Linux in trouble

Crazy Richard Stallman’s temper tantrum over GPLv3 threatens to split Linux into two warring camps. has the skinny:

Despite that utopian anticapitalist bent, Linux and the “open-source” software movement have lured billions of dollars of investment from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and other tech vendors, plus corporate customers such as Wall Street banks, Google and Amazon and Hollywood special-effects shops. IBM has spent a billion dollars embracing Linux, using it as a counterweight to the Microsoft Windows monopoly and to Sun Microsystems’ Unix-based business.

Now Stallman is waging a new crusade that could end up toppling the revolution he helped create. He aims to impose new restrictions on IBM and any other tech firm that distributes software using even a single line of Linux code. They would be forbidden from using Linux software to block users from infringing on copyright and intellectual-property rights (“digital rights management”); and they would be barred from suing over alleged patent infringements related to Linux.

Stallman’s hold on the Linux movement stems from the radical group he formed in 1985: the Free Software Foundation. The Boston outfit, which he still runs, is guided by a “manifesto” he published that year, urging programmers (hackers) to join his socialist crusade. The group made Stallman a cult hero among hackers–and ended up holding licensing rights to crucial software components that make up the Linux system.

Stallman hopes to use that licensing power to slap the new restraints on the big tech vendors he so reviles. At worst it could split the Linux movement in two–one set of suppliers and customers deploying an older Linux version under the easier rules and a second world using a newer version governed by the new restrictions. That would threaten billions of dollars in Linux investment by customers and vendors alike.

It seems to me that the Forbes article is fundamentally correct. Stallman is a nutcase, and he’s trying to force the Linux community to do things his way, on penalty of losing the GNU tools. Stallman is trying to impose his concept of DRM on the Linux community, and a heck of a lot of very important people aren’t buying what he’s selling. So this will inevitably lead to a split between Stallmanized code and non-Stallmanized code.

It’s unpleasant to think about this, but it’s very likely to happen. Nobody can get Stallman under control, and he has enough fanatical followers to cause a serious split.

H/T IP Central.

3 thoughts on “Linux in trouble”

  1. Overblown. This argument has been going on for a while, particularly with graphics drivers. Yes, it can get nasty at times. But Stallman didn’t create it, he’s merely personifying it – that’s a very big difference.

    And it would be a big mistake to view it as about some crazy hippy guru – a lot of it comes from the lawsuits filed against programmers, which focus the mind far more than ideological pronouncements.

  2. I’m aware that Stallman thinks nVidia is the demon capitalism personified, but that’s just a symptom of the impracticality of Open Source when it comes to hardware devices. 3Com and ATI have had the same issue with open source drivers: there are proprietary features in their hardware that enable it to perform very, very well, and which depend on close interaction with the driver code. Publishing the source code of the device driver is like handing a hardware design recipe to every knock-off shop in Taiwan to clone your hardware without paying the design engineers who made it work. So 3Com used to publish an open source driver for the masses that didn’t exploit the cool features, and a binary driver for x86 that did. That’s simply good business.

    The GPLv3 brouhaha is over a very different issue, DRM. Stallman doesn’t want anybody using his precious code to implement anybody’s DRM scheme, and he’s trying to use his power to force that down people’s throats. He’s either going to lose or Linux is going to lose, take your pick.

    This issue is not overblown at all.

  3. RMS is an ass, and here’s why. For years he has done NOTHING but rant and rave about the evils of capitalism while Linux has moved on without him. It moved on without him and Maddog Hall (whom I like) and is now a centerpiece in most data centers that I walk in to. When IBM, HP, Red Hat, Novell and other grabbed on to Linux, they took it to the next level.

    RMS didn’t like this. Now with GPL 3 he is trying to find some sort of relevance where he has had none. His Free Software Foundation…a joke. Don’t get me wrong…I like the idea, but it’s tough to convice companies to support you when the people that man your booth at Linux World and OSCON look like something out of a Marvel comic books. How do they expect to be taken seriously by large corporations when they are so counter to the prevailing corporate culture?

    RMS…I think it’s time to retire.

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