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To read comments to this article, go here
We Know They Can't Do Research, Now What Else Can't AdTI Do?
Thursday, June 03 2004 @ 12:56 PM EDT

The Spin-sters at AdTI are making fools of themselves again. Ripley's Believe It or Not. Now they have put out a press release about an "apparent" attack on their servers. It seems that after they publicly and unkindly and inappropriately and unfairly slandered Linus, they got a lot of traffic to their site.

Go figure.

They claim they got some unpleasant email too. Some people, like journalists and supporters, had trouble reaching their site, they say:

"From May 17 to 19, AdTI President and study author Ken Brown said, the web site www.adti.net was briefly shut down by an apparent denial of service attack, and queries were received from some supporters and journalists noting that site content was unavailable.

"The institution also received several hundred email messages that included physical threats and computer viruses -- many mentioning the release and the forthcoming paper.

"After investigating the attacks and promptly restoring the web site, AdTI said that it does not plan to take legal action unless the efforts resume."

"Liar, liar, pants on fire", is what we used to say when I was a kid. I am a journalist, and I went to the site every single day for a while, including the two days they say they were off the air, because I was covering the story. I never had any difficulty whatsoever. That means that if others did, it was likely the effect of too many people trying to read their nonsense at the same time, the famed Slashdot effect.

Since they know nothing about tech at AdTI, obviously, I'll explain it. The Slashdot effect is when lots of people on one web site, popular ones like Slashdot and Groklaw that have millions of readers, read about somebody saying something idiotic or interesting, and they all click on the link at the same time, not out of malice (because none of them knows what the other is doing), but out of interest. It certainly could be eyes-bugging-out hyperventilating outrage interest, but visiting the site is what you are asking people to do when you put out a press release with your address on it, as AdTI did. If your technical capacity to handle more visitors than you are used to isn't up to the burst of visitors, your server will be unable to handle the load. It's not a denial of service attack however. It's math.

So, a little lesson for the AdTI folks, who by now probably ought to have a clue that they probably shouldn't write about Linus or the Internet, because They Know Nothing About Technical Issues, and make themselves look foolish. Their solution is to get more capacity to handle traffic, buy more bandwidth, get a better server, etc. If they had a popular web site, they'd know that already. Since they are babes in the woods when it comes to tech, they think a Slashdot effect is a web attack. Oh, and psst: if they know how to "quickly restore" a DoS'd website, they really ought to let SCO know how that's done. In fact, I think we'd all like to learn how. They should write a white paper and release the details of their coping mechanisms. I'm sure it'd be fascinating, and I hope they do it.

And by the way, AdTI, it's Andrew Tanenbaum, not Arthur, as in your current masterpiece of a press release. Just a friendly heads up. Here's what you wrote:

"We also appreciate the effort by others, however, including Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond, and Arthur Tanenbaum, to discuss the facts and the issues -- even if they disagree strongly with my report and my assessment of the likely origins of Linux. . . .

"'Tocqueville has entered into a discussion in which, to be fair, there is very little critical review of the claims and methods of the open- and hybrid-source community,' Brown said. 'If we are to have a free, open, and productive dialogue, we respectfully request that leaders in the open- and hybrid-source community condemn and discourage these attacks.'"

How hypocritical. Linus didn't address the "issues." There are no issues, so he just told some jokes about the Tooth Fairy. AdTI wrote some things that everyone who knows anything has repudiated. They didn't mention Dennis Ritchie, but he has provided evidence that undermines AdTI too. And I note that while they had time to put up this press release, they still have not made the links on their site to Linus or Tanenbaum's remarks workable. Some dialogue. More like a monologue over there. Here, once again, is a complete list of everyone's reactions to AdTI, including Richard Stallman.

Since they call for a condemnation, I will oblige. I think I speak for us all when I strongly condemn AdTI's attack on Linus and the free and open source community. Using a phrase like "open- and hybrid-source community" is offensive. Getting Mr. Tanenbaum's name wrong is typical of AdTI's research capabilities. Slandering Linus is not acceptable.

And pretending this is a difference of opinion, when in reality it's a matter of facts on their side being simply wrong and malicious is typical of their level of honesty.

As for condemning the alleged "attack" on their web site, I have seen no evidence it happened, and I have my personal experience that doesn't match their story. I note that after investigating (and I'm sure they did a fabulous job), they have decided not to take legal action. Do you really believe that story? Maybe they decided not to take action because they found out it wasn't an attack at all, or couldn't be proven to be one, hence their use of the phrase, "an apparent denial of service attack". A slashdotting looks a lot like a DoS at the receiving end. That didn't stop them from putting out this cunning and underhanded press release, however, to try to paint the free and open source community as thugs and criminals. Say, who does that remind you of?

And on a personal note. Groklaw has been attacked on numerous occasions, and I get nasty comments and email all the time. I have been threatened with physical harm. Should I put out a press release and imply SCO is behind it? SCO told journalists where they thought I lived, making such threats genuinely dangerous to me. Sometimes email has even come from people masking their addresses. But I am a geek, so I figured out where it really came from. Here's a tip: if you work for a Canopy Group company, you are probably not helping your cause by sending me email pretending to be in Kentucky. That particular one wasn't nasty in tone, but it was trying to find out what state I am in. Say, you don't suppose they had a purpose in that, do you? Can we think of any good reasons someone at a Canopy Group company might be wanting to know where I am located and thought they needed to tell me they were somewhere they were not?

For the last couple of weeks, every time there is a major story, someone attacks Groklaw, placing scores of offensive pornographic links as comments on old stories. When they all got removed the first time, next they interspersed tech words with the porn, hoping to get past our filters, I suppose. They seem to use a bot, so it does affect us. I didn't put it out as a press release and imply or accuse SCO or AdTI of doing it, even though it is certainly possible, because ... well, because folks in the free world don't do such things. We are not in the business of trying to destroy anyone or ruin their good name with implications without proof. If I ever get proof, I'll tell the world, naturally. But I don't call press conferences on a hunch, even though I have one.

I get sent viruses every day too. They haven't done any harm, of course, because they are invariably viruses that only work on Microsoft software. I call it the Microsoft effect. Suggestion to AdTI: switch to GNU/Linux or even Apple, and you won't have those headaches. There is even someone using my email address to send out spam as if coming from me, and someone has signed me up repeatedly for things I don't want to join or don't want to receive.

I only mention it now to say this: I didn't call a press conference. I can see how I could: "For months, Groklaw has been under attack, my email address criminally used, and persons that may be related to SCO or AdTI could be behind the attacks. I call on SCO and AdTI to condemn such actions and cease and desist and rejoin the human race." Would I not look silly? The fact is, SCO could be behind the attacks, but no decent person would say so without solid evidence. AdTI is making accusations without evidence, just like SCO did, and they look foolish, at best.

Anyway, when a lot of people read what you write, some of them will turn out to be nasty and some will be foolish and some will be stupid. "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: There are a lot of idiots in this world, it was announced today." Please. It's the down side of the Internet, meaning it's the down side of the real world, because the Internet reflects the real world, and some people in the real world are disgusting and some are real criminals and heaven only knows there are lots of stupid people. Some apparently work for "think" tanks, not that much deep thought seems to be going on there. And some of them work for corporations that demonstrate no ethics or morals at all, just an unnatural love of money, which motivates them to say and do things nice people don't do. I don't think that is worthy of a press release, however.

I hope you don't visit the AdTI site, but if you wish to verify their press release, it's at http://adti.net/kenarbeit/webattax.release.june.04.html but say, don't all go at once, ok? AdTI might just put out another accusatory press release, and some mainstream journalists who aren't so tech-savvy may even write about it and spread the nonsense. They did that for SCO, some of them, if you recall. I hope responsible journalists do not let themselves be used for AdTI's smear campaigns.


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