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The guys at the Forbes magazine seem to have got something absolutely
wrong. There is a front-page article on Forbes which claims
``Software radical Richard Stallman helped build the Linux revolution.
Now he threatens to tear it apart.''
It then goes on to say,
``Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader who has
argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge.''
and also calls all the Free Software supporters
``a band of anarchist acolytes''.
The author makes a lot of laughable claims in the whole article which in
some way seems to be targeted directly at defaming rms and the Free
Software Movement. I think we should protest against it by mailing Forbes.
The full article is located at
I am quoting the full article here so that people can read it without
visiting the website, text in  are mine --
On The Cover/Top Stories
Daniel Lyons 10.30.06
Software radical Richard Stallman helped build the Linux revolution. Now
he threatens to tear it apart.
The free Linux operating system set off one of the biggest revolutions
in the history of computing when it leapt from the fingertips of a
Finnish college kid named Linus Torvalds 15 years ago. Linux now drives
$15 billion in annual sales of hardware, software and services, and this
wondrous bit of code has been tweaked by thousands of independent
programmers to run the world's most powerful supercomputers, the latest
cell phones and TiVo video recorders and other gadgets.
But while Torvalds has been enshrined as the Linux movement's creator, a
lesser-known programmer--infamously more obstinate and far more
eccentric than Torvalds--wields a startling amount of control as this
revolution's resident enforcer. Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old
anticorporate crusader who has argued for 20 years that most software
should be free of charge. He and a band of anarchist acolytes long have
waged war on the commercial software industry, dubbing tech giants
"evil" and "enemies of freedom" because they rake in sales and
patents and copyrights--when he argues they should be giving it all away.
Despite that utopian anticapitalist bent, Linux and the "open-source"
software movement have lured billions of dollars of investment from IBM,
Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and other tech vendors, plus corporate
customers such as Wall Street banks, Google and Amazon and Hollywood
special-effects shops. IBM has spent a billion dollars embracing Linux,
using it as a counterweight to the Microsoft Windows monopoly and to Sun
Microsystems' Unix-based business.
Now Stallman is waging a new crusade that could end up toppling the
revolution he helped create. He aims to impose new restrictions on IBM
and any other tech firm that distributes software using even a single
line of Linux code. They would be forbidden from using Linux software to
block users from infringing on copyright and intellectual-property
rights ("digital rights management"); and they would be barred from
suing over alleged patent infringements related to Linux.
Stallman's hold on the Linux movement stems from the radical group he
formed in 1985: the Free Software Foundation. The Boston outfit, which
he still runs, is guided by a "manifesto" he published that year, urging
programmers (hackers) to join his socialist crusade. The group made
Stallman a cult hero among hackers--and ended up holding licensing
rights to crucial software components that make up the Linux system.
Stallman hopes to use that licensing power to slap the new restraints on
the big tech vendors he so reviles. At worst it could split the Linux
movement in two--one set of suppliers and customers deploying an older
Linux version under the easier rules and a second world using a newer
version governed by the new restrictions. That would threaten billions
of dollars in Linux investment by customers and vendors alike.
Click here to see which tech companies Stallman's attack could hurt.
A cantankerous and finger-wagging freewheeler, Stallman won't comment on
any of this because he was upset by a previous story written by this
writer. But his brazen gambit already is roiling the hacker world. His
putsch "has the potential to inflict massive collateral damage upon our
entire ecosystem and jeopardize the very utility and survival of open
source," says a paper published in September by key Linux developers,
who "implore" Stallman to back down. "This is not an exaggeration,"
James Bottomley, the paper's chief author. "There is significant danger
to going down this path." (Stallman's camp claims Bottomley's paper
contains "inaccurate information.")
Simon Lok, chief of Lok Technology in San Jose, Calif., a maker of cheap
wireless-networking gear, dumped Linux a few years ago in fear of the
Stallman bunch. "I said, 'One day these jackasses will do something
extreme, and it's going to kill us.' Now it's coming to fruition," Lok
says. "Some of this stuff is just madness. These guys are fanatics." He
adds: "Who do these people think they are?"
Even the Linux program's progenitor and namesake, Linus Torvalds,
rejects Stallman's new push to force tech companies to design their
software his way and to abandon patent rights. Torvalds vows to stick
with the old license terms, thereby threatening the split that tech
vendors so fear. The new license terms Stallman proposes "are trying to
move back into a more 'radical' and 'activist' direction," Torvalds
via e-mail. "I think it's great when people have ideals--but ideals
(like religion) are a hell of a lot better when they are private. I'm
But then, Richard Stallman rarely is pragmatic--and in some ways he is
downright bizarre. He is corpulent and slovenly, with long, scraggly
hair, strands of which he has been known to pluck out and toss into a
bowl of soup he is eating. His own Web site (www.stallman.org
Stallman engages in what he calls "rhinophytophilia"--"nasal sex"
his term) with flowers; he brags of offending a bunch of techies from
Texas Instruments by plunging his schnoz into a bouquet at dinner and
inviting them to do the same.
His site also boasts a recording of him singing--a capella and
badly--his own anthem to free software. ("Hoarders can get piles of
money / that is true, hackers, that is true. / But they cannot help
their neighbors, that's not good, hackers, that's not gooood," he
warbles, which culminates in polite applause from his followers.) He
hasn't hacked much new code in a decade or more. Instead he travels the
world to give speeches and pull publicity stunts, donning robes and a
halo to appear as a character he calls "St. IGNUcius" and offer
blessings to his followers. (GNU, coined in his first manifesto, is
pronounced "Ga-NEW" and stands for "Gnu's Not Unix"; the central
license is known as the GNU license.)
And though he styles himself as a crusader for tech "freedom," Stallman
labors mightily to control how others think, speak and act, arguing, in
Orwellian doublespeak, that his rules are necessary for people to be
"free." He won't speak to reporters unless they agree to call the
operating system "GNU/Linux," not Linux. He urges his adherents to avoid
such terms as "intellectual property" and touts "four freedoms" he
sworn to defend, numbering them 0, 1, 2 and 3. In June Stallman
attempted to barge into the residence of the French prime minister to
protest a copyright bill, then unrolled a petition in a Paris street
while his adoring fans snapped photos.
Long ago Stallman was a gifted programmer. A 1974 graduate of Harvard
with a degree in physics, he began graduate school at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology but dropped out and took a job in an MIT lab.
There he grew furious that companies wouldn't let him tinker with the
code in their products. A Xerox laser printer was a key culprit. In the
early 1980s he called on hackers to fight their oppressors by helping
him create a free clone of Unix, naming it GNU.
Stallman and his allies hacked away for nearly a decade but couldn't get
GNU to work. In 1991 Torvalds, then an unknown college kid in Finland,
produced in six months what Stallman's team had failed to build in
years--a working "kernel" for an operating system. Torvalds posted this
tiny 230-kilobyte file containing 10,000 lines of code to a public
server, dubbing it "Linux" and inviting anyone to use it.
Soon people were combining Torvalds' Linux kernel with Stallman's GNU
components to make a complete operating system. The program was a hit.
But to Stallman's dismay people referred to it as Linux, not GNU.
Torvalds became famous. Stallman got pushed aside. The ultimate insult
came in 1999 when his Free Software Foundation was given a "Linus
Torvalds Award." Stallman accepted but said it was "like giving the Han
Solo award to the Rebel Alliance."
As programmers wrote hundreds of building blocks to add to Linux,
Stallman's Free Software Foundation persuaded them to hand over their
copyrights to the group and let it handle licensing of their code.
Stallman wrote the central license for Linux: the GNU General Public
License or GPL. For his part, Linux creator Torvalds never signed his
creation over to the group--but he did adopt the GNU license, granting
Stallman further sway.
In recent years Stallman and the FSF have been cracking down on big
Linux users, enforcing terms of the existing license (GPLv2, for version
2) and demanding that the big tech outfits crack open their proprietary
code whenever they inserted lines from Linux. Cisco and TiVo have been
targets; Cisco caved in to Stallman's demands rather than endure months
of abuse from his noisy worldwide cult of online jihadists. Nvidia,
which makes graphics cards for Linux computers but won't release enough
of the code behind them to satisfy Stallmanites, also came under attack.
"It's an enemy of the free software community, so we call them
'inVideous,'" says Peter Brown, executive director of the Free Software
Now the Stallman stalwarts are pushing a new version of the Linux
license--GPLv3, with its tougher restrictions and a ban on anything that
would protect or enforce copyright and other digital rights. Thus
Stallman is living an anarchist's dream: The tech giants he has spent
his career attacking send lawyers to sit at his feet and beg. Stallman
has invited companies to comment on his drafts but insists he alone
decides what goes into the final version, due in early 2007.
Often he won't listen. HP suggested changes in patent language in the
new license. In a sign of how much fear Stallman inspires even at the
largest tech company in the world, HP's lawyers emphasize they didn't
"ask for changes"--they merely "suggested modifications." Whatever.
Stallman rejected them.
In September a committee of leading Linux companies spent two days in
Chicago discussing the GPLv3 with Stallman's representatives--and left
worried. Stallman's camp refused to answer even simple questions about
whether v2 and v3 code will be able to coexist. "They've been at this
for nine months, and it's time to clarify. Everyone wants to make sure
that Linux keeps accelerating," says Stuart Cohen, chief executive of
Open Source Development Labs, a vendor-funded consortium in Beaverton,
Ore. that employs Linus Torvalds and supports Linux development.
Most major tech vendors declined comment rather than risk tangling with
Stallman's enforcers, such as his sidekick and attorney, Columbia Law
School professor Eben Moglen. A spokesman for Novell, the second-biggest
Linux distributor, says the company won't comment because negotiations
are ongoing. Red Hat also declined to comment. Privately some Linux
vendors say they hope Stallman will relent and soften the terms of GPLv3.
One big potential victim of the Stallman stunt is Red Hat, the leading
Linux distributor, with 61% market share. Red Hat bundles together
hundreds of programs contributed by thousands of outside coders. If
Linus Torvalds sticks with his old kernel under the older and less
restrictive version-2 license, and Stallmanites ship version-3 code,
what is Red Hat to do? The two licenses appear to be incompatible.
There's also the problem of forfeiting patent enforcement rights if Red
Hat ships v3 code. Red Hat could stay with an entirely "v2" Linux
system, taking on the burden of developing its own versions of whatever
programs move to v3. But it's not clear that Red Hat has the staffing to
"Red Hat gets a lot of code from people who don't work for Red Hat. They
would have to replace all that and do the work in-house," says Larry W.
McVoy, chief executive of software developer Bitmover and a longtime
Torvalds collaborator. Even then, however, Stallman and his loyalists
may carry on developing their own v3 versions. This "forking" of
multiple incompatible versions could lead to "Balkanization" and derail
Linux, the Torvalds camp warns.
Red Hat and other Linux promoters also may find themselves in an awkward
spot with customers. "IT managers want to buy stuff that puts them at as
little risk as possible. If there was a risk that Stallman could become
such a loose cannon, that's something most IT managers would have wanted
to know before they bet their companies on Linux," McVoy says.
Some customers are wary. ActiveGrid, an open-source software maker in
San Francisco, originally planned to distribute its program under a gpl
license but changed plans after a big European bank declared it wouldn't
use products covered by the gpl, says Peter Yared, chief executive of
The biggest beneficiaries of Stallman's suicide-bomber move could be
other companies Stallman detests: the proprietary old guard--Microsoft,
which pitches its Windows operating system as "safer" than Linux, and
Sun, which lost customers to Linux but now hopes to lure them back to an
open-source version of its Solaris system, which doesn't use the GPL.
And a big loser, eventually, could be Stallman himself. If he relents
now, he likely would be branded a sellout by his hard-core followers,
who might abandon him. If he stands his ground, customers and tech firms
may suffer for a few years but ultimately could find a way to work
around him. Either way, Stallman risks becoming irrelevant, a strange
footnote in the history of computing: a radical hacker who went on a
kamikaze mission against his own program and went down in flames, albeit
after causing great turmoil for the people around him.
Richard Stallman's kamikaze attack on Linux could hurt tech companies
that have built thriving businesses on top of this free program. These
are the top targets. [HP, Novell, Red Hat, IBM]
Baishampayan Ghose <b.ghose(a)gnu.org.in>
Free Software Foundation of India
BB2C E244 15AD 05C5 523A 90E7 4249 3494 8636 1B74
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