Thursday, July 23, 2009

Linus on Extremism

I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out.

There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.
—Linus Torvalds (as quoted in Linux Magazine)

[Über-thanks to Jeffrey Stedman and Jo Shields for turning up this quote!]

30 comments:

maelcum said...

I think it is normal to hate somebody who wants to see you (Free Software) dead. Hate, fear, whatever. Negative feelings towards Microsoft *are* justified.
Microsoft have said they've changed often enough, and they never really did. For me it was never very credible, and unsurprisingly never true.

Elland said...

I wonder what Roy's spin is going to be on this.

Lefty said...

I think hate kills the hater. In fact, I've seen it, and it's not pretty.

The Buddha tells us,

Not by hate is hate defeated;
Hate is quenched by love.
This is the eternal law.
Dhammapada, v.5

Sometimes love has to be tough. Sometimes it has to be firm. But I don't "hate" Roy or Sam Varghese or you. I think what some folks are doing is wrong, and that they need to be made to stop it, by all appropriate means, but hatred is not one of those.

Microsoft does not hate you back. Be suspicious. Be skeptical. Demand that they prove their sincerity in a responsible way.

But also consider that recent changes may reflect (the beginning of) a change in thinking on Microsoft's part (if a huge coroporation can be said to "think").

The news may not have made it to Steve Ballmer's hindbrain so far, but it may yet, and you need to retain at least a little bit of "benefit of the doubt", if only not to wander down the path that leads to imagining that Microsoft is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hell*, and that Miguel de Icaza is the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

Microsoft won't hate you back, or love you back. Hating a publicly-owned corporation, which is actually just tens of thousands of individuals, like you, like me, is not healthy for you.

It will make you insane. I mean this with all seriousness. Please rethink your views.

* The phrase "a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hell" is © 2009, David "Lefty" Schlesinger. All rights reserved.

hb said...

Although the linked article itself has a few errors/inaccuracies, the quotes from Linus, as well as some FOSS developer's reactions (such as your recent blog posts, and others accross FOSS planets) strengthen my confidence in the "real" FOSS community a lot.

Thank all of you, for living the ideas of software freedom in an open-minded way.

Lefty said...

You do know that Linus draws his paycheck from the Linux Foundation, don't you...?

This is fabulous. This might actually drive these guys onto GNU/HURD. We might never hear from 'em again!

Rubenv said...

Also consider the effect this hatred for "those who are not 100% pure" has. Would you feel motivated to do the right thing if there was only crap thrown at you?

Let's be open-minded and forgiving. Every religion in the world considers forgivingness as a key value, yet F/OSS adepts can be bone-hard "one strike and you're out"?

mhogomchungu said...

GPL is an extremist license ..it basically says "our way or the high way" ..news are coming out that microsoft released their code under GPL because they were forced to do that, not because they like the GPL ..microsoft actually calls it "cancerous"

These "extremists" are the ones that forced microsoft and sun to "play nice" with their respective runtimes with the FOSS world.

all the "hatred" against novel or mono comes from them not fully complying with the spirit of free software ... GPL also says "its either all of us, or non of us" ..novel deal with microsoft made their customers "special" and rightfully, people have issues with that

nobody who hates microsoft will have a leg to stand on in criticizing code they release under GPL or under terms that are in compliance ..nobody would have a leg to stand on when criticizing novel or mono if they are in compliance ..

"but also not shutting other people and companies out."

well, nobody is getting shut out , as long as they play nice ..microsoft is with their code this time and nobody can really have credibility in attaching them with this one ..

Christian said...

I completely agree with David: One decisive point where the whole debate often goes wrong is the anthropomorphisation of abstract entities: Microsoft is not a person, but a company. Free Software is not a person, but, well, really a way of producing and sharing software.

Neither does Microsoft 'hate' Free Software, nor does Free Software 'fear' Microsoft because either entity is incapable of emotions. I know it is easier to simply such matters, but it has never lead to anything good - famous examples are stereotypes such as 'the German', 'the Japanese' or 'the Russian'. Those typically crop up pre-war oder during wars.

Such simplifications are always inaccurate, they always carry the false notion of coordinated action and hidden agendas on the opposite side, and they certainly always lead to exclusion and hatred.

maelcum, if you tried to get a more sophisticated view of Free Software you would see things very differently indeed.

Free Software is NOT the FSF, but people. People from different companies with very diverse interests and philosophies (such as IBM and Red Hat), plus independent users and contributors who also have very diverse uses and interests in Free Software. From those who use or code Free Software out of idealism, to those who use/code Free Software because it is realistically the best solution for the given task.

View Free Software, if you like, as a method, not as an entity.

Lefty said...

These "extremists" are the ones that forced microsoft and sun to "play nice" with their respective runtimes with the FOSS world.

You're kiddin' me.

You're saying that guys like Roy Schestowitz and Sam Varghese and "Penguin Pete" were the guys who "forced microsoft and sun to 'play nice'"? Those guys are just griefers with their own web sites.

Tell me specifically which "extremists" you're referring to here. I want names.

all the "hatred" against novel or mono comes from them not fully complying with the spirit of free software ... GPL also says "its either all of us, or non of us" ..novel deal with microsoft made their customers "special" and rightfully, people have issues with that

I'm coming over to Linus' view. I work on open source software. That aside, I'd like you to lay out for me the particular elements of the "spirit" of "free software" which you believe Novell has "violated". I'm not sure I know what "spirit" that is; is that like the "Holy Spirit"?

nobody who hates microsoft will have a leg to stand on in criticizing code they release under GPL or under terms that are in compliance ..nobody would have a leg to stand on when criticizing novel or mono if they are in compliance ..

Hasn't stopped Roy. I think he's three or four articles in, last I checked, on why the Hyper-V drivers are some sort of plot. In the IRC channel, they expressed some suspicion that Greg K-H is employed by (gasp!) Novell! (Do you happen to know who Greg is? Roy didn't, not before I told him.)

mhogomchungu said...

well, GPL says a lot of things ..two of them being

1. Its either our way or the high way
2. Its either all of us, or none of us

Novel made a deal with microsoft in a way that will protect users who run FOSS code from them, effectly splitting the community in two groups, their customers and everybody else.

a relevant quote from this web news: http://www.linux-watch.com/news/NS9843352777.html

"But, then there's another part of the Novell/Microsoft deal. One that takes place immediately. Microsoft is giving Novell Linux customers -- and only Novell's customers -- a guarantee that they'll be safe from any possible legal action concerning Microsoft's vast patent portfolio"

Linus is a moderate within the frame work of an extreme license ..microsoft had to do what GPL says or not participate at all if they wanted to play within the kernel space. Anybody is welcomed to play as in the kernel space as long as their code is in compliance(GPLed)

i believe(you may otherwise) that the statement RMS(some call him extremist) made about not writing linux specific code on mono played a role in microsoft making their latest statement about not going after people who implement .net

..RMS made the same statement about java back in the days so i doubt his stance against mono is knee-jerk reaction agains microsoft.

directhex said...

@mhogomchungu

i believe(you may otherwise) that the statement RMS(some call him extremist) made about not writing linux specific code on mono played a role in microsoft making their latest statement about not going after people who implement .net

I think (you may not) the timing doesn't match up, since I've heard reports of between 4 and 9 months ago as to when Miguel de Icaza first approached his contacts at Microsoft requesting something along those lines - and Stallman's statement being rather less than 4 months old.

Lefty said...

well, GPL says a lot of things ..two of them being...

It doesn't actually "say" either of those things. That's the political overlay you've placed on top of it.

I've been kind enough to post your comments, and even respond to them. You've seemed to completely ignore or discount those reponses.

Use your own blog for future sermons, you're done here unless you start engaging rather than dictating.

Seeya.

Aaron Bockover said...

Thank you, Lefty. Just seeing this quote again made my day, as have you many times over the last few weeks.

Lefty said...

Thank, Aaron, I got it from Jeffrey Stedfast and Jo Shields, and it made my day, too.

Great getting to hang out with you at GCDS! Let's do it again next year, huh?

Jonathan Carter said...

People hate because they fear. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Jonathan: EPIC Star Wars reference! ;-)

robert said...


I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out.

There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.


In other words: hating Microsoft is sine qua non requisite for advocating free software. In Linus’ mind it’s not conceiveable that you could care about freedom without hating anyone.

The scary thing is that I don’t think he’s liing. He believes in what he said.

Now tell me, who’s the extremist?

Lefty said...

In other words: hating Microsoft is sine qua non requisite for advocating free software. In Linus’ mind it’s not conceiveable that you could care about freedom without hating anyone.

No, that's not at all what he said.

He said that there are people who espouse the cause of "free software" who also hate Microsoft (with a hatred that is visceral and irrational). Those people are the "extremists" whom Linus refers to and about whom I also worry.

There are not a huge number of them, but their volume (and their demands) is out of proportion to their numbers and they have co-opted the use of the word "free" to an extent that is frightening.

There are indeed people who prefer to say that they work in "free software" who don't fall into this class, but it's a situation in which one can increasingly (unfortunately) expect to be asked "Are you one of those Mono-hating loonies?"

The scary thing is that I don’t think he’s liing. He believes in what he said.

Well, from this and from your comment in the preceding entry, I have to say that you seem someshat presidsposed to seek offense; seeking it, you invariably find it.

I think you believe that Linux believes what you believe he said, I'll go that far.

Now tell me, who’s the extremist?

Of the three of us, nobody. So far.

Josh said...

I won't condone hatred of any kind, but are you surprised? In the past 10 to 15 years, Microsoft has been fighting free software and open standards at every opportunity. It's natural to fear their motives and to be suspicious. Anyone who isn't fearful or suspicious of Microsoft is just being naive.

Lefty said...

I won't condone hatred of any kind, but are you surprised?

At the level of the hatred I'm talking about, yes, quite.

I'm talking about people (and I saw this on Boycott Novell within the past week) talking about how Mono was "like cancer".

I had a baby brother who died of a congenital cancer when I was about 15, and comparing a piece of software to that is over the top.

One commenter compared Mono, in great detail, to a wasp which lays its eggs (named F-Stop and Tomboy, I suppose) inside a honeybee (the GNU/Linux system); the eggs hatch into parasitic larvae, devouring the bee from within.

That seem a tad pathological to me. Your Mileage May Vary, I guess.

Lefty said...

I wonder what Roy's spin is going to be on this.

"Linus has always had it in for 'free software'", more or less.

makomk said...

Linus has never exactly been much of a Free Software advocate. He's always been pragmatic - perhaps too pragmatic.

(For example, using Bitkeeper as the source control tool for Linux development - not only was it closed source, it had some fairly nasty license and technical restrictions.

One of them was that, if you or the company which you worked for developed any sort of source control software, you couldn't use Bitkeeper. This meant, amongst other things, you couldn't even check out the Linux source tree without going through a lossy BK-to-CVS layer, and you certainly couldn't do any significant Linux development.

Larry McVoy, the CEO of BitMover, famously used this to force a Mercurial developer to stop contributing, since he used Bitkeeper in his day job. Now that's an attack on FLOSS.)

I had a baby brother who died of a congenital cancer when I was about 15, and comparing a piece of software to that is over the top.

Errm... you do know that's almost certainly a direct reference to a very famous comment by one Steve Ballmer, head honcho of Microsoft, in which he calls Linux a cancer, right?

Lefty said...

Errm... you do know that's almost certainly a direct reference to a very famous comment by one Steve Ballmer, head honcho of Microsoft, in which he calls Linux a cancer, right?

Erm, you do get that it doesn't make any difference, right?

Buzz off. Go harass Livejournal.

Josh said...

I had a baby brother who died of a congenital cancer when I was about 15, and comparing a piece of software to that is over the top.

I am truly sorry to hear that. My family has also been deeply affected by cancer. This is one of the reasons so many people compare things to cancer: it is a nasty disease and we are all familiar with it. I don't find anything offensive about comparing software to cancer. That isn't an ad hominem attack. It's a reference to a business strategy. I have heard business-people use this very same analogy in reference to competitor's products before.

So, anyway, while I agree with you, I think your indignation at the extremist's behavior is somewhat misplaced.

Great blog, btw. I have subscribed.

makomk said...

Erm, you do get that it doesn't make any difference, right?

Oh, it's still a horribly insensitive choice of words; though curiously I don't recall anyone actually complaining about that aspect when Microsoft's CEO did it. (That was far more widely reported, noticed, and significant than some comments on a relatively obscure anti-Mono blog.)

Lefty said...

I don't find anything offensive about comparing software to cancer.

Well, we'll simply have to agree to disagree about that, won't we?

Lefty said...

...though curiously I don't recall anyone actually complaining about that aspect when Microsoft's CEO did it...

Well, that makes it fair game, then.

I complained about it. Maybe you didn't get the memo. Why don't you press this same point about seven more times? I'll enjoy that.

I'm just wondering, is there some part of, "You're not particularly welcome here, you have a Livejournal, why don't you occupy yourself over there?" that I could state in a more simple and clearer form for you...?

makomk said...

"You're not particularly welcome here, you have a Livejournal, why don't you occupy yourself over there?"

Sigh. Fine, I'll go somewhere that actually believes in things like free speech. (I only even noticed what you'd been posting recently because I had Monologue open and saw a post referencing it. IIRC, it was the "criticising Mono use is destroying the FLOSS movement" one.)

Lefty said...

Wring your hands a little more, mamomk, I'm not sure the folks in the back row can see you.

I'm going to respond to you, one last time, and only because you're lending support to my point for me here.

Fine, I'll go somewhere that actually believes in things like free speech.

You do that. Don't forget your marbles.

But, before you go, let me point out a few things to you. First, "your right to free speech" is with respect to the government, which doesn't actually happen to be me. You're in my blog, an uninvited guest, hanging around on the front porch.

It's good to note, while we're talking freedom, that freedom of the press does not imply that you are free to use my press. Get your own press and use it.

This, in fact, is the last gasp of the pushers of conformity of thought: "Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!"

No.

As I said, you're an uninvited guest on the front porch. To be specific, you're the uninvited guest who talks at you, going on and on and on about the rightness of his views, and when you disagree with him, he takes this as a sort of sign not that you've got some actual reason for disagreeing with him, since he in fact is not actually listening to you, but as an indication that perhaps you haven't actually grasped what he's been saying, so he talks at you some more, going on and on about the rightness of his views, and...

We've heard you. I've heard you. In at least a dozen different places. In fact, you were so assiduous in spreading your version of things that I felt that I had to post a specific entry to make it completely clear that the story you were pushing was, in fact, not only incorrect but a symptom of what I was trying to talk about. Yet, you went on, pushing the same line.

I responded to you. You ignored it. You're not saying anything new. Say it someplace else.

Now, get the hell off my front porch. Go home already.

Ed said...

Lefty, I need to buy you a beer.

Perhaps a brewery.

Perhaps two.