Lack of technologically-enforced commit restrictions *with* the GPL give Linux an edge.
Posted Sep 8, 2006 3:16 UTC (Fri) by xoddam
In reply to: Lack of technologically-enforced commit restrictions *with* the GPL give Linux an edge.
Parent article: The future of NetBSD
> Did you forget about Cygnus?
Not a bit of it, but Tiemann is a bit of a visionary in his own
right, and certainly wasn't in the operating system business.
I was responding to the point above about commercial operating
systems spinning off the BSD code; some of which happened prior
to BSD becoming unencumbered. Why didn't those companies instead
join GNU, if the GPL offers such an incentive to build a commons?
As I understand it, in the earlier days of GNU Stallman hoped they
would, and approached numerous outside projects requesting their
contributions (eg the Free University Compiler Kit) and trying to
sell the idea of a collaborative project to the commercial Unix
vendors (who were at the time wasting enormous engineering effort
on 'differentiation'). RMS would have been entirely happy to use a
free BSD kernel as the basis of GNU.
The vendors *did* listen to the pitch, and such groups as OSF were
the result (they even listened to the bit about microkernels being
easy to debug :-), but they certainly didn't begin to embrace the
GPL until long after the Linux kernel project had shown that
bazaar-style development has wings. Indeed as far as I can remember
no Unix vendor conceded the advantage of the GPL until after
Microsoft's famous Halloween memo in 1998 described GNU/Linux as
'a best-of-breed Unix'. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?
The GPL always protected contributors from one another's
'differentiation' efforts, but it was the clear success of the
Linux kernel project which brought big players like SGI and IBM
into the fold.
> many have found RMS difficult to work with.
I think *that* problem was always exacerbated by the 'cathedral'
style of development common in the GNU world (and everywhere else)
before the advent of the Linux kernel. People are protective of
their projects. Setting up an alternative source repository, if
that isn't part of the normal process like it is with patch/bk/git,
is considered a hostile act. When Lucid hired a lead emacs developer,
Stallman took immediate offence and was only gradually (after the
fork was so well-developed and so many personalities bruised) persuaded
that reconciliation was in the project's best interests. The 'bazaar'
vs. 'cathedral' dichotomy, and IMO in particular the effect of the
process (inherited from the not-quite-free Minix world, which worked
rather like qmail does today) and the distributed-development *tools*
Linus has chosen all along, is nearly as significant as the difference
between copyleft and BSD licencing.
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