I can usually tell what the new Microsoft anti-Linux FUD is by reading what Rob Enderle writes. Not that I seek it out. People send it to me. He's as reliable as Old Faithful at spilling the strategies, just as he channeled SCOthink before. I found it very helpful, by the way. Thanks for being so transparent.
One of the purposes of Groklaw is to do antiFUD work, to meet FUD with facts, so people are not misled. And after reading his latest, about the EU ruling, I think I've figured out what the new FUD is:
In addition, the ruling may create a stronger Microsoft code-based competitor for Linux at a time when the Linux supporters seem to be increasingly at odds with each other and appear to be vulnerable to a true competitive attack.
Increasingly at odds with one another? I'd say quite the contrary, myself, thanks to SCO. No, what I believe I'm seeing is what appear to be manufactured incidents or at least incidents blown way out of proportion making it appear that the Linux community is at odds with itself. Is it deliberate? Or just free-floating anti-Linux hostility? Time will tell.
When SCO popped up, the FUD to the enterprise was that Linux was too dangerous to use, that there was a legal doubt about it. Of course, it was a manufactured "legal" doubt. Vaporware, as it turns out. That got smashed to bits, and so now, might the new FUD be that Linux is no better than proprietary software, that it's written by a community of infighting, unpleasant people who can't get along, a community that might be falling apart from within, so you'd best not risk your company on it?
That's not the community I know. I guess that's better than being called a cancer or Enderle calling the community terrorists. Or was that Lyons? I always get them mixed up. And no, that was not an adequate apology to me.
Now if you were Microsoft -- just imagining for a minute -- and you wanted that to be true or be perceived as true, what might you do? Stir things up by creating disputes or make sure at least the world knows all about any passing argument in its every detail? It'd be easy. The FOSS community does everything out in the open. Why, in my imagination, I can visualize hiring BSD folks who are jealous of Linux, for example, or hiring some actual community members to be Community Rat to get the job done. They could go to all the conferences and let the Mother Ship know about any disputes that could be used for FUD or just create some. How hard is that? But you probably wouldn't even need to. In any large group, you can always find one discontented soul, and a few willing to sing about his treatment, whether they know anything about it or not.
Remember, you are not imagining what *you* would do. I know you'd never sink so low. You are imagining you are thinking like Microsoft, based on earlier behavior and extrapolating. Think they'd decide that would be beneath them?
I thought about all this today because of this article, "Sparks Fly As Linux Kernel Guy Quits In a Huff," by Alexander Wolfe on Information Week, part of his theme song on "Reasons Why Linux Won't Succeed on the Desktop." You wish.
This headline makes you think it just happened, doesn't it? The story is about a guy who decided to stop contributing to Linux back in July. July, folks. It made headlines at the time. And here it is again, recycled. This is almost October. Why now? Why again? They didn't milk enough headlines back when it happened or what? Not that Wolfe tells you that it happened in July. You have to click on the link at the very end of the story and find out for yourself. Here's his conclusion:
The whole tale tells us something else, which runs counter to the image of Linux. Most of us think of Linus, the Linux folks, and indeed the whole open-source community as more fact-based than, say, the grubby commercial software sphere in which the Microsofties play.
Obviously, that ain't true. The Linux folks are just as prone to internecine warfare and backbiting as the rest of us.
See what I mean? Note A Point of View? Now he's a perfectly nice fellow, and he honestly admits that he has no idea if this guy's code would have improved the kernel or not. Yet he has a conclusion that assumes it would have and more. Might that indicate a desire to find fault? A partisanship? Has Information Week declared a jihad against Linux or something?
I'll assume not, to be fair. It just seems like it. So, let me ask you a question so we can reason on this dispute a bit: whose kernel is it? Who leads the development and has for 15 or so years with incredible success? Deeper, who came up with the development model for software, developing it over the Internet? Was that not brilliant? Who did that? What does that tell you as to his ability to lead a project?
Do you have any idea how many thousands of people have contributed code to the Linux kernel over the years? Anyone writing headlines about that? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get thousands of people to work productively together? Did you know that the number of developers contributing to the kernel is growing:
In the initial 2.6 kernel tree there were only 700 developers. In the last two and half years from 2.6.11 to 2.6.22-rc5, around 3,200 people have contributed patches to the kernel.
That's just in the last couple of years. Thousands of good-hearted men and women over the years decided to help Linus write a kernel and give it to the world for free. That makes them better than Microsofties, as Wolfe calls them, right there, in my book. They lack the "grubby" factor. But my point is, look at the numbers. Even just on the latest kernel, there are thousands of happy developers and one guy who quits. Get it? Even if he's right, it's not a trend.
If you quit your job at some company because you don't like a management decision, does Information Week run a headline? Maybe if they hate your company, but not normally. And even if it did, how silly is it? What if out of 2,000 employees, they only find one or two who claim you are right and thousands who say the company is right? Would they still write about your beef, and if they did, wouldn't the headline have to be, "One Guy Out of 2,000 Employees at Company X Has a Gripe; Everyone Else Is Perfectly Content"?
Of course management sometimes make decisions nonmanagement folks don't like. That's called Real Life. And it's particularly so in creative fields. Sometimes people gripe because they lack the entire picture. Sometimes it's because they have no management skills or experience and just don't get it. Ever been in the Army? Worked for a large corporation? If so, you know that it always happens with every single decision made that somebody doesn't like the decision. You know why? Because the decision is made taking into consideration more factors than just that one somebody who is griping. It can sometimes occur that a decision is wrong, maybe unfair to an individual, or is perceived to be unfair, but that doesn't necessarily make the decision wrong. It wasn't all about that one individual. Management gets to make decisions because that's the job. And the job is to not only get the big picture; it's to design it.
If this guy wanted to fork the kernel, there is nothing stopping him, is there? He could lead his own desktop kernel. Why not? Or he could have decided to keep developing his code and prove Linus wrong. Others have, and it's a perfectly acceptable approach. Linus admits when he knows he's wrong. Let the best code win. Instead, the guy's not coding at all any more. He's learning Japanese. What might that tell you about his dedication to the success of the kernel? How's Linus' decision looking now?
And may I just point out that Ubuntu is a screaming success on the desktop, despite all the proprietary nails thrown on the roadway? Do give it a spin. It's free. They'll mail you a free CD.
In this case, Ingo Molnar did an equivalent chunk of code, and it did get accepted into the kernel. So it's not like the issue was ignored. Linus knows Ingo. He trusts him. And he knows he can rely on him to follow through with bug reports, because he's done it before, and ...um... to get along with people who send the bug reports. Is that an irrational decision, to choose someone because you know you can rely on them? Hardly. It's the sinew of the kernel development method, really, distributed trust. It's a meritocrisy. Remember?
No one has the right to tell Linus what to include in the kernel. No one. It's his project. And no one has the right to insist their contributions are accepted. Period. Live with it. And these headlines are mighty suspicious to me. They make me believe that someone wants there to be friction in the Linux community, and will use it. At least. So, don't let yourself be used by any conscienceless men out there, who might drool at the chance to portray Linux in an ugly light.
Say, that reminds me. About that whole Theo thing ...
One last thing. Our own Jill C Carpenter, who designs our graphics, helped with my video for the Peer-to-Patent project [credits], and did most of the graphics for Groklaw Gear, contributed a new wallpaper for Edubuntu, which has been chosen to be the default installation desktop for Edubuntu Gutsy, which hopefully will be available next month. It's lovely, and so the FOSS community keeps right on chugging along, working together and having fun.
It's even more beautiful in full size, but Groklaw choked on it, so all I can give you is a kind of thumbnail. You'll get to see it in all its glory in the next Edubuntu, though. You might want to view this video too, where Professor Joseph Dembo of Fordham University explains what prior art is and how to find it.