Critique of Ken Brown's introduction
The introduction is quite illuminating:
Samizdat is a series of excerpts from an upcoming book on open source and operating systems that will be published later this year. AdTI did not publish Samizdat with the expectation that rabidly pro-Linux developers would embrace it. Its purpose is to provide U.S. leadership with a researched presentation on attribution and intellectual property problems with the hybrid source code model, particularly Linux. It is our hope that leadership would find this document helpful with public policy decisions regarding its future investment in Linux and other hybrid source products.
So he's going to present his "facts" to the U.S. government? Well, when he finds some I wish him the best of luck.
The United States is the home of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an internationally respected agency which contributes to the worldwide effort to protect and govern intellectual property. In addition, the U.S. government is one of the largest patent holders in the world, owning the rights to 20-30,000 patents. Annually, the U.S. government also contributes billions to hi-tech research and development because research and development supports our intellectual property economy. Therefore, it is in the U.S. government's best interest to fully understand the impact of Linux on the intellectual property foundation of our country, as well as the entire information technology (IT) sector.
This is arguable. The other day it passed a patent that gave Microsoft control over double-clicking a mouse. With so many patents, the U.S. Patent office is falling apart at the seams, and most people know it. The USPTO just can't research the concepts well enough to know that the patents submitted are trivial and already have prior-art.
I can't even agree with this statement of Brown's.
Next, we get his recommendations to the US government:
True Open Source vs. Hybrid Source
The Samizdat report recommends that the U.S. government should invest $5 billion in research and development efforts that produce true open source products, such as BSD and MIT license-based open source. Government investment in open source development will accelerate innovation. However, increased investment should be in true open source, open source without any stipulations, other than attribution and copyright notification, not hybrid source.
What other sorts of open-source are there apart from license-based ones? Anyway, apart from this, open source is not just the BSD or MIT license. As an example, Open Source is also defined by the FSF (who prefer "Free Software"), and is also defined here. It's a vast and ambiguous term, so when Brown redefines it he looks stupid. Keep this in mind, however lets take Brown's definition and apply it to the next paragraph anyway.
"Hybrid source code" is a phrase coined by former Tocqueville Chairman Gregory Fossedal. The term refers to any product with a license that attempts to mix free and proprietary source code at the same time.
While hybrid software appears to be the same as open source, it isn't. Hybrid source code can never be true intellectual property. The actual purpose of hybrid source is to nullify its value as private property, which makes the hybrid source model significantly different from true open source. Noone can ever truly accrue any value from owning hybrid source software, because everybody (and anybody) has the rights to every line of improvement in it. Worse, many argue that if hybrid source is used the wrong way, it can make other source code hybrid source as well.
The hybrid source model negatively impacts the intellectual property model for all software, and inevitably the entire IT economy.
Well, this much is pretty obvious. But no-one is arguing this point, in fact if proprietry code is introduced into Open Source software it gets rejected unless the project gets the original owner to open the code up with a different, compatible, license.
Which makes the next sentence laughable:
As long as the value of the IT economy is dependent on the preservation of intellectual property, it is counterproductive for the U.S. government to invest in Linux.
So far, it's been proven that the Linux kernel isn't contaminated. Only Brown and SCO are asserting that it's contaminated, and they haven't given one shred of evidence that it's polluted with someone else's intellectual property (IP).
Note to Ken Brown: speculation isn't evidence.
The next section comes under the heading "Linux is Inherently Unstable", which is pretty funny really, because Browns definition of "unstable" and most users definition is quite different. Brown is defining "unstable" as unusable due to IP pollution. Technical users define "unstable" as not of high-quality due to crashing, data loss, etc.
The disturbing reality is that the hybrid source model depends heavily upon sponging talent from U.S. corporations and/or U.S. proprietary software. Much of this questionable borrowing is a) not in the best interest U.S. corporations b) not in the best interest of IT workers in America c) at a serious expense to the investment community, an entity betting on the success of intellectual property in the marketplace.
Again with the "hybrid-source" definition of Open Source! The only "disturbing reality" is that this whole paragraph is incorrect.
Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector. Software is also embedded in hardware, chips, printers and even consumer electronics. Should embedded software become 'free' too, it would be natural to conclude the value of hardware will spiral downward as well.
What emotive and imprecise language - "leprosy" indeed. Actually, there are many companies out there using embedded Linux and finding it cuts their costs and increases their profit. It means they can actually compete in a free market! Brown's argument here appears to be that because existing companies are losing money as they have to compete better, Linux is like leprosy.
Let's look at his logic, however.
Assertion: Software is also embedded in hardware, chips, printers and even consumer electronics.
Assertion: Embedded software is becoming free (have removed the quotation marks myself because they aren't needed)
Conclusion: The value of hardware will spiral downward as well
In syllogistic logic, this is called an invalid and unsound argument. It's invalid because it's contradictory to have the premises all true and the conclusion false (you can't come to his conclusion via his assertions), and it's unsound because it's invalid and has an untrue conclusion.
In Samizdat, AdTI argues that the inherent instability of hybrid source development such as Linux is due in great part to its inability to provide a sound policy for originating source code without attribution or IP problems. Within two days of AdTI's release of Samizdat, OSDL(1: Open Source Development Laboratory ed: added by me, but it's in Brown's footnotes) member Linus Torvalds affirmed AdTI's concerns, announcing that Linux kernel contributions depend largely on `trust'. In an attempt to fix the system, Linus Torvalds announced an ambiguous policy(2 Under the enhanced kernel submission process, contributions to the Linux kernel may only be made by individuals who acknowledge their right to make the contribution under an appropriate open-source license. The acknowledgement, called the Developer's Certificate of Origin (DCO), tracks contributions and contributors. ed - also added by me, but this is part of the footnote) to promote better `trust'.
Yep, attribution has been tightened. This is a good thing, and Ken Brown and SCO are both to be congratulated that they pushed their individual (or corporate!) agendas to make them do this. Regrettably, neither have told us where the code is that has been purloined from existing proprietary code-bases.
Samizdat concludes that the root of attribution, IP misappropriation, and acknowledgement problems in Linux is ---in fact--- the trust model. Basically, Torvalds and other Linux advocates are admitting to using a `three monkeys' policy for software development: see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. Specifically, Torvalds and the Linux kernel management team accept blind source code contributions. Then, they ask for a certification. But the certification does not hold the contributor, the Linux community, or Torvalds legally accountable. Nor does it guarantee that the source is produced in a 'clean room'. Meanwhile users are left to just 'trust' Linux too, legally left to face the ramifications of any significant legal problems. This is a 'wishful thinking' policy, and is not a sound approach for software development. The reality is that, noone, including Linus Torvalds, can ever guarantee that code in the Linux kernel is free of counter ownership, or attribution claims. AdTI suggests that the U.S. government should buy and invest in software from a confirmable entity, not from an assortment of unconfirmable sources. AdTI is certain that inevitably, some unfortunate user of Linux will be facing an incalculable legal problem.
First of all (and sorry to keep harping on at this), but what misappropriation, attribution and acknowledgement problems are there?? Please Mr Brown, give us some examples if you're going to make a statement like "root of attribution, IP misappropriation, and acknowledgement problems in Linux is ---in fact--- the trust model."
Secondly, Brown appears to favour the BSD and MIT licenses. Yet why would they have more or less accountability in the attributions they supply than what is maintained in the GPLed Linux code-base?
Brown also makes the assertion that users will have legal problems. This sounds suspiciously like what SCO is doing when they sued companies like Lehman Brothers (who've basically told them to push off). Regrettably for Brown, he obviously doesn't understand IP laws very well. Hey, neither does SCO...
I found the sentence "Meanwhile, we should also very plainly ask, 'who[m] are we trusting?'" quite amusing. Clearly not Ken Brown, because I have no idea who[m] he is getting his funding from,
Brown flew over to Amsterdam to interview me on 23 March 2004. Apparently I was the only reason for his coming to Europe. The interview got off to a shaky start, roughly paraphrased as follows:
AST: "What's the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution?"
KB: We do public policy work
AST: A think tank, like the Rand Corporation?
KB: Sort of
AST: What does it do?
KB: Issue reports and books
AST: Who funds it?
KB: We have multiple funding sources
AST: Is SCO one of them? Is this about the SCO lawsuit?
KB: We have multiple funding sources
AST: Is Microsoft one of them?
KB: We have multiple funding sources
Tanenbaum, "Some Notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle, Release 1.5", '04
Anway, enough commentary on this aspect of the AdTI. Back to Ken Brown's article.
In a controversial section of Samizdat, I ask readers to pose some very hard questions about the origin of the Linux kernel. This is for a number of reasons, but especially because the same people that are selling the trust model cannot answer basic questions about what attribution, acknowledgement, and IP credit they may have owed ATT Corporation and/or Prentice Hall Corporation in 1991 when the Linux kernel was introduced.
Prentice Hall? Is he referring to Minix? If so, is he aware that Minix is a Microkernel, and Linux is a monolithic kernel? Does Ken Brown even know what the difference is?!?
As for the ATT Corporation, they aren't concerned, and there is no evidence that Linux has any code that they developed, apart from some POSIX stuff. That bit of code is part of a external standard anyway as the original Linux 0.01 used part of Minix for error codes. Hardly a huge IP issue).
The same community that sells `trust', is the same community that celebrates: the theft of ATT Unix source code in the late 70's, joked about the theft of Windows source code in February, and commenting on the Cisco source code theft in May wrote in Newsforge, "maybe the theft will be a good enough reason for Cisco customers to check out open source alternatives....(3: Commentary: If only Cisco code had been open source, May 17, 2004)"
What is this guy, some sort of troll? What a stupid comment. He's basically tarred everyone with the same brush... why not just say that all Linux coders joked about the Challenger disaster or September 11th? These are ungrounded and baseless accusations - unless of course he's referring to the "community" as the slashdot crowd and not the development crowd. If he's referring to the development crowd, however, then he might want to read the response on the ReactOS mailing list to people who even started talking about the leaked Windows source code.
Isn't fair (sic) to question the character and ethics of individuals that espouse contempt for intellectual property? Isn't fair to question their character, when the core of their business strategy is trust?
It is fair to question that. If Linux open source programmers had a nefarious scheme to steal code, however, don't you think they'd close the sources and not open the code to inspection by everyone? However, I'd like to turn this argument around and apply it to Ken Brown - I'd like to question who's funding his research and question the ethics of writing badly resarched FUD.
This concludes our critique of his introduction. Now let's look at the next section, entitled "Interviews for Samizdat".
Interviews for Samizdat
Ken Brown starts with a quote from Linux Insider. I was under the impression that when you quote a web-based article you should give the URL of the article, the date it was cited and the article's title. This is important (I can't believe I have to mention this to anyone) so that we can check the sources of information ourselves and verify:
a. what was quoted is correct (it is), and
b. the wider context in which it was written so that we can evaluate the claims of the person who quoted from the article.
So much for his big whinge about attribution problems in the Linux kernel! Perhaps before Brown criticises something he doesn't understand he could put his own house in order.
For the record, the link at the time of writing (June 5th, 2004) is at http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/33929.html and it's title is "Tanenbaum Disputes Methods of Controversial Report".
The next subsection under "Interviews for Samizdat" is "Reasonable Doubt".
Brown starts by praising the Linux kernel, but then disparages it in the same breath:
AdTI and Tanenbaum do agree on one point: the Linux kernel is an incredible, but conspicuous accomplishment. Noone seemed to be interested in critiquing it. So subsequently, AdTI decided to look into this, because we agreed it was no average feat. We collected evidence and looked at it a dozen different ways. Afterwards, we humbly concluded that the story in the public record about Torvalds and the Linux kernel is questionable. Thus, we published some of the facts we came up with, so readers could analyze the story for themselves.
Humbly? Nice choice of words, and a pretty big call from someone who's not a developer! He didn't critique the codebase, which is really the only way to tell if there is someone else's IP in the Linux sources. Anyway, enough sniping. Basically, the evidence collected appears to have been molded to fit Brown's ideas about Open Source, not the other way around. Your conclusion should be supported by your evidence, not you conclusion supports the evidence!
As many are aware, I interviewed Professor Tanenbaum, the author of Minix, a copyright protected property by Prentice Hall. On March 8, 2004, Professor Tanenbaum sent me the following e-mail:
To find out what Tanenbaum thinks of Brown, check his home page. I'll be frequently linking to it. Anyway, to continue:
To write Samizdat, I worked with (and quoted) many individuals directly or indirectly familiar with Linux development. AdTI will continue to interview people within the open source profession about open source. It would be skewed and bias to only quote people that are anti-Linux or anti-open source. I have done this for years, and will continue to do so, regardless of what a source thinks of my theories.
Very noble of him, I'm sure, though wouldn't it be better if he actually talked to the man who claimed to write Linux, Linux Torvalds, and who he is so suspicious of?
According to a followup written by Tanenbaum, Linus emailed informing him that he was never contacted by Brown:
In his email, Linus said that Brown never contacted him. No email, no phone call, no personal interview. Nothing. Considering the fact that Brown was writing an explosive book in which he accused Linus of not being the author of Linux, you would think a serious author would at least confront the subject with the accusation and give him a chance to respond. What kind of a reporter talks to people on the periphery of the subject but fails to talk to the main player?
"MINIX was the base that Linus used to create Linux. He also took many ideas from MINIX, including the file system, source tree, and much more.(4: Tanenbaum, Andrew. Interview with AdTI. March 8, 2004. ed - added by me, but taken word for word from Brown's footnotes)"
I met with Professor Tanenbaum not to write a treatise on software engineering, but to discuss the issue of software product rights and protection that he brought up in his email. In an interview with Tanenbaum, it became immediately noticeable that the professor was an animated, but tense individual about the topic of rights and attribution. He felt that well-known facts about Minix/Linux development should not have to be questioned. It was clear that he was very conflicted, and probably sorry that he sent the email in the first place.
That's right. Attack your subject. Tanenbaum wrote some fairly interesting things about him, saying he wasn't the "sharpest knife in the draw", and also noted that he appears to have not done any research on Minix. It appeared that he was fishing for an answer he liked.
Ironically, Professor Tanenbaum's recent comments only recapitulate many of the substantive contradictions regarding the early Linux kernel AdTI decided to discuss in Samizdat. I met with Professor Tanenbaum with the hope of resolving some of these inconsistent and contradictory accounts in the public record.
Funny, I didn't get that Tanenbaum was very conflicted at all. I got from Tanenbaum that he realised that Brown had no idea what he was talking about:
Now Ken Brown shows up and begins asking questions. I quickly determined that he didn't know a thing about the history of UNIX, had never heard of the Salus book, and knew nothing about BSD and the AT&T lawsuit. I started to tell him the history, but he stopped me and said he was more interested in the legal aspects. I said: "Oh you mean about Dennis Ritchie's patent number 4135240 on the setuid bit?" Then I added:"That's not a problem. Bell Labs dedicated the patent." That's when I discovered that (1) he had never heard of the patent, (2) did not know what it meant to dedicate a patent (i.e., put it in the public domain), and (3) really did not know a thing about intellectual property law. He was confused about patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Gratuitously, I asked if he was a lawyer, but it was obvious he was not and he admitted it. At this point I was still thinking he might be a spy from SCO, but if he was, SCO was not getting its money's worth.
He wanted to go on about the ownership issue, but he was also trying to avoid telling me what his real purpose was, so he didn't phrase his questions very well. Finally he asked me if I thought Linus wrote Linux. I said that to the best of my knowledge, Linus wrote the whole kernel himself, but after it was released, other people began improving the kernel, which was very primitive initially, and adding new software to the system--essentially the same development model as MINIX. Then he began to focus on this, with questions like: "Didn't he steal pieces of MINIX without permission." I told him that MINIX had clearly had a huge influence on Linux in many ways, from the layout of the file system to the names in the source tree, but I didn't think Linus had used any of my code. Linus also used MINIX as his development platform initially, but there was nothing wrong with that. He asked if I objected to that and I said no, I didn't, people were free to use it as they wished for noncommercial purposes. Later MINIX was released under the Berkeley license, which freed it up for all purposes. It is still in surprisingly wide use, both for education and in the Third World, where millions of people are happy as a clam to have an old castoff 1-MB 386, on which MINIX runs just fine. The MINIX home page cited above still gets more than 1000 hits a week.
Finally, Brown began to focus sharply. He kept asking, in different forms, how one person could write an operating system all by himself. He simply didn't believe that was possible. So I had to give him more history, sigh. To start with, Ken Thompson wrote UNICS for the PDP-7 all by himself. When it was later moved to the PDP-11 and rewritten in C, Dennis Ritchie joined the team, but primarily focused on designing the C language, writing the C compiler, and writing the I/O system and device drivers. Ken wrote nearly all of the kernel himself.
Question #1: Is it likely that a student (Linus Torvalds) with no operating systems experience, a non-Unix licensee, without any use of Minix or Unix source code, could build a functioning kernel in six months -- whereas it took you (Tanenbaum) three years to build Minix?
It seems that Brown doesn't believe that anyone is smart enough to write their own operating system. Well, I know he isn't, but he thinks that someone with "only one year experience of C" wouldn't be able to do the job. Let's focus on this now:
Is it likely that a student (Linus Torvalds) with no operating systems experience, a non-Unix licensee, without any use of Minix or Unix source code, could build a functioning kernel in six months -- whereas it took you (Tanenbaum) three years to build Minix?
In Tanenbaum's recent posts(5), he argues (as he told me) that there are "others" that have created Unix clones or operating systems within the same constraints. Tanenbaum's argumentation only increased our doubt about the Torvalds story because the comparisons were too unbelievable. For us to accept Tanenbaum's argument, Linus Torvalds at 21, with one year of C programming, was Doug Comer, an accomplished computer scientist, or smarter than the Coherent team, and of course a better programmer than the good professor too.
Well, I have news for Brown. Version 0.01 of the Linux kernel was crap. It had no file permissions, which only got implemented when Linus nearly wiped the file-partitiion table from his hard-drive:
At one point, Linus had implemented device files in dev, and wanted to dial up the university computer and debug his terminal emulation code again. So he starts his terminal emulator program and tells it to use dev-hda". That should have been dev-ttyS1. Oops. Now his master boot record started with "ATDT" and the university modem pool phone number. I think he implemented permission checking the following day.
Really, the claims that he couldn't write an O/S are stupid. Any Uni student with a bit of nouse and some good ideas about Unix concepts could do this, it's just Linus decided that he didn't like Minix very much.
Tanenbaum told us about the Coherent project repeatedly, but it was easy to research that it was a completely different situation. It wasn't a solo effort, it was a team. Second, the timeline was wrong. Tanenbaum told us it took two years, then corrected himself on his own website writing it took six years.
Indeed. He got his timeline slightly wrong... but really this proves nothing, as Tanenbaum pointed out on the same page Brown refers to:
In 1983, a now-defunct company named the Mark Williams company produced and sold a very good UNIX clone called Coherent. Most of the work was done by three ex-students from the University of Waterloo: Dave Conroy, Randall Howard, and Johann George. It took them two years. But they produced not only the kernel, but the C compiler, shell, and ALL the UNIX utilities. This is far more work than just making a kernel. It is likely that the kernel took less than a man-year.
So the team didn't just focus on the kernel. They had to make all the utilities that go with an operating system! Linux just ported the GNU tools and got it all working. So Brown is correct about the Coherent team working under different conditions. Regrettably for Brown, however, this only makes his initial argument weaker.
Either way, it wasn't six months. On his website, it seems now Tanenbaum is comparing the inventors of Unix, Dennis Ritchie, and Kenneth Thompson to Torvalds. This comparison if anything should demonstrate why AdTI was just not very convinced by the professor. Both Ritchie and Thompson had exceptional familiarity with MULTICS-- and then wrote UNIX from scratch. Completely different from Linus, who says he started with nothing and had no experience. Another reason this is interesting is because the Ritchie, Thompson kernel was 11,000 lines of code over a number of years, and the Torvalds kernel was 32,000 in under a year.
Yes, let's look at the argument. Firstly, Brown states that Dennis Ritchie and Kenneth Thompson had extensive MULTICS understanding. True, but then again they wrote on a PDP-11 (from memory) which took large amounts of time to compile anything and was, at any rate, using a completely different architecture.
Brown also fails to note that 0.01 of Linux was released to the Internet and he started reincorporating contributed code almost immediately. This fact has never been in dispute, and it certainly doesn't take away the fact that Linus did in fact write the O/S kernel from scratch! As for the lines of code submitted - so what? More hardware was supported than older architectures, and this happened mainly because a larger pool of people had easy access to x86 machines, peripherals and documentation. With more people and more hardware that they want to support, I'd suggest you get more lines of code. I mean, Brown hasn't even bothered to seperate the lines of code that make up the core O/S (process managment, memory management, file management, etc) and the lines of code needed to manipulate hardware (device drivers)! So much for in depth analysis that backs up his assertions.
Another problem with Tanenbaum's logic is that he only presents examples of people that were Unix licensees, had Unix source code, or who were exceptionally familiar with software development. He cannot provide one example reasonably comparable to the Torvalds case.
Maybe because this wasn't asked? According to Tanenbaum, "He kept asking, in different forms, how one person could write an operating system all by himself. He simply didn't believe that was possible. So I had to give him more history, sigh." Then he went over the history of Unix and how people developed things.
In case anyone is getting lost here, let me briefly summarise Brown's argument. Linus Torvalds, a young university student with only one year's experience in C programming and operating system research, would be unable to achieve what more experienced programmers were able to do in far more time - even though they worked with a different platform and were still inventing how Unix should work (sorry, I added this last bit - I couldn't help it!).
Issue #2: Why do accounts continually assert that Torvalds "wrote Linux from scratch"?
(note how this changes from "Question" to "Issue"? Either it's poor editting, or he's trying to make a point. You decide.)
Brown starts by stating a little bit of stupidity:
Presumably, Professor Tanenbaum was not in Linus Torvalds's apartment at the time Linux was, to use a phrase recently (but only recently) disclaimed by Torvalds, "invented." Yet Tanenbaum vehemently insists that Torvalds wrote Linux from scratch, which means from a blank computer screen to most people. No books, no resources, no notes -- certainly not a line of source code to borrow from, or to be tempted to borrow from. But in a number of interviews AdTI completed with various individuals about operating system development, almost everyone reported that it is highly unlikely that even a pure genius could start from a blank computer screen and write the early Linux kernel. Suppose he could, would he?
OK, let me be anal about wording. What do you mean by "most people"? If you mean "most people" as in the general, non-technical, public, then sure. So why are we even mentioning them? they have nothing to do with technology (as indeed evidently Mr Brown has had little experience in development and is talking out of his hat). If we're talking about technically proficient developers, then duh! of course they're going to have ideas take from existing technology.
The last line "Suppose he could, would he?" is completely speculation. Ironic, actually, since Brown is accusing Tanenbaum et al. of speculation themselves. In other words it's a stupid argument and Brown is clutching at straws.
In fact, everyone reported to me the opposite, that it only makes perfect sense to start with someone's code, or framework, which is the common practice among programmers.
Furthermore in almost every interview with experienced computer science professionals, almost all said that they personally had a copy of the Lions notes, an illegal distribution of Unix source code. Even Tanenbaum admits to teaching from the Lions notes. Linus says he started with nothing. In a recent ZDNet interview(6), he denies having the Lions notes. This is also unbelievable to AdTI. The story is too amazing----everybody that I met knew Linus intimately enough to confirm he wrote the kernel from scratch--- had an illegal copy of the Lions notes---- but Torvalds, was never---even near the Lions notes.
Non-attributed sources. Speculation. "The story is too amazing" - so what? Quantum Theory and Chaos Theory are too amazing, but does this mean they don't exist? Evidently it would be amazing to someone who's never created an O/S before. Does this mean that it didn't happen? Nope. Then he says that he can't believe that Linus didn't have a copy of the Lions handbook. So? Speculation, in fact interestingly enough I wonder how close to libel this is. It is possible (and even likely!) that he never read the Lions book. If he did read it, the kernel would have looked quite different, I suspect. This is my own little bit of speculation, and quite useless. Perhaps this in itself proves the stupidity of such comments.
Brown also asserts that the Lions handbook is "illegal"... sorry? I wasn't aware of that! UNSW (a Sydney university, btw) never stopped selling it in the bookstore, in fact I think I remember seeing it in the Co-op Book store at one point.
Meanwhile, an associate of mine asked Richard Stallman, who started with the Mach Kernel, why his GNU team could not build a kernel as fast as Torvalds. Mr. Stallman provided AdTI with a credible, believable set of reasons why building a kernel was not a simple task. We thank Mr. Stallman for his forthrightness and honesty. We included this interview to provide another perspective for readers to understand the magnitude of the Torvalds story. To accept the Torvalds story, Torvalds would also have been light years ahead of a team that built the very compiler he needed to make the kernel work.
Yes, well, not only is GNU/HURD a completely different type of O/S (it's a Microkernel), but it had a different development environment. Stallman wanted to keep the team small and focused on engineering to a specific spec with clean code, so he reduced his pool of volunteers. There's really nothing wrong with this, but it does lead to slow development. Proof of this is that HURD is still in alpha stage, whereas Linux has gone through thousands of iterations.
The more I read this article of Brown's, the more I had to shake my head. I mean, just look at the ridiculousness of what Brown says! He asserts "to accept the Torvalds story, Torvalds would also have been light years ahead of a team that built the very compiler he needed to make the kernel work."
First of all, the GNU team that writes gcc is very different to the GNU team that writes HURD. People should also be aware that writing a compiler like gcc is arguably harder that writing an operating system. Try to remember that gcc has been ported across O/Ses and architectures, and it has to support several different and tricky C & C++ standards. It's really not surprising that gcc takes a lot longer to develop! Secondly, I refer you, the gentle reader, to this article with Stallman. In it, Stallman states,
"The actual words I used were quoted correctly, but [author Kenneth Brown] deliberately confuses his terms, like 'Linux.' He confuses the Linux kernel, which I had nothing to do with, and the GNU OS project, which I launched," said Stallman, who characterized such mistakes as "deliberate."
Next, Linus Torvald's character is questioned:
We also included this interview to resonate the character of Mr. Torvalds. The GNU team contributed their GCC compiler, a complicated product with over 110,000 lines of code to the Linux project. Without the compiler, it is very likely that the Linux project would not have succeeded. The GNU team only asked that the product be called GNU/Linux, a very simple request for helping to make him famous. But Torvalds silently, but deliberately let the naming idea die.
This is absurd. Nowhere in the GPL does it state that you have to call Linux this, and Torvald's couldn't be bothered doing it. While I think it was a bit silly of him not to, I'd hardly call him immoral. Incidently, a note to Ken Brown: Linus Torvalds never actually named Linux, and even a cursory search with Google would pull up that the naming controversy went on for years and was really pretty stupid really. Kind of like Brown's work, I guess. (sorry, couldn't resist).
Question #3: If Linux was based on Minix, doesn't it owe rights, attribution to Prentice Hall? Does it owe attribution or rights to anyone else?
Of all the arguments, this is the most stupid.
If Linux was based on Minix, doesn't it owe rights, attribution (sic) to Prentice Hall? Does it owe attribution or rights to anyone else?
How much `inspiration' did Linus get from Minix? AdTI argues clearly enough to credit the Prentice Hall product. Not in conversation either, but within the copyright and/or the credits files of the kernel. Quite noticeably, however, there is not one acknowledgement of Minix anywhere in the Linux kernel. Almost daily, we receive new contradictions from people on this point. In a published interview between Eric Raymond and Linus Torvalds, Raymond brandishes how Torvalds basically derived Linux from Minix. But recently in a ZDNet interview last month, Torvalds insisted that he didn't start with Minix, but did get ideas from Unix(7).
I'll just copy and paste from earlier in this document: Minix is a Microkernel, and Linux is a monolithic kernel. Does Ken Brown even know what the difference is?!?
The only thing that Linus might have taken from Minix was a list of error codes, but even then it doesn't matter. Basically, the error codes followed the POSIX standard, which anyone can use.
What is anybody suppose to believe?
Ken Brown doesn't know what he's talking about?
The larger issue is that Minix was a copyrighted product, for academic use only. The Minix license insisted from 1987 to 2000 that any commercial use of Minix for any reason, required permission of Prentice Hall. The Linux kernel was released in Fall 1991, well within the Prentice Hall proprietary license period. On the point of the license issue, Tanenbaum would just nervously repeat that he succeeded in getting Prentice Hall to change the license to BSD, so the topic was irrelevant. AdTI asks readers to ask why? Why did the license issue matter to Tanenbaum?
Blah blah. Please, Mr Brown, show us the code where Linus Torvalds infringed copyright.
Tanenbaum insists that we are wrong to bring any of this up, but ironically, he comments on his site, "...but Linus' sloppiness about attribution is no reason to assert that Linus didn't write Linux(8)." AdTI is not suggesting that readers believe that Prentice Hall is going to sue. The point of the paper is to magnify potential problems associated with this type of software development. AdTI insists that development such as this is an accident waiting to happen; something that will seriously impact both Linux users and developers. For example, in the case of Minix/Linux, AdTI argues that hypothetically, a copyright infringement case could easily erupt, if someone was determined to prove that Linux was an unauthorized derivative product of Minix.
Well, it wasn't. Minix uses a microkernel, not a monolithic kernel. Linux is not an "unauthorized derivative product of Minix". I really think the creator of this product would know better than Ken Brown does! You might want to also note that Tanenbaum says that "When distribution via the Internet became feasible, I convinced Prentice Hall to drop its (extremely modest) commercial ambitions and they gave me permission to put the source on my website for free downloading, where it still is."
The final reason why AdTI decided to focus on this issue is because we learned that in fact, Prentice Hall took all of this very seriously and had previously sued a programmer for unauthorized development of Minix.
To ask a pointed question: Brown doesn't represent Prentice Hall, so why is he so concerned? Also, to risk sounding like a broken record: Linux is not a derivative of Minix.
I'll cover the next bits briefly as I'm gettting tired of reading this crap.
Follow Up With Torvalds
AdTI contacted Torvalds employer OSDL to interview him for clarification. Without any facts, Tanenbaum goes as far to post that AdTI did not try to contact Linus, but this is contradicted by the attached post. The OSDL contact person tells AdTI that if Linus doesn't get back to us, he is not interested in being interviewed. AdTI has no problem publishing a report, whether sources do, or do not want to talk with us.
Why did he contact his employer? Why not just contact him directly? It's not like he couldn't find his contact details - he does, after all, accept and coordinates patches to the Linux kernel. Plenty of people know how to contact him directly, so why doesn't Ken Brown?!?
It is actually possible that Linus Torvalds never received Brown's email. Certainly Brown didn't try very hard to contact him, and it makes me suspect a hatchet job by Brown.
For years, Linus is (sic) credited with being an inventor. AdTI argued the claim was false. Coincidently in a recent interview, Linus decided (decided?! - ed)he was not the inventor of Linux commenting in a ZDNet story, "I'd agree that 'inventor' is not necessarily the right word...(9)"
So in other words, Ken Brown is attacking Linus for claims he never made. To restate it another way, and to make it clear how ridiculous Brown's comments are: others made the assertion that Linus is an inventor and yet Brown is attacking Torvalds for allowing people to call him this, while in the same breath he admits he claims not to be an inventor.
AdTI publishes its work for all audiences. It is written so that even if a group of elementary school children asked Tanenbaum the same questions AdTI did, they would see the very contradictions we reported.
Simplistic answers for a problem as complicated as IP law are stupid. Just look at the SCO case and how mucky this is! There are basically hundreds of lawyers on both sides arguing over IP law, with thousand of pages of legal notes, opinions and court documents.
Besides which, based on what Brown has put forward so far, I don't see what he is seeing at all. The only thing I see is the contradictions in Brown's own arguments.
Vrije University is a very cool place. AdTI encourages anyone that spends any time in Amsterdam to visit. At the good professor's recommendation, AdTI spent a number of hours talking with Vrije university computer science faculty. They were great fun and extremely helpful. For that, we are also very grateful.
The way I hear it, Ken Brown was just looking for people who could give him ammunition against Linux. Think of this as you will, it's purely speculation on my part.
Professor Tanenbaum did not convince AdTI that Linus Torvalds wrote the Linux kernel from scratch. We are sorry if this has caused any inconvenience to Professor Tanenbaum or anyone else.
So Brown admits that he went to Amsterdam with a specific agenda. It's a fair conclusion to make from this statement, otherwise this apology wouldn't have been necessary. Interesting.
There is far too much boasting about stealing, reverse engineering, and illegal copying espoused by some within the open source community.
Where is he getting this info from?!? Who's boasting about stealing stuff?
What a stupid statement.
If the theft of the Lions notes had not become such a banner waving incident, our research team probably would have never been inspired to write Samizdat. The purpose of Samizdat is to demonstrate how and why the hybrid model encourages these types of activities.
Banner-waving event? News to me. Brown's whole case rests on the "theft" of the Lions notes - good grief. Also, research team? This whole thing seems like a one man operation to me! I believe that Brown is misrepresenting himself, I'm rather afraid.
AdTI argues the best way to solve this problem is to create a more substantive pool of true, free open source code. For example, Vrije University would be an excellent candidate for research and development dollars to produce more open source. To this day, Linux is siphoning resources from proprietary software companies. Encouraging this activity would be a significant mistake for the U.S. government.
Garbage, for all the reasons I noted above.
Unix is one of the greatest achievements in the history of computer science. Like other great inventions, the existence of a robust intellectual property model enabled Unix investors, developers, and users to reap significant rewards. We should support both invention and innovation.
However, building a product that starts with the accomplishment of others and announcing it as completely your own work product, is not invention, nor is it innovation. Innovation can only work properly if innovators properly credit the work of others, especially if the innovator has decided to introduce the product into the marketplace for commercial gain.
From this I assume that he's saying that Linus Torvalds claimed he wrote the entire Linux operating system himself. If so, this is a completely unfounded, baseless accusation, as Torvalds never claimed this. What is certain is that Linus did initially create Linux, and he does contribute vast amounts of code and does the patch coordination. Basically, Brown is accussing Torvalds of code theft!
Brown had better watch out, this is getting close to libel. He could be sued a lot of money, should Torvalds feel the urge.
Nevertheless, AdTI concludes that U.S. Government investment in true open source development would significantly bolster the IT industry sector; and conversely, investment in hybrid open source will deteriorate it.
Kenneth Brown's qualifications
Kenneth Brown is president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution and director of its technology research programs. He is the author of numerous research papers and popular articles on technology issues, including the 2002 report, "Opening the open-source debate," one of the first papers to raise serious questions about the security of open- and hybrid-source computer software, a point recently raised by the president of Symantec Corporation.
Ah yes, Symantec Corporation. Actually, John Thompson, president of Symantec Corporation, wasn't talking about code attribution of IP concerns. He was talking about the inherent security of Linux. But read the article yourselves, which I'll quote part of here:
Symantec CEO John Thompson has hit out at "the myth" that Microsoft's operating system is inherently less secure than the open-source alternatives, which he likened to a "dead-end alley". However, he still had few kind words for the software giant.
Interesting that Brown brings this up, isn't it? Ken Brown should really first try to understand what people are saying first, then comment on it.
He is reportedly "not the sharpest knife in the drawer," but nevertheless is able to converse with many intelligent people, and is accepted at fine restaurants and hotels around the world.
I have to admit that I doubled over with laughter when I first read this! This is a direct quote from Andy Tanenbaum when Brown interviewed Tanenbaum and displayed a remarkable level of ignorance. It looks like the criticism is getting to him!
It looks to me like Ken Brown is on the backfoot after having released his book. Brown's credibility has been seriously damaged by all the criticism leveled at him by developers and founders of major software projects and organisations like GNU, Minix and Linux. Not only this, but he's now a high-visibility player - mainly thanks to slashdot and their love of controversial figures.
Lastly (thanks to John Thompson for pointing this out to me), one thing that stands out when you read Brown's rebuttal is that he does not address the issues Tanenbaum and others raised concerning his (Brown's) professionalism. Instead, he relies on ad hominem attacks on these critics. I think that epitomizes his general approach to his subject.