Stallman and Salus Also Contradict Ken Brown's Discredited "Samizdat"

Saturday, May 29 2004 @ 03:30 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

More critical reaction to Ken Brown's "Samizdat", this time by Richard Stallman, who was inteviewed by Brown for his book, and by historian Peter H. Salus, author of the acclaimed "A Quarter Century of UNIX".

Stallman says Brown misused words to create FUD. Stallman is quoted in LinuxInsider:

"The purpose of this report is to confuse, to cause fear, uncertainty and doubt," Stallman said of a draft of a report by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute. 'These people have taken money from Microsoft, they've tried this before, and now they're trying to do it again.' . . .

"Stallman also said Brown himself misuses words in the report to tarnish both Torvald's Linux kernel work and Stallman's own Free Software Foundation (FSF) efforts, such as when Brown alleges Torvalds didn't 'invent' Linux. 'You don't "invent" an operating system or a kernel, you write it,' Stallman told LinuxInsider. 'Copyright doesn't cover ideas; it's your expression of those ideas.

"'And the open-source and free-software movements are very different,' he added, arguing that the latter has a set of values codified by Stallman's oft-quoted 'four freedoms,' while the former is primarily commercial in its aims. 'By misusing those terms, it's meant to confuse people who don't know any better,' he said."

Salus, who is also technical and historical adviser to Groklaw's Grokline project, says Brown should be ashamed, in an article in UNIX Review, The Tide of FUD:

"Alexis de Tocqueville observed that it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.

"So there's a painful irony when we're forced to recognize the validity of de Tocqueville's remark in a May press release from the head of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Ken Brown."

First, he points out that Linus never claimed to "invent" Linux. For that matter, Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson didn't "invent" UNIX either. Their 1983 Turing Award, Salus points out, was for "the development and implementation of the UNIX operating system," not for invention.

Salus elaborates and shows how UNIX was developed not in a vacuum but building on the knowledge that came before it:

"Knowledge builds on previous knowledge.

"Operating systems build on one another. . . . Dennis and Ken built Unics (its original name) on their experiences with Multics, following Bell Labs' withdrawal from the Multics project in spring 1969. Many important features (like | 'pipe') were suggested by or instantiated by others. Pipe was suggested by Doug McIlroy and coded by Brian Kernighan.

"For several years, UNIX was confined to Bell Labs. Then it spread to other parts of AT&T and, following the presentation by Ken and Dennis at the ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles in October 1973 and publication of their paper in CACM in July 1974, to research and academic institutions all over the world.

"[I don't want to go into great detail here, but those of you who are interested can read my A Quarter Century of UNIX (1994).]

"UNIX received input from folks in Austria (job control) to Australia (port to the Interdata 7/32). . . . At the 1979 USENIX Conference in Toronto, AT&T announced its new licensing fees, including $7,500 per CPU for academic institutions. This led Andrew Tanenbaum of the Free University in Amsterdam to create Minix.

'I decided to write a new operating system from scratch that would be compatible with UNIX from the user's point of view, but completely different inside. By not using even one line of AT&T code, this system avoids the licensing restrictions, so it can be used for class or individual study. (A.S. Tanenbaum, Operating Systems, Design and Implementation, 1st Ed., 1987)'"

I certainly recommend that Mr. Brown read Salus' book. He might learn something. He might learn that knowledge builds on knowledge. It has to. Thus, if SCO were to be successful in expanding the definition of what constitutes a derivative work under copyright law to include ideas, methods, and structures, I believe they will find UNIX itself would also then be a derivative work.

Brown tells LinuxInsider that the book's publication has been postponed. I expect they are rewriting so as not to get sued, but here is what they have said publicly about the delay:

"Current plans are to incorporate material discussing both Brown's responses to his critics and the impact of Torvalds' recent announcement that, in the future, Linux kernel contributors will have to certify the origins of their code before it can become part of the kernel."

I see Mr. Brown is already askew on his characterization of what the new policy is. What Linus actually proposed is this:

"So, to avoid these kinds of issues ten years from now, I'm suggesting that we put in more of a process to explicitly document not only where a patch comes from (which we do actually already document pretty well in the changelogs), but the path it came through."

They already know the authors of the code in the Linux kernel. Don't believe me? Just look for the Credits file on your Linux distro, and you can find the list of contributors yourself. What they are doing now is adding every person in the chain, including people who didn't write or change the code, but just passed it up the line after approving it. The purpose is to make it easier to find such info, should there be future SCO-like lawsuits someday and to reassure those stricken with SCOFUD. Here is the OSDL announcement of the tweak in the process.

Of course, the AdTI website still does not provide any of the criticisms of his "work", because the supposed links to statements by Torvalds and Tanenbaum still do not resolve to anything but an "Under Construction" notice. This is in spite of the fact that AdTI managed to add a link to an article about Linus' change to the code process, which was published after Torvalds and Tanenbaum made their remarks. I have no doubt the new book will be comparably incomplete and dishonorable, as I notice it says it will include Brown's answers to his critics, but it doesn't promise to include the actual criticisms. I have no doubt the book will be a beaut.

List of Reactions to Samizdat:

For the record, and so as to give AdTI a helping hand, here are the reactions to "Samizdat" AdTI can't seem to get on to its web site:

To complete the record, here is their press release and a published remark by AdTI's Gregory Fossedal: "'Among the conclusions is that there is a high probability that Linux is a derivative work, based on previous operating systems -- including, but not limited to, Unix and Minux,' Fossedal told NewsFactor." Here is Wired's article mentioning Microsoft funding.