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Ken Brown Responds to His Critics 579

Posted by michael
from the nothing-but-flamebait dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yes, I know it's getting boring by now, but the truth must be told... the latest Unix celebrity to come forward and criticise Ken Brown/ADTI is Unix pioneer Dennis Ritchie. The gist is that Brown is claiming an 'extensive interview' with Ritchie but this was actually limited to a single email exchange and a follow-up call from one of Brown's lackeys checking one or two facts." Reader markrages writes "Ken Brown (of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution) replies to his critics. Dr. Tanenbaum is an 'animated, but tense individual about the topic of rights and attribution'. The GNU/Linux naming issue also makes an appearance."
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Ken Brown Responds to His Critics

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  • by bjarvis354 (319402) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:33PM (#9340845) Homepage
    Comparing the MINIX kernel to the Linux kernel is like comparing a microkernel to a monolithic one...Hey wait a minute!
    • by zymano (581466) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:31PM (#9341264)
      Why all the attacks are happening now on Linux?

      Is this all about greed and fame ? I think so.
      • by msobkow (48369) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:49PM (#9342327) Homepage Journal

        The timing of the attacks is obviously being paid for by someone.

        Someone who has previously funded discredited research through the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.

        Someone who previously invested large sums of money in SCO, leaving a debt to be called in the future.

        Someone who is busy patenting common-sense user interactions using mice and GUI's.

        Someone with the clout to buy a reprieve from justice, and treat the penalties as merely the cost of doing business, and likely calculated into the projected expense budgets.

        I mean come on -- why settle for mere greed or glory-hounding when there is a perfectly good conspiracy theory out there.

        Besides, the tack Brown has taken is entirely self-destructive. Glory hounds want attention, not to paint themselves as the village idiot, repeating blatant lies as if they're a defense against the criticisms levied by respected members of the IT community. If the man truly believes his "response" appears like a rational defense, he seriously neds help, and I hope he gets it soon.

        Yes, I read the whole article. The use of buzz-phrases is interesting.

        What happens when you Google those phrases? Has the reference to the report shown up in the search results yet? How long until it does, with all the news sites cross-referencing the trash information?

        Fast forward a few weeks when the furor dies down and an "apology" is issued. Someone searches for those key phrases -- is this "reasoned argument" response still visible in the search results? Maybe long enough to influence a few people to accept it as fact because it achieved such a high Google ranking with all the cross-references?

        Remember the people doing those searches likely don't have technical knowledge to realize the "research" is virtually non-existant. They've heard about this Linux thing, and SCO, and look -- here's a high-rated "Institution" report.

        I think the combination of SCO and Brown's report are the most elegantly crafted FUD attack I've seen to date, and one of the most subtle. It even uses the OSS community's own outrage to boost it's ranking and visibility.

        Now just imagine you could actually control a search engine and make sure only the "right" links show up in the results, with one or two mild detractions to appear balanced. How much Google stock would one need to buy to ensure that kind of control?

        Sure it's all ranting conspiracy stuff, but it's amazing how such theories fit sometimes, isn't it?

        • by Tony-A (29931) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:07AM (#9342853)
          "Kenneth Brown is president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution ... and is accepted at fine restaurants and hotels around the world."
          See subject.

          "However, building a product that starts with the accomplishment of others and announcing it as completely your own work product, is not invention, nor is it innovation."
          Sounds like Microsoft.

          "Another problem with Tanenbaum's logic is that he only presents examples of people that were Unix licensees, had Unix source code, or who were exceptionally familiar with software development. He cannot provide one example reasonably comparable to the Torvalds case."
          This actually makes it all the more likely that Linus wrote it himself. If he had the programming experience and familiarity with Unix sources, what Linus accomplished in one year would have taken him about three years. The fastest way to comprehend something is to build it from scratch, Ever had a maintenance project where the best and easiest way was to redo it from scratch. How much of the original wound up in the redo?
          Young, talented, energetic, driven. Reasonable outcome. I doubt that it can be repeated on demand, but all it takes are a few key insights and fortuitous choices early in the game.

          "Unix is one of the greatest achievements in the history of computer science."
          By being onery enough to have outlived its betters. No disrespect to its creators, but Unix (and C) stink to high heaven. Unix is a poor man's Multics and C is a poor man's ALGOL68. C is compilable and Unix is writable and useable. The quote something like "Those who do not learn Unix are doomed to reinvent it. Badly." may well be accurate in that correctness drags along a sufficient overabundance of complexity to make it unatainable. In that case, Brown's rant against "hybrid source" is totally wrong.

          "The hybrid source model negatively impacts the intellectual property model for all software, and inevitably the entire IT economy."
          The same way potable water from the city mains impacts the viability of bottled water. Seems like RedHat isn't doing too badly while the exact same software is available from White-Box? and some others. My understanding is that Linux itself is GPL, hardly fitting any reasonable definition of "hybrid source model". I would imagine that installations use some mixture of BSD, GPL and proprietary software. Solaris with GNU utilities is "hybrid source model"?

        • by twitter (104583) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:26AM (#9342905) Homepage Journal
          Sure, Microsoft is behind it, but it's not working. They can google bomb to promote Brown all they want, but it's empty. The rest of the world is marching along and it has nothing to do with Brown's or Bill Gates fantasy FUD world. The divergence is so great, anyone can see it.

          Is this the best M$ can buy, a rehash of ancient GPL FUD? It's pathetic. It's so bad, Al Gore would recognize it as bullshit. There are no clear definition of terms, most of the statements contradict reality and it's clear that Ken Brown is a ranting lunatic without any kind of "intellectual" backing. The bozo can't even clearly summarize his arguments.

          IBM, HP and others are making billions of dollars on Linux, but Ken tells us that Linux will ruin the US IT industry and destroy the US government's "IP" holdings. Right... Any government leader worried about wasting taxpayer dollars has only to call IBM and quit buying the eXPensive software offered by the sponsors of Tocqueville.

          While he never mentions it, the GPL is the real object of his attack. It's so tiresome to read the same nonsense again and again. Free software is adding tremendous value to the US and world economy. No practical person can have failed to notice this by now. Besides insults and and old dire predictions that have failed to come true, Ken also never mentions specific drawbacks of free software nor tells us how non free source code does anything any better. While all charges of code theft that have been leveled at Linux have proved unfounded, many commercial companies have admitted to stealing free code. The whole notion that people who openly publish their code are theives somehow trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes is preposterous. We are supposed to trust people who hide their source code like a dirty secret instead?

          Ken really had an impossible task, but it's one of his own making. All of his experts are calling his opinions for what they are. How can he do anything but shift around when confronted with it all? He tells us, " AdTI will continue to interview people within the open source profession about open source. ... I have done this for years, and will continue to do so, regardless of what a source thinks of my theories. " Ken, baby, why bother asking questions if you are not going to listen to the answers?

          Oh yeah, namecalling. "Linux is a leprosy.", "sponging", "'three monkeys' policy", "boasting about stealing, reverse engineering, and illegal copying", "theft of the Lions notes", give me a break. At least he's consistent with the mud he wants to throw at just about everyone in computer science.

          The only real theft going on right now is Microsoft's attempt to extort money from Linux users through it's SCO proxy. How does that fit into Ken's worldview?

          • by abreauj (49848) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @05:56AM (#9343297) Homepage
            Don't forget that all this code is stolen from corporations like IBM. Billions of dollars of IP were stolen from IBM and given over to Linux. IBM stole that IP from itself and then gave it to Linux.

            It's exactly like when my sister bought me a birthday gift at CompUSA, and then stole it from herself and handed it to me at my birthday party. She paid for it, so clearly it's her property, and since it's in my posession now, I'm holding stolen property. This makes me a thief and my sister an accessory to theft.
    • by zurab (188064) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:59PM (#9341483)
      Just shows the guy knows nothing about the subject matter, he is just creating some fictional story in his own little world:

      Is it likely that a student (Linus Torvalds) with no operating systems experience, a non-Unix licensee, without any use of Minix or Unix source code, could build a functioning kernel in six months -- whereas it took you (Tanenbaum) three years to build Minix?

      I think he already replied to that by saying "yes." Since Minix was worked only part-time during those 3 years. And creating a simple kernel for limited hardware and limited functionality is not that hard of a task as it's made out to be in this case.

      Another problem with Tanenbaum's logic is that he only presents examples of people that were Unix licensees ...

      Tanenbaum was not a Unix licensee and he told you the task was possible to accomplish in few months if he had devoted more time to it.

      Yet Tanenbaum vehemently insists that Torvalds wrote Linux from scratch, which means from a blank computer screen to most people. No books, no resources, no notes -- certainly not a line of source code to borrow from, or to be tempted to borrow from.

      Making stuff up eh? When you have no logical argument to make, just use your creativity. I am assuming Linus had programming books, knowledge and education, a compiler, and other tools, including an existing OS - Minix. Not to say that he copied code from Minix, as Tanenbaum already showed.

      The GNU team contributed their GCC compiler, a complicated product with over 110,000 lines of code to the Linux project. Without the compiler, it is very likely that the Linux project would not have succeeded. The GNU team only asked that the product be called GNU/Linux, a very simple request for helping to make him famous. But Torvalds silently, but deliberately let the naming idea die.

      Eh? Where do you begin? "Contributed" to who - Linus? Kernel called GNU/Linux? I don't recall reading anywhere anyone insisting the kernel should be called GNU/Linux. Surely, the guy knows nothing about the subject matter he is trying so hard to talk about.

      How much 'inspiration' did Linus get from Minix? AdTI argues clearly enough to credit the Prentice Hall product. Not in conversation either, but within the copyright and/or the credits files of the kernel. Quite noticeably, however, there is not one acknowledgement of Minix anywhere in the Linux kernel.

      Because Linus didn't copy any code from Minix. How many times does this guy have to be told, and by how many people? Or maybe he wants to come in and specify files and line numbers like SCO did? Oh wait a minute...

      I also found quotes taken out of context quite amusing:

      Tanenbaum insists that we are wrong to bring any of this up, but ironically, he comments on his site, "but Linus' sloppiness about attribution is no reason to assert that Linus didn't write Linux(8)."

      Linus decided he was not the inventor of Linux commenting in a ZDNet story, "I'd agree that 'inventor' is not necessarily the right word(9)"

      And finally, a reply to:

      Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector.

      Err... replace "Linux" with "competition" - because competition in general is also very bad - it has a deleterious effect and is depreciating the value of the products and services that our patriotic abusive monopolists provide to masses, right? Idiot! Why don't we ask HP (a Unix licensee, ironically) how "deleterious" Linux has been [] for them last year. Or maybe you want to try IBM, another Unix licensee?
      • by CoolToddHunter (605159) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:30PM (#9341916)
        Well reasoned, but I have a devil's advocate question.

        Another problem with Tanenbaum's logic is that he only presents examples of people that were Unix licensees ...

        Tanenbaum was not a Unix licensee and he told you the task was possible to accomplish in few months if he had devoted more time to it.

        Ken Brown asserts that Tanenbaum had the Lions notes (illegal Unix copy), so the fact that he wasn't a Unix licensee should be irrelevant. Given that, how would you now respond to Brown's statement?

        • by Red Alastor (742410) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:37PM (#9342266)
          By pointing to the fact that Brown made no distinction between Linux being a monolithic kernel and Minix being a Microkernel. Linus can't have copied Minix because of this fact as Tananbaum pointed out. If the Lions book was a monolithic kernel, Linus could have copied from it if he had it but that would mean that Tanenbaum is sure to have written his from scratch. Or vice-versa if the Lions book is about a microkernel. Either way, if one was able to do it from scratch, why not the other ?
        • by zurab (188064) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:18AM (#9342460)
          Ken Brown asserts that Tanenbaum had the Lions notes (illegal Unix copy), so the fact that he wasn't a Unix licensee should be irrelevant. Given that, how would you now respond to Brown's statement?

          People who know much more about this than I ever will have already answered this, so here is the summary.

          First of all, I am not sure what the "Brown's statement" is. Is it that

          - Linus used Lions' book to create his kernel; or
          - Linus copied code from Minix into Linux?

          The latter has already been put to rest by Alexey Toptygin's code comparison [] done for Ken Brown (previously reported on /.):

          To summarize, my analysis found no evidence whatsoever that any code was copied one way or the other.

          In Tanenbaum's own words:

          Thus, of course, Linus didn't sit down in a vacuum and suddenly type in the Linux source code. He had my book, was running MINIX, and undoubtedly knew the history (since it is in my book). But the code was his. The proof of this is that he messed the design up. ...

          The aforementioned code comparison proves there is no Minix code in Linux. So, what is the "Brown's statement" with regards to Minix? I mean - what else? Of course, Linus had and knew Minix, as Tanenbaum wrote:

          I told him that MINIX had clearly had a huge influence on Linux in many ways, from the layout of the file system to the names in the source tree, but I didn't think Linus had used any of my code.

          Is there anything wrong with taking filesystem layout and directory structure? No. Should Linus have attributed this to Minix (if he did take it from there)? Maybe. Is it wrong that he didn't do so? Absolutely not. Not only did Linus not copy any code from Minix, he didn't even take Minix' microkernel design and later flamewars should tell you what he really thought of that system.

          As far as the Lions' book, this is what Tanenbaum wrote:

          I don't think he could have copied UNIX because he didn't have access to the UNIX source code, except maybe John Lions' book, which is about an earlier version of UNIX that does not resemble Linux so much.

          So, even if Linus had access to Lions' book, he did not actually take anything from it because Linux didn't actually resemble the earlier version of UNIX that was in that book. Ken Brown, is obviously free, like SCO is, to name the files and lines of code that he believe were "stolen" from earlier versions of UNIX and put into Linux' first release so he can have something factual rather than fictional.

          So, what exactly is the "Brown's statement" is what I don't know. It's obvious by now that he doesn't have any proof to back his assertions up - how could Linus have written a kernel by himself in 6 months - it's all fiction in his created in his own mind; it's also obvious that he is misrepresenting many interviewees that he "extensively" interviewed, and all those interviewees that sounded off are ever so politely calling him a liar at best.
      • by Tachys (445363) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:04PM (#9342060)

        Yet Tanenbaum vehemently insists that Torvalds wrote Linux from scratch, which means from a blank computer screen to most people. No books, no resources, no notes -- certainly not a line of source code to borrow from, or to be tempted to borrow from.

        He has a point there, Linus would to have at least copy from the first kernel which was created by God.

        What you think a bunch a computer scientists created a kernel without ever seeing a kernel before? That is of course impossible.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:48PM (#9342324)
        Mr Brown has not the foggiest, vaguest clue about the essence of the human creative process.

        When we create something "new", we are not forced to return to the first glimmerings of conciousness and higher cognitive function. Even a popular work like James Burkes "Connections" would tell him that *nothing* created by man gets created in a vacuum.

        Furthermore, "standing on the shoulders of giants" is so utterly pervasive in science and engineering, and I can't believe that Mr. Brown doesn't understand this.

        Clearly, Linus didn't start with a 200litre drum of refined silicon dioxide, and build himself a computer. He had tools. Like Minix, and a C compiler. And a keyboard, cpu, memory, CRT. And a place to live and work, and a regular supply of food and water. He likely took a shower once in awhile, and might even have been using electricity purchased from the power company, rather than cluttering his brain and wasting his energies repeteadly running magnets through
        hastily-assembled coils of wire.

        Clearly Linus stole the idea of his own existence from his parents, who, at least according to some, owe a great debt to some chimpanzees and a man called Charles Darwin.

        Following Mr. Browns argumet, Linus can't reasonably have claimed to have invented anything, since the dependancy tree for his creative process (as described above) is actually staggering in scope.
        • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:44AM (#9343833) Homepage Journal
          I'm quite sure there was investigative journalism (good and crappy) before Ken Brown's book, and Brown was, at some point in his life, exposed to it (Fox News, judging from what's come out about his book.)

          So I think it's absolutely absurd for Brown to argue he is the "author" of his own "book". Clearly he just copied from more original work, perhaps the Whitewater stories, or maybe he went further, back to the "journalist" who "exposed" the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    • If you use "SIM"... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Crazy Eight (673088) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:07PM (#9342083)
      ... it's like comparing one project's code base with a totally different one written by someone else. That's what Alexey Toptygin did with MINIX and Linux. His results are here [] . His commentary [] on the results are illuminating since he made the comparison specifically for Ken Brown's pamphlet only to find that his conclusion wasn't appreciated.
  • OMG. (Score:5, Funny)

    by jhill (446614) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:34PM (#9340854) Homepage
    A village is out there, crying, like baby jesus, because it's idiot ran away...please send him back.
  • by kidgenius (704962) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:36PM (#9340870)
    Does he not realize that Linux runs on embedded systems. He makes a comment that:
    "Software is also embedded in hardware, chips, printers and even consumer electronics. Should embedded software become 'free' too, it would be natural to conclude the value of hardware will spiral downward as well." Let's see....PDA's, routers, cell phones, dvd players....yup, they all run Linux, and I don't see the value of these pieces of hardware spiraling downwards. The "cost" may drop, but the "value" could stay the same, or increase due to the possibly increased functionality (among other things) that running Linux on these devices allows.
    • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `orpxnyl'> on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:51PM (#9341004)
      "Let's see....PDA's, routers, cell phones, dvd players....yup, they all run Linux, and I don't see the value of these pieces of hardware spiraling downwards."

      Consider the source (and I don't mean code). That foundation receives monies from Microsoft. You bring up the PDA market. Both Microsoft and PalmOne receive $10 in royalties for the use of their operating systems (PocketPC and PalmOS) and intellectual property per licensed machine sold. Linux does have the potential of degrading those royalties down to nothing. First, licensees will pressure M$ and PalmOne into lowering their payments by using the "we can use Linux for free" argument. It could be argued that eventually, this means the PocketPC and PalmOS licenses will go down to $1 or less per machine sold. Microsoft would wave the licensing fee just to save face against Linux, but that would cripple PalmSource completely.

      • You make a good point, but I never said cost couldn't drop, I merely said value, and there is a big difference between the two.
      • by 13Echo (209846) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:04PM (#9341525) Homepage Journal
        This is true, to some degree - but look at products like the QTopia desktop interface. I don't really see Trolltech hurting right now, and QTopia is a pretty good product (look at the Zaurus).

        Outside of the PDA - Companies like Opera use QT (commercial) for making their browser products.

        Open source (especially free software and dual-license) can really benefit the innovative companies that do it right. Right now, that completely goes against Microsoft's traditional model... It scares the hell out of companies like that, because they no longer have the same level of control.
    • by chad9023 (316613) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:07PM (#9341108)
      Obviously he's never heard of BusyBox [], or seen the list of products [] which run it. Or the list of products [] which run it without giving it credit. While some companies certainly seem to enjoy using F/OSS and giving credit where credit is due, others seem to have no problem ripping off the work others have done, atleast when they don't think they'll get caught.

      A good point was made on GrokLaw the other day: it's easy for commercial companies to make sure that none of their code has made it's way into F/OSS, but it's monumently harder for members of the open source community to make sure none of their code is being misused in commercial software and/or products.
    • by meburke (736645) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:12PM (#9341148)
      This (Ken Brown's portion) is actually a semantics-challenged statement that arrives at good economics: It makes total sense that as the cost of producing/reproducing human effort is reduced, then a competitive market will reduce the cost of the product to the consumer. I remember when I could make a pretty good living selling a couple of Vector Graphics Z-80/S-100 systems each week. The margins were 50% or higher and we were able to charge a reasonable amount for consulting and programming. Within a few years, the component costs, OS costs and expectations had reduced margins to about 15% on systems costing only 1/10 as much for the same features. It makes total sense that consumers would be interested in almost any method to to reduce their incremental cost, but we had to do about 30 times the business to make the same amount of money. In addition, the maintenance costs on proprietary methods and products is very good for the proprietor, but a real annoyance for the end user and consumer. People seem to resent being bent over a barrel while they are trying to accomplish their own goals. Lastly, the cost of reproducing a solution is much less than the cost of initially deriving a solution. One thing I like about producing software solutions is: NO INVENTORY! It's all brainsweat, and the distribution of the solution is likely to be jsut as valuable to the last person who uses it as to the first person, even though the cost of distribution is so much less.
    • by dubious9 (580994) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:31PM (#9341267) Journal
      Yeah, he is using straw man arugment. While challening the validity of linux with quotes like

      he reality is that, noone, including Linus Torvalds, can ever guarantee that code in the Linux kernel is free of counter ownership, or attribution claims.

      When in reality noone can ever be absolutely sure, OSS or proprietary, the validity of source code who has more than one writer. This is a common theme of anti-Linux writers: Desribe a weakness that Linux has (as the defacto-OSS model) that really isn't a weakness, or that it effects all software.

      Quite frankly, I'm surprised they haven't thought of another avenue of attack. And then there is inflamatory sentences like this:

      Isn't fair to question the character and ethics of individuals that espouse contempt for intellectual property?

      Um... the GPL is ALL about IP. It has protections and safegaurds. It doesn't even have to be free! Contemp for IP? Not Linus, RMS maybe, but it's still a longshot.

      Isn't fair to question their character, when the core of their business strategy is trust?

      As I said before trust applies to everybody who writes code. You have to trust your employees not to steal GLP'ed code too. Given that most software written is proprietary I'd say that that is a MUCH more likely propositition than masive amounts of unowned IP getting into Linux.
      • by soloport (312487) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:05PM (#9341532) Homepage
        I like this thin-minded quote, "For us to accept Tnenbaum's argument, Linus Torvalds at 21, with one year of C programming, was Doug Comer, an accomplished computer scientist, or smarter than the Coherent team, and of course a better programmer than the good professor too."

        Let's see:
        Edison started inventing at age 12
        Alexander Graham Bell started inventing at age 18
        Chester Greenwood applied for his first pattent at age 17
        Blaise Pascal invented the mechanical adding machine at age 19
        Philo Farnsworth invented the television at age 14
        Margaret Knight invented the modern loom at age 12

        Of course each of these individuals stole their ideas from others (they must have, given their age) and were able to bring their inventions to market without the aid of a single, solitary other person -- much like the story of Linux.
        • by chris_sawtell (10326) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @01:20AM (#9342720) Journal
          You forget that Louis Braille invented his encoding of the alphabet as dots at the age of 12.
          His was a true invention, there was no prior art whatsoever.
        • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:29AM (#9343567)
          One thing a lot of commentators miss about the free or open software movement (calm down RMS, get a dictionary) - is that it is really just the same sharing of information that has been used to give us the body of scientific knowlege we have today. E.g. In the short term having a second company with the knowlege to produce telephones may have hurt the first company, but in the long run the sharing of knowlege helped everyone - despite being anti-capitalist behavior it dramaticly helped the capitalist system.

          People that wish to share information instead of hoarding it to weave some trivial one-off basket are depicted as communists, of putting knowlege before objects; i.e. putting Descarte before the horse, which everyone knows will just lead to us all driving about in devils chariots on roads that allow commoners despite the wealthy paying for the majority of them.

          This guy is just another pointy haired barbarian in a suit - talking about theft comes easily to such types since the mindset is to take and not to produce. His writings say a lot more about him than the subject matter.

    • by eggboard (315140) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:03PM (#9341517) Homepage
      Yeah, Cisco's "losing" all this money through its Linksys division using Linux to run its wireless routers. I'd love to "lose" as much money making embedded systems like Linksys.
    • by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012.pota@to> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:34AM (#9342919)
      The "cost" may drop, but the "value" could stay the same, or increase due to the possibly increased functionality (among other things) that running Linux on these devices allows.

      That's spot on. I can't believe that he doesn't understand basic economics.

      By his logic, the massive drop in prices for long distance phone calls over the decades must be really bad for the economy. And Moore's Law must be decimating the computer industry.

      Given how much money Microsoft has, it would be nice if they bribed somebody smart to tell lies about Linux; this drooler isn't even a challenge. I hope they got a good deal.
  • USPTO respected? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TwistedSquare (650445) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:36PM (#9340875) Homepage
    The United States is the home of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an internationally respected agency

    Says the article... I'm sure a few round here would disagree.

  • by shatfield (199969) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:37PM (#9340878)
    Its purpose is to provide U.S. leadership with a researched presentation on attribution and intellectual property problems with the hybrid source code model, particularly Linux. It is our hope that leadership would find this document helpful with public policy decisions regarding its future investment in Linux and other hybrid source products.

    So they are writing a book of lies to give to non-technical politicians in order to persuade public policy.

    So who is going to step forward and write a book, of researched FACTS to counteract this work of FICTION?
    • That's a great idea, and now that we know their motives, we know to whom this book should be addressed.

      My God, reading this thing... Ken Brown assumed his conclusion from the start. He has a rabid religious fervor to his response; I can see the spit flying from his lips just reading the text.

      What's clear is that like all True Believers, Ken Brown will do anything possible to win, and he will never give up. He will not rest to his dying days to fight what he has started. He has put himself in a position he must defend. He is going to shout what he wants to anyone who will listen, and as most people are ignorant of the issue, many of them will.

      The only proper response is to educate the masses with the truth before Ken Brown can spread his lies.
      • Whores for More (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JInterest (719959) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @01:21AM (#9342727)

        What's clear is that like all True Believers, Ken Brown will do anything possible to win, and he will never give up. He will not rest to his dying days to fight what he has started. He has put himself in a position he must defend. He is going to shout what he wants to anyone who will listen, and as most people are ignorant of the issue, many of them will.

        I don't think you should assume that Brown is a True Believer.

        A story about the "Whores for More" who pollute our public policy process.

        In the late 1980's, I interned at a small but locally prominent "Beltway insider" political organization that was essentially a conservative/Republican foundation set up as a 501(c)(3) educational organization.

        I was given a bird's eye view of how these groups, groups like ADTI, operate. Party or ideology aside, they all seem to work the same way.

        It is all about money, ego, and, sometimes, ideas, precisely in that order.

        I was amazed at how much time, effort, and energy was spent in the drive for getting money. Why did they need the money? To expand. For what purpose? To have more prominence and influence. Why? makes fundraising easier.

        Don't misunderstand. I understood then and now that you need to raise money in order to operate. But I wasn't comfortable with the tactics used to obtain the money. The letters were frequently inflammatory and, I was surprised to find, sometimes simply wrong. The organization I was with wasn't the worst offender on that point, either. I saw some terrible stuff coming out of groups who were supposedly on the same side we were. There was certainly a lot for them to complain about, so why not keep it straight?

        Moreover, I had open eyes, and I soon saw that there was a LOT of hypocrisy inside the Beltway. Many of these people pushed agendas that they didn't even come close to following.

        Ego played a big role in all this. These "public policy" organizations are really an incestuous little bunch, where name-dropping, fancy titles, and building organizations with large fund-raising arms counted for more than substantive results. Any ideas that didn't come out of your "clique" were automatically bad. If you were part of the "clique", kissed the right asses, etc., you got ahead. If you weren't, don't bother, they weren't interested.

        Appearances mattered. Real principles were a less important. When an Ohio congressman who was a noted conservative had to resign after being busted for having sex with a 13-year old black girl, there was a sympathy party for his staffers. All well and good, but for all the clucking of tongues, most of the comments were about how unfortunate it was that he'd done something that would hurt him politically. There was little comment on the fact that this married father had had sex with a young girl, and how just plain damn wrong that was. And nobody seemed to notice the hypocrisy. Why? Because of one too many people living in glass houses, preaching one thing for money and influence, and living another.

        Where there ideas? Sure. There was a lot of talk. But the prevailing viewpoint was that principles should be compromised when it came time to "deal", because it was better to have something than nothing, right? And this is no doubt true, so long as compromise actually advances your ideas, but I noticed that many of the principles that these organizations pulled so many dollars from donors to support ended up in the waste basket when the time came to "deal".

        I observed that this was a problem that crossed lines of party and ideology. Finding that policy wonking inside the Beltway was high-school magnified, played with millions of dollars and by people older than my parents, was disheartening to say the least.

        "Whores for More" was and is my take on that experience after the fact. It is a take-off on the famous line by Bogart in Key Largo when he describes what motivated Edward G. Robinson's char

    • by goon america (536413) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:16PM (#9341177) Homepage Journal
      You may also be interested in the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution's Disinfopedia page []
  • by raistphrk (203742) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:38PM (#9340888)
    Ken Brown was recently offered a position at the Jason Blair Institute for Fabrication and Fraud. Officially duties include making up interview transcripts and inventing names for alleged contributers.
  • by Brackney (257949) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:39PM (#9340900)
    Am I missing something, or is the implication made that Linux became a fullblown and mature OS overnight? The earliest version that Linus put together was incomplete and immature. No one ever claimed that Linus got from version 0.0 to 2.x.y all by his lonesome. We all know (now) that he had plenty of help from Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy...
    • by scoove (71173) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:24PM (#9341220)
      s the implication made that Linux became a fullblown and mature OS overnight?

      Exactly. I was first introduced to Linux when it took two 5.25 floppies. Coming from Ultrix and having messed with Minix for a few months, I was shocked at what Linux couldn't do.

      We were joking about writing a VMS emulator under Ultrix, and this Linux stuff seemed to be not much more than some PC UNIX mockup to my unsophisticated eyes. I certainly didn't see the potential at the time.

      Linux was nothing like Minix. And those that were UNIX geeks in the early 90s probably remember that all the attention and excitement was on BSD/386, not Linux.

      So if one thing is clear, it's that Ken Brown didn't learn how to turn on a PC until the past couple of years. Still, it's nice to know that such incapable people with high self-esteem can get hired for such senior positions at the Toqueville Institute...

    • by dietz (553239) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:36PM (#9341292)
      Check out this, though:

      Yet Tanenbaum vehemently insists that Torvalds wrote Linux from scratch, which means from a blank computer screen to most people. No books, no resources, no notes...

      So, what he's apparently claiming is that Linux is stolen code because Linus used BOOKS when he wrote it.

      All true hackers were born with knowledge of C. Anyone who had to read a book about it is a thief.
  • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr AT ticam DOT utexas DOT edu> on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:40PM (#9340907) Homepage
    Isn't fair to question the character and ethics of individuals that espouse contempt for intellectual property? Isn't fair to question their character, when the core of their business strategy is trust?

    I certainly agree.

    The difference is that I'm smart enough to recognize that when Linus Torvalds is telling a joke it isn't an expression of contempt for intellectual property, but when Ken Brown is viciously slandering an innocent author in order to try and sabotage the use of that authors creation it shows utter contempt for IP law.

    Unfortunately, although everyone has questioned Brown's character, Brown doesn't want to answer any of those questions. This is just another "Linus couldn't have written Linux himself!" rant, which posts all of Browns leading questions and attempts to trap people into misleading soundbites, but which doesn't answer the most obvious question everyone has been asking: who is paying him to write this crap?
  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reteo Varala (743) <reteo.varala@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:42PM (#9340924) Homepage
    "Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector."

    I think I read a phrase once that fit quite nicely... what was it again?

    Oh, yeah, that's it...

    "Tough. Adapt or die."
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Blastrogath (579992) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:40PM (#9341329)
      "Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector."

      This is nothing new. What do you think henry ford did to his competitors? The only way to avoid "steadily depreciating the value" of somebodies business is to never invent better ways to do anything. This is blatant anti-progress retoric.
    • by waferhead (557795) <waferhead AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:32PM (#9341657)
      80+ percent of all programmers work exclusively on software for "In House" uses... NOT retail sales.

      Linux/Open source software (can) make them MANY TIMES more productive.

      The GPL ALLOWS this use... The code "borrowing" is EXPLICITLY allowed, as long as they do not distribute binaries.

      I expect the next installment of this shill will move from calling Linux a "leprosy" to simply using the troll term "open sores".

      I almost expected it in the article... Looked like a professionally written troll.

      Cn I call him a Nazi so this can end?
  • Yeah but .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kbsingh (138659) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:43PM (#9340936) Homepage
    Mr Brown, seems to have made loads of statements with no real basis to back him up at all - much unlike his critics who have used real facts and figures to build upon. Where did he come up with statements like 'Linux is a leprosy' - and have nothing at all to say as to why he thinks its like that. He has no answer to his critics, so he will evade the real issues and facts, just try to keep people thinking about different things by such a response.

    Okay, so he says that Linux might not be good for the s/w industry ( uneducated and uninformed as he is, he is most likely wrong ) - but is that the only industry there is in this whole world ? dont the other industries ( who have been held to ransom, more or less by organisations like MS and Sage ), also have a right to benefit ? If you look at the reality - the user base is many many times higher than the provider base. So how does the economy suffer ?

    All in all, its not even worth commenting on this anymore. Mr. Brown is the hall mark of a paid dog, who is going to make a fwe bucks from his backers who want to see Linux down - cause they are incapable of doing that in real terms, tech terms or in direct compeition - so they must resort to people like Ken Brown to create this fascade and false FUD.

    Look around you - does any of this work ?

    If Linux wasent as big a threat to MS and such companies, they would leave it alone. But they cant, because Linux IS very much a threat - and its breaking them down.
  • by ozten (112610) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:45PM (#9340960) Homepage
    This guy actually uses Newsforge comments as a primary source! He is commenting on Cisco code theft and that open source zealots are happy it happened, his footnote 3 points to a Comments page.

    Sooooo gooood.
  • by jlowery (47102) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:46PM (#9340962)
    It's hard to take a guy seriously when in a semi-formal publication he repeatedly uses the non-word 'noone'. Doesn't this guy know english?
  • From scratch... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:49PM (#9340980) Homepage Journal
    Yet Tanenbaum vehemently insists that Torvalds wrote Linux from scratch, which means from a blank computer screen to most people. No books, no resources, no notes -- certainly not a line of source code to borrow from, or to be tempted to borrow from.

    Mr. Brown is deliberately playing his audience for fools. Of course Linus didn't create Linux from tabula rasa. He didn't start with a blank harddrive and manually toggle in hex until he managed to get it booted up to an editor to start typing in Linux source! Duh!

    When Linus "used" Minix and GCC, he used them as tools. Is this so hard for Mr. Brown to get through his skull? Apparently so.

    Is it likely that a student (Linus Torvalds) with no operating systems experience, a non-Unix licensee, without any use of Minix or Unix source code, could build a functioning kernel in six months

    Mr. Brown seems to be making the argument later than Linus couldn't of possibly have written Linux 2.6 in six months. Of course! He came up with version 0.1 instead. Although it was functional, it wasn't terribly useful.

    People would take Ken Brown more seriously if he didn't write a book that was nothing more than his attempt to discredit his own erroneous assumtions.
  • by mkro (644055) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:51PM (#9340994)
    Much of this questionable borrowing is a) not in the best interest U.S. corporations b) not in the best interest of IT workers in America c) at a serious expense to the investment community, an entity betting on the success of intellectual property in the marketplace.
    Mr. Brown seems to leave out the ties Linux has to international terrorism, and even fails to mention the negative impact Linux has on the oil price. How are we supposed to take him seriously? Seriously, Microsoft should ask for their money back.
  • by Chmarr (18662) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:51PM (#9341005)
    Please... noone visit the AdTI website... we wouldn't want Mr Brown to think that his web site is being attacked again, would we? :)
  • Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth. So now you know where they got the name. We live in a world of greed and spin, and AdTI is out to make a buck... brainwashing the people... being paid to hide "complex truths" from their view, replacing them with whatever simple lies the people will prefer to believe.
    They aren't very original in this respect, but they should be feared rather than scorned.
    You never know exactly how many influent people will buy this crap, not to mention the masses.
    People cling to silly myths and urban legends for decades!
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ponkinator (466952) <> on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:55PM (#9341031)
    "The United States is the home of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an internationally respected agency which contributes to the worldwide effort to protect and govern intellectual property."

    It may have been respected in the past but now with the USPTO issuing patents without proper review I'd say it isn't worthy of respect today. Also, wasn't the intention of patents to give the inventor a 17 year limited period of protection? Its main goal, however, was to have the invention end up in the public domain for the benefit of its citizenship. He doesn't seem to understand that and I'll bet he doen't understand the concept of public schools or libraries either. Ken Brown has a very pueril view of the purpose of goverenment.
  • ... would be the subject of some national investigative news show, if I had my wish come true. Just think... national, prime-time coverage of how, if you have enough money, you can get a "highly respected conservative/liberal/defense/technology think tank" to say pretty much whatever you want them to.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, this would lead to more critical examination of the 'studies' coming out of all of the think tanks....

    [I wish]
  • by theefer (467185) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:58PM (#9341060) Homepage
    I've never read such a plain dumb reply, it's really amazing ... Here are a few pieces :

    Meanwhile, an associate of mine asked Richard Stallman, who started with the Mach Kernel, why his GNU team could not build a kernel as fast as Torvalds. Mr. Stallman provided AdTI with a credible, believable set of reasons why building a kernel was not a simple task.

    It is not trivial, but neither really that hard. The reason why GNU/Hurd takes so long is that coding micro-kernels is hard (and so said AT in his own replies on this topic). I guess RMS' quote might have been tricked from "building a micro-kernel" to "building a kernel".

    But recently in a ZDNet interview last month, Torvalds insisted that he didn't start with Minix, but did get ideas from Unix(7).

    Maybe Ken Brown isn't even aware that Minix is a micro-kernel, and thus a completely different architecture from a monolithic kernel. Does he even know the difference ?

    Coincidently in a recent interview, Linus decided he was not the inventor of Linux commenting in a ZDNet story, "I'd agree that 'inventor' is not necessarily the right word...(9)"

    This is a vocabulary issue. He's obviously not saying he's not the author of Linux, as Brown wants us to extrapolate.

    Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry

    Didn't he mean that Linux is the cancer of the software industry ? Reminds me from something ...

    Ken Brown's article is really, really lame, filled with wrong arguments, misquotes and lies. He's really trying to burn the latest tiny pieces of respect someone could hold for him.
  • Profit!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by wtom (619054) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:02PM (#9341086)
    1. Observe thousands of geeks rage-filled reaction to SCO Linux IP claims. 2. Write poorly-researched, inflammatory book claiming Linus the Chosen One did not, in fact write the Linux kernel. 3. Thousands and thousands and thousands of pissed-off Linux zealots buy said book, in order to debunk it, burn it, sit it on the shelf and laugh at it, whatever... 4. Profit!!! I think the author probably saw an exploitable reaction in the Linux community and wrote this book in order to, um, exploit it... I wonder if the same strategy would work in other formats? I could write a book called "Eating Puppies", do the talk show circuit, and as long as I was not shot or something, the book would sell a million copies! I'm a genius! *starts typing up first draft*
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `orpxnyl'> on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:03PM (#9341089)
    I want to highlight some of Brown's flawed logic:

    "The Samizdat report recommends that the U.S. government should invest $5 billion in research and development efforts that produce true open source products, such as BSD and MIT license-based open source."

    Interesting, his choice of BSD, considering that Microsoft has used BSD code in Windows before. Getting the U.S. government to pay for research that will benefit Microsoft ($60 billion in the bank) is nothing short of corporate welfare, especially when said corporation pays so little tax to the U.S. Government with the exception of campaign contributions for the Capitol Hill gang.

    Then the author (similar to SCO) shoots his own foot with the following statement:

    "The disturbing reality is that the hybrid source model depends heavily upon sponging talent from U.S. corporations and/or U.S. proprietary software."

    How is the *hybrid source* of Linux being more of a sponge than BSD? Linux requires the community to give back improvements so the entire Linux community profits. Anyone can use BSD without giving anything back (thankfully some companies like Apple do, and unlike MSFT). So how does BSD get a free sponging pass in this guy's logic?

    So I propose that Brown (in my opinion) is an imbletard. That is the byproduct of a union between an imbecile and a retard.

    • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `orpxnyl'> on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:25PM (#9341231)
      And to further my point regaring Mr Brown:

      "He is reportedly "not the sharpest knife in the drawer," but nevertheless is able to converse with many intelligent people, and is accepted at fine restaurants and hotels around the world."

      Was that last comment meant to be funny or witty? Being accepted at "fine restaurants and hotels around the world" has nothing to do with ones intelligence, only liquid capital (mainly) and connections.

      Even better:

      "one of the first papers to raise serious questions about the security of open- and hybrid-source computer software, a point recently raised by the president of Symantec Corporation."

      Oooh, Symantec raised a red flag over open source software, especially after open source based firewalls have shown up Norton Firewall so much. That would be like Star Trek producer Rick Berman critiquing George Lucas on the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.

      I stand by my prior statement, the guy is an imbletard (imho).

  • by murr (214674) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:14PM (#9341165)
    One of the many things that Brown ignores is that the question whether Linus had a copy of the Lions book is entirely irrelevant. The book is a historical gem, but the hardware it targets and the programming language used (an utterly archaic and fairly anarchic dialect of C) are so far removed from PC hardware and ANSI C that it's pretty much impossible to learn anything from it about OS design.

    Tanenbaum's Minix book is obviously much better suited to learning about operating systems, but the book was always legal and learning concepts from it was never illegal (there are plenty of atrocities in copyright law, but making students licensees of textbook publishers luckily isn't among them -- yet).
  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveJay (133437) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:42PM (#9341345)
    After reading Ken Brown's response, I can only say this: I have never in my life read something written by someone so obviously and transparently dedicated to ruining someone's reputation on the basis of arbitrary speculation and doubt. This is major-league political-type mudslinging, and it's painfully obvious that the only reason he's doing it (barring some personal vendetta, which I doubt) is to cast doubt in the community on Linux vs. SCO .

    If this man came up to me, handed me a hundred dollar bill, and used the same type of arguments he used in his "response" to convince me that the hundred dollar bill was freely and legally mine with no strings attached, I'd cram the bill back into his hands, run away, and call the police.
  • Sharpest Knife? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saddino (183491) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:45PM (#9341364)
    He is reportedly "not the sharpest knife in the drawer," but nevertheless is able to converse with many intelligent people, and is accepted at fine restaurants and hotels around the world.

    Mr. Brown is clearly the drawer itself, rigid and defiant in the face of well-informed and well-argued counterpoints to his (especially in the light of the sheer amount of critcism) pathetic straw grapsing.

    His point -- ironic that he, the alleged "dull" knife should have one -- is almost hysterical in its adherence to semantics: he is "right" simply because a "blank screen" could not have been Linus' starting point. In the parlance of the vulgarian: no shit sherlock. Every programmer builds upon the collective works of the other (even his surely esteemed Mr. Gates wrote BASIC from existing specifications) and the line between "stealing" and "innovating" is thicker than he would care to admit.

    Please. Let us leave Mr. Brown alone and collecticly close this drawer. His dellusional arrogance -- as if the U.S. Government would stop and listen to his shrill "arguments" -- betrays his objective: to attack what he does not understand, to malign what he can't comprehend and to dimiss what he cannot possibly accept: open source is here to stay, and all the covertly funded "studies" to work against the tides are surely for naught.

    AdTI has now been exposed in the same light as this fishy "research" that recently surfaced; Ken Brown took the bait and shoved it down his very own throat. Now, Mr. Brown, please try to remain quiet while your book lingers on the shelves.
  • by wintermute42 (710554) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:12PM (#9341569) Homepage

    OK, this was probably a waste of time. Ken Brown is so over the top that he has to have an agenda. But for what it is worth, here is a copy of an email I sent him (with minor changes)

    Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 17:54:31 -0700
    Subject: Linux, Linus and so on...

    Dear Mr. Brown:

    I am a software engineer with over twenty three years of experience. Much of my background is in the design and implementation of system software, including compilers and runtime support. If you are interested you can find my resume at my domain.

    I am not in the Linux fanatic camp. I use Linux, but in many ways I am disappointed with its popularity. I would much rather that the freeBSD operating system, which I regard as superior, had Linux's popularity. But popularity is the result of many factors, some of which have nothing to do with technology.

    As a highly experienced software engineer and someone who is not a Linux fanatic, let me state that I absolutely believe that Linus Torvalds wrote Linux. And I also fully believe Prof. Tanenbaum when he states that Linux was not "stolen" from Minux.

    Linux has been many years in development. The initial operating system was not the operating system that exists today. Linux has evolved over the years and many people have contributed to this evolution. As you note, Linus was young when he wrote Linux and I have no doubt that he too has evolved into a skilled and expert operating system designer and implementer. Linux is now far better for this experience and the work of its many contributors.

    I find it rather odd that you, who are not an expert in software, are arguing against a large community of people who are experts, that Linus did not write Linux. I would hazard a guess that most UNIX systems programmers find your arguments silly. I also find it interesting that many of your arguments mirror those that have been put forward by Microsoft, a company that clearly finds Linux a threat.



  • by jht (5006) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:36PM (#9341673) Homepage Journal
    He treats Linux as if it emerged, fully formed back in 1991. It wasn't. What Linux was back then was a crude monolithic kernel that was "inspired" by Minix (though implemented in a much less elegant fashion), was based on public information about Unix interfaces and structures, and was nothing more than the germ of an OS.

    The reason Linux overcame that to become a viable OS is simple - unlike all the other Unixes that existed at the time, it was Free (GPL) software, Linus actively solicited input and help, and the underlying GNU system was reaching a corresponding level of maturity sufficient to let Linux be the kernel to complete it.

    Essentially, that first draft of Linux was crud, but thanks to some foresight on Linus' part and a lot of good timing coincidences it became the mighty penguin we see today. Had the Hurd been ready back then, this might have happened differently. If Tanenbaum had changed his Minix license to encourage development with it, Minix might be the OS we all use today.

    But Linus was in the right place at the right time with enough of a kernel to capture developer interest. And the rest is history, however much Mr. Brown would like to change it to suit his political goals.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:36PM (#9341676) Homepage
    I've just finished reading the piece and can only conclude one thing:

    Arguing with this guy is completely pointless. He is constantly mixing the legal protections afforded by copyright, trademark, trade dress, and patent. He bounces off every logical fallacy [] in the book. It's like the open letter wars with SCO, but with a guy who is clearly far more versed in rhetoric.

    There is only one clear response to this in my opinion; force him to address the real issue. Point blank: What code are you alleging has been infringed, and by what code in the Linux kernel? The entire history of the Linux kernel is available for public review - if he is going to make slanderous accusations about Linus, he had better be ready to back them up in court.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:06PM (#9342076)
    Tannebaum and other stalwarts of computing support the claim that Linus created Linux. Ken Brown just doesn't get it or doesn't care.

    Brown: No one could have created an entire OS by themselves.
    Tannebaum: Um, five people did it independently of each other.
    Brown: Exactly! Those five people were computer experts not some wet-behind-the-ears kid.
    Tannebaum: By that time, Unix specifications were well known. Anybody could have done it with my book, the POSIX standard, and other Unix books.
    Brown: See! He copied code, didn't he!

    Again and again, Brown sticks by his argument that Linux is so complex that no one could have done it all alone. He doesn't see the 14 years of development it took for Linux to be what it is. He doesn't see that Linux has been re-written over the years as Linus and others expanded it. He doesn't understand Linux is a movement started by Linus and maintained informally by him, but the work done in it has been done by practically thousands of people.

  • by ImpTech (549794) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:20PM (#9342171)
    LOL, I'm only halfway through, and already this "response to critics" is nothing more than a pile of invective and blatant FUD. Not even clever FUD, the dumb "how can we trust them" kind.

    This quote is beautiful though:

    > The point of the paper is to magnify potential problems associated with this type of software development.

    Key word there is "magnify". Not impart, not highlight, not discuss. Magnify!
  • Beyond parody... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bored Huge Krill (687363) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:25PM (#9342200)
    Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector. Software is also embedded in hardware, chips, printers and even consumer electronics. Should embedded software become 'free' too, it would be natural to conclude the value of hardware will spiral downward as well.

    I barely know where to start with such rampant twaddle as this. I'll try to go through it line by line...

    Linux is a leprosy

    no, no, no, Ken. Check your song sheet again. It's cancer remember?

    and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry


    Whatever could you mean, Ken? Could you be possibly be talking about our friends in the North I mean, North West? I think we should be told. Ken, just because some companies find it hard to compete with something that provides the same thing they do at lower cost, why is that necessarily bad?

    because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector

    I'm not sure what you mean here. You seem to have put an economics for dummies book in a blender and selected some random effluent thereof. Do you really mean value here, or the ability of some particular companies to make money with their old business model? News flash: this is what happens to industries that can't or won't change their business model when a lower cost paradigm for doing the same thing comes along. They die. I don't know of anybody who talks about this kind of disruptive influence as destryoying value; it is, in fact, exactly the reverse. It reduces cost, and prices - but it increases the value.

    Software is also embedded in hardware, chips, printers and even consumer electronics. Should embedded software become 'free' too, it would be natural to conclude the value of hardware will spiral downward as well.

    Well, your premise is wrong, as described above - but even if it wasn't, this is a completely ridiculous leap. Once again, you are confusing (deliberately?) the concepts of value, cost and price. They are not the same thing. In fact, free software (what you like to call "hybrid" software for reasons known only to you) is routinely used today by hardware manufacturers in exactly the kinds of devices you describe. They run, not walk, to use it. Why do you suppose that is? Are they stupid? Or is it perhaps because they understand the difference between the concepts that you so readily confuse? Hardware manufacturers use free software in such embedded applications because it reduces the cost of their products, while at the same time actually increasing the value, because they can devote their software resources to developing value-added applications (which don't have to be released under the GPL as you have inferred) instead. You're also ignoring one rather important distinction between software and hardware: whilst the marginal cost of manufacturing software approaches zero, the same is not true of hardware. The price of each item is dictated by the market, and, in a maximally efficient market approximates the lowest price at which any manufacturer can sell the product. Embedded software having a marginal cost approaching zero will certainly encourage their competitors to seek similar zero-cost embedded software in order to compete - but it has no bearing on the market price of the hardware. That market pressure only occurs when your competitors find ways to reduce the cost of their hardware and lower the price accordingly. There simply isn't any connection between the software and hardware pricing.

    I would write a critique of the rest of the "article", but frankly the idiocy-per-paragraph density makes this a rather onerous task. Just pointing out the nonsense in one short paragraph took a rather voluminous amount of text.

  • by mhackarbie (593426) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:46PM (#9342312) Homepage Journal
    The debate about whether Linus Torvalds wrote Linux is just bait to keep the issue in the headlines. The real aim of Ken Brown and his supporters is to wage an ideological battle over the nature of intellectual property.

    His flawed reasoning and poor judgement are too extensive for me to go into detail. I think the best way to summarize the error of his position is to compare him to Ebeneezer Scrooge, the greedy miser whose excessive concern with wealth blinded him to the truly important things in life.

    The growth of information technology is part of a greater world of creative activity that includes science, art, music, literature and more. A critical requirement for continued creative work and innovation is an environment which enables the healthy flow of ideas between people.

    Capitalism and the profit-motive play a part in enabling such creative activity, by helping to channel resources more effectively, but I maintain that the role of business and profit is strictly secondary. The true source of innovation starts with people who are passionate about creativity and discovery.

    The great success of Science in the last several centuries has been critically dependent upon open communication and a free flow of ideas. The great success of software development in the last several decades has likewise been dependent upon an open environment for exploration and communication of new ideas.

    Both of these creative activities are threatened by legal mechanisms such as patents and copyrights, which were originally intended to promote and reward innovation, but lately are mostly a means of protecting entrenched economic power.

    I am not against Capitalism or rewarding creative endeavor, just as I presume Ken Brown is not against creativity or technological innovation. It all comes down to where you focus your energy. In Ken's (and Ebeneezer's) world, there is an obsessive emphasis is on building legal mechanisms and protecting corporate profits, at the expensive of an environment that can give birth to new innovations.

    In my world, the focus is on the conditions that foster creativity and innovation, and subsequently deriving profit from the fruits made possible by those conditions.

    Which world do we want to live in?


  • by defile (1059) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:07AM (#9342413) Homepage Journal

    Most programmers don't even figure this out, so non-programmers are a lost cause, but I'll keep patiently repeating this:

    The makeup of the Software Industry is that 95% (or more) of the software developed in the world today is sold to single buyers. The remaining 5%, which most analysts mistakenly characterize as the ENTIRE software industry, is shrinkwrap software like Windows or Adobe Photoshop.

    While open source directly threatens the shrinkwrap (5%) software industry, it has enormous positive impact on the custom software (95%) sector. Remember, since it's sold to single buyers (developed in-house by the company or under contract) so if it incorporates GPL or BSD licensed code, IT IS IRRELEVANT! Custom systems are almost never resold because a) the client is usually not in the software business, and b) the software is usually useful only in the original buyer's environment, and is custom tailored for their individual needs.

    GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEADS, OPEN SOURCE IS ONLY A REMOTE THREAT, AND ONLY TO SHRINKWRAP SOFTWARE VENDORS! Microsoft is worried, Oracle is concerned, Siemens, IBM, and consultants like me who write and sell code every day sure aren't.

    • by pjkundert (597719) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:47AM (#9343843) Homepage
      Absolutely correct (although I can't confirm your percentages...)

      I work with Linux and a multitude of other FOSS sofware every day, developing embedded solutions for a large company. Most will never see the light of day (they are pretty specific to our company/industry), but FOSS software makes it all possible. Any parts that are generic, I am making available as FOSS (under the GPL). WIthout FOSS, we would be using some crappy closed source solution, without a fraction of the capability of what we've been able to build on top of Linux, et. al.

      Incidentally, we spend large amounts of money buying some "closed" solutions (that run on Linux) from other companies; I suspect that they enjoy the income! Linux doesn't seem to be destroying their economic model.

      The only companies that are going to get hurt, and badly, are those companies that have stopped innovating, and are just trying to milk an existing position for all they can get out of it. Any company or individual that actually wants to innovate, can now enter the marketplace much, much more easily than they could before, by building on top of an ever larger foundation of FOSS.

      I think we can all guess what type of entity doesn't want that to happen...
  • by defile (1059) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:24AM (#9342490) Homepage Journal

    Furthermore in almost every interview with experienced computer science professionals, almost all said that they personally had a copy of the Lions notes, an illegal distribution of Unix source code.

    Either Brown is an idiot or a liar, since he left some interesting information out of his report. This once illegal distribution was eventually published as a book, which I'm holding my lap right now. Here's an excerpt from the preface:

    Thanks to the efforts of Dennis Ritchie, AT&T's lawyers stated that they had "no objection" to publication [of the Lions notes as a book]. Negotiations with Novell, purchasers of the UNIX system from AT&T, were sluggish. Then, late in 1995, came the announcement that
    The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (SCO) had purchased UNIX from Novell. Dennis and I wrote to Mike Tilson and Doug Michels, executives at SCO we knew personally. Mike actually owned a copy of John Lions' work, treasured it, and within a short period of time had arranged with SCO's lawyers for permission.

    It's truly amazing how far the name SCO has fallen since then, and how this shill can make such a blatant misrepresentation, and how much money he probably made doing it.

    I wish someone would pay me to tell outrageous lies.

  • by Slinky Saves the Wor (759676) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @03:06AM (#9342991) Homepage

    Well, well. Yet another Microsoft-sponsored article with FUD!

    First of all, the article is ignoring a simple fact: Linus did not write Linux as it is today in that couple of months. He only wrote the core of the kernel, and improved gradually upon that. The community was there helping in programming and sending in changes ever since he publicized Linux.

    However, the Samizdat paper IS correct in the sense that the Open Source development model (called a "hybrid model" in the paper in order to dilute the idea) is inherently faster and better than any cathedral-like development models of the proprietary software industry. They base their argument around that, but twist it around like any good spin doctors.

    Much of this questionable borrowing is a) not in the best interest U.S. corporations b) not in the best interest of IT workers in America c) at a serious expense to the investment community, an entity betting on the success of intellectual property in the marketplace.

    Notice the a) and c). This is the crux of the issue and the reason why we see such Microsoft-sponsored FUD appear. The a) and c) do not give a rats ass about b), but they must mask their attempts to be such. The b) is a decoy. The real issue here is money. The real issue is about people who would rather get themselves rich than to see something which benefits all people.

    And the argument about Linux developers not being legally accountable as their contributions are based on trust... As far as I know, there is an EULA in all Microsoft (and other proprietary) software, which reject any legal responsibility. So how does the Microsoft way of "software is provided as-is, with NO WARRANTY of any kind, express or implied" differ from similar Linux statement?

    I think that the Open Source community should respond to all these allegations by making a site which outlines the war between Microsoft and free software. Starting from the depths of history, covering the SCO offensive, going through the black ops of crackers breaking into certain free software sites, examining the massive anti-Linux, anti-Open Source advertisement campaign by Microsoft, dissecting the various paid articles appearing in computer magazines worldwide and analyzing the AdTI research funded by Microsoft.

    Make it factual, and don't offend with style when you can offend with substance.

  • by violet16 (700870) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @03:37AM (#9343060)
    I'm genuinely concerned by Brown's article, but even more so by the community's response, which is to call Ken Brown an idiot and laugh the thing off. Even the Slashdot story begins: "Yes, I know it's getting boring by now..." as if every intelligent person can immediately see the gaping holes in Brown and AdTI's case.

    The problem is that the community has almost entirely missed the thrust of AdTI's argument, and, worse, has failed to notice the danger it represents. The community has attacked the technical details of AdTI's argument while mostly ignoring the ideology. But Brown's new article clearly identifies AdTI's target--policymakers in the US Government--and these people will do the opposite: ignore the technical details and ponder the ideology. And to them, there will be an arresting argument here.

    The key point AdTI makes is this: you can't trust OSS unless there's a big company or institution behind it. This is why Brown questions Linux's authorship; not to prove Linus is a fraud, but to muddy the waters sufficiently so that the answer is unclear. They are demonstrating not that Linus did not write Linux all by himself, but that we can't know for sure exactly who did.

    And let's be clear: although Linux is the example, it's really the entire OSS movement in the sights here. AdTI wants to take software creation out of the hands of individuals and put it in the hands of corporations and institutions. It clearly draws an ideological line: software created by companies can be true open source, but software created by informal groups of individuals is "hybrid source," which means potentially stolen.

    If the US government agrees, expect legislation that puts the onus on software creators to prove that their code is not stolen (in contrast to the current situation, in which the onus is on an infringed party to prove someone stole it). This would be a trifling matter for an organization with salaried employees, but onerous for groups of unconnected individuals. It could severely damage OSS projects that rely on code contributions from the general public, and make it much harder for new projects to ever get started.

    Of course, when I say this is "what AdTI wants," I really mean that this is what the companies who fund AdTI want. They're talking about diverting billions of dollars, so the companies who stand to gain from this will make sure Ken Brown's words are heard in the right places in government. On the opposing side, however, we the community have very little money and influence. So our voice is at risk of going unheard in the places that matter.

    The community needs to realize it can not laugh away Ken Brown. It must understand that the issue is not whether Linus wrote Linux, but whether any group of individuals should be allowed to come together, write code, and release it. That is one of the most vital issues we have ever faced.
  • by sporktoast (246027) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @04:04AM (#9343116) Homepage

    I realize that with 400+ comments that this has probably been said already, and perhaps even more cogently. But I thought I'd get my opinion down regardless. This is from Brown's response [] at ADTI


    True Open Source vs. Hybrid Source
    While hybrid software appears to be the same as open source, it isn't. Hybrid source code can never be true intellectual property. The actual purpose of hybrid source is to nullify its value as private property, which makes the hybrid source model significantly different from true open source. Noone can ever truly accrue any value from owning hybrid source software, because everybody (and anybody) has the rights to every line of improvement in it. Worse, many argue that if hybrid source is used the wrong way, it can make other source code hybrid source as well.
    Brown seems to consider that the value of software comes not from the utility it provides for the posessor, but from the posessor's ability to deprive others of that utility. He appears to believe that only scarce things have value.

  • by rmlane (589573) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @05:02AM (#9343210)
    In the same time period Linus was writing early versions of Linux I certainly couldn't get a copy.
    Furthermore in almost every interview with experienced computer science professionals, almost all said that they personally had a copy of the Lions notes, an illegal distribution of Unix source code. Even Tanenbaum admits to teaching from the Lions notes. Linus says he started with nothing. In a recent ZDNet interview(6), he denies having the Lions notes. This is also unbelievable to AdTI. The story is too amazing----everybody that I met knew Linus intimately enough to confirm he wrote the kernel from scratch--- had an illegal copy of the Lions notes---- but Torvalds, was never---even near the Lions notes.
    Not having a copy of the Lions book is sure as hell not surprising to me. I was a CS student in 1990-1992 at Sydney University, which is about a quarter hour drive from UNSW, which is where Lions taught his course and published his book. I studied OS design, and wanted a copy, and could not obtain one. This is the exact same period that Linux was going from 0.01 in 1991 to 0.95c in 1992.

    • The book was published in 1976
    • The book was banned in 1978
    • By 1990 / 1991 it had been out of print for 12 years and was really hard to obtain.
    • Bandwidth outside the US was incredibly paltry, so downloading it would be very difficult. Australia (the entire country) had a single unreliable link of under 500 kbits in 1991, which was probably more than Finland.
    Of course it is unserprising that all the people 10 - 15 years older than Linus who were licencees had copies: they were around when it was in print, or worked at AT&T / Bell, or knew people who did. I knew lecturers who had copies of the Lions book, but they sure wouldn't photocopy it for an undergrad (well, not me, anyway).

    And as others have pointed out (including Linus), pre-1.0 versions of Linux were, well, crap. I tried it a couple of times in that period, and was less than impressed compared to the BSD derived UNIX systems we had access to at university, ignored it, and used pirate copies of 386 BSD.

    Writing Linux (Freeix) 0.01 didn't require genius. Project managing 0.01 into 2.X did.

  • by Sven Tuerpe (265795) <sven.gaos@org> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:45AM (#9343475) Homepage

    In related news, AdTI announces more shocking research results. "After our discovery of the hybrid source nature of Linux we extended our research into other fields," an AdTI spokesperson said. He continued: "In the beginning we were just curious whether hybrid source concepts could be found in other fields as well. But soon we learned that the entire history of mankind would have taken a different turn, had hybrid source not been allowed to spread for so many years." While only excerpts of AdTI's upcoming book have been published yet, one can see the big picture already.

    The shocking findings of AdTI include:

    • Euclid of Alexandria [] did not invent geometry from scratch.
    • Jesus Christ [] did not invent religion from scratch. Nor did Moses [], Muhammad [], or Buddha [].
    • Johannes Gutenberg [] did not invent books from scratch.
    • Sir Isaac Newton [] did not invent from scratch the theory of gravitation, or the laws of motion. Newton even did admit his disrespect for intellectual property, pointing out: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
    • The steam engine, one of the triggers and enablers of the industrial revolution, was not invented by James Watt [] from scratch.
    • Albert Einstein [] received his Nobel Price for results he did not invent from scratch. Alfred Nobel [], by the way, did not invent explosives from scratch.

    Where would mankind stand today if there had been appropriate protection of intellectual assets throughout history? The AdTI spokesperson refused to comment on this question, emphasizing that AdTI is doing sound research, not writing science fiction. However, their results give "clear indication that hybrid source is linked to war, murder, and terrorism. For instance, Adolf Hitler [] impossibly could have invented mass murder and world war from scratch, and Osama bin Laden [] is not the inventor of terrorism."

Every young man should have a hobby: learning how to handle money is the best one. -- Jack Hurley