Linus on MS, Shared Source and Security

Tuesday, October 12 2004 @ 10:14 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

I thought you'd enjoy a contrast with the Bill Gates interview in the last article. Here is an interview with Linus in the Seattle Times, in their Business and Technology section, and as usual, it's charming and refreshing.

He says Microsoft has a PR problem ("Largely deservedly, I would say.") and he finds their Find the Facts campaign "pretty amusing." But the most interesting part, to me, is what he says about the shared source program and about security. He contrasts shared source with real open source.

I recommend you read the entire article, but here is that one segment:

Q. What do you think about Microsoft's "shared source" program and similar programs offering some access to its code to engage developers?

A. I think they are fundamentally flawed, because there is no way their "shared source" thing can ever really engage a developer. It's like showing somebody the goods and telling them that they can play with all the cool toys, but that they can never really be part of it, and whatever they create will be owned and controlled by Microsoft.

That doesn't "engage" anybody. You're still clearly an outsider and you don't actually end up having any rights.

In real open source, you have the right to control your own destiny. When you play with it, mommy isn't going to tell you what you can and can not do, and not going to take your toy away from you when she thinks you are done. You're an adult, and you can make your own choices. That is when you get engaged.

Q. How can Linux avoid the security problems that have affected Windows?

A. Better design and actually caring about them. Having the guts to really fixing fundamental design mistakes, rather than trying to work around them.

I also enjoyed reading his answer to where the biggest growth in Linux will be next. Basically, he says anywhere anybody wants. Linux has no niche. It can go anywhere.

Here's my question to the business types who think software patents are necessary because they stimulate innovation. What about Linux? There are no patents. Why is it, then, that it is taking over the world? Would you consider the possibility that software not only doesn't need patents, it thrives best without them?