Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Flint Brenton, Derek Weeks, PagerDuty Blog

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article 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

( -- 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 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
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
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).
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content. Join @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), June 7-9, 2016 in New York City, for three days of intense 'Internet of Things' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indespensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) IoT's use in Vertical Markets.