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GNU/Busybox ?!?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 20, 2007 10:33 UTC (Tue) by NigelK (guest, #42083)
In reply to: GNU/Busybox ?!? by landley
Parent article: The road to freedom in the embedded world

> http://sources.redhat.com/ml/libc-announce/2001/msg00000....

Wow. This needs more circulation around the media, especially as RMS is trying to flex his muscles again.

Here's a snippet:

==========
And now for some not so nice things.

Stallman recently tried what I would call a hostile takeover of the
glibc development. He tried to conspire behind my back and persuade
the other main developers to take control so that in the end he is in
control and can dictate whatever pleases him. This attempt failed but
he kept on pressuring people everywhere and it got really ugly. In
the end I agreed to the creation of a so-called "steering committee"
(SC). The SC is different from the SC in projects like gcc in that it
does not make decisions. On this front nothing changed. The only
difference is that Stallman now has no right to complain anymore since
the SC he wanted acknowledged the status quo. I hope he will now shut
up forever.

The morale of this is that people will hopefully realize what a
control freak and raging manic Stallman is. Don't trust him. As soon
as something isn't in line with his view he'll stab you in the back.
*NEVER* voluntarily put a project you work on under the GNU umbrella
since this means in Stallman's opinion that he has the right to make
decisions for the project.

The glibc situation is even more frightening if one realizes the story
behind it. When I started porting glibc 1.09 to Linux (which
eventually became glibc 2.0) Stallman threatened me and tried to force
me to contribute rather to the work on the Hurd. Work on Linux would
be counter-productive to the Free Software course. Then came, what
would be called embrace-and-extend if performed by the Evil of the
North-West, and his claim for everything which lead to Linux's
success.

Which brings us to the second point. One change the SC forced to
happen against my will was to use LGPL 2.1 instead of LGPL 2. The
argument was that the poor lawyers cannot see that LGPL 2 is
sufficient. Guess who were the driving forces behind this.

The most remarkable thing is that Stallman was all for this despite
the clear motivation of commercialization. The reason: he finally got
the provocative changes he made to the license through. In case you
forgot or haven't heard, here's an excerpt:

[...] For example, permission to use the GNU C Library in non-free
programs enables many more people to use the whole GNU operating
system, as well as its variant, the GNU/Linux operating system.

This $&%$& demands everything to be labeled in a way which credits him
and he does not stop before making completely wrong statements like
"its variant". I find this completely unacceptable and can assure
everybody that I consider none of the code I contributed to glibc
(which is quite a lot) to be as part of the GNU project and so a major
part of what Stallman claims credit for is simply going away.

=========


(Log in to post comments)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 21, 2007 12:08 UTC (Wed) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

Six years old, publicly available, and pretty typical of a spat between developers. What's your motivation for posting it here?

We know what RMS wants; but I'm curious - who is NigelK, what does he represent, and why is he so keen to attack RMS using any means he can find? What is it you *want* from this, exactly?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 21, 2007 12:21 UTC (Wed) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

What do I want? I want a stable environment for programmers to collaborate in free from politics and idealism. The GPL3 is in direct opposition to that because it places restrictions on what product people can build using their own code if they want to licence that code solely under the GPL3.

I also want an environment free from FSF scaremongering, or at least an acceptance that it's not just Microsoft who uses FUD to promote their own agenda.

The FSF aren't acting in the interests of programmers anymore, period.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 21, 2007 19:37 UTC (Wed) by anonymous1 (guest, #41963) [Link]

FSF was never about programmers. It was about users and users freedoms.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 9:33 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

Yes, but for the FSF, users == programmers. The GPL is all about securing free access to the source code so people can hack on it some more and share the results.

Anselm

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 10:59 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

Yep. It was only when people started using GPL code in products that RMS didn't approve of that the spin changed and the GPL was all about users rather than code.

Certainly in the projects I'm involved with, it's all about the code rather than "freedom".

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:30 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

The GPL can't really be »all about users« when it explicitly says that it does not regulate use of the code but modification and distribution (in original or modified form). The closest most »users« come to exploiting their GPL freedoms is when they pass complete Linux CDs on to their buddies (which is a good thing, to be sure), but to really make use of the freedoms the GPL gives you, you need to be a programmer. Which, to the FSF, used to be fine, because on ITS, everybody was a programmer! It is only with today's easily available PCs etc. that the gap between »users« and »programmers« has become so obvious.

In fact, the main paradigm shift with GPLv3 is that it tries to branch out into regulating what may be done with the code (e.g., don't build a DRM system with secret keys) rather than to the code (e.g., change it, pass it on). It is understandable that many people do not buy this.

Anselm

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 29, 2007 18:40 UTC (Thu) by TRauMa (guest, #16483) [Link]

The GPL can't be all about users if it doesn't impose restrictions on users? Huh? I think you get it completely backwards here, the GPL imposes restrictions on distributors to ensure the freedom of the users.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:09 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Read the GNU Manifesto. It has *always* been about the users, from day 1. (It doesn't require that users be programmers in order to benefit: non-programmer users can hire programmers if the software is free, which is not an option otherwise.)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:13 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

> The GPL3 is in direct opposition to that because it places restrictions on what product people can build using their own code if they want to licence that code solely under the GPL3.

I don't believe you. Justify that statement.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:25 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

Why do I get the feeling you're not willing to listen?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 12:47 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

Too much caffeine?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 21, 2007 15:52 UTC (Wed) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

> We know what RMS wants

Well, apparently RMS wanted to wrest control of glibc from Ulrich Drepper, but we don't know why. At least I still don't. Drepper is very smart and a phenomental maintainer.

> Six years old, publicly available, and pretty typical of a spat between developers.

Typical? No way. Power struggles among developers tend to be rare in open source. Disagreements are resolved by code forks, not by smoky room politics. It's a wonderful way to work.

In this case, however, Stallman tried to secretly undermine Drepper. In the 10 years that I've been working with open source software, I can only think of one other situation that's even close to this: Bruce Perens trying to wrestle for control of Busybox. At least Bruce had the decency to pull his shenanigans in public.

I'm very glad to say that, unsurprisingly, both Perens and RMS failed. However, the frustration, confusion, and ill will that they caused is tangible today and will continue to sour attitudes for many years to come. It's a shameful way to work.

Lysse, can you name another case where someone has tried use his political standing to wrestle control of an open source project from an active maintainer using rhetoric and secret negotiation, not code?

your claims are incorrect

Posted Mar 22, 2007 4:43 UTC (Thu) by JoeBuck (subscriber, #2330) [Link]

glibc was originally written mainly by Roland McGrath, while he was an FSF paid employee. It was later taken over by Uli Drepper, who has written more of it than anyone else.

It is true that there was a period, years ago, when there was some fighting between Uli Drepper, RMS, and other developers, but those arguments have been mostly worked out. It wasn't just RMS vs. Drepper, the battles were more complicated than that. It just wasn't working for glibc to be Uli Drepper's personal cathedral, any more than it worked for GCC to be RMS's or Richard Kenner's personal cathedral. Hence the establishment of a steering committee, something that had worked well for egcs, something some of Drepper's admirers called a power grab by RMS.

In any case, all of glibc was and is legally assigned to the FSF, and Red Hat and Cygnus before them had blanket assignments contributing all of their employees' work. Uli would have had to quit if he really wanted to split with the FSF, and even then he couldn't change the copyright on code he already contributed; it was no longer legally his.

your claims are incorrect

Posted Mar 22, 2007 6:38 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

As far as I understand, Drepper was perfectly fine with the FSF maintaining copyright over glibc. He just didn't agree with RMS swooping in from nowhere and declaring mandates from on high. I do agree that RMS had some valid grievances, it's just too bad that he went about addressing them in a short-sighted, apparently politically-motivated way. Luckily RMS backed down, Drepper backed down, and sanity prevailed.

Yes, the arguments have long since been settled, but some resentment and mistrust from that situation exists to this day.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 13:07 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

> In this case, however, Stallman tried to secretly undermine Drepper.

Is there external support for this? Has Stallman ever commented on it? Do we have anything besides Drepper's own accounts? (Note that I'm not saying Drepper misrepresented the situation; I'm sure he called it exactly as he saw it. However, when we only have half of one side it's simply not possible to get a complete objective picture of what happened, so I'd be interested to know if there's anything else out there.)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:21 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Well, if you're really interested, google finds a fair amount of mailing list discussion on this topic. Be warned, though: it's pretty one-sided. That might be evidence that RMS really did try to work in secret, or it might just be evidence of incomplete mailing list archives. Dunno. I didn't experience this disaster first-hand so I can only speculate.

Here are some thread heads... I almost didn't post these because I couldn't find a single message explaining RMS's side of the situation. I despise Fox news -- I truly would like to see an alternate viewpoint. I hope someone else can find and post one?

http://www.redhat.com/archives/redhat-install-list/2001-A...
http://sources.redhat.com/ml/libc-hacker/2000-06/msg00180...
http://slashdot.org/articles/01/08/19/2039211.shtml

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 21, 2007 20:03 UTC (Wed) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> Six years old, publicly available, and pretty typical of a spat between
> developers.

You mean the way Linus Torvalds announced that the Linux kernel was GPLv2
only six years before the FSF started GPLv3, and yet they totally ignored
that because it wasn't what they wanted to hear, and still expected him
to relicense it anyway? Even today, their position is still "wait and
see what he says when the final version ships", even though Linus's
position is that he hasn't got the AUTHORITY to change the license at
this point?

http://www.uwsg.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0009.1/0096...

> What's your motivation for posting it here?

My motivation? (Since I posted the original link?) Supporting my
argument.

His for cutting and pasting: I'm guessing because it was the first he'd
seen it, so it was new to him?

> We know what RMS wants; but I'm curious - who is NigelK,

Oh sure, shoot the messenger. You can always turn it into an ad homynym
attack if you try hard enough..

> what does he represent, and why is he so keen to attack RMS using any
> means he can find? What is it you *want* from this, exactly?

Who _I_ am (I'm not nigelk but he was responding to my message) is among
other things, a computer historian (see http://landley.net/history/mirror
for some random snapshots of research materials). The version of history
that RMS puts forward is extremely revisionist, and he uses it to promote
political agenda I strongly disagree with.

Who else I am is the ex-maintainer of busybox who abandoned the project
in disgust after Bruce Perens carried the Free Software Foundation flag
into a mailing list he'd never previously posted on its entire ten year
history, using long-abandoned historical credentials to INSIST that the
project's current maintainer (with the explicit support of the previous
maintainer and a clear majority of the developer base) move to GPLv3
rather than staying with GPLv2. I chased him off and locked down the
project's license to GPLv2, then handed it off to a new maintainer and
went off to do other things because I simply can't stand to touch it
anymore, it's got Bruce Disease. (He's not taking credit for my work.
Period.)

I've posted fairly extensive reasons why I think GPLv3 is a horrible
idea. Two random examples:
http://lwn.net/Articles/202110/
http://landley.net/notes-2006.html#03-12-2006

Rob

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 10:48 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

You appear to have a severe case of creditophilia. Why does it *matter* who gets credit? Isn't the *software* more important? (If it isn't, what's the point in working on it at all? Why not just start an advertising campaign or something?)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:04 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

Why does it *matter* who gets credit?

It's part of the motivation to do something for the community. There are few totally unselfish acts in the world.

Next question: Why does the FSF think that the GPL contains an advertising clause to the effect that Linux (and indeed *any* kernel: cf "GNU/Solaris") *must* be named GNU/Linux, regardless of the project leader's wishes, even though advertising clauses are incompatible with the GPL?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 16:14 UTC (Thu) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> It's part of the motivation to do something for the community. There
> are few totally unselfish acts in the world.

I'm not in it for praise. I do lots of things anonymously, things I'll
never get credit for and didn't _ask_ to get credit for, things nobody
will ever even notice unless they're _not_ done.

But it PISSES ME OFF when somebody else takes credit for my work (yes if
you steal a street sign, or a public urinal, or charity donations, it's
still theft). It offends me about as much when I can prove they're doing
it to others (ala Bruce Perens claiming credit for the seven years Erik
Andersen spent turning the abandoned toy version of BusyBox into a real
project). It adds insult to injury when they use stolen credit for my
work to promote a poltical platform I disagree with.

Adding retroactive strings to their own work ("I know you thought this
was a gift but here's the price") is kind of slimy and annoying too, but
I can ignore that by itself. Phrased as a _request_ that one's fine.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:18 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

To be pedantic, stealing charity donations is theft (the original owner no longer possesses the donations). Likewise stealing a street sign.

Taking credit for something that is not your work is not theft (well, not in UK law and I'd be astonished to find it's theft in any common-law country). Misrepresentation may or may not be an offence: intent is all, as is usual in the law. Promoting a political platform you disagree with is also not a crime (well, not in non-totalitarian regimes, anyway, and I can't really see how one could use any piece of non-censorware to promote a political platform. Busybox ls is a political statement now?!)

(disclaimer: IANAL but seemingly half my relatives are various forms of IP lawyer so I hear a lot of this sort of stuff...)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:14 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

The GPL does contain an advertising clause, of sorts: clause 2c. However, this doesn't require that you name your program GNU/anything, nor does the FSF claim that it does.

RMS's rather quixotic one-man campaign to rename Linux-the-OS (as opposed to the GPLed Linux-the-kernel, which he has never suggested renaming) is not required by the license. He just thinks it's a way of giving the GNU Project credit.

Other people think this is silly: and perhaps it is (I take no stand on this myself: people can name things whatever the hell they like as far as I'm concerned). But legal concerns are not involved.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 9:08 UTC (Fri) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Next question: Why does the FSF think that the GPL contains an advertising clause to the effect that Linux (and indeed *any* kernel: cf "GNU/Solaris") *must* be named GNU/Linux, regardless of the project leader's wishes, even though advertising clauses are incompatible with the GPL?
Ah, I know the answer to that one: it is a straw man. The FSF never wanted to rename the Linux kernel, or indeed any other kernel; just the complete operating system. Quoting from the GNU page:
There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is not the operating system. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in a combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU, with Linux functioning as its kernel.
Furthermore, the FSF does not think that any software "*must*" be called by any names. The FSF suggests that you call the complete system GNU/Linux, but they don't go about suing or otherwise coercing anyone about it (unless you call Stallman's obnoxious corrections when being interviewed a form of "coercion"). You know, there is a difference between a polite request and an obligation. Quoting again:
Whether you use GNU/Linux or not, please don't confuse the public by using the name “Linux” ambiguously. Linux is the kernel, one of the essential major components of the system. The system as a whole is more or less the GNU system, with Linux added. When you're talking about this combination, please call it “GNU/Linux”.
You may or may not disagree with this position, but misrepresenting it is not a solid way to have a discussion.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 10:49 UTC (Fri) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

Oh please...

In practice, the FSF (and it isn't just Stallman) is trying to get the *generic* term for a Linux system to be GNU/Linux. You can see this in their interactions with the media (cf. the recent Information Week articles) that they will not tolerate references to "Linux" in any articles featuring interviews with them.

This is in spite of the embedded field where the GNU portion is fractional - and can be replaced with something else if need be.

And don't get me started on the low proportion of GNU software in most Linux distros... The FSF is just one player of many these days, and certainly not more worthy of a credit in the system name than the other players (the ones who are *really* responsible for Linux's current success, like Apache, KDE, Mozilla, OpenOffice, OpenSSH, MySQL, Perl, Python, etc, etc...).

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 23, 2007 12:19 UTC (Fri) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Your original message pretended that the FSF wanted to rename the kernel, and implied that they were somehow using coercion via the GPL to get there. Nonsense. Now you want to discuss if they have any right to name the operating system, fine, let's discuss it once more, but this time with concrete numbers.

First, the embedded field is not the primary focus of Stallman or the FSF, as you may or not have guessed. It plays a growing part in their concerns however.

IMHO it is reasonable for the FSF to ask people to use the name "GNU/Linux"; after all, it was Stallman who came out with the idea of a libre, complete operating system, and they are the only ones providing it: GlibC, GCC, Emacs, Bash, Core- and FileUtils and GNOME; with the known exception of the kernel. Counting all of these makes out for a reasonably large portion of GNOME-based distros such as Ubuntu Linux.

Many of the software packages you mention are either alternatives or not part of the operating system, but whatever, let's compare them. All in all the GNU project is probably the largest software provider in most GNU/Linux distributions, with at least 15 million lines of code, vs 8 for OpenOffice, 6 for Linux, 4 for KDE and 3 for Mozilla. Yes, I have counted them.

As others have pointed out, the amount of software provided by the FSF is dwindling with time, since other large packages are being added to most distributions. That can only be seen as a good thing, and the FSF doesn't seem to worry about that. Again, more important than the quantity of software is the fact that GNU is the only project willing to develop (not just distribute) a complete operating system. They have provided the necessary pieces of infrastructure that nobody else cared about. (Once Landley's GNU-less project is released we can revisit this discussion if you want.) Linux itself has already been replaced.

So the answer for me is a resounding yes on three counts: history, numbers and necessity say that it is reasonable for the GNU project to get a mention in the complete system name. Now if only popularity is to be measured, as you seem to imply, then GNU should indeed be disregarded.

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 23, 2007 13:30 UTC (Fri) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

"We did a lot of work, therefore we should get more influence than that stated in our GPL on the projects which use some of our code."

Nope, Free Software doesn't work like that. Shame on you.

If you're not happy with just being listed in the CREDITS file (or equivalent), then don't release code under the GPL. Find a licence with an advertising clause rather than working outside the licence you choose.

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 23, 2007 14:25 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Argument-chop-and-change much?

I really *really* want an LWN killfile. It only needs one name in it so
far (hm, actually, two, but we haven't seen much of `genius' lately, touch
wood).

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 31, 2007 8:29 UTC (Sat) by muwlgr (guest, #35359) [Link]

... voice from the crowd : "petegn! petegn!"
:>

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 23, 2007 18:30 UTC (Fri) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> IMHO it is reasonable for the FSF to ask people to use the
> name "GNU/Linux"; after all, it was Stallman who came out with the idea
> of a libre, complete operating system, and they are the only ones
> providing it...

Ok, let's go to http://www.ibiblio.org/jmaynard/ and read the bit right
above the download link:

> This site contains copies of distribution tapes, other source and
> object code libraries, and pregenerated, runnable distributions of IBM
> public domain software written for the System/360 and System/370
> mainframe computers.
>
> All of the software on this site is in the public domain. IBM, by
> corporate policy, does not assert copyright ownership of any software
> which it distributed without copyright notices. US copyright law, until
> 1978, placed such materials in the public domain.

I repeat my earlier assertion that for most of the 1970's proprietary
software wasn't even an issue on the hobbyist programmer community's
radar. When Gates did his "letter to hobbyists" in 1976 the response was
essentially to laugh it off. The Lyons book was published before anyone
knew if it was even legally possible to copyright source code, which was
made explicit by a new law passed in 1979, and whether or not that
copyright extension covered binaries wasn't settled until Apple sued
Franklin over the ROM images in its' Apple II clones in 1983. (So
between 1979 and 1983 if you wanted to be sure copyright covered your
work you made darn sure to distribute source code with prominent
copyright notices.)

Which gets us back to "the FSF wasn't being visionary, it was being
reactionary and conservative from day 1".

> Linux itself has already been replaced.

Plus existence of BSD and MacOSX and the Posix certifications of Windows
NT and OS/360...

Closer to home, Shawn Jackman built a subset of the BusyBox applets under
newlib+libgloss in 2005, running against the bare metal with no
underlying OS kernel.

What Linux pioneered was modern open source collaborative development
through the internet with release early/release often and all that jazz.
And he's pioneered scaling that mode with a driver maintainers layer
between the project's leader and the developers, and then it went to a
four-layer thing with the lieutenants (essentially subsystem maintainers
above the driver maintainers). Plus being the first project to apply a
modern distributed source control system to open source development.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar was a paper about how Linus's working style
differed from that of the FSF. (The cathedral was specifically the FSF.)
The FSF benefitted from the internet but Linux was the first development
project predicated on taking full advantage of it from day one. (The FSF
insisted on physical copyright assignments with a signature on a piece of
paper, and still do. Linus often merges over a hundred patches in a day,
that kind of bureaucracy just wouldn't work.)

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 24, 2007 0:40 UTC (Sat) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Ok, let's go to http://www.ibiblio.org/jmaynard/ and read the bit right above the download link:
I'm not sure I follow you, the existence of large libraries of public domain code (even complete operating systems) at a moment in time is nice, but the real problem would come when IBM and the rest changed their view on copyright and started asserting it. Stallman set out to make an OS which could not be made proprietary.
I repeat my earlier assertion that for most of the 1970's proprietary software wasn't even an issue on the hobbyist programmer community's radar.
True, that is precisely why Stallman was being visionary by being concerned before the rest of the world saw the problem of the proprietary approach everyone was taking.
Which gets us back to "the FSF wasn't being visionary, it was being reactionary and conservative from day 1".
A bit contradictory (or again I'm not following you), Stallman saw the problem not only with proprietary development, but also with public domain and BSD-style licenses. That is why he created the GPLv2 and the FSF. Why is that "reactionary"?
The Cathedral and the Bazaar was a paper about how Linus's working style differed from that of the FSF. (The cathedral was specifically the FSF.)
I have seen this assertion of yours a couple of times, and it is what made me answer this post: where do you get this impression? Even in the abstract we read:
I discuss these theories in terms of two fundamentally different development styles, the ``cathedral'' model of most of the commercial world versus the ``bazaar'' model of the Linux world.
Or this paragraph:
Perhaps this is not only the future of open-source software. No closed-source developer can match the pool of talent the Linux community can bring to bear on a problem. Very few could afford even to hire the more than 200 (1999: 600, 2000: 800) people who have contributed to fetchmail!
I don't think Raymond considers GNU as "closed-source". There are a thousand examples all over the text where "cathedral" is equated with "closed-source", "proprietary", "commercial" etc. It is true that FSF development seems to be more "cathedralicious" or centralized than other free software projects, but saying that they were the epitome of cathedral development is quite misguided IMHO.
The FSF insisted on physical copyright assignments with a signature on a piece of paper, and still do. Linus often merges over a hundred patches in a day, that kind of bureaucracy just wouldn't work.
I don't see why not. The piece of paper is just needed once per developer; after that you can contribute as much as you want. Given that developers do not change that much, that many of them come from companies (which can ease much of the paperwork) and that copyright assignment is not needed for one-line patches, it is not a significant entry barrier.

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 24, 2007 17:48 UTC (Sat) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> > Ok, let's go to http://www.ibiblio.org/jmaynard/ and read the bit
> > right above the download link:
>
> I'm not sure I follow you, the existence of large libraries of public
> domain code (even complete operating systems) at a moment in time is
> nice, but the real problem would come when IBM and the rest changed
> their view on copyright and started asserting it. Stallman set out to
> make an OS which could not be made proprietary.

IBM didn't make the existing versions proprietary, they stopped releasing
new open versions. (Keep in mind IBM didn't accept outside contributions
to their OS. The modern equivalent of this is that the sole copyright
holder were free to issue new licenses, as Sun is doing with the GPL.
But the code that was out there stayed out there.)

IBM's big change of heart was called the "Object Code Only (OCO) Policy",
issued February 8, 1983. Here's a copy of their original announcement:
http://landley.net/history/mirror/ibm/oco.html

Here's the final report of SHARE's attempt to get IBM to change its mind
(essentially giving up 5 years later):
http://www.redbug.org/dba/sharerpt/share71/s987.html

And an history article putting it in context:
http://www.itworld.com/Comp/1369/LWD000606S390/

> > I repeat my earlier assertion that for most of the 1970's proprietary
> > software wasn't even an issue on the hobbyist programmer community's
> > radar.
>
> True, that is precisely why Stallman was being visionary by being
> concerned before the rest of the world saw the problem of the
> proprietary approach everyone was taking.

Going from a world that had less than a hundred thousand computers in it
to a world that has more than a hundred million in the space of about 15
years led to some impressive culture shock on the part of the programming
community. What happened is that most of the existing programmers didn't
see alternative ways of doing things as a _threat_, because they didn't
realize they were about to be outnumbered by a factor of 1000.

> > Which gets us back to "the FSF wasn't being visionary, it was being
> > reactionary and conservative from day 1".
>
> A bit contradictory (or again I'm not following you), Stallman saw the
> problem not only with proprietary development, but also with public
> domain and BSD-style licenses. That is why he created the GPLv2 and the
> FSF. Why is that "reactionary"?

He was striving to maintain the status quo. Return to the glorius past.
The way we did it in the good old days was superior to these newfangled
professional software development businesses.

He may have been right, but that doesn't change the nature of his
actions. And how right he was when what he was originally trying to
defend was the ITS system against the MIT administration, and the rebase
to Unix only came about when the PDP-10 hardware line and
proposed "Jupiter" follow-on project were cancelled (also in 1983),
rendering ITS (written entirely in PDP-10 assembly) a clear dead-end.
His move to Unix was forced upon him when ITS died, he just wanted to
move as little as possible.

Fast forward to _today_ and people are going "oh, what great new insights
do you have for us with your keen eye for the future" when all he ever
did was prefer 1977 to 1983. I do not look for great insights from this
man, I look for clever hacks to defend ideas from the 1970's, often with
long elaborate rationalizations for things he's already made up his mind
on. (Show me the last time he _changed_ his mind due to new information.
Yeah I know, he's not inflexible, he's making a stand on principle. I
honestly thought he might take up the cause of deCSS in 2000, but ITS
couldn't play DVDs. There still isn't a GNU deCSS implementation. Not a
battle he wants to fight.)

> > The Cathedral and the Bazaar was a paper about how Linus's working
> > style differed from that of the FSF. (The cathedral was specifically
> > the FSF.)
>
> I have seen this assertion of yours a couple of times, and it is what
> made me answer this post: where do you get this impression?

From Eric Raymond directly, while editing The Art of Unix Programming
(check the intro for my name), and outright co-authoring things like the
OSI reaction paper to the SCO lawsuit, Halloween 9, and the 64-bit paper
(which he insisted on titling "world domination 201")...

It's in the book, though, if you look for it:
http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathed...

> But few of us really thought very hard about what we were doing, or
> about what the very existence of that archive suggested about problems
> in the FSF's cathedral-building development model.

A couple times he's talked about a specific 1996 conference that Tim
O'Reiley put together (and that he, Linus, and RMS attended) where worked
it all out for the first time, seeing them next to each other and
thinking about the differences. I could ask him for details...

> I don't see why not. The piece of paper is just needed once per
> developer;

Needed at precisely the wrong time.

I touched on it here: http://lkml.org/lkml/2002/1/29/9

Most developers start out as casual contributors. A line here, a bugfix
there. The less they have invested in participating in a project's
development, the more easily discouraged they are. Needing a sign-off to
get cvs commit access is one thing, but needing a sign-off to take your
five line function? Eh, it wasn't that important anyway.

> developers do not change that much,

In a project with 1000 semi-regular contributors, the top 20 don't change
that much month to month. Call the newspapers.

The point is where do they come from? Let's look at a couple of
examples:

Con Koliavs: scheduler dude. When he got into Linux his day job was as
an Australian anesthesiologist, he started poking around Linux for fun.
First time he wandered away, two years later he tried again and got
hooked:
http://kerneltrap.org/node/465

Andrew Morton, current #2 in the development community. Only got involved
in the project in 2000, because a NIC he was using had been declared
obsolete and he sent in a patch fixing it. (Was anybody other than him
still _using_ that NIC? Dunno. He could have maintained it out of tree,
but it was easier to get it merged so it wouldn't break again.)
http://kerneltrap.org/node/10

Even the early adopters did stuff before Linux. Alan Cox used to do
Amiga stuff and MUDs, Peter Anvin first used Linux to put together
terminal servers...

Back when I read the first year or so of the linux kernel mailing list, I
collected a few interesting posts (with links back to the originals in
the archive):
http://landley.net/history/mirror/linux/1991.html
http://landley.net/history/mirror/linux/1992.html

Now ask yourself: how many of those people would have just wandered away
again if Linus had asked them to fill out paperwork as a condition of
participating?

Attracting and breaking in new developers is extremely important to the
long-term health of a project. This is why things like kernelnewbies.org
exist.

Rob

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 26, 2007 12:58 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

`A line here, a bugfix there' do not and have never required copyright assignment papers.

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 26, 2007 16:53 UTC (Mon) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Sure they did. Back in the late 90s, I wanted to submit a 15 line rather obvious bugfix to the viper elisp package. It took a snail mail letter and three weeks to clear up the copyright assignment. I almost didn't bother.

I do hope you're right and the FSF is being more realistic now. Not to long ago, though, they required papers for just about anything. I think I still have the proof in my filing cabinet!

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 27, 2007 14:37 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

The rule-of-thumb the FSF uses is `if the fix is trivial, no assignment is required: things ten lines long or less are assumed trivial'.

It looks like you slipped in just above that limit.

(I find it very little effort to do the occasional copyright assignment dance: the *really* annoying part is getting your employer to disclaimer-of-rights forms, because even if they agree they can be *so* damn slow at it it's not true. I've had to wait >6mths for these sometimes.)

Should it be GNU/Linux

Posted Mar 26, 2007 21:55 UTC (Mon) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

[about RMS, and his visionary qualities]

>Why is that "reactionary"?

He was striving to maintain the status quo. Return to the glorius past.

That is like saying that Mohandas Gandhi was reactionary because he just wanted to "return to the glorious past" when the English did not rule India. True, but lopsided.

Stallman wanted not to return to a naïve past where kind people shared code, but go on to a new situation where people wrote free software because they wanted it to be free, and companies (a new concept) pooled their effort. Guess what, it works.

[again about RMS, and his cathedralicious model of development]

It's in the book, though, if you look for it:

http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathed...

Ah, you worried me. For a moment I thought it was there, plain for all to see as a central recurrent theme and I had missed it: that instead of talking about closed, proprietary software Raymond was speaking about his old buddy Stallman all the time. But it is sort of hidden, isn't it?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 16:03 UTC (Thu) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> You appear to have a severe case of creditophilia. Why does it *matter*
> who gets credit?

I don't care about getting credit for my work. It's a gift.

I am deeply offended by somebody ELSE taking credit for my work. That's
stealing.

I'm sorry you don't understand this distinction. Neither does the FSF.

Rob

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 10:55 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

His for cutting and pasting: I'm guessing because it was the first he'd seen it, so it was new to him?

Yep. It opened my eyes to the antics of the "leaders" of the FLOSS scene. Having recently been disillusioned by PJ of Groklaw, the discoveries of RMS's and Perens' previous antics have been fascinating to me.

I went off organised religion as a kid, and only recently have I discovered that extended to the computer field as well. Self-selected "leaders" have usually (with a few exceptions) put their own interests first.

The moral of the story? Think for yourself, and work *with* others. Co-operation rather than conflict. That way great things happen.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 12:14 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

> Self-selected "leaders" have usually (with a few exceptions) put their own interests first.

Honestly, if the basis of your ill-feeling towards Stallman is simply disillusionment, then please, deal with it in private. Being a "great" person is pretty much fundamentally incompatible with being a nice person, because part of it is having the ego and the mulishness to insist that you're right when everyone else is telling you not to be silly; and expecting people such as Stallman or PJ to be somehow immune from the vices, doubts and insecurities that plague the rest of us is asking them to be something other than human.

But as far as "self-selected leader" goes, what sets Stallman apart is that he didn't move. At a time when everyone was taking a route away from what he regarded as a core principle, he dug his heels in - but he also DID something about it. (Not just GNU; before that there was Emacs, and before that the wholesale recreation of the Symbolics OS for the Lisp Machines Inc machines. And of course, before that there was Emacs again.) Stallman didn't go anywhere; he just found himself a leader when people started looking to him for direction. So it went to his head. Are you seriously claiming it wouldn't have gone to yours? The person that is Stallman is of vanishing insignificance; anyone with his ability could have made his choices. What is significant - his refusal to compromise his ideals; his advocacy of freedom in moral terms, rather than pragmatic ones; his ability to read the writing on the wall - are the very qualities for which people dislike him, yet without those there probably wouldn't BE a free software movement today, let alone one causing Microsoft sleepless nights.

And for reference, I've never knowingly used the term "GNU/Linux", as far as I recall, and I have no inclination to start.

(PS. Conflict is responsible for more invention, art, and pretty much any creative human endeavour than anything else. Don't be so hasty to condemn it. Without it, we'd have hegemony, and we certainly wouldn't have freedom.)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:23 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Now that's a good reason not to use the term GNU/Linux: like the earlier unlamented Lignux it's a pig-ugly term (and to his credit he recognized that `Lignux' was horrible and stopped using it).

RMS has come up with a good few really nasty names for things and rarely realises when they're non-euphonious... (mind you he's picked some good names, too: Emacs isn't bad, and POSIX is so much better a name than IEEEIX that it's not true.)

RMS is stubborn as anything, yes, but a good few of his stubborn stands are *right*. (Not all of them: most people I've talked to think the GFDL is a mistake, for instance.)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 16:15 UTC (Thu) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> I went off organised religion as a kid, and only recently have I
> discovered that extended to the computer field as well.
> Self-selected "leaders" have usually (with a few exceptions) put their
> own interests first.

Linus is refreshingly up-front about it though, isn't he? :)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 16:48 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

I've yet to see Torvalds try and shape the world outside his project. I've seen him give various opinions on various subjects, but that's to be expected when you're the leader of such a high-profile project. I've also yet to see him take credit for other people's work.

In other words, he's just what you'd expect of a project leader (multiplied by the fact that Linux is such a public-facing project) - out to enable people rather than hinder them.

I've now lost count of the number of times FSF-mouthpiece Groklaw has railed against decisions and practices (outside the courts) which are actually acceptable inside the industry. When I realised they didn't understand business or the needs of the tech sector (cf. binary "blobs", so-called Tivoization, etc), I realised that (aside from the SCO saga) they didn't speak for me, or for people with my background (generic geek programming and using computers at work and at home who want to help out other people where they can).

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 17:09 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Luckily PJ is back on the SCO case, where she is simply amazing. I agree, her detours into "NOVELL IS BACKDOORING OPENOFFICE!!!!" etc. were wrong at best, and bold-faced lies at worst. Thankfully, the Utah courts are back in session and PJ appears to have mellowed out. You might want to give her another chance... people do make mistakes.

Even fake, invented-by-IBM people. :)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 17:18 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

I still follow the site, but I don't contribute anymore. The tipping point was the deletion of posts critical of the FSF and of the GPL3 - you can only be neutral or positive about either, and if you criticize the GPL3, you're told your views don't matter because it doesn't exist yet.

People pointing out the contradictions between "software patents are being awarded for trivial pieces of code" and "Linux (however you define it) cannot possibly infringe patents" also got silenced and their posts deleted.

So I basically now just read it for the information, and not the editorial. She doesn't understand the tech, nor the industry, so her value is only in the lawsuit coverage.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:25 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Of course she's never ever said that she's not a techie. (Only in, oh, virtually every article touching on tech matters. But I can see how you might have missed that.)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 19:08 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

The point isn't that she's pretending to be a techie. The point is that she doesn't understand the technical issues, and yet feels comfortable writing sensational incorrect conclusions on matters she doesn't understand, yet she feels able to speak for the community on these subjects.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 14:28 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

As far as I'm aware she's writing a popular bloggy thing. She didn't in
some way *insist* that people Let Her Speak For The Community: she's in
that position de facto because a large number of people think she's worthy
of it. It's not a position that it's possible to `resign' from (without
entirely ceasing to write anything publically visible!)

That's how the rank structure we don't have works. My apologies that the
collective opinions of the net didn't gravitate you, with your
scintillating opinions based mostly on wishful thinking, to the position
of people that other people listen to.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 14:49 UTC (Fri) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

Wow, you make popular unqualified bloggers sound more important than people who actually know what they're talking about. I'll leave you (and others like you) to wallow and panic in your collective ignorance.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 15:20 UTC (Fri) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

As an exercise for the reader, read through the Groklaw articles and count the instances of phrases along the lines of

* "The community doesn't want that."

* "The community doesn't work like that."

* "CommunityMemberFooBar is not acting in the interests of the community."

She seems to write about what the community wants, and yet her views only represent a small part of it these days.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 12:59 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

The only panicker (and conspiracy theorist) on this thread seems to be you.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 11:39 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

> Who _I_ am (I'm not nigelk but he was responding to my message)

I _know_ who you are; you're open about your credentials, and whilst I may disagree with your opinions you have given me the option of respecting them in context. Moreover, if I'd wanted to know why you posted the link, I'd have asked you; but since NigelK isn't an alias for you, you can no more speak for him than I can. (I've learned my lesson about checking attributions.)

NigelK's only contribution to this thread seems to be to attempt a covert character assassination of Stallman, and by extension the FSF - and frankly, I suspect, the whole concept of freedom-guaranteed software. When someone appears to be working to an agenda, it's reasonable to ask them what it is. And if all NigelK's vehemence is based on is what he's read in the last few years, then frankly it's nothing but prejudice and he should damned well keep it to himself.

(And I'd describe who I am too, but the fact is I don't have any credentials to claim. I'm just someone who calls bullshit when I see it; if I do have an agenda, it's "all freedoms originate with the freedom to decline".)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 12:02 UTC (Thu) by NigelK (guest, #42083) [Link]

NigelK's only contribution to this thread seems to be to attempt a covert character assassination of Stallman, and by extension the FSF - and frankly, I suspect, the whole concept of freedom-guaranteed software.

Yes, this is an example of the things I don't like emanating from the FSF: criticize FSF, or any of the FSF-associated personalities, and you're labeled as anti-freedom. This is in spite of the fact that I write code under GPL2 and BSD licences - but that doesn't count if you don't buy into the current FSF dogma.

I don't write code to further any organisation's agenda. I do it to help out other people on terms that are acceptable to myself. And I do it bloody well.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 12:18 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

> this is an example of the things I don't like emanating from the FSF

I'm in no way affiliated with that, or any other, organisation. If I say something, it's because I believe it personally. And frankly, you did seem to be parlaying a disgust with Stallman into a condemnation of the FSF - that's how it looked to me. Say it ain't so and I'll be happy to accept that. For myself - because I never could bear to speak for anyone else.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 16:44 UTC (Thu) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> (And I'd describe who I am too, but the fact is I don't have any
> credentials to claim. I'm just someone who calls bullshit when I see
> it; if I do have an agenda, it's "all freedoms originate with the
> freedom to decline".)

I declined to abandon GPLv2, and couldn't get the darn FSFhova's
witnesses off my lawn afterwards. The Linux kernel developers similarly
declined, and have a similar problem with their respective lawns. I
decline to participate in the GPLv3 process when I disagree with its
goals. (GPLv2 does not cover use, only distribution. Beyond that,
trying to distinguish DRM signing of "authorized" software from burning
the code into ROM is just plain stupid and doomed to fail. It doesn't
matter _how_ you try to implement a flawed concept, this wriggling is no
more interesting when the FSF tries to do it than when the RIAA or MPAA
try to do it.)

I decline to work on the GNU project, I work on Linux systems instead,
and yes there's a difference. I decline to stand by while someone tries
to blur that difference. I decline to allow an organization to claim to
speak for me when I disagree with what it has to say, or to claim credit
for my work (especially when I consider them technically bankrupt; have
you ever SEEN the GNU coding style guidelines? As Linus said back in
1996: print out a copy and burn it, a great symbolic gensture...)

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 19:39 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

OK, I've explained that (a) I'm a nobody, (b) I don't have a problem with you, and (c) I'm not connected with the FSF at all. Should I also have explained that I don't see your actions as being in violation of the principle with which I did associate myself, even though I don't see Stallman's actions as violating it either? If so - you got it; I'm sure you are as much on the side of the angels as he is; and attempting to play "you're either with me or against me" games is silly and wrong whoever does it.

As to the DRM issue: If the reasoning behind the use of DRM on a device is to only allow the distribution of authorised binaries signed with a universal key, then fine - provide a unique key with each machine that allows binaries to be signed for, and used on, only that machine. That way, I can recompile and replace the software, and distribute everything needed to do so - I just can't distribute a precompiled binary, which may be a technical annoyance but is not a limitation of my freedom to share my work (because anyone else can do what I did to generate a binary).

As I understand the FSF, their concern is that the freedom of a user to receive, alter and redistribute software is meaningless if you can't actually USE it; such a solution would solve that problem whilst allowing the use of signed binaries. Would such a scheme be acceptable under the proposed GPL3? If not, then it appears that I also have a problem with that proposal. But if it would, then for the life of me I can't see what all the fuss is about!

And that's just one suggestion made by a nobody (which is probably why for the couple of months I've been saying it, nobody's taken the blindest bit of notice of me). I can't believe there aren't other conceivable solutions that will satisfy both sides equally well.

You cite ROM distribution as a counter-example, but it seems to me that ROM is being used as just that - no more than a means of distribution of a binary. If you pull out the ROM and replace it with an EPROM you've burned yourself, it'll run quite happily; all you need is a means to write a new copy of the chosen distribution method. But if I were to blow that EPROM and find that the CPU refuses to accept it because the chip carrier bore the wrong manufacturer ID on its surface, I have an "authorised binaries" analogy. So I cannot accept your comparison as valid (and it saddens me that your pre-emptive response to such a disagreement is not that it's wrong, but that it's "just plain stupid").

Of course, with a machine-specific key, I can download an unsigned ROM image, sign it, blow it and use it; my freedom is preserved, yet so is the ability of the manufacturer to authorise binaries (my signed ROM is useless on any other device; the unsigned ROM image can't be used directly or by stealth; signing a ROM image becomes a deliberate step, a signifier of taking individual responsibility). I repeat that in my view the GPL3 should permit this scheme.

...That aside - my point was that the FSF are quite free to decline to dilute their licence to suit purposes with which they fundamentally disagree, just as you are free to decline to use their licence if you fundamentally disagree with their goals. I don't see their quest to ensure that the use of DRM does not impact the rights of an individual user to hack on their device as anything other than a reaffirmation of their founding principle - namely that a user of a piece of software should have the right to customise it, and to share their customisations. That's a principle with which I wholeheartedly agree. The problem I have with "authorised" binaries is that they take away my freedom to decline all the choices offered by the authoriser and make my own options.

But of course, the broader point is this - freedom isn't free. Every choice carries a cost; creating one's own choice carries one that most people would view as far too high. If you're determined to use DRM to prohibit me from customising my machine, I don't have any right to stop you - but I can insist that you don't use anything of mine in the attempt. That's what I believe the FSF are seeking to do with GPL3; it's a continuation of a philosophy they've always espoused; demanding that they not do it is akin to asking them to change their philosophy. You're not doing that, which is great; you're insisting that your software remain GPL2, which is fine, and will certainly permit someone to sell you a device containing your own work and then stop you from updating it. That's your choice, and I'm all in favour of you making it. Everyone who currently uses GPL2 will have the same choice to make; some of them will see things your way, whilst others will disagree; and I'm sure some GPL2+ projects will end up forking into GPL3 and GPL2 versions, which will be a shame. (And of course, GPL3 isn't even final yet, so the entire discussion is possibly premature.)

Moreover, licences can't be applied retroactively; so you can take anything GPL'd before the GPL3 is out and use and redistribute it under GPL2+ terms, even if it's immediately relicensed to GPL3 thereafter - you just can't stop anyone else relicensing it to GPL3 when they redistribute it. So anyone currently using GPL'd software in DRM'd situations can continue using what they have right now, even after GPL3; but they might be frozen out of future developments.

Likewise, a product developer who chooses to use DRM to lock out individual developers in the future will have to make that choice in the knowledge that they're also locking themselves out from GPL3'd software; and those who stay with GPL2, or omit the "or any later version" bit, will be granting implicit permission for those product developers to use their software. That's as it should be - everyone able to make the choice that works best for them, with a knowledge of the costs incurred in doing so.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 19:53 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190) [Link]

(3 pages long? Ouch! Er, sorry for going on.)

Computer historian?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 11:46 UTC (Fri) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Who _I_ am (I'm not nigelk but he was responding to my message) is among other things, a computer historian (see http://landley.net/history/mirror for some random snapshots of research materials).
You consider yourself a historian? Then maybe you should set your academic standards a bit higher. Random examples from your earlier messages:
Back in the 1970's there _was_ no proprietary software market to speak of.
In 1978 Microsoft had 11 employees, all doing proprietary software. It was the year when WordStar was published, and VisiCalc was soon to follow. But this is just in the microcomputer area; a fledging 1970s market saw the birth of such companies as Compuware (1973), Computer Associates (1976), SAS Institute (also 1976) or Oracle Corporation (as SDL, 1977); meanwhile Software AG had been founded in 1969 in Germany; and in 1972 in the US. I would hardly call that "no proprietary software market".
Micro-soft was one of the first, and they were a shoestring operation with three employees, one of which was part time and one of which had a day job at HP.
As someone has pointed out, Microsoft had no HP employees. Paul Allen used to work for Honeywell, Bill Gates dropped out of school. You are confusing Microsoft with Apple.
The _very_ first might have been Digital Research, which was a one-man operation Gary Kildall ran out of his living room to make and sell CP/M for the very first commodity hardware platform, the S/100 Altair clones.
DRI was hardly the first; by 1974 (the year DRI was founded) several companies were successfully selling business software. By 1980 Apple had 1000 employees, while Digital Research had more than 200. It never was a "one man operation"; from the start (1974) his wife was an integral part of the company.
AT&T didn't try to commercialize Unix until 1983, by which time it was about as old as Linux is now.
According to Levenez, by 1983 there were already several commercial Unix variants, including Microsoft's Xenix and HP-UX. Presumably AT&T were making money from it, which counts as "commercializing" IMHO.
Stallman's been marginalized because he hasn't done anything new for 15 years.
Stallman has been marginalized? Well, I guess that going around the world speaking about Free Software in various public (e.g. the European Commission) and private venues, and publishing books and articles all around doesn't count. Meanwhile his GNU project has started subprojects such as the GIMP or GNOME, and his GPLv3 committees have brought together most companies involved in Free Software from around the world. Not bad for a marginal character.
And the first complete reimplementation of Unix (BSD, again predating the GNU manifesto) still has several forks active today.
As has been mentioned before, not true: Coherent and a few other independent variants existed before BSD itself was independent.
The big advance in open development in 1984 was the invention of the program "patch", which was done by Larry Wall (who went on to invent Perl). What Stallman had was an FTP site donated by MIT, back when that was hard to get, so lots of people like Wall signed up to get distribution on ftp://athena.ai.mit.edu. Stallman claimed credit for this code but he had nothing to do with it, he was running the sourceforge of his day.
I have just downloaded a fresh copy of patch and there is a very clear explanation of the roles of Larry Wall and the FSF. Without an explicit reference it is impossible to check your statement.
When FTP space became easier to get (cdrom.com and sunsite were both pretty active by the early 90's) the GNU project faded into well-deserved obscurity because they couldn't browbeat people into putting up with Stallman as a condition of getting distribution for their code anymore.
I'm not sure "well-deserved obscurity" describes particularly well their past or current status. By the time I got acquainted with Solaris in 2000, the first thing everyone did to accomplish anything useful was to download several GNU packages such as Bash or GNU tar; not to speak about GCC. I am certain that GNU's popularity was not because it provided "FTP space".
The important projects the FSF once maintained all stagnated and forked, gcc->egcs (and the name was handed over with gcc 2.95), glibc->glibc2 (and Ulrich Drepper who forked it and still maintains the fork was kinda pissed when the FSF tried to muscle back in on it: http://sources.redhat.com/ml/libc-announce/2001/msg00000.... )
GCC has not stagnated; it is currently past its 4.0 release and moving along nicely, having been redesigned several times since the fork you mention. Similarly GlibC: the differences you mention have been put aside and development seems to move along. Many other GNU projects (such as the aforementioned GNOME or the GIMP) are moving along at constant speed. Your statement is so biased that it is hard to find any GNU packages which have actually languished or stagnated because of political differences, any more than e.g. your ex-project Busybox.

I could go on. Unverifiable and biased statements are not (or should not be) the modus operandi for a historian. You write well, but your foundations are really too shaky. Please verify your statements before posting them in public; even a few trips to the Wikipedia can save a lot of embarrassment later.

Computer historian?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 17:47 UTC (Fri) by landley (guest, #6789) [Link]

> You consider yourself a historian?

It's a hobby, and your argument here seems to be that there were perhaps
a half-dozen low-volume examples about 18 months before the turn of the
decade. I knew about this. That was the "to speak of" part.

> > Back in the 1970's there _was_ no proprietary software market to
> > speak of.
>
> In 1978 Microsoft had 11 employees, all doing proprietary software. It

Yup. Which they sold to hardware manufacturers for bundling with their
product, because selling directly to end users was not a commercially
viable option. Right at the end of the 1970's the bespoke software
development market finally started to scale.

Microsoft big customers were computer manufacturers like Mits and IMSAI,
their sales to end-users sucked badly enough to prompt the famous "letter
to hobbyists" in 1976. Microsoft's big cash cow as late as 1980 was its
contract for TRS-80 ROM images, which Gates talks about at some length in
this 1980 audio interview:

http://landley.net/history/mirror/ms/gates.mp3

According to the book "On the Edge"
(http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Spectacular-Rise-Fall-Commodor...)
Microsoft sold commodore unlimited rights to ROM BASIC for a one time
payment of $10K, and went on to sell it to Radio Shack for $20k. (This
was something like 1979, I'd double check and cite a page number but the
book's at home and I'm not.)

I already mentioned that Paul Allen's day job was at Mits, not HP. This
is off the top of my head, I'm mostly not checking references for this
thread.

> DRI was hardly the first; by 1974 (the year DRI was founded) several
> companies were successfully selling business software.

For mainframes and minicomputers, sure. I mentioned the bespoke bit
where you comission very low volume software at extremely high per-unit
costs?

> By 1980 Apple had 1000 employees

Selling hardware.

> was the year when WordStar was published,

http://www.wordplace.com/ap/ does a decent job of covering that (starting
in chapter 3), but again: volume in the toilet back on CP/M.

> and VisiCalc was soon to follow.

Which I mentioned.

> But this is just in the microcomputer area; a fledging 1970s market saw
> the birth of such companies as Compuware (1973), Computer Associates
> (1976), SAS Institute (also 1976) or Oracle Corporation (as SDL, 1977);
> meanwhile Software AG had been founded in 1969 in Germany; and in 1972
> in the US. I would hardly call that "no proprietary software market".

This was the bespoke market I mentioned. Each copy of that software sold
for a year's salary of programmer time, because the total number of
machines it could run on was so limited. With a setup like that, each
copy is essentially tailored to that customer.

> According to Levenez, by 1983 there were already several commercial
> Unix variants, including Microsoft's Xenix and HP-UX. Presumably AT&T
> were making money from it, which counts as "commercializing" IMHO.

I've read his chart and exchanged email to the guy. Xenix was
commissioned in 1979 (SCO did the implementation as a two-person
consulting shop, and that was founded in 1979). And this gets us back
to "software bundled with a hardware purchase" again.

And AT&T were _forbidden_ from making money from it due to their 1959
antitrust consent decree. They were a regulated monopoly and could not
diversify out of the telephone business. They agreed to be broken up in
1983 (the breakup was in 1984 but the judgement was in 83) to get out
from under that antitrust decress so they could diversify into things
like the computer industry. (Bell labs came out with the transistor, the
laser, and unix, and all they could do with any of it was upgrade their
phone switches.)

> > And the first complete reimplementation of Unix (BSD, again predating
> > the GNU manifesto) still has several forks active today.
>
> As has been mentioned before, not true: Coherent and a few other
> independent variants existed before BSD itself was independent.

BSD was clearly started before coherent, but coherent was finished first,
therefore it's "first". GNU was started before Linux. GNU still hasn't
been finished. Therefore GNU is first.

Pick one, will you?

> By the time I got acquainted with Solaris in 2000, the first thing
> everyone did to accomplish anything useful was to download several GNU
> packages such as Bash or GNU tar; not to speak about GCC. I am certain
> that GNU's popularity was not because it provided "FTP space".

In that case it's because Ed Zander decided to unbundle the compiler (and
other things) from Solaris so he could charge extra for it, and this made
gcc the de-facto compiler of Solaris. I mentioned this in another post.

(Personally I lump Solaris in with Desqview and OS/2 as "of only
historical interest", but I realize there remains a vocal minority who
will defend it for years to come. Just as OS/2 had.)

> GCC has not stagnated;

The original development line did. Cygnus forked egcs and took over the
name, and these days the driving force behind it seems to be
CodeSourcery.

I mentioned this.

> Unverifiable and biased statements are not (or should not be) the modus
> operandi for a historian.

I'm not currently trying to write an article with citations, I'm saying
I've done a lot of research here and this is what I remember off the top
of my head, away from my references and not spending time to look things
up for a simple message thread.

Historian isn't my day job. Programming is, and has been for years. (I
was offered a book contract once for a history of Linux, but didn't have
time.)

(P.S. Citing wikipedia to back anything up is hilarious. It's pretty
much the modern definition of "non-authoritative reference". A secondary
source at best.)

Computer historian?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 13:02 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Cygnus forked egcs? Almost the entire development community forked it (even the original maintainer, kenner, participated in both forks for a while, until the pace of development on egcs forced abandonment of the original fork). The fork was done with RMS's agreement, as an experiment.

That doesn't seem like a unilateral one-company fork to me.


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