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BitKeeper Love Triangle: McVoy, Linus and Tridge 850

erktrek writes "NewsForge has given a brief interview to the parties involved in the (inevitable?) BitKeeper debacle." Here is some of our previous coverage.
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BitKeeper Love Triangle: McVoy, Linus and Tridge

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  • Uh, a summary? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info@nOspaM.devinmoore.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:43PM (#12201768) Homepage Journal
    Any chance we could get a 1-2 line summary of what the "debacle" is exactly? The summary above is practically just a link... it doesnt' really help anyone understand w/o a reading of several materials.
    • Quick Summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by WD_40 ( 156877 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:45PM (#12201781) Homepage
      "Linux leader Linus Torvalds has begun looking for a new electronic home for his project's source code after a conflict involving the current management system, BitKeeper"

      Linky [com.com]
    • by dstone ( 191334 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:06PM (#12202052) Homepage
      Any chance we could get a 1-2 line summary of what the "debacle" is exactly?

      Larry McVoy sees two problems with Andrew Tridgell's reverse-engineered, free tool. One is "condoning reverse engineering". The other is, in his words:
      Corruption. BK is a complicated system, there are >10,000 replicas of the BK database holding Linux floating around. If a problem starts moving through those there is no way to fix them all by hand. This happened once before, a user tweaked the ChangeSet file, and it costs $35,000 plus a custom release to fix it.

      If Tridge's tool is out there we are now supporting our code and his code. We couldn't do that.

      • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. ( 142215 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:06PM (#12202962) Homepage
        There is something really wrong with a tool if some user tweaking a ChangeSet file causes damage that costs $35000 and needs a custom release to fix!
      • by Chris_Jefferson ( 581445 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:07PM (#12203834) Homepage
        One extra piece of information which seems missing from the article (and might change / expand some people's viewpoint).

        Andrew Tridgell is the author or rsync, and one of the founders and major developers of samba (you know, that program that lets you connect to windows file sharing), and I don't really see how this is different from samba (and surely no-one wants rid of that?)
      • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:35PM (#12204166) Homepage
        Complete and utter bollocks.

        This has happened before. See for the discussions about LMcV and lmbench in the 90-es. In fact, the moment I saw that Linus has AGAIN selected a Larry McVoy tool my first thoughts were "Oh no, not another lmbench". I bet I was not the only one.

        Considering that he is also known to be litigation happy I am not going to qualify his behaviour that time and this time. Just read the LKM on both occasions as well as some of his musings. They are selfexplanatory.

  • You git! (Score:5, Funny)

    by AirLace ( 86148 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:45PM (#12201778)
    Does the name 'git' strike anyone else as an odd name [kerneltrap.org] for a (kind-of) SCM system?

    Or is this Linus making a not-so-subtle pot-shot at Larry McVoy?
    • Re:You git! (Score:5, Informative)

      by ray-auch ( 454705 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:00PM (#12201973)
      Based on one one his posts (see here [kerneltrap.org]) it might just as likely be aimed at Tridge (if it is aimed at anyone).

      Quote Linus:

      When we were trying to figure out how to avert the BK disaster, and one of
      Tridges concerns (and, in my opinion, the only really valid one) was that
      you couldn't get the BK data in some SCM-independent way.
      So I wrote some very preliminary scripts [...snip...] Larry was ok with the idea to make my export format actually be natively
      supported by BK (ie the same way you have "bk export -tpatch"), but Tridge
      wanted to instead get at the native data and be difficult about it. As a
      result, I can now not only use BK any more, but we also don't have a nice
      export format from BK.
      Yeah, I'm a bit bitter about it.

      Seems clear who he is a bit bitter at.
      • Re:You git! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:15PM (#12202180)
        There's nothing wrong with Tridge writing a program that can read Bitkeeper'd files any more than there is Open Office writing programs that can read Microsoft Word files. Interoperability is good. Linus is being silly if he's blaming Tridge for anything here.
  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) * on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:46PM (#12201789) Homepage Journal
    The crux of the issue is that BitKeeper's CEO, Larry McVoy, has a big problem with reverse engineering, he considers it immoral. Personally I think that reverse engineering is entirely legitimate, people have been building on each-other's ideas since ever, and I am sure BitKeeper wasn't created in a vacuum either. You borrow from the collective commons of ideas, but in return you must give back too.

    Reverse engineering is particularly warrented for the purposes of interoperability, and this seems to have been the motivation of Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell. He wasn't reverse engineering BitKeeper to "steal" McVoy's ideas, he was doing it so that he could gain access to the Linux kernel without using non-free tools. McVoy's position is one that you might expect from Microsoft on Samba, but not from someone that claims to support the ideals of free software.

    Bottom line? I'm with Tridge on this one, McVoy is wrong, what he wants and seems to expect is effectively patent-level protection of his ideas.

    • Reverse engineering is perfectly legitimate, and excellent products have emerged because of it, such as Samba.

      What is interesting is if other open-source projects will follow Linus' footsteps. KDE, I believe, still uses BK.
      • by dark_panda ( 177006 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:09PM (#12202108)
        KDE never used BK. That was an April Fool's joke. Apparently they are switching from CVS to Subversion, though.

        • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @05:30PM (#12205595)

          The joke started about a week before April 1 when the admins were comfortable doing the switch to subversion and just needed a date and 12 hours to do it. The first proposal when they announced this to kde-devel was do to the conversion on March 31, so that everyone would wake up to an announcement that KDE has switched to subversion, and then have to figure out if it was a joke or not.

          The switch didn't happen then, but it is close if it hasn't happened already.

    • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <wesley@felter.org> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:52PM (#12201872) Homepage
      Furthermore, it seems that if Larry McVoy wanted patent-like protection on the ideas in BitKeeper, he should have just filed patents. At least we understand how patents work.
    • by chris_mahan ( 256577 ) <chris.mahan@gmail.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:58PM (#12201951) Homepage
      Same here. Reverse Engineering is a Good Thing. That's how we geeks figure stuff out and make things better than before. If someone has a problem with reverse engineering, that person must be in the 'proprietary' camp.

      I say McVoy was trying to tie his proprietary product to the linux kernel development. Can't fault him, really, he's acting as a suit. The geeks that let him do that: shame. The ones that called his shenanigans: kudos.

      It doesn't matter if it's the best tool for the job. What matters is that the tool is not entirely within your control. It's like the chinese buying aircrafts from the americans, and the americans building a remote shutoff switch in the target aquisition radar. (bad analogy, I know... Sowwy.)
  • Ewww (Score:5, Funny)

    by elasticwings ( 758452 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:46PM (#12201790)
    Wow, that is definitely one video I definitely wouldn't want to look for a torrent of.
  • Paraphrase ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:46PM (#12201799) Homepage Journal
    http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2005/04/06/torval ds_bitkeeper/

    So whether you take the view that Bitkeeper isn't compatible with the principles of the Linux project, or vice versa, is moot. It's simply a wonder it took so long for things to come to a head.

  • What the... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:47PM (#12201807) Journal
    Linus said

    Larry has a very clear moral standpoint: "You can compete with me, but you can't do so by riding on my coat-tails. Solve the problems on your own, and compete _honestly_. Don't compete by looking at my solution."

    And that is what the BK license boils down to. It says: "Get off my coat-tails, you free-loader". And I can't really argue against that.

    That's bollocks. Reverse-engineering is not riding on the coat-tails of anyone. It ensures that the product is 100% compatible.

    If Linus truly believed that, he'd have worked to drop Tridge and keep BitKeeper. However, I'm quite disappointed in Linus implicating Tridge as the evil in this situation.
    • Re:What the... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ithika ( 703697 )
      Quite... if McVoy really thinks reverse-engineering a 100% compatible substitute is "free-loading" I'd hate to see what he regards as "hard work". Maybe programming directly in machine code by hovering a very accurate magnet over the HD by hand? :)
    • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:18PM (#12203983)
      That's bollocks. Reverse-engineering is not riding on the coat-tails of anyone. It ensures that the product is 100% compatible.

      It's not just bollocks, it's rank hypocrisy coming from Linus Torvalds, who would be a completely unknown, minor software developer in Finland if he hadn't ridden -- dry-humped, actually -- on the coattails of Unix. The same goes for his last employer, whose business is built on a reverse-engineering of x86 microcode.

      Ordinarily, I'm quite fond of Linus, but in this case, he's being a ridiculous ass.

      The whole idea behind free software, IMHO, is that by encouraging reverse-engineering, among other forms of transparency, it ensures that software development is accelerated because you can't rest on your laurels. Your good ideas become the community's (and your competitors') good ideas, and you have to keep coming up with new good ideas to stay ahead.

      This is the reverse of the closed source world where having had good ideas once entitles you to maintain a monopoly to the detriment of the consumer.
  • by ShaniaTwain ( 197446 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:48PM (#12201819) Homepage
    Larry has a very clear moral standpoint: "You can compete with me, but you can't do so by riding on my coat-tails. Solve the problems on your own, and compete _honestly_. Don't compete by looking at my solution."

    Hmm.. and where does that end? Is it dishonest to not re-invent the wheel for your new automobile? This is a tricky area because outright copying of someone elses work without their permission is not right, but figuring out how someone else has solved a problem is kind of the way progress works.
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:49PM (#12201833) Homepage Journal
    Back on February 23 I learned from Linus that Tridge was reverse-engineering BK so that he could pull stuff out of BK trees without agreeing to the BK license. -- Larry
    I did not use BitKeeper at all in writing this tool and thus was never subject to the BitKeeper license. I developed the tool in a completely ethical and legal manner. -- Tridge

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    And, incidentally, since Larry is so offended by Tridge's reverse engineering, I take it that he's taken the moral stand, and backed up his strong principles by making sure that none of BitMover's employees use Samba, either at work or in their spare time.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:55PM (#12201912)
      Better yet, since Larry is since against reverse engineering of his work, I hope he only uses IBM PC's, as all others stem from the original reverse engineering of the IBM BIOS.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:15PM (#12202190) Homepage Journal
      My thoughts, too. So far, I haven't seen any explanation of why the phrase "reverse engineering" is being used. If Tridge's comments are correct, the phrase just doesn't seem to apply.

      Usually, "reverse engineering" means that I've written code that does what someone else's code does, and I wrote it after studying the other code's behavior but not the code itself. Now, maybe Tridge saw the BK code, maybe he didn't; I can't tell. But it seems that what he wrote doesn't really mimic what BK did. He was adding a new capability as a sort of add-on. So his work fails to satisfy the first part of the definition, and isn't "reverse engineering".

      But I haven't really seen much in the way of details.

      Could someone who says that "reverse engineering" is involved please explain 1) how you define the phrase, and 2) why it applies in this case?

      It's always good to get a common definition of terms before we start condemning someone for doing something that they say they didn't do.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Informative)

        by nadamsieee ( 708934 )

        Usually, "reverse engineering" means that I've written code that does what someone else's code does, and I wrote it after studying the other code's behavior but not the code itself. Now, maybe Tridge saw the BK code, maybe he didn't; I can't tell. But it seems that what he wrote doesn't really mimic what BK did. He was adding a new capability as a sort of add-on. So his work fails to satisfy the first part of the definition, and isn't "reverse engineering".

        What Tridge did was exactly "reverse engineering"

  • by globalar ( 669767 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:51PM (#12201865) Homepage
    It seems that Larry McVoy has a fine line between a replacement and reverse-engineering (in this case compatibility?).

    From the article (Torvald's statement):

    " What Larry is _not_ fine with, is somebody writing a free replacement by just reverse-engineering what _he_ did."

    I always am sympathetic to reverse engineering efforts, because frankly interoperability is ultimately a good thing. I am not sure what sort of principle we can follow if reverse-engineering is bad in this case. Where is the line? Is it a property line?
  • Come on, folks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by melted ( 227442 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:53PM (#12201887) Homepage
    You've put together the friggin' _kernel_. This is a lot more complicated than creating a version control system. Just take Monotone (which I like as it is), and make a BitKeeper killer out of it. Have Tridgell do it with a few other gurus. Yeah, it's probably gonna take half a year, but the benefit to the open source community will be immense.
  • by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:00PM (#12201977)
    If I hadn't paid close attention to it, I'd probably be as against the use of Bitkeeper as anybody. If one looks at the situation at the time though, Linux development was in a rut at just the time Linux companies were taking off in the stock market. Bitkeeper allowed Linus to work faster and delegate more authority. Some key features of Bitkeeper will probably be in the SCM Linus uses to replace it. I'm very happy to see Linux come back to a free software model of development.

    I am not a zealot, so I do not think it was a sin to temporarily use non-free software, especially when there were a lot of circumstances at the time leading to this at the time - we didn't want a Linux fork or Linus having a nervous breakdown, or so on. You have to look at things like a war - there is an objective, there is strategy and there is tactics. Bitkeeper was a necessary tactical retreat, but now that Linux is moving beyond Bitkeeper, we can see it fit in with the overall good objective and strategy behind Linux. The thing people like me worried about was the fortitude of the Linus core team as they began using Bitkeeper - is this a tactical retreat, or are they going over to the dark side? With recent events, we can see they did the right thing.

    I think people should have sympathy with the situation at the time that led to Bitkeeper. It's alright for Richard Stallman to be pure and a zealot - that's his job. But it was a tactical necessity. On the other side of the coin are the little worms who whine how some developer floating around out there tried to reverse engineer Bitkeeper and offended the tender sensibilities of Bitmover and Larry McVoy, and how Linus doesn't crawl in subjugation before Bitmover and by implication other short-term corporate concerns. I don't think these people really understand even corporate America, never mind industrial or information production in general. Corporate America doesn't respect little worms that crawl around and do whatever are ordered, they just get used up until they're of no use any more and are then thrown away. And who ever said Linux was for corporate America anyway? I always thought of Linux as by engineers, for engineers. Which is not the same things as by engineers, for corporate America. That's what most of us do for our day jobs.

    • by btarval ( 874919 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:51PM (#12202734)
      An excellent point indeed.

      And let us not forget that one of Richard Stallman's most important efforts, porting of gcc to the x86, was not done in a vacume. It required a commercial version of UNIX for the x86, and the commercial version of ATT's C compiler and Assembler. All quite legally done, too.

      RMS and the rest of the world moved on from that as well, and the results are the Linux world we have today.

  • Bottom Line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argoff ( 142580 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:01PM (#12201991)
    When you think of copyrights like a right (and please don't go off on how it's pro business), then it is only a matter of time till you believe that your right is the right to controll how others use or learn from information that originated from you via coercive means.

    Copyrights are not a "reasonable" position anymore (and please don't go off about how the GPL is a copyright license without reading it first either) Because the "right" to micro-controll and manipulate how every last person uses information in the information age is no longer, workable tenable, or acceptable any more.
  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:09PM (#12202105) Journal
    There is no doubt Tridge is being cast as the villain in this piece.
    Huh. I just don't get that. Sure, McVoy casts him the villain, but agreeing with McVoy means you assume reverse engineering is wrong.

    I don't think many of NewsForge's readers are going to be anti-reverse engineering. Like Sanity says, McVoy appears to want patent-level protection of his work. He doesn't have patent-level protection of his work, whether that's because he doesn't hold patents or because Tridge lives somewhere safe.

    I don't think McVoy is exactly a villain here either. He just needs to quit acting like he got taken advantage of. He was doing a service and now it's not worth it to him so he's stopped. Larry McVoy, quit your bitching for your business' sake. However well founded you think it is, it only makes you sound like an asshole.
  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:09PM (#12202106) Homepage
    What I've got from this so far is this:

    1. BitKeeper is a technically good program
    2. Larry McVoy is an arrogant a******.
    3. I have absolutely no problem with Tridge

    Sure, Larry might not like people cloning his program. Well, tough. A clone is what is needed for interoperability. Sure, the Samba team could probably have built their own networking protocol, probably even a better one, but that wasn't the point!
  • by NatteringNabob ( 829042 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:24PM (#12202312)
    Bitkeeper traces it's roots to Sun's Teamware, which was not written by Larry McVoy, to Sun's NSE-lite which was partially written by McVoy, to Sun's NSE which McVoy had absolutely nothing to do with except being an unhappy customer, to Eric Scmidt's PhD dissertation which Larry had nothing to do with, to Apollo's DSEE which Larry had nothing to do with, to SCCS which Larry had nothing to do with. Bitkeeper is largely an amalgamation of 3 previously existing ideas, the Teamware/NSE distributed development model, changesets, and the CVS pserver. It's a little hypocritical for Larry to complain about other people riding on his coat tails when Bitkeeper is, like most successful products, a really good implementation of a bunch of ideas that were invented by a lot of other people over a lot of time.
  • by Kurt Granroth ( 9052 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:32PM (#12202442)
    I've been trying to make sense of Larry McVoy's actions here and the only sane conclusion I can come to is that he is one of the ultimate advocates of Open Source. He is willing to go as far as destroying his own company to make a point on the benefits of Open Source!

    Right now, he is saying this to potential BitMover clients: "If you use BitKeeper, then I will control your development process. I am free to change how you work at just a whim." Can you imagine even ONE company that would accept terms like this? I can't.

    Therefore, his actions now will have the result of destroying his company. That means that he is either incredibly stupid or has some other plan so clever that nobody (or almost nobody) sees it. I think it's the latter.

    He's said many times that he is a big advocate of Open Source. Now, he is showing an object lesson on how horrible proprietary software can be. "Look at how much I can screw you over," he is telling us. "I wouldn't be able to do this if BitKeeper was Open Source."

    Very clever! By sacrificing his company, he gets his point across much more strongly than mere words could ever do. Bravo McVoy!
  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:39PM (#12202578) Homepage
    Could anybody give some more details about this one:

    a) Corruption. BK is a complicated system, there are >10,000 replicas of the BK database holding Linux floating around. If a problem starts moving through those there is no way to fix them all by hand. This happened once before, a user tweaked the ChangeSet file, and it costs $35,000 plus a custom release to fix it.

    I really don't get how a single ChangeSet file could wreak havoc to all those repositories out there.

  • by Peaker ( 72084 ) <gnupeaker@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:51PM (#12202730) Homepage
    The purpose of copyrights is to advance science and useful arts, not to reward authors.

    If rewarding authors for that purpose is required, then they will be rewarded.

    Copyrights on binaries however, reward authors while stifling the progress of science and useful arts.

    It encourages people to create secretly-operating software that helps them get revenue but does not inspire new works, does not enter the public domain and does not help anyone else in the long run.

    It is rediculous that binaries are copyrightable and the law that allows it is actually quite new (from the late 70's) and should be reverted.

    I find it appauling that people actually buy it that reverse engineering here is immoral.
  • by LittleStone ( 18310 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:53PM (#12202768) Homepage Journal
    It seems to be everyone's knee-jerk reaction that McVoy is against all reverse-engineering in general.

    But if he's okay with competition, reverse engineering is always a part of competition and he should be fine with it.

    After RTFA, what I get is, if you reverse engineer BK, learn how it works, and implement something that's not plugged into BK's network, and compete with McVoy, he's fine with it. The "riding on his coat-tails" is when you reimplement his solution using BK's network, and compete with BK directly.

    Before you jump into conclusion the network is open so everyone can use it, consider this: you are not just reading information from BK's network, but also changing the information, and possibly corrupting the network data. You can say it's a flaw.

    So it comes to this: should reverse-engineering, on the third party's property, that could cause harm to the third party be allowed?

    I'm not sure letting an implementation that potentially render the whole network useless should be protected as valid reverse-engineering.
  • by N3wsByt3 ( 758224 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:17PM (#12203101) Journal
    Since people keep saying the same things, I'll keep responding with the same too:

    It's a bit silly to say 'I told you so" - especially since I didn't actually say it. I thought the arguments made by Linus had some logic behind it too (the technical-merit-before-anything-else approach). Often I thought both sides (Stallman and Linus) had some valuable viewpoint on it, and it was difficult to say who actually was right on the matter.

    It seems now, after all, it was R.Stallman all along. Yes, Linus has a good point in chosing for technical superior alternatives...BUT, in the end, as is clearly shown now, you can't just devide the political/ideological/proprietary issue from the mere technical one. When push comes to shove, an alternative that isn't really free, isn't really an alternative. You are always dependend on the goodwill of whomever owns the product- even when buying it, I may add.

    So, it would seem the viewpoint of Linus, in this instance, is the weaker one, because now he doesn't have a 'tecnological superior' product anymore, and what is he going to do? Go for another proprietary product, because it's technologically better? And have the same thing happen to him again? I don't think so. I think he learned his lesson, and he will go for the really free alternatives that R.Stallman suggested, which, albeit not as good, at least allow you to continue with it as you see fit.

    Stallman can be a nag sometimes because of his gnu/linux diatribe, but in this instance, he was right.

    • by EnglishTim ( 9662 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @04:02PM (#12204591)
      Linus says it himself:

      "...we did get three very productive years out of it, and we not only learnt how SCMs can work, we also taught a lot of people what to expect of a _good_ SCM, so anybody who claims that it was a waste of time to go with BK obviously doesn't have his head screwed on right. BK did good."

      There seems to be the idea that now that they've got to move off BitKeeper that it's the end of the world. It isn't. What if they hadn't used BitKeeper - kernel development would not have progressed at nearly the rate that it has and they'd still be in the same position they are in now, but with less work done on the kernel. They'd still have had to work out some alternative SCM, they might just have had to do it sooner.

      I really don't see what the big deal is. Linus hasn't lost anything by using BitKeeper - you say that he was "dependent on the goodwill of [BitMover]", but dependent for what? we still have the Linux source - the only thing he was dependent on them for was the productivity that no open source product was capable of offering. So all he's done is gain, and lost nothing.

      The sky hasn't fallen.

Your own mileage may vary.