Yes Linus, Microsoft hating is a disease. And it's a pandemic

Yes Linus, Microsoft hating is a disease. And it's a pandemic


The submission by Microsoft of twenty thousand lines of code to the Kernel has, predictably, caused many an eyebrow to arch. The phrase "beware Greeks bearing gifts" comes swiftly to mind. I checked the press release. I also checked the calendar just to make sure I hadn't fallen into a wormhole and emerged back on April Fools Day. I hadn't. That reaction was probably replicated right across the free software community. Given Microsoft's track record it's hardly surprising. Perhaps what was more interesting was Linus Torvalds' reaction. After all, this is not an inconsequential flame war about using Gnome or KDE.

It's business politics. Like it or not

Torvalds seemed to express indifference to the submission which he dismissed as only being about device drive code. If he looks at it at all it will be after it has been filtered through others, and even then only out of a sense of "morbid curiosity" apparently. The code is concerned with virtualizing GNU/Linux as a guest in Windows. That tells you a lot about Microsoft's motives. If clients can't run GNU/Linux on Hyper-V, Windows' virtualization software, it makes it more likely that they would migrate to wholly free and open source systems running on wholly free and open systems.

Microsoft never do anything which does not promote their commercial advantage

We have all learned from experience that Microsoft never do anything which does not promote their commercial advantage. Their dictionary simply does not contain the word disinterested. Don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with running a business for profit; but it does matter how you get, maintain and extends that profit. I won't even bother to recite the litany of Microsoft's sharp practice, bullying, and FUD that has characterized their behaviour virtually since day one.

One thing stood out about the code submission. It was released under the GNU GPLv2. This from a company that called GNU/Linux a "cancer" and "communist". They also expressed disdain for the GNU GPLv3 because of it's viral nature, so you can understand why they used the previous version of the GPL but its provisions should at least ensure that they cannot prevent the distribution of royalty-free licences. It was never on that they would release it under Version Three as it is a matter of record that they regard it as viral. They couldn't anyway as the kernel is resolutely version Two.

So far so obvious and inevitable. Microsoft's submission will doubtless generate a lot of noise. But it shouldn't really. It's strategy of extend, embrace and extinguish is known and it's a repeat offender. Amidst all the inevitable digital noise we are liable to be deafened and miss the really significant thing here. Torvalds' reaction.

Linus needs to smell the coffee

In an interview with Linux-mag.com Torvalds not only affected something close to indifference but more worryingly revealed a startling degree of political naivety. To begin with he welcomes Microsoft as new members of the community:

Oh, I'm a big believer in "technology over politics". I don't care who it comes from, as long as there are solid reasons for the code, and as long as we don't have to worry about licensing etc issues. In fact, to some degree, I'd be more likely to include it because it's from a new member of the community rather than less.

Communities are characterized by shared values. Microsoft is a community of one

New member of the community? What planet is the flying Finn living on? The only kind of "community" Microsoft believes in is the kind where it muscles in and ethnically cleanses the indigenous residents. It's a Cuckoo in the nest and the nest seems to be inhabited by trusting, cooing doves. Communities are characterized by shared values. Microsoft is a community of one.

The really worrying part of this excerpt is his admission that he he is a big believer in technology over politics. For someone who is one of the biggest and most important people in the free software community this displays a really worrying detachment from reality. I'm not a hard core politico but, however vile politics is (with a small p), you'll ignore it at your peril. Microsoft play commercial politics as an in house blood sport and it is axiomatic that if others do not, they will be eaten for breakfast. History is littered with examples of scientific purists who behaved like ostriches and refused resolutely to deal with the politics of science and technology. In one way I don't blame them. Politics is a messy and dirty business, whether it is politics with a capital P, office politics or the politics of free software but if ignored it is likely to turn round and bite you.

Torvalds went on to say that he disdained "Microsoft haters":

I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out. There are "extremists" in the free software world, but that's one major reason why I don't call what I do "free software" any more. I don't want to be associated with the people for whom it's about exclusion and hatred.

Well, we've all come across the implacable "Microsoft haters" whose hatred is a perfect and total hatred. For such people hating Microsoft is almost a career and an item of faith. Nothing Microsoft do is capable of benign interpretation. Just because you don't fall into the category of "hater" doesn't mean that you trust Redmond. I recognize and accept that we live in a Windows world and that it will be necessary to interact with it, but I don't want to abandon caution. I don't want, either, to join the running dogs of "exclusion and hatred". There is a happy medium between Stallman and Torvalds. If Microsoft were allowed to rampage unimpeded or challenged, for whom or what does Linus Torvalds think he would eventually be writing code? Torvalds' disdain for "Microsoft haters" may possibly also be a reference to Richard Stallman. The affable Finn has already declined the GPLv3 because of its anti-DRM provisions.

No, Microsoft is different

Apparently I'm being hypocritical in attacking Microsoft who, after all, are only doing what everybody else is doing but Microsoft's track record places it in a league of its own. No other software house has expressed such persistent hostility to free software or behaves so ruthlessly towards any and all rivals and governments. No one else has built up such a war chest, one which allows it to exert so much pressure on others. For that matter, most of the others who submit code in this fashion were and are overwhelmingly hardware vendors seeking to boost sales by ensuring compatibility. Unlike Microsoft they do not have a persistent and prolonged track record of FUD, bullying and litigation. Besides, switching hardware is easier than switching software and operating systems. If the latter is GNU/Linux, Solaris or BSD for example, then the cost is nil.

Hell hasn't just frozen over. The seas haven't parted

It may well that the end result of Microsoft's code submission is neutral or benign. I don't know, but why should Torvalds unwittingly help to swell Microsoft's coffers by accepting kernel code which is specifically aimed at facilitating GNU/Linux in a virtualised Windows server environment? No, I don't know either. Whatever else Microsoft are doing, it's not "scratching an itch" (Torvalds' description of why people code and develop). One fact also to emerge was that Microsoft had been encouraged to submit code by Greg Kroah-Hartman. He is a big name in kernel code (he maintains the kernel driver tree) but he is also an employee of Novell which signed a notorious patent agreement with Microsoft. That makes me uneasy in its own right, even if Microsoft's motives are transparent. He is not a "Microsoft shill". He has moved mountains to ensure that GNU/Linux runs on more hardware than Windows and we all owe his a huge debt. Still, I feel uneasy.

Microsoft didn't "choose" the GLPv2. It was a condition

Despite the inevitable hype from Redmond, no, I don't think that "Hell just froze over". If Torvalds had moved the kernel to GPLv3 I doubt Microsoft would have touched it with a ten-foot barge pole. Besides, Microsoft was an unwilling bride dragged to the altar because of accusations of GPL violations. They didn't "choose" the GLPv2. It was a condition. So, this marriage is unlikely to be consummated then. Hopefully it will be childless. (It occurs to me though, that stuffing the kernel with GPLv2-ed code is possibly a great way to make it even more difficult to migrate it to GPLv3. Could it even lead to the forking of the kernel? Divide and conqueror? Microsoft would like that, a nice side effect to compliment drawing business away from GNU/Linux.)

If you want to see how much Microsoft really esteem free software then just try to view the associated video using a GNU/Linux platform. You can't. It's requires Silverlight--and that's proprietary. (Well, there is Moonlight but it's "tainted" by Mono.) Groklaw has reproduced a transcript for our convenience.

Conclusion

I don't think there is any danger that the code submission is a Trojan horse or that Microsoft has experienced some kind of Pauline conversion. What we should be worried about is Torvalds' determination to remain apolitical, to exist above the eternal sea of office politics, so to speak. Some people think Stallman is too "political". Maybe, but better safe than sorry. I have little taste for this kind of thing myself but you ignore it at your peril. Microsoft take it very seriously indeed--and so should we. After all, it's not every day that a company that has been doing its level best to throttle you for ever suddenly wants to be your best buddy and be in your gang.

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Comments

Terry Hancock's picture

It's the nature of free software that we can't hold on to competitive advantages, nor can we effectively exclude anyone, whether we like them or not.

Perhaps it would be useful to imagine the result of not including the code...

Consider. Torvalds refuses the code, branding himself as an "activist" and alienating at least one faction of the people who support Linux.

Microsoft, or more likely Novell, adopts the maintenance of the patched kernel with the Microsoft code. That version of Linux supersedes kernel.org's for many users. In essence, it becomes a competing product, which is under tight control by Microsoft.

Not only would that put Microsoft in full control of a "value-added" product, it can say it did so by being more open than the community, without using any proprietary licensing.

Do I need to spell out the next few steps? This would be a disaster on multiple levels -- the best possible outcome would be that Linus eventually relents and lets the code back into the kernel.org kernel.

It's much better to adopt the code now and avert the disaster entirely. Sure Microsoft's motivations for submitting it are self-serving. That's the nature of corporate competition. But a simple-minded shunning of Microsoft contributions is not an effective response.

Torvalds is sticking to his values, and it's the right thing to do, both ethically and politically.

Paul Gaskin's picture

Nowhere in the official literature of the Free Software Foundation do you find the word "hate" used in reference to Microsoft.

Also, there is no extremism allowed in the Free Software community. I actually find Steve Ballmer to be very entertaining and funny. I find Bill Gates to be a decent, likable, and misguided monopolist.

There is no hatred emanating from our camp. But there is jealousy emanating from Microsoft because GNU is such a powerful brand among developers.

Linus Torvalds should stop misrepresenting the Free Software foundation. Resistance to being subjugated is not hateful nor is it extreme. It's the only response when someone methodically and deliberately tries to curtail your freedom using unfair business practices, lobbyists, ridiculous legal tricks and billions of dollars.

Linus Torvalds needs someone to send him a GNU stuffed animal to remember how benevolent and good the GNU project is. There should be a complete reconciliation between the penguin and the GNU, rather than the penguin running into the sweaty embrace of Steve Ballmer.

Terry Hancock's picture

You may not like the term "hate", but you exhibit it even here in your post: there is an enormous amount of material from the FSF that is fundamentally negative in its appeal. I.e. "You should support us, because 'they' are evil".

Making it your business to call someone else "unethical" on the web is pretty much what constitutes a "hate site" -- for example, see the Bad Vista page, sponsored by the FSF.

Your rebuttal may possibly serve to "justify" your hate position towards Microsoft, but it certainly doesn't deny that position. Get over it -- hating Microsoft (and other proprietary software companies) is fundamental to the FSF position.

Haakon Meland Eriksen's picture

I admit it - I like free (as in freedom) software, even when it costs money. In fact, I have and am willing to pay money BECAUSE it is free - that's how I want my software. My slogan would be "I want to pay to stay free!"

The dictionaries tells us "hate" is to "dislike intensely; feel hostility toward; loathe; detest". The dictionary even tries to give an explanation for it: "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury".

They also tell us that "evil" is "morally corrupt, motivated by intent to harm or destroy, producing destructive effects, characterized by bad acts or harmful effects".

Given the above definition, proprietary companies don't even register on my "hate meter". I don't dislike them intensely, I don't feel hostility towards them, I don't loathe, detest or feel intense hostility and aversion to them either. Maybe it is because I don't fear them? They're benevolent stupidity may anger me sometimes when I can't do what I want to, or make me feel a sense of injury because of their mindbogglingly silly mistakes which prevents me from achiving my goal yet again - with no way to improve my situation using either my wallet or my wits. Unlike free software.

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice" can be used to exclude intent, and I find this often quite handy in real life. Used on the above definition of "evil" we are left with a meaning of evil that is "producing destructive or harmful effects". Now, as evil things go, software is really low on my list. However, with this definition of evil, I definitely have proprietary software on my list of evil things in life. With this definition I also have the free software Ubuntu installer, which beautifully asks me for my chosen language and then does not make use of the information. I want Norwegian bokmål, that means æ, ø, å on the keyboard, that means daylight saving time does apply, that means Oslo is the capital of my country, Norwegian kroner is our currency and so on. Please, don't waste my time with stupid questions. No, "some people might need it" does not justify wasting time for "the rest of us". Not knowing how to multiply and feeding "the elite" is EVIL. Do you hear me, Mark Shuttleworth?

I also wonder why revision control systems aren't automatically included as started daemons in all GNU/Linux distributions and used by default to track changes at least to the configuration directory /etc. This is also EVIL.

Why doesn't GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, OpenOffice, KOffice, Kpovmodeler, Blender, Cinelerra or whatever auto-detect the company's revision control system and offer the user the chance to use it from their SAVE-dialogs? A group of professional graphic artists will rarely use free (as in freedom) software, because keeping track of file changes on a customer project including the Full Monty of advertising material - covering paper, TV and web - is paramount, and with the mentioned free software this isn't as easy as the proprietary offerings. In short, this is EVIL.

Personally then, I have failed to "hate" either proprietary or commercial free software, but I have felt their EVIL - no intent needed.

Stallman, and by extension the FSF, does talk about "evil" and "moral dilemma", like in this speech - http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/nit-india.html - yet, I find it very hard to find the word "hate" or take "evil" to mean anything else than "harmful to the end user, regardless of intent".

I don't agree that the FSF is a "hate site" just because it finds proprietary software has harmful effects. That would be like saying the Ministry of Health is a "hate site" just because it warns people of the dangers of smoking.

Cheers,
Haakon Meland Eriksen

Paul Gaskin's picture

It just so happens that Steve Ballmer does indeed sweat a log, he does a Hare Krishna-styled hopping and clapping dance while chanting "developers, developers, developers" and he uses a strategy of "embrace, extend and extinguish".

All things considered, my comment is firmly based in objective reality, full of good humor and good will. You are too consternated about this. I hope you will get outside more.

zeke123's picture
Submitted by zeke123 on

Oh great, dollar store psychoanalysis is included.

Stop acting like someone's granny and wanting people to admit their sins of hate.
Hate is not a new thing. Hate sells.
People buy Mac because THEY hate Windows.
(people who call me in the middle of the night so I can come do a Linux live CD rescue all hate Microsoft)
Ever visit a Mac site of hear the insufferable prophets of Mac like Merlin Mann, Ihnatko and company? Even though they have a better toy than MS, the hate they spew (and that's nothing to what they spew on Free Software!) on Microsoft is abundant.
You may like your current Mac more than your children but the reason you switched is your hate of Windows.
So what?

Plenty of people hate plenty of things.
Pedophiles? Everyone hates them.
Lawyers? Almost as many.
Politicians and used car salesmen? Close behind.
Parking tickets and soda bottles that are flat, beer thats hot, pizza that's cold?
Yup, everyone hates those (except Brits and beer).

Hate is a normal reaction to certain situations.

Youre family was eaten by sharks? You probably hate them.
The fraternal organizations of paisans who suggested that you pay them to make sure than your little bakery doesnt catch fire? My wife's coworker who closed hers 10 yrs ago still hates them with a passion.
Cops shot your brother who was unarmed? Chances are pretty damn good you will hate them.

Some hates can be irrational.
And some hates can be anywhere in between rational and irrational.
Some hates, like let's say Red Sox fans, arent hates as much as annoyances.

Trying to bunch all of these into one group is
very weak.

Microsoft's actions are well documented (and lets face it, all those things we 'thought' Microsoft did was shown by court documents to be a lot worse than we thought) and some people feel strongly about those. DOes this hate make the reasons behind them less valid?

If hate was the ONLY raison d'etre, there would be a problem but its not (although I would never speak for people I have never met and lets face it, our communities are very diverse).

As a person, I hate being threathened. Threathen my family and I will do things that would not be in my nature. That is an extreme case.
As a Red Hat user, I hate being threathened by Steve Ballmer who claims that I, as a RH user, owe Microsoft money because Linux has some stolen IP in it and RH hasnt paid the extortion scheme (Steve is nice enough to remind us that Novell has paid the extortion and is the legit thing).

My hate at being threathened by Ballmer as a
Red Hat user is nowhere close to what it would be if someone threathened my family.
They are different things altogether.

Hate like all emotions is natural.
It paralyzes some, while it spurs others on to action. It comes in all shapes and forms and is a part of the human makeup.

Plenty of people hate and plenty of people are ok to be hated (cmon, you can get a free shot at Mike Vick or Steve Bartman!)

And if you hate hate so much, then I would suggest you stay away from Mac centric sites: the hate will overwhelm you.

Mitch Meyran's picture

The Microsoft contribution is a pack of 3 device drivers; it's not part of the kernel's "heart" (it doesn't touch the scheduler, nor the memory manager, whatever); it can be added, removed, loaded as module etc. without any effect.

Having specifically released the code under the GPLv2, Microsoft is now bound by the license's terms and can't argue in court that it doesn't recognize it (see SCO). They retain the copyright to their code, but it's now open for the Open Source world at large to take and modify it.

That Microsoft people usually have an 'agenda' can't be discussed: they do. However, this part of the code was released by MS engineers, many of which have actually publicly expressed interest in FOSS, if only as a development practice.

Linus' disinterest in the code doesn't stem from his lack of understanding of the repercussions from it, but because he probably understands them better than you do; if, for any reason, Microsoft decides to attack Linux because of that code, Linus will merely remove it and be done with it; Microsoft will be banned once and for all from the community, and that will be all.

---
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

immerohnegott's picture

Why should this be a worry? If anything, it serves to further the openness and inclusive nature of the Linux kernel. Were Linus worried about the politics of this matter, we would end up with a counter-intuitive exclusion of people from the community for no other reason than that they would be running the kernel in a Windows-based VM.

These are drivers, not an integral part of the kernel. Right now Linus isn't worried because there isn't anything to worry about. Sure, the code's purpose is to allow Linux to run under a Windows VM, as opposed to a native Linux system, but Linux IS being run. To me, this seems far better than the alternative of snubbing the code and thereby shafting people out of support, FORCING them into selecting one OS or the other. Does that tactic sound familiar to anyone?

If Microsoft DOES submit more core kernel code (task scheduling, memory management, etc), then start worrying.

Michael Fötsch's picture

You say, "the really worrying part of this excerpt is his admission that he he is a big believer in technology over politics."

But is he really?

There are “extremists” in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do “free software” any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.

So, he says free software is about exclusion and hatred? I'm glad he remains so genuinely determined to focus on technology, not politics!

(No, I'm not being sarcastic here. Well, that's what I claim, but does that make it true?)

Terry Hancock's picture

So, he says free software is about exclusion and hatred?

No. He says precisely that it shouldn't be. But since the people who coined the term are using it to support "exclusion and hatred" (he asserts), he is no longer comfortable using the term.

arito's picture
Submitted by arito on

Terry, your play with words is pretty transparent and not very clever. You actually embark into quite an acrobatic mental jump by stating that if you call someone unethical on your web site, the site is a "hate site", which which again implies that you are a hater. Why is it so important to you to use the word "hate", when there are other words that describe the reality much better. People are more often annoyed, frustrated, irritated, appalled, etc. by Microsoft's behaviour than hating the company. Using misleading words on purpose equals lying to the extent the words used differ from the known reality. What's your reason for doing this?

Paul Gaskin's picture

I received an email notification of this particular comment before he amended it to be less extreme. I was ready to forget about it until he started again with this ridiculousness.

The FSF is not the least bit extreme. It is quite an "extreme" and harmful misrepresentation to compare the FSF to Hamas. I don't think it's necessarily "hateful" of Terry to say this, because I don't know what emotions motivated these smears.

Now speaking of Bill Gates and Microsoft's negativity towards Free and Open Source Software, don't forget them mocking "open source" as "open sores", comparing GNU GPL-licensed software propagation to spreading cancer, and also this:

"Since when has the world of computer software design been about what people want? This is a simple question of evolution. The day is quickly coming when every knee will bow down to a silicon fist, and you will all beg your binary gods for mercy."
Bill Gates

Maybe Terry ought to have Linus Torvalds trim his beard because it's causing eccentric behavior. You must be a well-balanced personality to be able to wear a long beard without also being very eccentric.

Terry Hancock's picture

This is strictly true, but also meaningless.

If I recall correctly (and since I'm being criticized for a draft of a post, I think I can be forgiven for being foggy about it), I suggested that the FSF's relationship to the open source community was akin to the relationship between Hamas and other groups favoring Palestinian independence. Like the FSF, Hamas is focused on destroying what it sees as the enemy ("proprietary software" / "Israel"), rather than on doing positive things for the community ("developing or promoting free software" / "a viable Palestinian state").

I deleted the comparison because it is politically volatile and therefore in somewhat poor taste. It could have been seen as making light of the political situation in Palestine or of the people who live there, and I don't wish to do that.

Of course, attacking me over my choice in facial hair is pretty atrocious behavior. I ignored it the first time, but on this second pass I've got to comment on what incredibly poor taste that is.

You should realize that attacking a man for wearing a beard may often constitute religious persecution, since beards are encouraged in both Judaism and Islam as religious observances (not unlike wearing hats). As it happens, this doesn't apply to me, but you had no way of knowing that.

In any case, such personal attacks do nothing to support your position, nor to gain favor for it. It just makes you look rude and uncouth.

Paul Gaskin's picture

It was a published comment which you were graciously granted the right to change because your host figured you were deserving of a chance to amend your rancid comment.

In making that comparison again, you've joined the disreputable Rob Enderle by fraudulently fabricating an association between the Free Software Foundation and a terrorist group.

“I have a hard time seeing the Zealots as any different from terrorist… I strongly believe that if September 11 showed us anything, it was that zealots” — Rob Enderle

"Pros, Priests and Zealots: The Three Faces of Linux" By Rob Enderle
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/31899.html

Many people lack the education to understand how a very oppressive security state is the end result of intersection of totalitarian policies and information technology. Just recently a man was was ordered to pay over $600,000.00 for downloading 30 songs and allowing the file-sharing daemon to make them available to others for downloads.

Microsoft is pushing software patents to restrict our ability to share ideas and software. Everywhere you look, some huge company is trying to curtail your digital freedom. And here you are, speaking as a mouth-piece for digital totalitarianism. Anyone who resists the total control of Microsoft must be a terrorist. Do you have a poster of Darth Vader on your wall?

Let's make a deal - you don't compare the FSF to Hamas and I won't compare you to the Unibomber. You don't try to instill fear of bearded Free Software enthusiasts and I won't suggest you're due for a trip to the barber yourself.

Author information

Gary Richmond's picture

Biography

A retired but passionate user of free and open source for nearly ten years, novice Python programmer, Ubuntu user, musical wanabee when "playing" piano and guitar. When not torturing musical instruments, rumoured to be translating Vogon poetry into Swahili.