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Bruce Perens Tells Linus Torvalds To Cool It 825

Posted by Zonk
from the back-to-your-corners dept.
Eh-Wire writes "Bruce Perens has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Andrew Trigdell's attempt to 'reverse engineer' the proprietary Bitkeeper code management software of Larry McVoy and the ensuing fallout with Linus Torvalds. Not only does he tell Linus Trovalds to 'Cool it!' he also suggests, 'Larry sees conspiracies that don't exist.' Sounds like Bruce is a bit worked up about this."
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Bruce Perens Tells Linus Torvalds To Cool It

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  • Well.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cruithne (658153) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:32AM (#12253408)
    Just because Larry's paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get him.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:20AM (#12253711)
      As we all know, recently some major milestones were achieved in the development of the HURD. Larry is basically one of RMS' pawns to make Linus look bad to the community so everyone will switch to the HURD in the coming years. He's basically pissed because the biggest name in the OSS community is not a fanatic like he is. He figured out that Linux is doing so well because the benevolent dictator pattern actually works quite well, so the way to destroy this is to turn Linus into a malevolent dictator.

      As RMS will point out to everyone by the time everybody starts getting fed up with Linus: "Linux is just a kernel, we can get another one, in fact, one is maturing nicely right now..."
      • by squiggleslash (241428) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @08:45AM (#12301576) Homepage Journal
        I can't believe this comment is being taken seriously [zdnet.co.uk] by ZDNet UK. I mean, yeah, technically the author of the comment may believe this, but it's garnered only a handful of comments and nobody's agreeing with it. It's also +5 Funny, at the current moment.

        What's more, HURD isn't finished and there's no problem with the concept of forking Linux anyway. If RMS wants a kernel now, that works, and for some reason dislikes something about the way Linux is developed, all he has to do is copy the entire thing to Savannah.org and appoint someone to maintain it. It is, after all, licensed under the GPL.

        Torvalds has done some dumbass things of late, and criticising Andrew for wanting to create a Free Software client that interoperates with the SCM Torvalds has adopted is one of them. It's also downright unethical, given he knows McVoy is threating lawsuits, and Andrew is limited to the extent to which he can respond to Torvalds, and given the extent to which Torvalds is himself lying about what's happened.

        Conspiracy? Nope. Just smart people doing dumb and nasty things.

        Oh, and "Ovum's Barnett": If we agreed with you, we wouldn't have GNU based operating systems such as RedHat and Debian. Linus's little kernel would be an asterisk. Without people wanting certain basic freedoms when they receive software, we'd be using Windows and Unix. Why wouldn't we? I find it remarkable people actually pay you money to come up with this drivel.

  • Linus / BM shares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slavemowgli (585321) * on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:36AM (#12253415) Homepage
    After having followed all this (and especially Linus' attacks on Tridge, which, as Bruce points out, are entirely unjustifed), I'm really wondering about one thing - just how many BitMover shares does Linus own? ^_~
    • by aitio (794921) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:04AM (#12253669) Homepage

      The Register has been completely biased about the matter so I wouldn't take their word on anything. Linus is pissed off [realworldtech.com] at Tridge because he messed up the deal with McVoy and wasn't even trying to produce anything functional to replace BK. "He just wanted to see what the protocols and data was, without actually producing any replacement for the (inevitable) problems he caused and knew about."

      Everybody seems to forget that McVoy contributed more than $500 000 worth of software to the osdl. Without the contribution, Tridge would have never been able to even try to reverse engineer the program.

      Linus lost the use of the best SCM there is. Why shouldn't he be pissed?

      Proprietary isn't (always) evil!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:23AM (#12253718)
        McVoy contributed more than $500 000 worth of software to the osdl

        That's MPAA/RIAA/BSA math and you know it.
      • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:29AM (#12253745) Journal
        How is the Register biased? They said exactly what you said, but in a different article [theregister.co.uk] (which I submitted, but wasn't accepted).

        So what if Tridge just wanted to mess around with the protocols? He was trying to get at the metadata, which McVoy believed was his, but which thousands of kernel developers believed was theirs.

        Without McVoy's "contribution", there would be no need to reverse engineer the software. He didn't do it because it was there, and he was twiddling this thumbs; he was trying to get back what was theirs already.

        Proprietary software isn't evil. People are evil. And people who blast others, knowing full well that they cannot respond because of the threat of legal action, are evil.

        Using a closed-source, proprietary SCM while being the poster-child for the open-source movement is a bit hypocritical, no?
        • A bit rich? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Saturday April 16, 2005 @09:49AM (#12254466) Homepage
          Even though I agree with your general analysis, calling Linus Evil seems a bit rich.

          As every human being he can probably be an idiot at times (as Bruce so eloquently pointed out), but I'd apply the label "Evil" more to the likes of Monsanto , Diebold or Halliburton and their executives.

          They are the ones that try to monopolize our food supply, they are willing pawns to disolve democracy, or they just lie and steal from the general public.

          This is evil. Being an idiot on occasion is not.

          • Re:A bit rich? (Score:3, Interesting)

            I didn't mean evil in a vicious, sinister sort of way. I meant "morally wrong".

            I guess I was evil for calling Linus evil. How's that for karma (I mean the Hindu karma, not Slashdot karma)?
        • Using a closed-source, proprietary SCM while being the poster-child for the open-source movement is a bit hypocritical, no?

          No.

          Because Linus never wanted Linux to be the poster-child of the open-source movement or the Save the Panda movement or any movement whatsoever. He just wants to write great software. Get it? Huh?

      • by slashdot.org (321932) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:45AM (#12253799) Homepage Journal
        Proprietary isn't (always) evil!

        It has nothing to do with being evil. Trusting your data to proprietary protocols/fileformats is irresponsible and/or stupid. You turn over your control of your own information. It actually makes very little sense.

        Everybody seems to forget that McVoy contributed more than $500 000 worth of software to the osdl.

        Well, I'm actually no Open Source advocate, but I don't see how you can put a price tag on software, like that. Would OSDL have spent that much money if McVoy hadn't contributed the software? How much of a contribution was it really, if he's now revoking it?

        It's too bad that this has to happen with Torvalds in the spotlight, but maybe it's for the better in the end. What's being shown here is exactly why Closed Source is bad.

        Linus is pissed off at Tridge because he messed up the deal with McVoy and wasn't even trying to produce anything functional to replace BK

        What kind of logic is this? I honestly don't know where to begin. You know, at the end of the day, it doesn't even matter. I'll say it again, it's awesome that it's been displayed here in the clear that this is exactly why proprietary formats/protocols are Bad(tm). It's called lock-in and apparently everyone but Torvalds knew about it.

        Torvalds is a smart guy though, he'll figure something out. I'm not worried about that.
      • by DaveHowe (51510) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:17AM (#12254616)
        The Register has been completely biased about the matter so I wouldn't take their word on anything. Linus is pissed off at Tridge because he messed up the deal with McVoy and wasn't even trying to produce anything functional to replace BK.
        1. This is of course true - but lets take an objective look at what has happened here.
          1. Linus decides (with his friend McVoy) to use a proprietary product to manage the Linux kernel. He is well within his rights to do this, although it will cost him friends amongst the more fanatical GPL enthusiasts.
          2. Tridge decides to clean-room reverse engineer the protocol that BK uses in the same way as the smb protocol was reverse-engineered, and for the same reasons - interoperability. Most countries that have laws against reverse engineering software have this as an exception - it would be legal, regardless. Tridge isn't a BK user, so can't be held to any software agreements that BK users do or don't sign.
          3. The same company that Linus works for decides to hire Tridge for non-BK related work; Tridge does no BK research during his working hours, but continues to work on the interop project during his own time
          4. McVoy insists that linus's employer "does something about" Tridge or he will withdraw Linus's licence to use BK, and indeed drop the free-beer version of BK entirely.
          5. Linus is pissed off because his friend just put his employer in an impossible position - but strangely, this is not his friend's fault, and not his employer's fault, but that of a programmer doing a perfectly legal thing during his own time.

          "He just wanted to see what the protocols and data was, without actually producing any replacement for the (inevitable) problems he caused and knew about."

          1. It was about as inevitable as Microsoft dropping SMB because samba was created, and blaiming samba.

          Everybody seems to forget that McVoy contributed more than $500 000 worth of software to the osdl. Without the contribution, Tridge would have never been able to even try to reverse engineer the program.

          1. And? BK changed Linus's working practices, probably for the better, but possibly for the worse. McVoy pushed heavily for the use of BK for the linux kernel, contributing software and time to the project - but suddenly one engineer, not even a user of BK, decides it would be nice to get at this data *without being subject to a closed source licence* and everything must be scrapped.

          Linus lost the use of the best SCM there is. Why shouldn't he be pissed?

          1. Of course he should. But he should be pissed at his "friend" who is pissed at Tridge, but is actually beating at Linus....

          Proprietary isn't (always) evil!

          1. no, it isn't. but things like this show what the danger is of relying on a closed-source, proprietary solution - the owner can completely cripple
          2. your use of his property at any time, and you may have to smile and be understanding to have a hope in hell of getting your own data back out of the proprietary solution and into something you can actually use, never mind actually working on whatever it is that you were trying to do with that data in the first place.
            Yes, McVoy is understandably angry that someone wants to reverse-engineer his "crown jewels" and yes, it is likely that any company, ORACLE for example, would be equally pissed if their primary revenue stream was apparently targetted by an open-source programmer but guess what - most wouldn't spit their dummys this badly, if only because this one programmer trying to write an interop will be only the first of thousands who are now pissed off because BK was taken away and will have to write something as good or better themselves.
        • The parent post said:

          - the owner can completely cripple your use of his property at any time, and you may have to smile and be understanding to have a hope in hell of getting your own data back out of the proprietary solution and into something you can actually use, never mind actually working on whatever it is that you were trying to do with that data in the first place.

          Perhaps Linus is not being a dunce in this situation. Perhaps he sees that his friend Larry is enraged and irrational. Perhaps Li

    • by kfg (145172) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:01AM (#12253853)
      . . . just how many BitMover shares does Linus own?

      Considerable, if what we're talking about is "mind shares."

      Linus has a strong personal stake in useing Bit Keeper and a personal relationship built up by working with Larry over the past few years. Despite being a Finn he is experiencing something called "emotion."

      Emotion can tend to make one say and do dumb shit that one wouldn't otherwise do or say, like that dumb shit you do and say when trying to talk to a pretty girl, or, if you're a geek, about a particularly pretty piece of software that you've been living with for years.

      She moved out. He's going to miss her. I'll cut him a bit of slack during his grieving period. He'll get over it. Killer apps are like busses, someone tries to introduce a new propriatary model every year.

      KFG
  • Cool. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Adult film producer (866485) <van@i2pmail.org> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:36AM (#12253416)
    Perens vs Torvalds vs RMS vs Gates in death match, Perens lobs a grenade. Will Torvalds respond with a clean headshot ? I can see RMS as the Axe murdering type while Gates just cheats with g0d_m0d3 .
  • Too harsh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:42AM (#12253443)
    "There are times when Linus Torvalds can be a real idiot, and this is one of these times," said Perens.

    I'm no kernel developer so I have no clue as to if Linus is "[being] a real idiot". However I do have a goodly bit of management experience and this kind of talk is bad no matter how you slice it.

    Saying these kinds of things to the press can only hurt the whole OSS movement as it give all the MS, Sun, et all shills plenty of ammo to use. I can see press release from MS now, "And even Linus' colleagues wonder about his decision making process, going so far as to call them idiotic." Does that statement reflect what was originally intended? Of course not but this is the era of the spin and you can bet that they will use it in whatever way they can.
    • Total Carp (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mfh (56) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:54AM (#12253485) Journal
      Saying these kinds of things to the press can only hurt the whole OSS movement as it give all the MS

      What you are saying is carp. There is no way that rudementary working ethical debate can hurt the OSS movement because it's bigger than any of these players. That's why it's such an advantage over the closed model.

      Each of these guys could be pictured in some lewd manner on the Smoking Gun and the whole Open Source movement would still march on!
    • Re:Too harsh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Linus is being a cock.. it might be bad PR to say it, but its true.
      • Re:Too harsh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:24AM (#12253577)
        He isn't being one. He's being rational. It's the stubborn people who are trying reverse engineer something that was free with certin limitations. At least Linus is looking for something to replace BitKeeper.
        • Re:Too harsh. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SwansonMarpalum (521840) <`redina' `at' `alum.rpi.edu'> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:19AM (#12254080) Homepage Journal
          There's nothing rational here. McVoy revoked Linus' license for something that Tridge did. That's like the cops arresting you because your neighbor stole money from a bank. (Sure, IF you should have ratted out your neighbor for some reason, this can be plausible...) McVoy is claiming he had to do so to maintain the integrity of the source trees he hosts. If his tool cannot maintain sanity checks on what is being hosted from an arbitrary client, it is not, practicly speaking, the best SCM tool on the market, is it? Never trust the client. The client is in the hands of the enemy.
          • McVoy revoked Linus' license for something that Tridge did. That's like the cops arresting you because your neighbor stole money from a bank.

            No, that's more like taking back the tractor you lent to a friend because his neighbor is taking apart the engine at night in order to learn how it works.

            Never trust the client. The client is in the hands of the enemy.

            A telling statement of the rationality of a GPL zealot.

    • Re:Too harsh. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:13AM (#12253544)

      However I do have a goodly bit of management experience and this kind of talk is bad no matter how you slice it.

      Bruce Perens doesn't work with Linus, and Linus doesn't work with Perens. This isn't a "make everyone feel nice-nice" situation. Anyway, if Linus has such a thin skin he can't stand someone saying he can be a real idiot.. well, that's Linus's problem.

      Saying these kinds of things to the press can only hurt the whole OSS movement as it give all the MS, Sun, et all shills plenty of ammo to use. I can see press release from MS now, "And even Linus' colleagues wonder about his decision making process, going so far as to call them idiotic."


      Any statement taken out of context can be used against you. In the real world people disagree on things, and that's OK. Pretending otherwise is just lame. Real people with real opinions say things like "that guy can be a real idiot sometimes" and everyone accepts that statement at face value. If you start playing that game of "never say anything bad", you just wind up sounding like a dickless politician. The public at large is pretty stupid, but dickless politicians can be identified by anyone from a few light years away.
      • by Feztaa (633745) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:29AM (#12253589) Homepage
        I apologize in advance, but I felt like having some fun ;)

        Any statement ... can be used against you ... and that's OK. Pretending otherwise is just lame ... and everyone accepts that statement at face value. ... a dickless politician ... is pretty stupid, but dickless politicians can be identified ...
    • Re:Too harsh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by haggar (72771) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:28AM (#12253583) Homepage Journal
      You have it all wrong. Criticism of Linus is not ammo for MS (bindacceptance of anything Linus says or does, could).

      What MS could and probably WILL use agaisnt the FOSS community, is Linus' criticism of reverse engineering of proprietary protocols. MS can now say "Even Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, condemns reverse engineering of our file formats." They could use Linus' quotes in court, in PR, etc. Linus handed MS a great Christmas present ahead of time.
      • Time and time again Microsoft has pretty much come out on the "reverse engineering is a game" position. That is companies have the right to try and reverse engineer Microsoft protocols and Microsoft has the right to make that hard by changing stuff. So I'm not sure they agree with Linus but rather with Trigdell.
    • Re:Too harsh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slashdot.org (321932) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:36AM (#12253607) Homepage Journal
      However I do have a goodly bit of management experience and this kind of talk is bad no matter how you slice it.

      Is that right? Well, I'm with Bruce here all the way. Sometimes you just have to say it like it is. Sure, in many a company this would stay behind closed doors. So, the doors to the board meeting are 'Open' here. Kinda matches the philosophy of the software.

      I'm personally very disturbed by Linus's attitude. IMHO closed protocols/file formats are the worse of all. It's the closed formats that provide the horrible lock-in. I personally don't care if Word is closed source or not, what I care about is if Microsoft decides to discontinue Word, or charge $5K for it, I have no alternative. All my damn files are stored in their format.

      What's surprising is that Larry McVoy is proving the exact point, and Trigdell was working on making sure he didn't have that kind of power, yet Torvalds choses Larry's side.

      You can be as pragmatic as the next guy, but this smells a lot like there's more going on. And so Torvalds needs to cool it.
      • Re:Too harsh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @03:10PM (#12256479)
        Linus has never been particularly interested in the philosophy of GNU vs. BSD vs. OpenSource. He thinks of this as being pragmatic. And he's defending a friend.

        I may think he's wrong, but he's wrong in an almost predictable way. This is just a part of who Linus is. And it makes me appreciate RMS. (RMS often makes me appreciate Linus...we need BOTH!)
    • Re:Too harsh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by node 3 (115640) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:27AM (#12253736)
      However I do have a goodly bit of management experience

      Yet in an act of generosity, I continued reading...

      Does that statement reflect what was originally intended? Of course not but this is the era of the spin and you can bet that they will use it in whatever way they can.

      One of the things that makes FS/OSS so attractive is that things aren't about spin (yes, there is always going to be some spin, but nothing like in your world) but about the code and about technical excellence.

      *If* Linus is being an ass[*], then we *all* benefit by calling him out on it. If we don't, then he'll just continue to be an ass. It's the way we get things done.

      It's something of a matter of pride that we don't suffer fools gladly--and everyone takes their turn as the fool, even Torvalds (who once did a similar calling out of a certain Professor, over a decade ago).

      [*]I think he is, but I think he's doing it because he's a polite guy and doesn't want to 'spit' on the guy who has 'sort of' donated some software to the Linux developers. Unfortunately this 'donation' is really just a PR stunt, as is apparent by the way this fiasco has played out. What BitMovers has done is essentially donated money (in the form of 'gratis' software) for Linus to use, but donated no code whatsoever.

      In an odd sort of parallel, this is not unlike the incident with a printer that started RMS down the road to GNU--except that in this case, Linus is telling us we shouldn't try to fix the printer driver ourselves.
      • Re:Too harsh. (Score:3, Informative)

        by JonathanX (469653)
        What BitMovers has done is essentially donated money (in the form of 'gratis' software) for Linus to use, but donated no code whatsoever.

        IIRC, Larry McVoy is one of the original 100 Linux kernel developers from the early 90s. I don't think it's fair to characterize him as a freeloader who is riding the coat tails of the Linux kernel.
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:37AM (#12253767) Homepage

      I'm no kernel developer so I have no clue as to if Linus is "[being] a real idiot". However I do have a goodly bit of management experience and this kind of talk is bad no matter how you slice it.

      You don't need to be a software developer of any kind to understand that it's a bad thing when Linus Torvalds told Andrew Tridgell to stop developing his free software network-compatible replacement for BitKeeper. If McVoy's retelling is accurate, I find it very disturbing and so should everyone else in the free software community. This is a very big sign that Torvalds is not the free software "posterboy" some take him to be [gnu.org]. We don't tell one another what programs to write or not write without paying them, and we certainly don't impede another's desire to promote a free software alternative to a proprietary program. Impeding free software is harmful to the community.

      This is remarkably one-sided of Torvalds as well. I'm sure Microsoft doesn't appreciate Samba servers being used instead of Microsoft Windows servers, yet the reason Samba is so good at what it does (and can replace some Microsoft SMB servers) is because Tridgell and the other Samba developers did the reverse-engineering work to figure out how the SMB protocols work in practice. I don't recall reading about Torvalds defending proprietary software being distributed by Microsoft by telling Tridgell to stop his Samba work; but BitMover's proprietary software has received that kind of attention from Torvalds. Torvalds is serving as a buttress for BitMover here.

      As for Torvalds sometimes being a "real idiot", I can attest to that although I would never have called him names. I can think of instances where Torvalds inadvertantly embarassed himself when his opinion was sought on political matters. In such instances it is clear to all but the most ardent Torvalds fans that his reach exceeds his grasp. If I recall correctly, a recent Newsforge.com interview asked him what he thought of the upcoming GNU GPL v3 (possibly years before it comes out). This struck me as unwise since he does not closely examine copyright law or its ethical import for society (two of the things one needs to have down pat to offer critique worth considering regarding the GPL). For this advice I would have instead asked Eben Moglen or RMS, both authorities on the issues surrounding the GPL. By contrast, asking Torvalds about Linux kernel programming would be perfectly appropriate. I'd never think to go to Moglen or RMS for this information.

      Saying these kinds of things to the press can only hurt the whole OSS movement as it give all the MS, Sun, et all shills plenty of ammo to use. [...]

      You shouldn't fear "spin". You need to trust that people will examine what happened and be reasonable, discuss the situation, and find better arguments. Microsoft will distort history regardless of what we do. They've proven this with their college campus tours and interviews when they declare that free software is a "cancer" or will eat your "intellectual property" like Pac-Man. Brad Kuhn (former executive director of the FSF) said at a talk in Urbana, IL that the annual budget for the FSF is what Microsoft makes in 30 seconds, yet Microsoft has said that the FSF is a threat to software development worldwide. When we see something unethical going on, we need to speak up about it, no matter who is at fault. The cure for bad speech is more speech.

  • Good points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:51AM (#12253474)
    I think Perens is really making sense here. (Not that he always doesn, but this time around he hit the nail on the head.)

    Why reverse engineering the smb protocol should be considered a good thing, while reverse engineering the protocol bitkeeper uses is beyond me and though Linus has come out strong against the latter he still didn't explain how he can still consider the former to be a good thing.

    And above all, I think Linus is behaving very unfair towards Tridgell, who has done nothing illegal, didn't break any contract, but just did what he has done with other things already, which were always considered to be a good thing. Why doing the very same thing considered good in other circumstances now should lead to Torvalds attacking him is again beyond me.
  • Actually (Score:5, Funny)

    by loomis (141922) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @04:59AM (#12253502)
    The actual statement directed at Linus was that he's got to "cool it now," and that he'd better "watch out" because he's "gonna lose control."

    Furthermore, it wasn't Perens who said this. It was actually Bobby Brown. It was also at this point that Whitney Houston told Torvalds that she "believed the children were the future," and that a reversed engineered Bitkeeper would "teach them well and let them lead the way."
  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:06AM (#12253519) Homepage
    My hat's off to Linus for his work and stewardship of the kernel.

    That doesn't make this right, however. Linus is unequivocally wrong in creating double standards for the morality of reverse engineering, and I don't think the community is going to forget that.

    I'm not vilifying Linus, I'm aying that the guy's human, not the demigod that the slashbot party portrays.

    He just cannot be in such a sensitive position and remain "just an engineer".
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:23AM (#12253719)
      I'm not vilifying Linus, I'm aying that the guy's human, not the demigod that the slashbot party portrays.
      Torvalds' famed managerial skills is nothing more than the fortunate side-effect of a personality cult. The way he's carrying on at present will tarnish his halo in the eyes of more and more people and the kernel development will fracture as a result.
      He just cannot be in such a sensitive position and remain "just an engineer".
      If there was ever an example that proves that you can't be "just an engineer", it's this Bitmover episode. In truth, Torvalds has demonstrated his political leanings again and again over the years but most were too dazzled by his graven image and too busy criticising RMS for them to notice. Put simply, Torvalds believes in personal convenience. Everyone else be damned. In fact, this is exactly what he meant by being "just an engineer". Please read his autobiography, "Just For Fun" to hear in his own words just how unsophisticated and primal his thoughts really are. (To anyone who has read it and is wondering what I'm talking about, please read it again with the penguin tinted spectacles removed and view Torvalds not as a "God" (as he once asked us to view him) but as an above average developer and nothing more.)

      Torvalds does the Open Source movement a great disservice by downplaying the importance of freedom. I've been critical of the Open Source movement as a whole for this but apart from Torvalds, the founding fathers at least recognise that facet of the Open Source diamond needs the occasional polish. Torvalds on the other hand has demonstrated his absolute contempt for my and your freedoms and I doubt his reputation will ever recover from this.

      Torvalds has jumped the shark.
  • by Xtifr (1323) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:06AM (#12253521) Homepage
    While I basically agree with Bruce completely on this particular issue, there's something a bit ironic about Bruce, who has quite a reputation as a hothead himself, telling the usually unperturbable Mr. Torvalds to "cool it".

    Ever since Larry McAvoy pulled kernel dev (and former Debian Project Leader) Ben Collins' license I've been waiting for this thing to blow up. It's been obvious that it was a matter of when, not whether. And it seems pretty obvious to me that Tridge merely provided the excuse Larry has been looking for.

    Linus is a smart guy, and I'm sure he'll get over his little snit before long. But in the meantime, my god, being told to cool it by Bruce Perens is like having RMS tell you not to worry so much about whether the software is really free or not! :)

    (Not to dis Bruce, who I really like. And, as a person of Irish descent, I understand the temper thing. But still....wow! :)
    • Larry McAvoy

      You may have misspelled his name. I believe it's Larry McAvoid. ;-)
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @01:12PM (#12255677) Homepage Journal
      This reputation is historical, but I should point out that I have not walked off of a project in anger in 5 or 6 years. Sometimes you get to learn from experience. Also, being a parent has made a big difference. Once that happened, Free Software was no longer the most important thing in my life and I could look at it with more perspective.

      Thanks

      Bruce

  • My Two Cents Worth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cranos (592602) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @05:16AM (#12253560) Homepage Journal
    Okay first things first, everyone should pull their heads in. Linus should give a detailed explanation of how he thinks that reverse engineering is a "Bad Thing", Tridge should break his cone of silence and let the community in on what exactly he was doing, and Larry should get used to the fact that people in the "Open" Source Community are going to want to have a SCM that meets their requirements, both in terms of technical abilities and licensing issues.

    I think this is what Bruce was trying to say.

    If any of the above mentioned do happen to read this (seriously doubtful I know) this does not imply disrespect for your previous work, just that my seven year old acts like this when he gets pissed off too.

  • Bruce has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThoreauHD (213527) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:08AM (#12253681)
    Linus's description of kernel development as "corraling cats" still holds true. And you don't corral cats by putting a dog smack in the middle of them.

    This was a bomb waiting to go off. Linus may be pissed, but reality does that to people when they don't adhere to it's laws.

    Tridge didn't do anything wrong. In fact he excel's at doing things right. See the newforge interview to get an idea.

    I rarely agree with Bruce's conclusions, but this is one of the times he makes total realistic sense. Plopping the smartest, most dedicated GPL developers on a proprietary system without their consent is tantamount to treason in government. Like fingernails on a chalk board, you could hear the kernel developers principles twisting as Linus declared the use of BitKeeper law.

    Linus made a bad choice. Now he gets to pay for it. Cause and effect. If BitKeeper was under an open cource license, then it wouldn't be subject to the whim's of one man's bowel movement on a certain day. But it is, and Linus should have had the foresight to see that.

    He isn't just an engineer when he is steering the ship. He is the captain. He has the responsibility to look ahead of the curve, and to not get romanced by the easy way out when he's in charge. But he didn't. He fucked up. Now the role of a leader is to admit the mistake and ask for alternatives. Leave Tridge out of this. He did his job. I hope Linus does his.
  • by delire (809063) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:17AM (#12253701)

    "Kernel in the City"

    Does Linus dual boot his PB? Will Perens choose to stop frequenting the Pickled Penguin after his fall out with Larry?

    Real developers, real lives; this compelling new series promises to 'take the clothes off' Kernel Development.
  • by omb (759389) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:34AM (#12253759)
    As I have posted:

    "The real mistake was to accept the 'free' BitKeeper licence with its poison pill"

    Had the 'free-licence' been (a) irrevokable, and (b) had a sensible (BK) source escrow term, then and only then would the cost-benefit to Bitmover and the community made _balanced_ sense.

    But that is water under the bridge, what is really interesting is the fallout, GIT.

    GIT is the Linus' replacement patch-manager, and will, I predict revolutionise thinking about SCM tools. Linus has come up with an original and revolutionary approach, (less than 6 man-weeks work, under 150k code) which lays the foundations for a really effective OpenSource SCM, and, in the process run a pithy seminar class in what was the matter with traditional SCMs.

    This may turn out to be one of the most useful things to have happened in a long time.

  • by maxpublic (450413) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:55AM (#12253834) Homepage
    ...in a post on another site. But his reasoning clearly held an obvious double-standard that I simply can't swallow. My only explanation for Linus' inability to see what's right in front of his face is that he's personally invested in the issue due to his friendship with the maker of BitKeeper. Anything else just doesn't explain how the normally rational and reasonable Torvalds can do a one-eighty on this particular issue and, quite frankly, be an complete dick about in the process (his post, if you haven't read it, was more like a typical slashdot flamefest response than what you'd expect from Linus).

    This is one instance where Linus isn't thinking clearly. I'll cut him some slack since in the past he's been more clear-headed than all of Slashdot put together, but even so it means I'll be reviewing what he says and does more carefully in the future - at least until I'm convinced he's gotten over this momentary bout of insanity.

    One thing I do agree with, and always will: 'open source' and 'free software' are not one and the same, nor is there any moral issue involved in using open/free or proprietary software. Both models are perfectly valid and the people who turn the whole mess into a good/evil holy war are fucking idiots of the first order. On that he is, and always has been, right on target.

    Max
  • Come ON. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:04AM (#12253866) Homepage

    Wow, for once the Slashdot groupthink isn't pro-Linus. But I am. I'll explain why. First, you need to read the original thread [realworldtech.com] to get a feel for what Linus is saying. At least read the first 15 posts there.

    After you've read it, you'll come away with a few realizations:

    • The Register is courting controversy. There really is a dispute, don't get me wrong. But they've boiled down a lengthy, nuanced discussion into a few hotheaded soundbytes.
    • Torvalds really is saying some stupid stuff, granted.
    • But Torvalds also makes some good points. From reading that thread I linked to, I can see that Linus has a very real, legitimate problem that only BitKeeper could solve. Read it. He saved hours or in some cases days of down time -- time that other SCM tools would have sucked up and wasted. For a man in his position, that's really serious.

    Just think: if you were a bottleneck, if data and people were coming at you at a very fast pace all the time, and if there was tremendous pressure on you to build a platform that would rival Microsoft, one coping mechanism is to find tools that increase productivity. A lot. (Other good coping mechanisms include heavy drinking and vanishing without a trace.)

    Now Linus, who has no ready alternative is staring down a barrel of loaded source code, knowing it's going to fire off in his face real soon now. And someone else has yanked his defense right out from under him. He has a real problem now. He's pissed. I can put myself in his shoes, I can understand his frustration. Basically, it's this: "Well great. WTF do I do now? Oh shit, stuff is backing up already. Thanks! That's fucking great!"

    Is Torvalds wrong to blame Trigdell for reverse engineering? Yes. Is Torvalds wrong to feel horribly, disastrously inconvenienced by this? No, he has every right. Forget the technical arguments for a day or a week. This is a human issue right now. People were inconsiderate of each other, and now they're walking around with bloddy noses. Give them time to assess the situation. If Torvalds doesn't soften his position in a short while, fork, screw him, whatever. But give him some time for the fight or flight instinct to be peter out before you all write him off.

    • Re:Come ON. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bani (467531) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:05AM (#12254035)
      Torvalds should be blaming Larry for the situation, not Trigdell. Larry was the one who was judge jury and executioner. The current crisis is entirely Larry's creation, and he is solely to blame.

      This whole episode is just proof of how ridiculous Larry's License(tm) is.
    • Re:Come ON. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cowscows (103644) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:14AM (#12254596) Journal
      Noone's saying Torvalds should be run out of town, never allowed to touch Linux again. The argument is more that he's just being a dick, and his complaining is pretty inconsistent with the values of a software movement that he, like it or not, is one of the leaders of.

      If he's staring down this loaded barrel, it's because he painted himself (and the other linux developers) into this corner. Maybe Trigdell took his paintbrush away, but there was already a problem, and you can make a good argument that Trigdell was trying to come up with a solution.

      If Torvalds wasn't happy with any of the open SCM dealies that he could find, he should've organized someone to do it for him. Instead he made a couple bad decisions, taking the easy way out while providing some free PR for a friend.

      Turns out the easy way out wasn't the best option (it seldom is), and it collapsed in his face. Linus may not be terribly interested in the philosophical holy war between open and proprietary software, and that's fine. But he should've had the good sense to realize that combining the biggest poster child for OSS with BitKeeper on such a fundamental level was going to cause problems. And a lot of people with the sense to think about it warned him when this decision was being made. That's why noone's impressed when he starts being a jackass about it. He should have known better, or at least listened to people who did.
    • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @01:25PM (#12255759) Homepage Journal
      But Torvalds also makes some good points. From reading that thread I linked to, I can see that Linus has a very real, legitimate problem that only BitKeeper could solve. Read it. He saved hours or in some cases days of down time -- time that other SCM tools would have sucked up and wasted.
      We don't really know what the situation would've been like if they'd struggled along with an unencumbered SCM. Some operations would've been slower, but they probably would've found ways to deal (over-night batch operations, etc).

      I hate to indulge in more remote amateur Torvalds psychoanalysis, but this strikes me as the real puzzle, where did he get his absolute hatred of other version control systems? Even the admittedly clunky CVS has been sucessfully used to manage some huge software projects (gcc in the open source world; and I've seen it in use on many large proprietary projects, like Irix and Netscape).

      My theory: he likes simple tools when he can get away with using them (vi vs emacs, shell vs perl) and started out with an aversion to source control in general. Then he had to keep arguing with people pushing for CVS, and he got backed into the position of being a version control snob, who refused to touch anything but the Very Best. Then his friend came along and showed him a nice shiney toy.

      Just think: if you were a bottleneck, if data and people were coming at you at a very fast pace all the time, and if there was tremendous pressure on you to build a platform that would rival Microsoft, one coping mechanism is to find tools that increase productivity.
      You're coming down on the side of "immediate expediency" in this debate, but a lot of us are taking a longer term view. You don't go beserk winning a battle if it risks losing the war.
  • In my experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:32AM (#12254123) Homepage Journal
    really brilliant people are just as capable of really stupid behavior as anyone. If there's any difference, it's that it's on a more grandiose scale.

    If you point out that they're making asses of themselves they'll argue you into half agreeing with them. They'll have rationalized their behavior to a fare-thee-well. Even if you identify the fatal flaw in their theory, they'll ignore you -- they're brilliant after all and they're used to being right when everyone around them is telling them they're wrong.

    Don't get me wrong -- I love working with super-smart, creative people. But when they get that glint of mania in their eyes, you just have to back off and let experience teach them a lesson. Their being wrong in this instance doesn't invalidat their briliance, it just makes them human.
  • by mytec (686565) * on Saturday April 16, 2005 @09:01AM (#12254249) Journal

    Linus is worked up about something and it may be something we've not heard yet, especially with Andrew's silence. Do we know there wasn't a conversation that this work by Andrew would screw over Linus's use of a tool that makes work very efficient for him? And if Andrew persisted, especially if there were other ways to accomplish the same thing, I'd be upset too.

    I'm fortunate enough to have a boss that allows me to use the best tool for the job. I enjoy being allowed to choose the best tool, for me to get the task at hand done. Is sad that Linus isn't allowed the same without taking a beating especially when the end product he is part of is so useful to all of us. So much for choice and freedom. Oh there is, it's just not the typical Linux/Open Source zealot view of choice and freedom and if that view isn't accepted then you are evil.

    I'll stand in the minority and say that I feel sad for Linus losing a tool that was so helpful in creating a tool I find so useful. Yeah, he had some outlandish comments but how many of us are perfectly logical when we lash out?

    I for one cannot wait to hear the whole story before judging.

  • by jquiroga (94119) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @09:08AM (#12254271)

    Linus is right in what he said. He may look like an idiot right now, but he isn't. Please read his posts (cited below), and don't believe hearsay.

    He said this episode is damaging to the Linux kernel *project*, because he took advantage of, and depended on, BK's *functionality*, not BK per se. He said there isn't any other app (open or closed) that offers that functionality, and that he would rather write a new one himself.

    [...] It's unquestionably true that BitKeeper has advanced the state of SCM technology. Anybody who argues against that just doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. But I'd have loved even an "almost-as-good" open source SCM, because that would obviously just be a good idea.
    [...]
    Now, I'm dealing with the fall-out, and I'll write my own kernel source tracking tool because I can't use the best any more. That's ok - I deal with my own problems, thank you very much. But what I find sad is how some people are so _gleeful_ about a commercial program becoming less useful, only because it was commerical.
    If BK was a crappy tool, I'd at least understand the glee. But in this case it was the commercial people who did the impressive technology and pushed technology forward. And I'm just honest enough to be able to say that.

    http://www.realworldtech.com/forums/index.cfm?acti on=detail&PostNum=3322&Thread=2&entryID=49312&room ID=11 [realworldtech.com]

    So: true support for totally distributed development (replication doesn't count), performance, and trust. Nothing else matters. And BK does those better than anything else I've seen.
    (Well, at least I hope those are the only three things that matter. The quick-hack framework I'm putting together bases its entire design on just those three things, and maybe I'll find out that I'm wrong, and that there are three other things that I just took for granted ;)

    http://www.realworldtech.com/forums/index.cfm?acti on=detail&PostNum=3322&Thread=5&entryID=49321&room ID=11 [realworldtech.com]

    He said he doesn't believe in the open-or-nothing 'solution'.

    So I think open source tends to become technically better over time (but it does take time), but I don't think it's a moral imperative. I do open source because it's fun, and because I think it makes sense in the long run.
    For some reason that is hard for a lot of free software people to accept. Too many people see things as a war of "free software" against "proprietary evil". This is, btw, the real difference between the "open source" crowd and the "free software" crowd, as far as I'm concerned.

    http://www.realworldtech.com/forums/index.cfm?acti on=detail&PostNum=3322&Thread=2&entryID=49312&room ID=11 [realworldtech.com]

    He did NOT say Tridgell didn't have a right to do what he did. He said Tridgell's goal was not to develop an alternative to BK right now (and therefore his current work wasn't a solution to his dependence 'problem'), and now the *project* is going to suffer.

    But that's not what Tridge did. He didn't write a "better SCM than BK". He didn't even try - it wasn't his goal. He just wanted to see what the protocols and data was, without actually producing any replacement for the (inevitable) problems he caused and knew about.
    He didn't create something new and impressive. He just tore down something new (and impressive) because he could, and rather than helping others, he screwed people over. And you expect me to _respect_ that kind of behaviour?

    • by peachpuff (638856) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:13AM (#12254593)

      I read all that crap, and Linus is still wrong.

      Trigdell, who had no BitKeeper license, queried McVoy's server. McVoy revoked the licenses of people, including Linus, who had nothing to do with Trigdell's queries. It makes no sense for Linus to blame Trigdell. If I send McVoy an email he doesn't like, will he punch Torvalds in the nose? Will that be my fault, instead of McVoy's?

      It's nice to see Linus admitting that licensing problems can make software as useless as technical flaws. In fact, he now seems to think that license barriers are a form of incompatibility, and it's irresponsible to risk having such problems. Good for him. Maybe someday he'll connect those dots and realize who really fucked up.

      • by winwar (114053) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:36AM (#12254715)
        "It's nice to see Linus admitting that licensing problems can make software as useless as technical flaws. In fact, he now seems to think that license barriers are a form of incompatibility, and it's irresponsible to risk having such problems. Good for him. Maybe someday he'll connect those dots and realize who really fucked up."

        Of course if you had bothered to go to the other site where he had actually posted you might realize he had considered those things. And even explained some more things you (and a heck of a lot of other posters) obviously don't have a clue about.

        But, you (and others) have already made up your mind so more information doesn't really matter....
      • If I send McVoy an email he doesn't like, will he punch Torvalds in the nose? Will that be my fault, instead of McVoy's?
        Good analogy. However, if you sent an email to McVoy, who turned red and screamed at Linus, and Linus told you, "peachpuff, please stop sending McVoy emails. It just pisses him off, and it's not going to result in a bitkeeper replacement, and I'm going to get punched in the face."

        And then you sent McVoy another email anyway. Yes, it's within your rights, and clearly, McVoy is a total fucking jackass. But Linus can still be mad at you without being anti-email, and without having double standards. Given that you thought sending that email was important and worthwhile, you're probably not doing anything wrong either. Two good people can disagree, as is clearly the case with Linus and Tridge.

        I just hope that Tridge's legal concerns are speculative. That could be fucking twisted.
    • We seem to go through this all the time. There are people who think that "practical", "technical" concerns should trump everything, and there are other people who talk about "morality" and "ethics" and so on; but what the issue always seems to be to me is "short-term" vs "long-term" thinking. Yeah, you need to survive in the short-term, but you also need to be going some place worth being in the long-term. Maybe there's a problem with always phrasing things as "technical" vs. "moral"... or maybe there's
  • Linus' argument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdMcMan (70171) <moo.slashdot2.z.edmcman@xoxy.net> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @01:35PM (#12255820) Homepage Journal
    I agree with Bruce Perens for the most part, but I think many people are not addressing Linus' argument directly (even though I do not believe it is a valid one!)

    Linus does not believe that Trigdell did anything wrong by reverse engineering bitkeeper. He believes that what he did wrong was knowingly break up the "agreement" that Linus and McVoy had only to see the protocol. Trigdell did not intend on making a compatible client (or any software for that matter).

    Perens does touch on this a little bit by saying Linus should not worry about what Trigdell does in his spare time (legally). I agree. If Linus and McVoy's agreement was that weak, it should never have been relied on for something important. For many people, developing free software is a hobby. Samba started as a hobby. If Trigdell wanted to examine BK's protocols as a hobby, that's his right.
  • by lux55 (532736) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @02:31PM (#12256246) Homepage Journal
    This is ridiculous and unproductive discussion. How about instead of pointing fingers (read: shut the f*** up, Bruce, you're no help here), we start a more open discussion of how to solve the SCM crisis Linus/Linux find themselves in?

    Open Source SCM solutions are crap compared to BK at solving the distributed source code problem (as stated by Linus). Personally, I think they are crap at many other aspects of SCM as well (access control, ease of use, ease of administration, etc.). We've had a surge of new Open Source SCM tools crop up recently, but either they went unsupported by all but the initial developer, burnt out at 0.3.1, or failed to solve any really useful or interesting problems (Subversion, for example), or made design decisions that make installation/maintenance a nightmare (Subversion again).

    Perhaps a UI wrapper around Arch (which has the ugliest command line interface known to man) would be a start. Or perhaps some additional tools to help with Darcs. Or perhaps Linus is right and we need a completely new tool that _actually_ solves the problem (if these don't already).

    The point is, let's discuss moving forward and stop wasting our breath on stupid accusations. We're acting like children, for Christ's sake.
  • by henrypijames (669281) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @02:57PM (#12256411) Homepage
    Personally I think one of the central issue of this conflict is Linus' claim that Tridge "just wanted to see what the protocols and data was, without actually producing any replacement for the (inevitable) problems he caused and knew about".

    I wonder how Linus can know that. How can he make this claim without providing any supporting evidance for what he believe Tridge's intention was. To me it doesn't seem to be anything more than a wild and totally biased speculation.

    Consindering Samba took years to become somewhat usable, it's fairly evident "over the wire" reverse engineering takes time, and to expect Tridge to come with a "replacement" right away is in fact pretty sureal.

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