Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Christopher Harrold, Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Linux.SYS-CON.com Flashback to 2002: The "Stallman Factor"

The FSF wants to proclaim the good news of free software's benefits. Its tactics cause it to miss the mark

(Linux.SYS-CON.com) -- Richard Stallman is one of the best-known figures of the software revolution. Of all the other icons of the revolution, only Linus Torvalds shares the same kind of name recognition. Stallman wrote some of the most influential software of the age: tools like GCC and Emacs, which have had profound roles in the development of yet more free software. Linus Torvalds could not have written the Linux kernel without these tools. Perhaps as importantly, or maybe even more importantly, Stallman also crafted the GNU Public License: the license that guarantees the preservation of freedom in all its progeny.

Unfortunately, all that name recognition isn't due to popularity. Stallman remains the most controversial figure in a community of leaders who don't fit the norm. Think of the others in the group: Cox, Perens, and Raymond. To a man, they are outliers. They are not normal in IQ, speech, thought, or action. None of these men, however, evoke the same response as Stallman. Mention RMS in a Linux crowd and you'll find people who love him, hate him, and those who simply roll their eyes. People call him a whacko, egotist, genius, saint, and communist. Precious few are ambivalent about Richard Stallman.

The longest-running, highest-visibility feud in the open source/free software world appears to me to be Stallman's request that Linux be called GNU/Linux instead of merely Linux. Linus Torvalds said at first he went along with the notion, but now tells people to simply call it Linux. Stallman's attempt at cobranding, to borrow a marketing term, has long since begun to grate on the nerves of many. They see cobranding more as fodder for Stallman's ego than an attempt to set the record straight about what makes up an operating system and where many of Linux's components originated.

For what it's worth, I don't think Stallman is concerned about his ego. I see Stallman as a missionary with a message. His zeal for the freedom that comes with "free software" -- and his desire to protect the fruit of that freedom -- surpasses everything else including, at times, common sense.

When I interviewed Stallman in 1999 at the LWCE in San Jose, he made it clear to me he wanted Linux called GNU/Linux so people knew the role of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in Linux's history. When I mentioned I was afraid of slipping and calling it Linux during the interview, he said he wasn't concerned about me calling it that. After all, he explained, he knew I knew the real story. His concern was (and remains) getting the GNU story out to those who don't yet know it.

Case in point. The Linux user's group at the University of Texas currently calls itself "SIGLINUX." I say currently because the name has changed twice the past few months and appears ready to change again. Tami Friedmann, a local FSF activist, told SIGLINUX leadership last year Stallman might speak to SIGLINUX if it changed its name.

Jeff Strunk, president SIGLINUX, changed "SIGLINUX" to "SIGFREE" earlier this year. That change was short lived, however. SIGFREE didn't appear to satisfy the FSF, which wanted "Gnu/Linux" to be in the name. It also raised the ire of a number of SIGLINUX members who voiced their complaints on the SIGLINUX mailing list. Those unhappy with the change saw it as an application of the same type of force Microsoft uses when it exercises its monopoly muscle to bend users to its will. I don't believe this is the image the FSF wants to create for itself.

I spoke to Strunk last week. He knows no matter what he does, some will be unhappy. If he changes the name of the group to SIG-GNU/LINUX, people will complain. If he misses the opportunity to have Stallman speak to the group because he doesn't change the name, others will be unhappy. The FSF put Strunk between a rock and a hard place.

Freedom from ideology

The Stallman factor made an appearance on the Linux kernel mailing list (LKML) recently. Someone submitted a patch that would remove kernel documentation on how to submit patches to Torvalds in a BitKeeper-friendly format. Evidently, the patch submitter was offended that the Linux kernel, which is free software, carries an "advertisement" for a proprietary, un-free program like BitKeeper.

The patch brought about a spirited exchange including Torvalds and Daniel Phillips, who suggested many kernel developers were "silently seething" about Torvalds' use of a proprietary tool. If nothing else, Phillips gave Torvalds the opportunity to deliver a short lecture. Read carefully, there is much meat on these bones:

I would suggest that if you are silently seething about the fact that a commercial product can do something better than a free one, how about _doing_ something about it?

Quite frankly, I don't _want_ people using Linux for ideological reasons. I think ideology sucks. This world would be a much better place if people had less ideology, and a whole lot more "I do this because it's FUN and because others might find it useful, not because I got religion.

Would I prefer to use a tool that didn't have any restrictions on it for kernel maintenance? Yes. But since no such tool exists, and since I'm personally not very interested in writing one, _and_ since I don't have any hangups about using the right tool for the job, I use BitKeeper.

A day later, Alexander Viro posted a message on LKML that summed up software-related belief systems: The first similar to that voiced by Torvalds, the second for free software zealots, and the third for closed-source folk. At least that is how I see the divisions, and the points Viro made for each of them rang true.

The point that stuck with me, which seems to encapsulate the essence of the "Stallman factor, was in his closing. Viro said of those in the second category: "If you happen to believe in second variant, you have my condolence as long as you don't force your beliefs on everybody else. If you choose to emulate door-to-door pests and preachers -- don't expect to be treated differently."

It is time Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation take a harder look at what the tactics employed in Austin produce. The FSF wants to proclaim the good news of free software's benefits. FSF's tactics, however, cause it to miss the mark. Ill will, hurt feelings, and resentment are the natural byproducts of coercion. Requesting Linux groups change their name to GNU/Linux as a prerequisite to hearing Stallman speak is certainly within the FSF's right. It's also stupid and shortsighted. You cannot force people to share your beliefs, especially a community that values freedom as much as the Linux crowd.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, a Senior Manager, Business Strategy, at Cisco Systems, will discuss how IT and operational technology (OT) work together, as opposed to being in separate siloes as once was traditional. Attendees will learn how to fully leverage the power of IoT in their organization by bringing the two sides together and bridging the communication gap. He will also look at what good leadership must entail in order to accomplish this, and how IT managers ca...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outlyer, a monitoring service for DevOps and operations teams, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outlyer is a monitoring service for DevOps and Operations teams running Cloud, SaaS, Microservices and IoT deployments. Designed for today's dynamic environments that need beyond cloud-scale monitoring, we make monitoring effortless so you...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, CTO and founder of Striim, will delve into four enterprise-scale, business-critical case studies where streaming analytics serves as the key to enabling real-time data integration and right-time insights in hybrid cloud, IoT, and fog computing environments. As part of this discussion, he will also present a demo based on its partnership with Fujitsu, highlighting their technologies in a healthcare IoT use-case. The demo showcases the tracking of pati...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, will provide a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services ...
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business. Though, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected with a majority of IoT projects having failed. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief IoTologist at Wipro, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology portfolios and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will delve in...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...