Two More - Swartz and Perens - Rebut Alexis de Tocqueville's Brown

Saturday, June 12 2004 @ 11:13 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

The remarkably inept research of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution is highlighted once again, this time by Bruce Perens, who apparently unbeknownst to AdTI, turns out to also be series editor of Prentice Hall's Bruce Perens Open Source Series. Yes, that Prentice Hall. Is that not funny? He has a word for them.

I also have heard from Robert Swartz, the founder of Mark Williams Company, which developed Coherent. He pointedly rebuts Ken Brown's assertion that it would be impossible for Linus Torvalds to have written Linux on his own so fast.

First, Swartz and then Perens:

"Ken Brown claims that Linus could not have written Linux in a year on his own. As the founder and President of Mark Williams, the company that developed Coherent, (an early Unix clone) I assert that it is not only possible but that we did it.

"First, as Andy (Andrew Tanenbaum) points out at , this argument is silly on the face of it. No major software project is written from scratch, we all use tools and ideas of others. As Newton said, 'We all stand on the shoulders of giants.'

"At Mark Williams, we implemented Coherent from scratch in about year. In addition, we implemented most of the utilities of Version 7. Dave Conroy, Randall Howard and Johann George were responsible for the major work and their performance was phenomenal. The kernel was written primarily by Randall Howard, in keeping with my philosophy of 'one programmer, one project' which was possible with Unix.

"We have none other than Dennis Ritchie to validate the fact that Coherent was not based on Unix code. Ritchie was sent by AT&T to investigate Coherent and he said '...looking at various corners convinced me that I couldn't find anything that was copied.'

"Brown's contention is simply wrong. Without at all lessening Linus' accomplishment, he had a number of things that made his life easier. There were a large number of books and papers describing Unix and operating system internals. There were also a large number of tools available. The essential ideas in Unix had long ago entered the public domain. Don't forget that every major and most smaller universities had source. Writing an operating system may be hard, but the architectural design of an operating system is much harder. That is why Unix is so attractive, it was small, simple and elegant. It was designed as a reaction to the beached whales of OS/370 and Multics. The whole point was 'Small is Beautiful'.

Perens rebuts the statements about Prentice Hall, which published Andrew Tanenbaum's book, "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation", perhaps being in a position to sue Linus. In his book, Tanenbaum provided source for what Perens describes as "an educational toy OS called Minix". AdTI accused Linus of using Minix code when he wrote the Linux kernel, a charge that has already been denied by Tanenbaum and the expert AdTI hired to try to find stolen Minix code in Linux (he didn't find any). The AdTI logic apparently is that being the publishers of a book that had Minix code in it means that if Linus stole Minix code (which he didn't), then Prentice Hall can sue him. Perens rebuts this as follows:

"Like all technical book publishers, Prentice Hall is in the business of distributing ideas. They have copyrighted their books, but the express purpose of those books is for readers to use the ideas that their text communicates. Before Linus Torvalds created Linux, one of the ways he learned to build operating systems was by reading Tannenbaum's book and working with the Minix source code. Authors and publishers are proud of the role our books have played in developing the professional skills of Torvalds and the Open Source developer community. We should not, do not, and can not claim as our own the creations of the many millions of people who use our books as a reference in their work every day."

The point he is making, which Larry Lessig mentions also in his book, "Free Culture", is that copyright law doesn't cover what you have inside your brain and happen to have learned. I know that will come as a great disappointment to the unhappy folks at AdTI, but what can you do? This Bruce Perens Open Source Series looks great, by the way. I just downloaded a copy of a book on Snort, which you can legally download too right here. You can also buy it in dead tree form, which you likely will want to do if you like the book and intend to actually use it as a reference work in an ongoing way. Perens notes about the series:

"With ten books published so far, this series is unique in that not only are the books about Open Source software, the text of the books is under an Open Source license. They can be copied and redistributed freely in the same manner as the Linux kernel - it's even legal to sell the copies. The series has shown that a publisher can be commercially successful with Open Source text, as IBM, Red Hat, and other companies have been successful with Open Source software."

Or, if you are a developer, you might prefer to get the book, Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager, which Perens says "is meant to be used directly by the Linux kernel developers in their work, and uses the Linux source code as a reference for tomorrow's computer scientists."

So, we have two more rebuttals for our growing collection. If this keeps up, maybe we'll put out a book ourselves, "The Free and Open Source Answer to Samizdat". Feel free to come up with a better title. Dr Stupid has some wonderful software for formatting an ebook. Of course, we'd want to wait until they actually publish an official, book version of Samizdat, which I'm beginning to wonder about. It may, in the end, live up to its name after all, with no actual book ever materializing, and only samizdat copies of the prepublication draft being handed from person to person. To use one of Ken Brown's favorite words, wouldn't that be ironic?

Don't ask me for a copy. I won't download their review copy, because of their EULA. I can't agree to this:

By clicking here, I indicate that I will respect the copyright on "Samizdat." I will not redistribute or republish it, or make it available for viewing, in part or whole, to any other individual or institution.

[ ] I agree to respect the copyright of "Samizdat"

That is their concept of copyright? Read their book, tell no one, guard it with your life, and then take it with you to your grave so nobody else can read your copy, even after you're dead. I guess it'd be OK if you burn it as you read it, like King Jehoikim in the Bible book of Jeremiah taking a knife and burning pages as the book of the law was read to him. I guess there was no AdTI version of Copyright Law back then, and people could read aloud to each other. Or, if you don't want to destroy it as you read, leave instructions in your will about burning your books upon your death. Otherwise your heirs and offspring might think they have the legal right to read your copy of your books. What kind of world would that be? People sharing thoughts and ideas? Why, it's positively shocking.

What some enterprising innovator needs to invent is a way that a digital work can self-destruct just as soon as one pair of eyeballs has read it. I'll tell you what, it's not easy being proprietary in a digital age.

Actually, they likely know that copyright law includes fair use rights. By asking you to click on the "I agree" sentence, they are trying to get you to enter a contract with them instead, whereby you agree to give up your fair use rights. They are, obviously, terrified that someone will quote them in public. I would be too, if I were Ken Brown, terrified that a process server would soon be knocking at my door.

No reviewer would put an entire chapter up, but how could you review a book without quoting from it, and thus making portions of it available for viewing? So I passed on that invitation. Anyway, the word is, from a lot of people whose opinions I value, that it is full of inaccuracies and isn't worth reading. Of course, I might buy a copy when it is published and review it then, with my fair use rights intact.

If you'd like to see how they are quoting some email they imply they received but which I suspect they may have found on the Internet, here is a nauseating collection:

"Open contradictions: compilation and invitation

"The selections below quote leaders of the open- and hybrid-source movement on the origins of Linux and subsequent developments, going back as far as the early 1990s. Perforce, they are taken out of context.

"If you would like to complain that AdTI's selection takes the material out of context unfairly, or offer an explanation of how the remarks are can be squared with recent and historical accounts of the origin of Linux, please go to AdTI's survey page for this feature: please click here. Serious replies only, please."

Here are the "leaders" on the list, with the @ symbol spelled out, so the poor folks (if they are real people and AdTI didn't make it all up) don't get spammed out of their minds, a courtesy AdTI did not afford them. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt, that they are technologically ignorant and don't know about bots and are not being intentionally malicious:

Recognize any "leaders" on the list? If you happen to find yourself on the list and wish to be removed, I'd suggest you have your lawyer contact them on your behalf. There is one quotation from Eric Raymond's The Cathedral & the Bazaar, but nothing from his recent remarks about Samizdat, and a snip from a Wired article. I believe I may safely say that Wired is not a leader of the free or open source community. There is no hybrid-source community. That isn't even a word, just something AdTI made up. There is not one word from any of the actual leaders and scientists who have thoroughly discredited their so-called research. They don't list or respond to Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Andrew Tanenbaum, Dennis Ritchie, Eric Raymond, historian Peter H. Salus, the man hired by AdTI to compare Minix and Linux code, Alexey Toptygin (who found no copied code), or Ilkka Tuomi. Andrew Tanenbaum has responded more than once.

Of course, they would like all you "leaders of the open and hybrid source community" to click to add your further comments and refinements. And if you are out of your cotton-pickin' mind, you'll oblige them. If this is the best ammo they can come up with, I'd say they are in serious, serious trouble.

Because they apparently can't answer the scientists who have spoken against their book, instead they seem to be putting together a lame list of things they found once upon a time in the media -- and we know how reliable those media mercenaries always are, NOT -- and counterpointing them with comments they fall over somewhere on the Internet in modern times by people nobody knows, except their family and friends. I'm not knocking not being famous, by the way. Fame is nothing to want and means nothing to me. I'm just saying their list of "leaders" left me laughing or spitting. Laugh? Spit? Laugh? No...spit. On the ground. Ptew! Greek fashion.

Their next book, I'm guessing, will be something like, "Contradictions of the Open and Hybrid Source Movement. -- How Can You Trust Them?" If they are tempted to use anything from Groklaw in their quest for FUD and money, I would ask them to respect my Most Holy copyright. Notice: I give no permission for anything from Groklaw, including any of my comments, to be used by AdTI in any way. I make one exception. They may use the following review of their web site but only if they quote it in its entirety:

"I believe they are at times remarkably wrong, at other times cunningly misleading, and sometimes intellectually dishonest. I have drawn the conclusion that they know nothing about the origins of Linux and are unqualified to speak to that issue." -- PJ, Groklaw

You've lost this FUD war, guys. The first rule of holes is: when you find yourself in one, stop digging.