The overtime that some computer publications and industry pundits have been clocking to propagate FUD around GNU/Linux has grown geometrically over the last several weeks.
While this disinformation deserves our eternal vigilance, our constant attention and our continuing “correction,” its purveyors also deserve recognition — outing, if you will — with a dubious award of their own.
With this in mind, below are the initial nominees for The Elmers, named after the patriarch of the FUD family. [Yes, I know Warner Bros. spelled it with two d's, but for the sake of argument . . . ]
The nominees for the 2007 Elmers are:
Steve Ballmer: As the Joe McCarthy of our time, Darth Ballmer tries to force everyone to think and act alike in the digital realm, in the image and likeness of the Microsoft way. Arguably, calling Ballmer a digital Taliban is not too far afield. CNN.com nailed it when it posted an article that said that the current battle between the forces of FOSS good and dark side of monopoly evil “pits Microsoft and its dogged CEO, Steve Ballmer, against the ‘free world’ – people who believe software is pure knowledge.” [And for some shameless self promotion, we have some shirts that are guaranteed to be the toast of LinuxWorld next month: "Sue me first, Steve" T-shirts.]
Brad Smith: If Steve Ballmer plays the architect of digital McCarthyism, then Brad Smith is his Roy Cohn. Just as McCarthy and Cohn supposedly had a list of 205 names of State Department employees “that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party” — a list that never materialized — Ballmer and Smith say that the GNU/Linux operating system violates 235 Microsoft patents — patents that are never named. Am I the only one that sees a pattern here?
Kevin Carmony: The Lindows — sorry, Linspire — CEO has been giving the GNU/Linux blogging world a lot of fodder with his revisionist zeitgeist: Sell out your distro for 30 pieces of silver just to get four items — True Type Fonts, Windows Media Player, DVD Playback and patent (ahem) “coverage” — and then have the audacity to think that people would actually believe you when you say that Microsoft’s assistance could make a better distro. Right, Kevin, and look at that flock of pigs settling on those branches. If Orwell were alive today writing “2084,” he might include “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Microsoft improves GNU/Linux.”
Alexander Wolfe: Poor Alexander Wolfe — a “Chips, Vista and Advanced Techology” blogger (whatever that means) for Information Week. Wolfe bemoans the fact that he, and everyone else, are enslaved by the freedom to choose what to run on your computer, from more than 300 active distros in the GNU/Linux galaxy. This guy probably avoids Baskin-Robbins because — jeez! — 31 whole flavors of ice cream to choose from? Way too many. And then he drags out the tired “distro-as-religion” argument that went out with Y2K. [Wolfe thinks having over 300 distros from which to pick and choose is a "forking mess," but maybe Wolfe is just a "forking wanker."]
Savio Rodrigues: Info World’s Savio Rodrigues throws up (and I do mean “throw up”) the “what if” of Microsoft buying Red Hat. “Just imagine a Microsoft that could offer customers a choice of Windows/.NET, Linux/JEE or, and here’s the magic, BOTH, The fact is most customers have heterogeneous environments, and those that don’t today, will likely in the future.” Now, let’s break that down for a second: Why would Red Hat want to lower itself to join Microsoft when it is already a player in the corporate IT world? How about a Red Hat that offers Windows/.NET instead of the other way around (although “why would they want to?” is a bigger question)? How stoned is Savio, and who’s his dealer? As a caveat, he says in a postscript: “PS: I truly doubt this deal will ever happen, but it’s interesting to think about the possibilities.” Yeah, and it’s interesting to think about the possibilities of my winning the Olympic gold medal in the 100 right before bearing triplets at the finish line; a possibility that’s still not quite as ridiculous as the one Rodrigues raises.
No doubt there are others out there who deserve a nomination. Feel free to add to the list.
[Additional nominations can be found here.]
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
Lindows — I’m sorry, it’s Linspire — sold its soul recently to have Microsoft help them “build a better Linux” (waiting for laughter to die down). Here’s a list of what they got:
True Type fonts.
Windows Media 10 Player.
Patent (ahem) “coverage,” which many people might consider extorted “protection” money, but I digress.
This deal is worse than the Novell deal, says Pamela Jones at Groklaw, and outlines Linspire’s soul-selling-for-mere-pittance, line by line (almost), here. Being the journalist and legal eagle that she is (although she warns that you should consult a real attorney if the agreement affects you in real time), Jones goes to great lengths to show what a dog this deal is and displays, just as she has been tireless in the SCO case, just why it sucks to be Linspire these days.
At the end of her lengthy tome, she makes the following poignant observation which, going forward, should be at the forefront of the GNU/Linux discussion: “For myself, I think it’s time to think really seriously about who should be allowed to use the name Linux, before the trademark loses all its traditional meaning.”
Also, I can’t help wondering how long it will take the people at Linspire to grab pitchforks and torches and race through the streets of Lindowsland looking for Kevin Carmony in order to give him a good tar-and-feathering.
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
Leave it to Lindows — I’m sorry, “Linspire” — chief FUD officer Kevin Carmony to try to make Benedict Arnold into a freedom fighter. In his June 27th bleatings — I mean, “writing” — about the possibility of GNU/Linux splitting into two separate camps, he says that this is “nothing new for Linux.” True. And also, he outlines the difference between advocates of KDE and Gnome, Debian and RPM (and I’m assuming here he’s talking about the installers) and Distro A and Distro B.
However, that’s where reality stops and fantasy steps in.
Carmony says: “These divisions are quite material, and dilute significant energy and efforts across competing standards. However, we accept this as the price we pay for freedom of choice.”
That’s Kevin’s world. Meanwhile in GNU/Linux circles on the planet Earth, not much can be further from the truth. Where are these so-called “competing standards” — Debian installer vs. RPM? You use one, or the other, and either (or both) work for you. Or not.
As for desktop environments, I don’t use KDE because I actually prefer Xfce as a desktop enviroment. Having tried it, I understand how cool KDE is (and it is). It doesn’t stop me from recognizing the contributions KDE makes to distros that offer it, and I certainly don’t belittle the efforts that KDE folks put into their environment. But it’s just not me; so far, I’m a Xfce guy.
This is not a “division” — this is just a variety of people using the distro of their choice. And in nearly all cases, a great majority of distro users like their distro but don’t wish any other distro ill, save for maybe the ones who pay protection money to the racketeers in Redmond.
I can’t be in the minority in seeing a distro I don’t use as a potential one to try, rather than one to bash. But even if you did favor one distro family — Debian or Red Hat or whatever — over another, the variety of distros out there makes the landscape more familial rather than adversarial.
To bludgeon and obliterate another distro because it’s not the one you use — that’s so Microsoft. So much so, Kevin, that it’s been my observation over the past year or so that this is not the prevailing mindset in the GNU/Linux field — unless you sell out your distro to the nearest digital centurion for 30 pieces of silver.
Speaking of Microsoft, Carmony also tries to take “high morale ground” (note to Kevin: Get a better writer and editor for your stuff — it’s “high moral ground”) in preaching that GNU/Linux developers ought to respect the IP of others, but he makes no mention about how Redmond has little, if any, respect for IP until they can unleash their legal dobermans.
So, vaya con Dios, Lindows — I won’t be using you, and I won’t be considering you a true GNU/Linux distro any longer. And you can bet I’ll keep laughing with everyone else when your misguided mantra of achieving a better Linux through Microsoft comes up.
Francois Bancilhon writes a short missive on the Mandriva blog that the French distro won’t be “going to Canossa” (excellent reference, Francois; and for those of you who slept through World History class, it refers to the village in the Italian Apennines where the Holy Roman emperor Henry IV did penance to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII back in the 11th century) over Microsoft’s FUD regarding their nebulous patent claims.
Probably the most impressive part of the brief but clear statement from Paris — incredibly well written in English, I might add — is the arguably reasonable comparison of Microsoft to the Mafia. To wit:
“As far as IP is concerned, we are, to say the least, not great fans of software patents and of the current patent system, which we consider as counter productive for the industry as a whole.
“We also believe what we see, and up to now, there has been absolutely no hard evidence from any of the FUD propagators that Linux and open source applications are in breach of any patents. So we think that, as in any democracy, people are innocent unless proven guilty and we can continue working in good faith.
“So we don’t believe it is necessary for us to get protection from Microsoft to do our job or to pay protection money to anyone.” (emphasis added)
Again, I hate to compare and contrast (okay, so maybe I don’t hate to do it, but it does take up valuable time and space . . . ), but compare Bancilhon’s succinct statement to Kevin Carmony’s verbose and roundabout apologia, and you can see how the GNU/Linux community should and shouldn’t respond to Microsoft’s threats.
Viva Venezuela: A big muchas gracias goes to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for having the VIT (Venezuela de Industria Tecnologica), and the Venezuelan Ministry of Light Industry and Commerce produce the Bolivarian computer (named after the South American anti-imperialist revolutionary Simon Bolivar, for those of you who caught up on your sleep in World History class). The Bolivarian computer runs on GNU/Linux, further thumbing the Venezuelan nose at el norte. Bear in mind that this is a nation that offered to supply freezing Northeasterners heating oil this past winter when the White House and Congress would just as soon let them shiver, and they’re also offering to export the machines as well (are you listening, Michael Dell?). A detailed story on this computer and the country that brings it to you can be found at Venezuelanalysis.com.
Speaking of Dell . . . I went to put my money where my mouth is, and they wouldn’t take it. Having blasted Dell — rightfully, I think — over the years, I wrote in an earlier blog posting that I’d get a Dell laptop if they offered Ubuntu. Well, they kept up their end of the bargain, and when I went to buy a laptop on-line (apparently the only place where you can get the Dell-with-Ubuntu deal), my credit was rejected. Reason: Insufficient credit history, which is true. I swore off credit cards in the late 1970s, but I thought having a clean slate would be a good thing. Apparently not, according to our friends at Dell. Being a man of my word, I’ve been putting together a fund to buy one, but now it will take a few months.
Heroes and wankers: Here’s something out of a college professor’s playbook — Read the items at the following links. Compare and contrast these two distro “executives” and explain why one is a hero who leads a growing and vibrant brand and the other is a world-class wanker who, with a stroke of a pen, sent his downwardly spiraling distro into further obscurity and probable extinction.
Correct answer: Shuttleworth=hero, Carmony=wanker. If you answered this way, then go to the head of the class.
Minty freshness: Linux Mint has removed the proprietary software from its version 3.0 “light” version. “Cassandra Light edition was released and is available for download,” announced Clement Lefevbre in a release. “The purpose of the Light edition is to bring an edition of Linux Mint which doesn’t contain: proprietary software, patented technologies and support for restricted formats. In some countries where the legislation allows software patents to be enforced, the Light edition provides a way for users to legally download Linux Mint.” Also, you did it for those of us who would prefer not to use proprietary software too, right Clement? Thanks, Linux Mint!
Got it! I broke down and bought a personalized license plate in California for an extra $60 a year. My car, a burgundy ’94 Volkswagen Jetta, will bear “GNU LNUX” front and back once the plates arrive. Film at 11.
It goes to show you why I’m not a gambling man. In my last item, I said that Mandriva would be the next distro domino to fall — or at least be a target for the Death Star in Redmond — but either they said non to any offer, or they haven’t taken the bait just yet.
But scratch off another one: Linspire made its way to the dark side today by selling out FOSS in making a deal with Microsoft.
Microsoft — which once described GNU/Linux as a cancer — can’t seem to help itself from partnering with distro makers and Linux software sellers, adding Linspire to the list. Ironically, Microsoft and Linspire have a, um, “history,” as Microsoft’s lawyers went head-to-head with Linspire in the past; apparently that’s all history.
Like Xandros, Linspire is a featherweight in decline who drank the Kool-Aid for a variety of reasons outlined in a letter from the Linspire CEO on this very topic.
Talk about FUD: Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony says that Microsoft will “deliver a ‘better’ Linux.” Ask yourself this: When was the last time that Microsoft delivered a better anything when it comes to software? Stuck for an answer? That’s because it never has.
To show you how “1984” this is, I bet Kevin Carmony really believes all the nonsense he (or one of his PR hacks) wrote, as tragic as this might be. Try not to laugh too hard when reading it, too, and realize that the Apple vs. Microsoft comparison doesn’t fly here.