole BASIC
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:26 PM EDT
BASIC was invented at Dartmouth College and they made the compiler availble for
free. Bill Gates made his own version of BASIC and sold it. Dartmouth did not
defend their copyright at the time, perhaps worrying more about widespread
adoption than the amount of money they could make.

Gates made millions upon millions based on the ideas of others. Sound

Nice work Bill.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: grundy on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 04:28 PM EDT

When you say Free, think not slave, not free beer and not free speech.

Free speech is getting a bad rap from the nasty things it is being used to excuse these days.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises
Authored by: bberrign on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 05:04 PM EDT
Ah PJ another masterful bit of expository journalism! Thanks.
One fine day i would relish the opportunity of toasting you
with a glass of the finest soul-warming sherry, all the better
to see the wonderful shades of red reflecting off what now
must surely be a regal red ballgown, not just any red dress...

PJ and Groklaw are a brilliant ray of light in the dark!

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Caldera document has many errors
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 05:12 PM EDT

For starters:

"In the ancient recesses of computer history, back in the 1950s, UNIX software was all open source."

UNIX didn't exist until 1969 (and wasn't called "UNIX" until 1970).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bill Gates quote and background
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 05:40 PM EDT
Long before Gates flamed people for "stealing" code, he stole it
himself to get started in the business. He took the "Tiny Basic"
source code which was published without copyright and turned it into MSBASIC
which he sold to IBM, Radio Shack, and commercially to CP/M users. If this is
not hypocritical behavior, I don't know what is...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 05:46 PM EDT
What is this recent smear campain against RMS about? I haven't read anything
about him.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vendors use to provide the souce code for their OS
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 05:46 PM EDT
Digital Equipment Corp used to send you printouts of the code used in the
version of RSX-11 or RT-11 that you were running on your PDP-11. Also, Vax/VMX
source code was provided on microfish.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Competitive Pressure of Linux
Authored by: DaveJakeman on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 06:09 PM EDT
"The rise of Linux in particular is putting pressure on traditional desktop
UNIX vendors such as SCO, who are in the unenviable position of having to
compete with a product that can do very nearly everything their products can do
and which anyone can download from the Internet for free."

The whitepaper is dated 1st November, 1999.

So SCO, as in Santa Cruz the UNIX vendor, was already under pressure - according
to Caldera Systems - from Linux, long before tSCOg had materialised and before
Caldera's acquisition of Santa Cruz even. Yet Caldera acquired Santa Cruz
anyway and, after later being renamed tSCOg, that competitive pressure was IBM's
fault. Hmm.

I would rather stand corrected than sit confused.
Should one hear an accusation, try it on the accuser.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Caldera Sings Stallman's Praises
Authored by: Nick_UK on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 06:41 PM EDT
As I posted here a long time ago, if it were not for RMS,
we would not have what we have now.

I hold the man in deep respect - in fact, perhaps my
best 'hero'.

GCC allowed Linus to break free.

RMS is god in the open source world to allow (perhaps
force it) to happen.


[ Reply to This | # ]

The closing paragraph
Authored by: DaveJakeman on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 07:30 PM EDT

"It will take a litle [sic] time for the users and the business community to recognize that FUD-mongers have a hidden agenda, and that their claims are void of substance. As they do, and those times aren’t too far off, Open Source will become the common, preferred way to develop and distribute high quality, stable, and reliable software."

I would like to thank Caldera tSCOg's predecessor for that forward-looking statement.

We will be thinking, when all this FUD has come to pass, of Caldera's contribution to Linux and the Open Source movement and the bizarre way in which the monster that Caldera became tried to deny, obfuscate and sabotage its own heritage and much, much worse.

Thanks also for Appendix A: The full text of the GPL. It's good to have it close to hand - you never know when you might need it.

That's all for now folks, my irony meter is broke and I can't write any more without it.

I would rather stand corrected than sit confused.
Should one hear an accusation, try it on the accuser.

[ Reply to This | # ]

And not just BASIC was lifted
Authored by: BuggyFunBunny on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 07:39 PM EDT
it (was) well known that DOS started out as QDOS (Q=Quick), written over a
summer by one Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer for the 8086. IBM decides to use
the 8088 (8086 with 8 bit bus), and looks for an OS. How they chose MS(PC)-DOS
is another Machiavellian story. M$ wants the deal, but doesn't have an OS.
They buy (under false pretense) QDOS. Eventually, Seattle sues. They win.
Paterson gets, IIRC, $1 million and a VP at M$. Cheap deal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

From Appendix D: Who’s Who in Open Source
Authored by: DaveJakeman on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 08:00 PM EDT
Nothing much we don't already know, but it's nice of SCO to refresh our memories
of these:

Gates, William, III:

Bill gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has done as much as any single individual
to further the Open Source movement. His proprietary, closed, monopolistic
privatization of software — that for the most part prior to his entrance on the
computer scene — has caused a worldwide rebellion. That rebellion has not been
so much against Microsoft, but for the principles of freedom and accessibility
to software that existed prior to the Redmond, Washington monolith.

In his “Open Letter to Hobbyists” while still a student at Harvard, Gates railed
against the hackers at Harvard and elsewhere who had “pirated” copies of the
operating system he and fellow student Paul Allen had written for the MITs
Altair 8800. Said he, “Most of you steal your software.... One thing you do is
prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work
for nothing?” [URL redacted]

The reaction to Gates’ “Open Letter” was shock. It never occurred to the
programmers of the day that software was anything but “free.”

Love, Ransom:

President of Caldera Systems, Inc.; prior to which was senior product manager at
Novell. Has championed the Linux Standard Base, a means to allow a single
software port by an ISV to run on all “flavors” of Linux.

Thompson, Ken:

A researcher at Bell Labs, in 1969 writes the first version of UNIX, a
multiuser, multitasking operating system that was distributed freely during the
1970s with source code.

I would rather stand corrected than sit confused.
Should one hear an accusation, try it on the accuser.

[ Reply to This | # ]

No politics, please !
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 08:23 PM EDT
>>I asked Stallman once pointblank if he was a socialist, and he said no.
After all, he's still living, so we don't have to guess or imagine or wonder or
impute. We can just ask him, and I did. Even his critics don't accuse the man of
being dishonest, and I believe his answer was truthful. He's not a

No politics in this forum, please !
Whether RMS is socialist or not has no relation with his technical and legal

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vista steals linux methods+concepts
Authored by: Walter Dnes on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 11:44 PM EDT
According that ultimate authority on IT, Bob Enderle...

PC-industry analyst Rob Enderle says a "big chunk of viruses" won't work on the new OS. Unlike Windows XP, Vista almost always asks the user for permission to install new software, so it catches many more sinister programs before they strike. Says Enderle: "Vista is much more like the Mac OS, Linux and Unix in the way that it behaves and the way that it is secured."

OK, should linux coders sue MS for billions?

[ Reply to This | # ]

How did commercialism take over?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 14 2006 @ 12:53 AM EDT
"The tradition was openness. Stallman continued that tradition, but he
didn't invent it. He invented a way to ensure its survival. Nowadays, folks
sometimes paint Stallman as a "radical" but his ideas are strongly
rooted in software history from its inception. Commercializing and closing it
off was the radical move."

I've heard a lot about the early days of both Bill and RMS. Here's a historical
fact that I don't remember seeing a clear exposition on (though I'm sure many
exist) - if the early days were all about freedom (sharing paper tapes, for
example), and now it's about money, how did commercialism take over the world?

This article seems to make the point that if commercialism tries to derail the
community, the community will just walk away and eventually win the day. Why
didn't that happen before? What made people suddenly want to start paying for
what was allegedly otherwise free? Most of the most popular software costs money
- even outside of MS's offerings - such as Oracle, DB/2, PeopleSoft, SAS, and
commercial Unix flavours.

Like many of you I have been around a while, using punch cards on Wang, CDC
Cyber, and IBM systems, and later upgrading to PDP-8, PDP-11, and VAX hardware
with real terminals. Did we share software? Sure, within the project teams. Not
so much between them - how I solved a problem was usually so custom to my data
structure that it was easier just to do it all yourself.

In the PC environment I remember well why the MS-DOS/Windows environment beat
the DOS environment running Lotus 1-2-3, not to mention the killer Apple Lisa (I
had one) and later Mac environments - printer drivers. The alternative approach
at the time was that every application rolled its own printer driver. Your
printer may have worked in dBase and 1-2-3 but not in Visicalc. Windows came
along and offered an OS-based printer model. Overnight it became a sensation.
Vendors rallied behind it because they only had to write the driver once. Other
hardware followed suit.

So if we're painting a fair and complete history, remembering the steps along
the way to today, at some point we need to document the rise of commercial
software as a dominant entity. Has anyone already done that?

[ Reply to This | # ]

When you argue by an appeal to authority ...
Authored by: yscydion on Saturday, October 14 2006 @ 10:30 AM EDT

Much of the argument in favour of the proposed GPLv3 over the existing GPLv2 seems to me to have been based on an appeal to authority, with Stallman being that authority. One of the ways to counter such an argument is to question the status of the authority and the unfortunate but common form of this seems to be the smear campaign. This is using a fallacy to argue against a fallacy, but it is a common tactic. Those who dislike Stallman's vision and all forms of the GPL will leap on the opportunity to attack all versions of the GPL when this sort of opening is presented. When those in favour of GPL are using a form of argument that is a genetic fallacy, it makes it harder to counter the ad hominem argument that is the inverse form of the same genetic fallacy. Saying GPL is good because Stallman is a hero is no better an argument than saying GPL is bad because Stallman has socialist tendencies.

Contributing to this problem we have people who ought to know better using other forms of essentially the same fallacy - for example, claiming that Linus is wrong because he does not care about users - the argument is a fallacy so would not establish the conclusion even if there was something to prop up the premiss other than repetition.

The thing I find most disappointing is that so few people seem able to argue for the proposed GPLv3 on the basis of the words in the draft. If the only arguments that can be mustered are an appeal to the authority of Stallman or reference to some other statement of intent then there are serious weaknesses in the words of the proposed license that need to be addressed.

The article to which this comment is attached also seems to me to be an attempt to prop up Stallman as an authority in order to support the fallacious forms of argument. I think it would be far better to point out in passing that the smears are wrong but focus on their irrelevance. For the purpose at hand, it really doesn't matter whether Stallman is a saint or a devil. We can read the draft of the license, we can analyse it, we can discuss its implications in various scenarios. We can then come to a conclusion about what it means, how it would work, and what implications we can forsee from its use. We can acknowledge Stallman's contributions, but none of the conclusions should depend on his character or beliefs.

Finally, let me put this in developer's terms. When looking for bugs in a program, you read the source code to determine what it actually does, not the comments or the specification. The character or habits of the author of the code really don't matter. You may thank them for writing it, you may have more or less confidence in it depending on their previous work and reputation, but in the end it is the code itself that matters. The whole point of free and open source software is that you don't have to depend on what the author says about his program (or license), you have access the source and can work it out for yourself if you can be bothered to put in the effort.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Well, aside from Unix having already been written largely by unpaid volunteers, "
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 14 2006 @ 10:00 PM EDT
PJ, this must be a typo?

I seem to recall that those who worked on virtually every aspect of Unix
were either being paid (that's why their employer owned it, AT&T)
or supported earning degrees (that's why their University did, Berkeley).

I'm sure you must have meant Linux here.


[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ you just don't get it
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 15 2006 @ 08:16 PM EDT
Of course, Caldera would sing his praises, that was a Linux company. It was
SCOG who sued IBM, they are all about UNIX, IP lock stock and barrel!!! SCO has
been about UNIX for over 25 years, it is because of companies like Caldera that
SCOG had to sue IBM.


[ Reply to This | # ]

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