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.)
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one already:
In the 1950s — February 9, 1950 to be exact — Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin made a speech in Wheeling, W. Va., in which he said he 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.”
Fast forward 57 years and we have “Tail Gunner Steve” Ballmer with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, playing McCarthy’s Roy Cohn legal sidekick in this modern drama, saying that the GNU/Linux operating system violates 235 Microsoft patents. Which are they? Microsoft won’t say.
McCarthy never named the names.
See a pattern here?
Sander Marechal writes an article on Linux News asking in an open letter to Novell to release the violating patents. While Microsoft may not be telling the public, they would be telling their GNU/Linux partner Novell. So Novell has the opportunity to come clean.
Anyone holding their breath? Well, don’t.
Here’s why: Tectonic, a South African open source news site, says in an article that Novell is distancing itself from Microsoft. From the article: “We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property.”
Linus Torvalds has weighed in at Information Week, saying that Microsoft has gotten it wrong — they violate more GNU/Linux patents than the other way around. Linux News backs it up by bringing up an article by Hans Kwint they published in 2005 outlining the patents that Microsoft might have violated.
So maybe the Washington Post is right when it says that this is all a smoke screen for the failures of Vista.
Direct from the “give me a freakin’ break” department . . .
Fortune magazine — a publication that I don’t usually read — wrote that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Microsoft claims that free software like Linux, which runs a big chunk of corporate America, violates 235 of its patents. It wants royalties from distributors and users. Users like you, maybe.” (the CNN story about it is here)
On the face of it, that’s merely laughable. What makes this a world class, wet-your-pants screaming laugher is that Microsoft has the unmitigated audacity to actually imply, as outlined in the third paragraph of the CNN article, that “one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents.”
So let me see if I understand this: Free software is of such high quality because it violates Microsoft’s patents? Microsoft? The same Microsoft that historically and currently foists on an unsuspecting public a buggy and insecure operating system augmented by subpar programs? That Microsoft?
But it gets better: Darth Ballmer took time from his pod on the Death Star to tell CNN that the FOSS advocates “have to play by the same rules as the rest of the business.” Watch out, Darth: Your hypocrisy is showing. That sounds like it comes directly from the “do as I say, not as I do” department.
This software saber-rattling may be coming from Redmond because they are out of viable options, so says Danijel Orsolic in a very interesting column he writes on the subject on Libervis.com.
The Free/Libre Open Source Software movement is not going anywhere, no matter how many lawyers Microsoft wants to hire.