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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Shuttleworth’

Adios, Ubuntu

March 27, 2012 11 comments

I’m not going to make a big deal about this, despite the fact it transcends mere annoyance and enters the anger zone. Also, I apologize to those who got comfortable with their popcorn and were ready for a verbal thrashing and grammatical throwdown of epic proportions here, as we’ve done in the past when this issue arose.

The reason I’m not going to make a big deal about it is because there’s nothing new in this issue — just the standard issue Canonical/Ubuntu behavior where it’s “Ubuntu uber alles” and the FOSS community be damned. But at the same time, the reason I bring it up is because it’s something which folks should keep on their proverbial radar, and keep track of it because just as it has happened continually in the past, chances are it will keep happening in the future.

Joe Brockmeier wrote something on his personal blog today that he discovered yesterday about “the Ubuntu kernel” in the upcoming Precise Pangolin release. I can’t add anything to this, and Joe writes something I completely agree with and something I wish I had written. This new “kernel” comes from a company that has systematically kept the word “Linux” at arm’s length, or further, for years now, and now they don’t even have the courtesy of acknowledging their roots.

What’s worse is that there is a revisionist tack to the story of who-begat-who, since Mark Shuttleworth, a person for whom the word “hubris” seems to have been coined, seems to think — and isn’t shy about opining — that Debian is part of the Ubuntu “ecosphere,” rather than the other way around.

To say nothing of the lack of upstream contribution by Canonical/Ubuntu — this has been outlined in the past here, here, and even here where The Mark and I square off, and pretty much all over the place.

As long as I’ve been using Linux — that would be 2006 and one of my first distros was Ubuntu (though my first was Debian, to which I’ve returned both using that distro and CrunchBang) — Ubuntu has done much to bring visibility to Linux, until it stopped calling itself that. So while it deserves a degree of gratitude for this, Canonical/Ubuntu has always been the salesman in the new-car showroom, taking credit for selling you this great product when the truth is that the salesman really did not have much to contribute to the construction of the car.

I’m more than welcome to let Canonical/Ubuntu and the legions of Ubunteros — many of them good people, some of them blind hero-worshiping sheep (this will become evident in the comments, no doubt) — go their own way and I’ll go mine.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions — which no longer includes Canonical/Ubuntu products — in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Put me on a highway and show me a sign

November 3, 2011 24 comments

Bruce Byfield and I don’t always agree. When we don’t, it’s usually a “number-of-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin” issue; one of minutiae rather than of substance, and sometimes we argue past each other when there’s a misunderstanding on the part of one of us, usually me.

But when we do agree, he’s far better at articulating what I would say. Today, Bruce wrote an exceptional blog item entitled “A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity,” where he points out a moment of clarity in what seems to be the direction of Ubuntu which is outlined in Bug #882274, filed by Tal Liron under the title “Community engagement is broken.”

It’s a bug that apparently won’t be fixed. But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and first read Bruce’s blog item (a repost of the same link above), or read the bug report itself (again, another repost). I’ll wait.

My favorite quote in the whole thing, and there are many, comes from Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth: “I fully accept that Unity may not be for you. Then don’t use it. On Ubuntu you can choose Unity, KDE, GNOME, XFCE, and many others.”

And there you are, folks — certainly a unique concept of “community” in three words: My way or highway. Go ahead and use one of the other ‘buntus if you so desire, since we’re not changing the flagship for anyone or anything.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog item, Shuttleworth is right about this: If Unity works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. There are many other choices out there, and I’d be willing to bet people are choosing “highway” instead of Shuttleworth’s “my way.”

Fortunately, the FOSS highway provides a lot of adequate alternatives: Linux Mint, this lane, exit only. Fedora, next exit. Debian ahead. OpenSUSE, exit 5 miles. You can even get off the main highway and take some of the backroads to some of the less-traveled distros, if you like.

So put me on a highway and show me a sign . . . .

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from Steven Rosenberg’s recent blog item. Thanks, Steven.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Mark is right, and Mark is wrong

November 1, 2011 24 comments

Yesterday was one of those days. Though I’m not terribly proud of it, I wrote three different blogs items during the course of the day — staying up past midnight this morning to finish the third — and posted none of them. In fact, I took the unprecedented step in just dumping them into the abyss of /dev/null, rather than putting them aside to pick them up later.

The first was a reminder about how developers should remember to send patches upstream. Some distros are good about this — Fedora, tip your hat — and some aren’t. The “aren’ts” know who they are, and those who don’t send patches upstream in a timely manner need to get on it. Now.

The second was a comparison of Unity, and to an extent GNOME 3, to the Edsel; comparing those desktop environment releases to how Ford had built up an enormous curiosity around this new “E-car” in 1957 — a car of the future — they were developing amid a shroud of secrecy before revealing to the world, well, the Edsel — which nearly everyone hated once they saw what Ford’s idea for the “future” was.

I wish I could remember the third one. It didn’t get far and it was just kind of ramblin’ — that’s R-A-M-B-L-I-N-apostrophe.

So thank you, Ubuntu SABDFL* Mark Shuttleworth, for your usual pithy observations — right, wrong and ad hominem — made yesterday at the Ubuntu Developers Summit, which will allow me an opportunity to write about something today.

I had planned to give Mark a pass yesterday. Anything I say about Ubuntu or Unity is going to be taken with the grain of salt that a.) the common perception, albeit completely untrue, is that I am incapable of saying anything nice about Ubuntu, and b) another common perception, admittedly somewhat true, is that I hate Unity with the heat of a nova. Until I use something smaller than a laptop — and let’s say for the sake of argument that would be never — I’m not going to need an interface that’s suited for a mobile device on any piece of hardware I use.

There was Mark yesterday in Orlando, doling out some observations in an article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (complete with “Ubuntu Linux” in the headline, remarkably). In it, The Mark points out that Canonical/Ubuntu will be expanding to smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, and that’s where Mark gets it right. Oh, it speaks volumes about why Unity is as it is, and it sounds like a plan that has spread-too-thin written all over it, but far be it from me to be the proverbial wet blanket — go for it, Mark.

However . . .

Mark gets it wrong when he promotes Unity as the one-size-fits-all UI solution across the hardware spectrum. It would be laughable except there are legions of Ubunteros ready to drone on about how this is gospel going forward when simple common sense would dictate otherwise, to say nothing of developers being drawn from a more balanced approach to large-hardware and small-hardware development rather than what seems to be the current course in putting all the proverbial eggs in the small-hardware basket.

But let’s go to the subtext here, shall we? There’s a grave philosophical misconception gaining traction over the last couple of years that goes something like this: People are using smart phones and tablets more, so let’s forsake the desktop and laptop and embrace smaller hardware. I think this they call this the “Post-PC era,” or some other remarkable cliche. The fact of the matter is that the advent of smaller hardware ushers in a “PC-plus era,” where you use your personal computer AND something smaller and portable in tandem with it.

Know why? Simple. Try using Blender on your smartphone or tablet. How’s that working out for you? It’s not?

My point exactly: While you can get away with some tasks on your smaller hardware, you’re still going to need to do things on something larger. So to shift focus from proven hardware form factors, albeit the larger and less portable ones, in order to develop for the flavor-of-the-month smaller hardware is textbook myopia.

Also, in an ad hominem statement typical of Mark Shuttleworth in defending Unity, he says that some of the more experienced users are “too cool” to use Unity. I think the quote goes something like this: “There is going to be a crowd that is just too cool to use something that looks really slick and there is nothing we can do for them.”

No, that’s not it, Mark. The reason some people don’t like Unity is not because it looks slick (which is completely debatable). It’s because it doesn’t work for them. By the way, actually there is something you can do for those you mistakenly think are “too cool” for Unity when all they really want is something that works: Make Unity work and make it tweakable.

Once you reach that point, would you mind coming back and letting the cool Linux power users know? Thanks.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a blog item that’s a keeper.

*SABDFL — Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, a moniker picked up from Steven Rosenberg’s recent blog item. Thanks, Steven.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

. . . brought to you by the letter P

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

What’s in a name? It depends on who you ask.

Mark Shuttleworth has handed down his decision on the name for Ubuntu 12.04 in a blog item today.

Ready? It’s Precise Pangolin.

Go ahead and look it up, or just jump over to the Wikipedia listing here.

Yeah, one of those, only a precise one. Nice one, Mark.

Deb Nicholson points out on a Facebook post: “The name ‘pangolin’ is derived from the Malay word pengguling (‘something that rolls up’). Go ahead and start the roll-your-own jokes.”

Indeed.

Meanwhile, the democratic exercise where the Fedora community chooses a release name continues as voting is open for the Fedora 17 release name. If you’re a member of the Fedora community, you can vote for one of these, though truth be told, it appears that the ballot may be stacked in Beefy Miracle’s favor.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Shuttleworth: All your rights are belong to us

August 4, 2011 5 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon is next, and that’s in mid-August, but I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing and with Linus being there and all. But if you’re going to the next show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

Before I open palm — make that palms — and insert face, let me say that the Ubuntu community’s general mantra of “haters gonna hate” never really works as a valid argument when someone disagrees with what the self-appointed Ubuntu/Canonical leader/founder/Grand Poobah, or any other Ubuntu/Canonical leader, says. It’s a profoundly weak argument that first and foremost makes you sound shallow and stupid. It also makes you sound like you don’t have a reasonable response, as well as sounding like you’re incapable of responding.

Whether or not that is the case, do yourself a favor: Debate issues or don’t, but either way, don’t bring that moronic phrase to the table.

Having said that, I read a blog item by Fabian Scherschel this morning about how Mark Shuttleworth blogged late last month — in way, way, WAY too many words — he would like the rights to your work, please, if you contribute to Ubuntu/Canonical. Just hand them over to him on your way out the door to write more code which, of course, you can turn over to him as well when you’re done with it.

Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and read Mark’s blog for yourself. Make sure you read all of it, and you might want to have a cup of coffee before you do.

I’ll wait.

While I wait, let me mention that the GPL V2 was established in 1991 — twenty years ago — and has withstood any and all legal challenges, both significant and frivolous, in the last two decades. Why do I bring that up? Ask me after you’re finished reading Mark’s blog.

Now, if you’re back from Mark’s blog and still awake, the item fails in a multiplicity of ways and, in a complex clause I’d like to be simpler, seems to seek to derive benefit from the licensed code work of others without compensation.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m just going to let Jef Spaleta drive here, reposting with his permission something he posted in the comments, in response to a discussion about maintenance (in the first paragraph) before outlining his difference of opinion with Mark Shuttleworth (Note: from the link you can scroll up to see the item he’s referring to about maintenance, if you wish):

“Clint,

“None of the maintenance arguments require copyright assignment. It’s completely hogwash. When an upstream project takes in a patch, they can do so on the same condition as it was given. There is no need for a copyright assignment on the grounds of any maintenance argument.

“Mark wants to mix the value inherent in owning the code with other things. He wants to mix it all together and guilt us into giving away our copyrights to corporations so he and other business leaders can then turn right around and make money proprietarzing the code we contributed. Not cool. Not cool at all in fact. If Canonical wants to go it alone and wants to staff the manpower necessary to build a platform that they can proprietarize without significant contribution or a healthy development community to help offset the costs, they are free to do that. But to suggest that is what the ecosystem needs to do more of is very damaging.

“And he continually gets the details wrong about the history of Qt assignment. Trolltech put some very important protections in place on their own behavior via some latching conditions if the open version of Qt ever stopped being developed that would allow the codebase to be released under BSD, pretty much nullifying the competitive advantage the controlling entity would get. He doesn’t like talking about that very important detail when he holds up Qt and Trolltech as good examples of assignment gone right. I know he’s aware of the history and the latching BSD release clauses. And yet, Canonical continues to refuse to put _any_ sort of protection in place. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t commit to the very strong protections the FSF provides in their assignment agreement. Mark expects Canonical to need to produce some proprietary products at some point, and so do I. So the strong FSF-like protections would be incompatible with Canonical’s business needs. But the Trolltech-like protections put on Qt when Qt required assignment? Completely possible for Canonical to commit to and provide some protections against the most egregious future behavior. And yet they still won’t commit to that either. That lack of interest in providing any protections with regard to egregious prioritization of contributed code and good-will is a real problem. I don’t see it changing as long as Shuttleworth remains in control of Canonical. That’s a real shame. I know there are people inside the fenceline who’d be more than happy to take a step towards a more comprehensible position, they just can’t.

“But on to the point about what it means to have a work for hire development culture in software. Indeed analogies never always fit. Just like all the hand wavy analogies Mark put forward in his blog post. So lets talk directly shall we.

“There is a reason why software companies hire developers. Part of any such contracting is invariably because of a need for ownership of the final creative work. Typically if you work for a software company anything you produce working for them is owned by them, its standard work for hire situations. You are paid a wage to produce creative works for someone else. Your wage is the compensation for the ownership of the work. If a software company (or any company really) wants to own the creative work being produced and be able to use the exclusivity of that ownership to then sell proprietary versions (without competitors being able to sell it as well) of the work in question they need to pay the developers of the work. It’s a simple as that.

“Any company that requires naked assignment (without protections against bad faith actions similar to what TrollTech or the FSF provide) is just trying to get the milk for free. And its shameful when they do it. Shameful.

“Apple gets that. Apple pays a fair wage to its developers and designers, and the end result is they own the stack. And crazier thing is, there are people are willing to pay non trivial amounts of money for the end result.

“Android, the other platform Mark is very concerned about now, doesn’t require an assignment. http://source.android.com/source/licenses.html and has the workings of an open development community styled around Apache.

“Let’s be very clear about that, Android.. the open platform that is kicking ass right now…does not require copyright assignment. Clearly if Google can make Android the juggernaut of OEM and user uptake that it is, there’s nothing stopping Canonical from following suit. Canonical does not need your copyright to compete. It’s a straight up falsehood meant entirely to encourage people to give up their copyrights so Canonical can proprietarize contributed code at some future date.

“In fact there’s nothing stopping Canonical from literally forking the Android codebase as it stands right now and building a competing product with differentiated interface bits and Canonical backed end services to replace the Google services. Again…all of this freedom to compete.. all done without an assignment requirement…just a contributors agreement which makes your attest its your code your contributing when you submit a patch for Android. And in reality, even that could probably be superceded with a signoff process which mimics the linux kernel’s sign off procedures to cut down on that paperwork. There’s some real benefits to keeping the redtape down to the bare minimum, but that’s another point, a point I think Micheal Meeks does a good job illustrating when he talks about libreoffice developer community growth. Anyways…

“Now does Google feel a higher maintenance burden for contributed Android code because they don’t own the copyrights? No of course not, that is absurd. The maintenance burden is what it is regardless of whether they own the rights to all the code. And the Android juggernaut keeps rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ along. This little side show about assignment is ultimately just a distraction for Mark and for Canonical, it’s not going to help them compete better in the marketplace its only going to serve to drain focus inside the company. It’s a real shame.”

I wish I had said that, Jef.

Oh, and GPLv2? I brought it up, oh, a year ago — or so it seems — because Mark makes my favorite misguided assumption in a plethora of misguided and invalid assumptions found in the lengthy blog: “I’d be willing to bet that, if some fatal legal flaw were discovered in the GPLv2, Linus would lead a process of review and discussion and debate about what to do about the Linux kernel, it would be testy and contentious, but in the end he would take a decision and most would follow to a new and better license.” Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth — a place I’ve never left, but Mark Shuttleworth has, literally and to his credit — in 20 years, there hasn’t been a “fatal legal flaw discovered,” let alone a case against the GPL challenged successfully in the courts. But if there were, I’m sure a better license would follow (this, of course, is not to say GPLv3 is that license, and I’m not going to field that here).

So, can we discuss or debate this, or are you just going to call me an idealogue or a hater and walk away? The choice is yours, but if you choose the latter, by all means please let the door hit you on the way out.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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R-A-M-B-L-I-N-(apostrophe)

August 5, 2010 1 comment

After a week that everyone, including me, could (and probably should) have switched to decaf for a bit, I only have a couple of items to touch on this week.

First things first: Regarding all this hubbub about Ubuntu not carrying its weight in the FOSS world, the firefight seems to have simmered down and cooler heads — not the least of which was Greg DeKoenigsberg who apologized for calling out Canonical — prevailed in the end (though I don’t think you should ever apologize when you’re right, but maybe Greg’s mea culpa is Exhibit A when it comes to discretion being the greater part of valor).

In a blog entitled “Old Wounds,” Greg answers the question why he felt “so compelled to shoot my mouth off in the first place.” Most compelling about this blog post is this paragraph toward the end, which speaks volumes to the core issue:

“As Canonical grows, I hope that it lives up to similarly lofty standards — and part of living up to such standards is bearing an ever-increasing share of the weight. It is my very strong, honest, and believe it or not, largely impartial opinion, that after five-plus years of building a global brand on top of the GNOME platform, Canonical should be doing way more to sustain that platform. And although I understand and agree with the arguments that Canonical contributes in many important ways, I contend that it still isn’t nearly enough. Not if you want to claim the mantle of leadership. You cannot simply talk the talk; you must ultimately walk the walk.”

Agreed. That trumps everything that comes before, my blog on the item originally, Mark Shuttleworth’s ad hominem responses to both Greg and me, and we can get on with life in the happy, healthy FOSS world.

And, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Singing in IRC: I was demonstrating the /nick feature, for lack of a better term, to someone watching over my shoulder recently and came up with a way to sing on IRC. I put the folks in #scale on OFTC.net through the following ditty:

17:19 lcafiero is now known as Space_Cowboy
17:19 Space_Cowboy is now known as Gangster_of_Love
17:19 Gangster_of_Love is now known as Maurice
17:20 * Maurice speaks for the pompetous of love
17:20 Maurice is now known as lcafiero

And so on. I did the WEEEEE WOOOOOO! verbally, though I probably should have typed that in, too, in retrospect. Thanks, Steve Miller.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Mark Shuttleworth responds

July 30, 2010 7 comments

Mark Shuttleworth responded to the blog item I posted a few hours ago. Rather than have it just get lost in the responses to the previous blog item, I thought I’d reprint it verbatim here.

Mark commented on the previous item:

Larry, it was Greg who used the expression “Hater’s gotta hate”, not me.

Jono has done an ample job of pointing out how the data is a poor reflection of Canonical’s contribution, rather than reflecting poor contribution itself.

And I didn’t call Greg stupid. I said that thinking tribally makes one stupid – it precludes opportunities for rich interactions with interesting people.

Right now, on numerous fronts, developers at Canonical are feeling frustrated because when they try to collaborate with people in upstream projects that are maintained by folks who resent Canonical, they get blocked. One of our developers told me he has taken to submitting patches through a proxy because he does not get reasonable answers when he does so directly.

I can’t think of a better example of tribal thinking making a project stupid: if you’re actively dissing patches labelled “Canonical” and then complaining about the lack of them, “stupid” would be on the more complimentary end of the appropriate epithets.

And I reply:

Mark — First, thanks for responding. I know you’re a busy guy; a different busy maybe than some of us who are promoting FOSS in the trenches, but busy nonetheless. Frankly, I wish I had more time between $DAYJOB_1 and $DAYJOB_2 to address your comment more thoroughly, but I’ll do my best in the limited time I have here (thank God for quick typing).

Also, so you know: I have been an Ubuntu user since 2006 (though no longer on my primary machine — more on this in the next sentence) and a member of the California LoCo since then as well. My business, Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, has several Ubuntu boxes and has converted several small businesses and home offices to Linux and the operating system they use is Ubuntu.

Today, for several reasons, I am primarily a Fedora user. However, my daughter is an Ubuntu user. But rather than rend my garment and wail, “I have no daughter,” I encourage her to use whatever distro — heck, whatever operating system — she likes because FOSS is all about choice (tell you something you don’t know, right?).

We agree that tribalism, as defined in your blog, is bad. There is no place for it anywhere, including Ubuntu. There are aspects of the Ubuntu organization that smack of tribalism — specifically the LoCo program, which I’ll discuss in a minute — that you should probably be aware of. Just a quick warning about the glass houses and stones thing . . .

True, you didn’t actually call Greg DeKoenigsberg stupid, but you did accuse him of tribalism, which is stupid. The implication sticks, even though it wasn’t directly stated. I don’t know Greg well — we’ve exchanged e-mails while he was at Red Hat and, superficially speaking, we’re friends of Facebook — but knowing him even marginally and after reading his blog item, I don’t think he was practicing “tribalism.” As I mentioned in my blog, I think that while Greg may not get a whole lot of points for execution, he does bring up a valid point that I have heard more often than I would have liked.

Bringing this up does not make him a “tribalist.” It makes him someone bringing up a point that you can take or leave (and frankly, if I were a captain of industry and not a guy with two jobs and a passion for FOSS, I’d have probably publicly ignored Greg’s blog altogether and, given the time, looked into it more. I’d also think about going into space again, as that sounds really cool, but that’s another matter).

On the issue of “tribalism,” you might want to give LoCos a closer look because, from a Linux User Group standpoint (I run one of those, too), it seems that LoCos — at least the one that I have the most experience with, here in California — have a “separate but equal” attitude toward participating with LUGs and promoting FOSS. While they’re welcome and urged to participate in our activities for the greater good of FOSS, activities that are LoCo based tend to be Ubuntu-only, which of course is their right, but think about the message it sends.

Also, you mention developer feeling frustrated about contributions that they make being thwarted. That surprises me, and that would definitely be something that would need correcting. I’d be glad, too, to post examples if you could provide them.

Thanks again. Back to work for me.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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