Martin Pool's blog

Samizdat Sources

Many of the primary sources for AdTI's Samizdat have come out and rebutted the book. I'm counting here only the people who were contacted in Brown's "extensive interviews".

Here is the current status:

David Bloch, attorney
Explicitly is not speaking about Linux/Unix, only copyright law in general, but his remarks are recast to denigrate Prof Lions.
Eric Levenez
"My Unix chart is not a representation about copyright or patent," but AdTI uses it to imply Linux is a derived work from Unix.
Nikolai Bezroukov
Says that Linus did not write Linux by himself, but rather with help from other contributors. That's hardly news. His conclusions are not universally accepted.
Linus Torvalds
Only quoted, not interviewed by Brown. Torvalds says Brown did not even email him. Admits Linux was written by the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. If only Brown had asked in the first place!
Andrew Tanenbaum
Tells AdTI that Linux is "free of any Minix code", but they don't want to believe him. Reply to Brown, who he calls, kindly, "not the sharpest knife in the drawer". Brown says Tanenbaum is animated but tense, perhaps trying to imply Tanenbaum has something to hide. Replies again: he does not suffer fools like Brown gladly. Brown also seems to think Amsterdam is in Finland.
Petri Kutvonen, Helsinki University
Tells AdTI "I doubt if Linus ever did see a single line of original Unix code", but they don't want to believe him either.
Jason Kipnis from Weil, Gotshal & Manges
Tries to explain what "derived work" means in copyright law, but Brown doesn't seem to be listening.
Eric Raymond
Very unhappy at his words being twisted by Brown.
Ilkka Tuomi
Tuomi's paper on contributions to the kernel is cited to support Brown's theory that there is a conspiracy by Linus to not give credit to contributors from India and China. Brown doesn't name any such contributor. Tuomi says this is not a valid interpretation of his data, and gives four reasons why Brown is wrong.
Fred N. van Kempen
Tries to explain to AdTI the difference between (illegal) copyright infringement and (legal, ethical, normal) building on previous work. Well, anyone who knows anything about programming, especially the art of OS design and programming, knows one does not "invent" an OS. AdTI don't seem to understand this fundamental point.
Dennis Ritchie
Quoted out of context on the Lions book. Says the only interview was a brief email.
Richard Stallman
He did not create an operating system. He wrote a kernel. What Linus released in 1991 was not a mature kernel, it was barely a functioning kernel. It took a couple of more years for him to arrive at a kernel with functionality comparable with the kernel of Unix. Nonetheless, it is true he got Linux to work in an amazingly short time, much less time than the Hurd needed. My only comment on that is that he clearly a good programmer. Brown again chooses not to believe his well-informed primary source. Stallman says that Brown deliberately confuses his terms, and that Linus really wrote the kernel.
Dev Mazumdar
States perfectly ordinary and reasonable policies about corporate contributions to open projects. Brown seems to feel they he says something against Linus but I don't see why, and Brown doesn't say why he quotes Mazumdar.
Charles Mills, a due diligence consultant
Tells Brown that leakage of proprietary code into open projects is far less of a problem than open code being appropriated by proprietary projects. That seems to directly contradict Brown's thesis that corporate code leakage into Linux is common and a big problem. I don't know why he quotes Mills. It later turns out that AdTI didn't interview Mills and Jones at all, but rather lifted the text from a private bulletin board. The owner of the board describes this as extraordinarily shoddy journalism.
Henry Jones of Intersect Technology Consulting
I know and work with plenty of companies that permit such OSS participation during working hours... Smart companies allow talent to work on non-company projects (charity, civic, etc.). Smart companies are now developing robust OSS strategies processes, and staffing....Nobody's laughing at Richard Stallman any more. This also seems unremarkable. I don't understand why Brown quotes him. It certainly doesn't help Brown's case. As for Mills, the so-called interview was nothing of the kind.
David Banks
Oracle and other database suppliers face a growing threat from below: "open source" databases, which give customers a free or low-cost alternative to commercial products. Brown claims to be in favor of free markets, etc. But he sees giving customers a lower-cost option as a problem.

In summary: every primary source in Samizdat either contradicts Brown, is ignored or misinterpreted by Brown, or has later rebutted him. Not one person interviewed in the book has said they feel it correctly reports what they said. Not one person interviewed in the book agrees with its conclusions.

Bear in mind that AdTI says:

Brown's account is based on extensive interviews with more than two dozen leading technologists in the United States, Europe, and Australia, including Richard Stallman, Dennis Ritchie, and Andrew Tanenbaum.

Some people were not interviewed at all. Other were not extensively interviewed, but asked only a couple of questions. And almost all of those interviewed think Brown is wrong, and many of them dislike his exceptionally shoddy journalism.

Sometimes when one is investigating a topic, some of the people interviewed might disagree with the thesis. But to have every single one feel that the researcher is either wrong or missing the point is quite an outstanding achievement. I would think any person interested in writing a serious book would at that point take a step back and check whether their thesis was really right. A less ethical person might select different sources to support their case. Microsoft/AdTI did not even bother to find sources who agreed with their outlandish theories — they just went to print anyhow.

Ken Brown's "interviews"

Microsoft/AdTI's Samizdat quotes text from Charles Mills and Henry Jones. The comments are basically about the question of whether it is useful to companies for their engineers to be involved in open source projects.

Brown cites them as, for example, Mills, Charles, interview with AdTI, Apr 14 2004. One is given to believe that AdTI interviewed these people in person, on the phone, or by email.

I found out today that in fact the text is taken, without permission or attribution, from a bulletin board at SoftwareCEO.com [registration required].

I think it's bad form to cast comments on a bulletin board as an interview, to reprint in a book comments made to a semi-private forum, to misconstrue comments. Orndorff agreed to SoftwareCEO.com's terms-of-service, which he violated by reprinting text.

Response to Samizdat from Ilkka Tuomi

Ilkka Tuomi's research on contributions to the Linux Kernel is cited in Ken Brown's Samizdat to support Brown's kooky hypothesis that Linus copied code from Minix. The final version of Tuomi's paper has now been published in First Monday. Abstract:

Evolution of the Linux Credits file: Methodological challenges and reference data for Open Source research by Ilkka Tuomi

This paper presents time-series data that can be extracted from the Linux Credits files and discusses methodological challenges of automatic extraction of research data from open source files. The extracted data is used to describe the geographical expansion of the core Linux developer community. The paper also comments on attempts to use the Linux Credits data to derive policy recommendations for open source software.

It includes a section responding to Brown's paper:

[Microsoft/AdTI] claimed that the future of open source software and Linux is therefore threatened by the problem of assigning authorship to specific pieces of code, and potential legal costs resulting from this. As the argument to an important extent has been based on the data presented in this paper, a few observations may be useful. [...]

Based on common knowledge about software development, it therefore appears that a single computer enthusiast could well have created the first Linux version in a couple of months. In fact, by reading the original source code, it is quite clear that a single author, still in the early phases of learning to program operating systems, has produced it. [...]

The difficulty to accurately allocate credit in software development projects should not, however, be automatically interpreted as evidence of misallocated credit or intellectual property rights infringements, as the Tocqueville report, for example, has done. Software products are often based on incremental innovation where existing technologies and knowledge are recombined to create new functionality. [...] [D]evelopers may deserve much more credit than there is intellectual property available today. One way to deal with this issue is to create explicit representations of moral authorship that are only loosely connected with current concepts of intellectual property. The Linux Credits file is an example of such an approach.

It is clear from the paper that Tuomi has a good understanding of how credit for contributions is recorded, and he proposes some quite interesting ideas about how ideas actually propagate as compared to how formal IP law works. I rather get the impression in reading the response to Brown that Tuomi does not like his serious research being twisted and misconstrued. (Who would?)

Should you require further evidence that none of Brown's sources support his conclusions, read section 6.

Groklaw has further coverage.

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

Ken Brown of AdTI wrote a response to criticisms of his Samizdat book. The response is simply too appallingly bad to bother criticizing, but if you really want to then it is reviewed by liedra, Slashdot and Groklaw (twice.)

There is also a particularly good one by Tim Lambert.

Not one person other than Brown has come out to defend the report, as far as I can see.

Alexis de Tocqueville on blogs

(I had told myself that I would stop flogging the dead horse that is Samiszdat, but this is so delicious I really had to post.)

I was just reading Lawrence Lessig's great new book Free Culture. In fact, I wasn't reading it, I was listening to it, but that is another story.

Democracy means rule by the people, but rule means something more than mere elections. In our tradition, it also means control through reasoned discourse. This was the idea that captured the imagination of Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French lawyer who wrote the most important account of early "Democracy in America." It wasn't popular elections that fascinated him - it was the jury, an institution that gave ordinary people the right to choose life or death for other citizens. And most fascinating for him was that the jury didn't just vote about the outcome they would impose. They deliberated. Members argued about the "right" result; they tried to persuade each other of the "right" result, and in criminal cases at least, they had to agree upon a unanimous result for the process to come to an end. [...]

Enter the blog. The blog's very architecture solves one part of this problem. People post when they want to post, and people read when they want to read. The most difficult time is synchronous time. Technologies that enable asynchronous communication, such as e-mail, increase the opportunity for communication. Blogs allow for public discourse without the public ever needing to gather in a single public place. [...]

I think the recent discussion by the organization operating under de Tocqueville's name provides another good example. In the past, if somebody published a bad book in which they made unfounded claims, it would take a while for responses to come out. The most an ordinary person could probably manage would be to get something printed in a newspaper, which only covers a small fraction of the world. Now we are able to collectively deliberate and criticize the book before it appears on paper and publishing to anyone who cares to hear.

Television and newspapers are commercial entities. They must work to keep attention. If they lose readers, they lose revenue. Like sharks, they must move on.

But bloggers don't have a similar constraint. They can obsess, they can focus, they can get serious. If a particular blogger writes a particularly interesting story, more and more people link to that story. And as the number of links to a particular story increases, it rises in the ranks of stories. People read what is popular; what is popular has been selected by a very democratic process of peer-generated rankings.

Speaking of unanimity, I ought to go through Samizdat again and check if there are any of their primary sources who have not disowned the book. I think the only one is John Lions, who sadly is unable to, but I should check.

Mandelstam

PJ has more on the word samizdat.

And so Mr. Brown would like to call his book, Samizdat, debasing a word covered with the blood of innocents. Brown has suggested the government "support" what he calls "true" open source code, and establish a government-approved "open source" code bank of some sort, giving money to universities to create it, to replace the free and open source code that thousands of creative volunteers have offered as a gift to the world already, code written by men and women who did it because they felt like expressing themselves, some of them because they wanted software code to be freely available to all, to benefit the world. [...]

It's important to keep clearly before us that software code is speech, a form of expression. Even the law sees it that way. What side would Brown have chosen in Stalinist Russia? I cannot say, but he is attacking an upright man without cause, unless perhaps you count politics or money as a worthy cause, not sending Linus to his death, of course, nothing as dramatic as that. But he does attempt to deface a man's life's work, diminishing his remarkable achievement by falsely implying that it was plagiarism, so as to destroy it and replace it with state-sponsored code, which won't be allowed in business but can be used in universities.

S was reading The Gulag Archipelago a little while ago. I should read it too.

Truth, and Consequences

The AdTI book on the origins of Linux seems to have been fairly resoundingly debunked here and on Groklaw. Many of the primary sources Brown interviewed have come out and said he was wrong, including Tanenbaum, Stallman and Salus. Ilkka Tuomi says he will be releasing something in the next couple of days.

Annoying though it is to see such slander, in a way it represents a kind of victory. Free software is so successful and so well known that Microsoft feels they need to fund publication of this kind of trash.

Bad analogies

esr says:

I haven't seen a book quite so egregiously shoddy and dishonest since Michael Bellesisles's Arming America.

I agree with him that it is an atrocious book.

I think this comparison is very unfortunate, though predictable. Whatever you may think of Arming America — I have not read it — gun control is an issue on which reasonable people can and do differ. Perhaps there is no single answer: I can admit concealled carry suits the cultural and historical situation of Texas, but still prefer gun control in Canberra. It is one of those soft issues which are as much about values as evidence. It is certainly an issue that shows no signs of being settled soon.

Brown's output is garbage of a different order. It is simply, provably, unambiguously false. No informed person, whatever their politics, gives it any credibility. An intelligent reader with no knowledge of Linux whatsoever could see he makes wild assertions without proof. (Disagree? Mail me.)

Perhaps Arming America is provably wrong as well. I don't know or care. I do think it's a bad idea to even compare the provenance of Linux, which is an open-and-shut case, to contentious issues such as gun control. A more apt comparison is Brown insisting that powered flight is impossible.

Raymond and Matzen on Samizdat: "unpublishably bad"

Eric Raymond gives his opinion of Samizdat. Summary: it “is unpublishably bad. Fix it or bury it.”

Jem Matzen has more comments:

The only shocking aspect of Ken Brown's book is that it contains not one shred or iota of evidence to back any of his implications. While he doesn't directly accuse, he also doesn't present any good reasons to believe that we should listen to him. The bibliography, for instance, has 81 items of reference, less than five of which are traditionally recognized reference sources. The greater part of Brown's sources are personal Web pages of people who are not considered experts in the field of Unix, Linux, GNU, or other related subjects, home pages of people who are considered experts but were speaking generally about the subject of the history of Unix, and quotes taken grossly out of context from interviews that Brown did not conduct or take part in.

You don't have to be an author or professional writer to know that when presenting an argument professionally, the strength of your sources is the strength of your position. With no reliable sources, a position paper, thesis, or essay carries no more weight than the Anonymous Coward comments on weblogs and message forums -- in other words, it's bunk. For entertainment purposes only. Read at your own risk. Worse than bunk, it's FUD because it pushes an agenda without presenting any proof. [...]

It is the worst journalism, the worst research, the worst case of abuse of the literary and technical world that I have ever had the profound displeasure of reading.[...]

I could find no evidence of SCO funding. For all the times I've tried in the past, they never return calls or emails and I doubt very much that they'd tell me anyway. My feeling is that SCO doesn't have the money to play these kinds of silly games with; history dictates that Darl McBride and his cohorts are perfectly willing to generate their own untruths for the press and would probably view the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution as unnecessary.

Salus: "Be ashamed, Mr. Brown!"

Peter H Salus is a prominent historian of Unix, and wrote one of the definitive works, A Quarter Century of UNIX. (I read it a while ago and can recommend it.)

What does he think of the "book" by Ken Brown from AdTI in which it is "revealed" that Linus Torvalds did not "invent" Linux? Salus says on UnixReview.com:

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.

So there's a painful irony when we're forced to recognize the validity of de Tocqueville's remark in a May press release from the head of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Ken Brown. [...]

As the rest of the world minus Brown has always known: science always builds on previous work, and computer langauges and operating systems especially so. CTSS led to Multics led to Unix led to Minix led to Linux. All without any copyright infringement; just learning lessons and incremental improvement.

Dissecting Ken Brown's "Samizdat"

Ken Brown and Justin Orndorff from the "Alexis de Tocqueville Institution" have written a paper entitled Samizdat. (I have more on the origin and meaning of the name here.) In it, they state that Linus did not write Linux, and they suggest that he must have cheated by copying from Minix or Unix. They make various other allegations against open source developers that are similar to those seen in recent Microsoft and SCO press releases.

AdTI and Microsoft have confirmed that Microsoft provides funding to AdTI.

My opinion is:

I'm working with a friend on a review copy of Brown's Samizdat paper, obtained directly from AdTI. This is a work in progress; if you have comments please mail me.

I see Brown forgot to put a copyright statement on his paper, which is slightly amusing for someone getting so hot under the collar about copyright without actually understanding it. Nevertheless, I suppose it has an implicit copyright by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.

A few paragraphs are reproduced here under fair use rights for the purpose of criticism. The copy I got is labelled "final", so I think it's fair to assume this is what they will go to press with: typos, gaping errors and all. According to AdTI, this is part of a “soon-to-be-published book on operating systems and open source.” I hope that AdTI will feel the rest of the book can stand up to rigorous scrutiny and review. On the basis of Samizdat, I really cannot suggest that anyone spend any money to acquire a copy.

There is a fine discussion by Roaring Penguin of AdTI's previous paper. There too, AdTI seems to ask a lot of rhetorical questions without any evidence or logical argument.

On to the paper:

p6:

"Samizdat: The Source of Open Source Code", discusses the controversial production factory of "free" computer source code. While the literal meaning of Samizdat refers to a period of freedom-fighting publishers in early Russia, the term has been borrowed by programmers that engage in the practice of surreptitiously circulating and/or using software source code that belongs to other individuals or companies. Whether it is reverse engineering, employee theft, or Rembrandt-like copying, plagiarism in software programming has become the proud flag of many in the `open source movement'.

I know a pretty good selection of prominent open source programmers, and I don't know of anyone who approves of plagiarism, let alone bears it as a “proud flag”. On the other hand, I find piracy commonly accepted by users of proprietary operating systems, and I would estimate the majority of Windows machines hold unlicenced software. (How many of you are still "evaluating" WinZip?)

Brown does not quote even a single person stating that position, let alone evidence that it is representative of the movement as a whole. He is entitled to make the claim if he can substantiate it, but this is mere assertion.

p9:

Software is a business. But ironically, free software is a business too. The free software model provides users with accompanying source code for modification or development of the original software. The business logic for providing free source code is to enable clients to modify/customize aspects of the accompanying software.

I count 11 instances of "irony", or roughly one every 6 pages. Most are misused, and Brown really means to say "unexpectedly", "improbably", etc. In this case, he seems to be trying to suggest that it is inconsistent to sell free software. Of course there is an explanation for the apparent contradiction ("free as in speech, not beer") but Brown doesn't share it with his audience. One suspects that Brown wants to give the impression that free software companies are hypocritical, but he can't actually say it.

The only ironic thing here is that Brown doesn't seem to know much about the business of free software either. Enabling clients to modify customize the software is one advantage, but not the most important for most users. Other important ones are that customers are not locked to a particular vendor, often can obtain free software at lower cost than proprietary software, can fix their own bugs, have the source as the ultimate reference documentation, will never be orphaned, can learn from examining the source, can check there are no security backdoors, will never be forced to a new licencing plan, and so on.

Linux and many other products are referred to as open source. But in fact they would more properly be referred to as hybrid source, products that attempt to offer the benefit of true open source, but operate in a commercial world like traditional proprietary products. For example Apache is a true open source product. In contrast, the Red Hat Linux operating system is a hybrid product. It is very important to differentiate between the two.

In fact Linux is not just "referred to as open source", it is open source. The term has a formal definition, which Brown has apparently not even read. If the formal definition is not enough, consider that Linux is overwhelmingly the most commonly cited example of open source.

Nevertheless, throughout the paper Brown continues to insist that "Linux is not true open source". It's not only disingenuous, but also makes the remainder of the paper harder to read, since we must always mentally search-and-replace to get the true meaning.

Brown is also deeply confused about the market: Apache operates in a commercial world; is sold, serviced and supported; and competes with proprietary offerings. Just like Linux. As is BSD, for that matter.

True open source is software and source code that can be used for any reason, for any use. If you get it with a license, it only requires attribution, or a copyright notice. You can modify it in any way and sell it as your own, without any additional requirements.

The second type, hybrid source, gets the lion's share of attention. It is software that is also no cost or free, but any modification to it becomes the `equal property' of the original author and any user that is interested in it.

Brown seems to be trying to distinguish BSD/MIT-style licences which allow for code to be "taken proprietary", from reciprocal licences such as the GPL which preserve openness in later distribution. His characterization of both licences is inaccurate in the details.

It's fine that Brown, as a Microsoft apologist, would rather my free software could be reused in closed software without me being paid. I can understand him wanting that. But I don't have to allow it. Brown calling my friends a pack of thieves is hardly persuasive.

pg10:

Although introduced at a much later date, ironically, hybrid source has become the largest pool of free open source software.

Again with the irony, Mr Brown?

I can't even see a way in which the emergence of GPL'd software would be unexpected, let alone ironic. Probably part of it is just chance, but I think it's reasonable to believe that the GPL helps prevents fragmentation and therefore gives a better chance of long-term success than do BSD licences.

The empirical success of open source is integral to the promotion of all science and technology.

How kind of him to say so!

However, it is unquestionable that the hybrid source code model is having a deleterious effect on both true open source, research and development, and the commercial intellectual property economy.

Unquestionable, eh? It is a shame that he doesn't provide some kind of substantiation for the benefit of those so cheeky as to question his statement.

pg11:

Linux and other hybrid source code products 3, commonly referred to as `open source' software, have steadily migrated into the IT departments of both private and public institutions.

Yes, thankyou. Roughly $8,000,000,000 last year, by some estimates.

As usage of the non-proprietary model of selling software and software services grows, like any other new technology, it is important to continually analyze its accompanying opportunities and consequences to best implement and shape relevant public policy.

What a remarkable assertion from a self-described liberal/libertarian thinktank: any new technology needs a public policy, and government intervention. I suppose the idea that free people might decide to release and procure software under the terms they think best is a bit too subversive for Brown. Why, next they will be deciding for themselves what books to read!

Software is source code - and the topic of the `source' of the code is as big as the billion dollar industry itself.

I think there's a lot of truth in the "software is source code", and I hear "if it isn't source, it isn't software" is a rule of thumb in NASA procurement. That seems to imply that Microsoft don't release any software, aside from a little build tool. But they do make good ergonomic keyboards.

An issue that flies beneath the radar is the question: where does the successful Linux product come from?

Brown seems to be setting up for the idea that Linux source code was really stolen from SCO or someone else. Good luck: IBM, SCO and the court system have already spent quite a lot of time and effort establishing that isn't the case. But I'd like to see him try.

The origin of true open source code doesn't really matter, because a) it does not have many significant legal consequences of misuse b) it has almost no use restriction. It is definitely free--commercial products such as Linux are entirely different.

By "true open source", he means BSD-licenced source. I suppose Brown didn't do his homework enough to realize there was a big court case a few years ago about BSD, despite the licence.

We know where traditional commercial proprietary source code comes from. We also know who its original owners are.

Where? Again, mere unfounded assertion contrary to the evidence. Proprietary software customers have no idea where the source came from: what country it was written in; who wrote it; who it was licenced from; what trade secrets or patents it may embody; what security backdoors it may contain.

However, we don't really know what the origin of the bulk of hybrid source code is. We don't know much about this pool of software, other than what we are told. The assumption is, there is no cause to ask---For example, we know that Linux is a free public domain product, given to us by its inventor Linus Torvalds. But not many people ask where did it come from?

This is really getting silly. Before he said the GPL is almost a proprietary licence. Now he says Linux is in the public domain. Which is it? It can't be both.

The difference between "public domain" and "free software" is one of the most basic points in understanding software licencing. Clearly Brown does not.

Is it a dumb question to ask, "what is the origin, the `source' of this pool of source code?"

No, it's not a dumb question. Ask nicely, as Boston Consulting Group did a couple of years ago, and you'll get a detailed and quite fascinating answer. But assume your conclusions, and you make yourself a laughingstock.

Some critics are even unlucky enough to receive widespread excoriation in public forums.

Well, I'm sure such a sterling paper would never deserve that.

Ch2:

Here follows a mediocre summary of the history of Unix. It's more or less correct, though you could get a more accurate and interesting description from Raymond or Salus. Even better, take Nick Moffitt to the Tied House, and hear all about it over beer.

David Bloch an attorney with McDermott, Will & Emery discussing the question hypothetically comments, [27 David Bloch interview with AdTI, April 9, 2004. Bloch was NOT asked about the Lions incident specifically, only legal questions about scenario.]

AdTI has a consistent pattern of asking people for comments on hypothetical scenarios and applying those comments out of context to Linux. It allows him to give the impression that Bloch, or Tanenbaum, or Richie is saying "Linux is X", when they said no such thing.

pg24:

"Sometimes a little theft is necessary".

"There is theft everywhere and the open source community should not be singled out."

"The samizdat exchange was outright theft but it was necessary."

Quotes supposed to be from open source programmers, but not attributed. Did they just make them up?

Perhaps we should attribute thoughts to "Factions within the AdTI" on whether wife-beating is "sometimes OK", "happens all the time", or "is absolutely necessary"?

A lot of context about the Lions book seems to be missing.

pg27:

Brown looks at the unix history diagram by Eric Levenez. Despite a categorical statement by Levenez that the diagram is not a representation of copyrights or patents, Brown proceeds to assume that almost all Unix-like systems “originate from licensed Unix code, a Unix licensee, or a previous Unix licensee”.

Brown could have read in any number of books that Unix has been independently rewritten several times. Clearly he has not done his research or is wilfully ignoring the facts.

pg37:

Follows what is called "an argument from personal incredulity." Brown says, in nearly so many words: "I can't believe anyone can just sit down and write an operating system kernel. So it must not have happened." The same argument works equally well against heavier-than-air flight.

Writing 7000 lines of rough first-cut code for Linux 0.01 in a few months is entirely plausible. Brown doesn't seem to have consulted any programmers before deciding it's impossible.

Brown seems to have the idea that all operating systems are terribly large things. If it was expensive to write Windows 2000, it must have been equally expensive to write Linux 0.01! Therefore, Linus could not possibly have done it himself.

Linus could never have written the whole kernel that we have today by himself. What he could do in those first few months was to get enough of it going to act as a seed crystal for all the other people who wanted a high-quality free unix. Perhaps the first version wasn't very good, but it was a start. Plenty has been written about how good it is for open projects to release early and often, and to do other things to encourage contributions. Linux just did those things well — perhaps better than most people had before.

Contrary to Brown: it is possible to eat an elephant, if you do it in small pieces, and have a lot of hungry friends.

The whole question of whether Linux contained Unix source code is easy to answer: check whether there is any code in common. Brown should be replaced by a small Perl script. SCO tried and failed, but AdTI is welcome to try.

The source for ancient Unix, Minix and Linux is available, so it's easy to check. One might hope that if Brown could produce any evidence he would do so and not rant on about incredulity and irony.

pg43:

A tedious recitation of how slow it is to develop large monolithic software systems such as "Windows NT 5.0", now known as Windows 2000. There's no explanation of how this is meant to be at all relevant to Linux 0.01, which was about 7000 lines. Aside from an enormous difference in scale, W2k was slowed down by maintaining backward binary compatibility, compatibility with a massive range of hardware, testing to a level appropriate for a mature rather than first-cut product, and the overheads of communication and organization between hundreds of developers. Linux 0.01 had none of these costs, and so was developed proportionally faster.

Brown cites sources such as The Mythical Man Month, but if he had truly read and understood them, he would have seen why it is entirely possible for one programmer to write 7,000 lines in six months. Linus was working under perfect conditions: a good programmer, a green-fields project, flexible requirements, a low quality bar, and no management overhead.

pg49:

It is also important to note that if motivated parties with the power of subpoenas, witnesses, interviews, and evidence delved deeper into the development of Unix to Minix to Linux (UML) there are a number of reasons why there could potentially be problems.

Brown seems to have been asleep for the last couple of years, and to have not noticed that motivated parties (Microsoft and SCO) have in fact been trying to find copyright problems in Linux, with negligible success.

But to this day, Linux, a product known virtually around the world, still does not properly credit Minix for its source code, its derivative use or its influence. Arguably, this has cost Prentice Hall considerable book sales from the years 1987 to present. In addition, it also obviously cost Prentice Hall sales between 1987 and 2000. One reason is due to the loss of customers that would have bought the Prentice Hall publication for the Minix code.

I'm not sure what degree of credit is necessary for a program you used 12 years ago that made you feel like writing one of your own. I would guess that it is honest to mention it in books or interviews about the history, which is what Linus does.

As Tanenbaum points out, the purpose of the Minix books and software is to be a teaching tool. The purpose of Linux is to be a practical operating system, and it is perhaps now getting too large to be comfortably used for teaching. They are complementary, not substitutable.

pg49:

Instead of buying the Tanenbaum book for the Minix code, they could get a free copy of Linux.

Hypothetically, at $100 per book, at a loss of just 500 book sales a year, to date, Prentice Hall and Tanenbaum have lost almost $1,000,000 in revenues. This is of course only represents compensatory damages, not punitive. Arguably, Prentice Hall has lost out on tens of millions of dollars.

Let's just check this: $100 × 500 × 12 years is $600,000. That's a big rounding error! Should we really trust people who can't do grade-school arithmetic to give advice on public policy or corporate strategy?

The whole argument rests on the assumption that Linux incorporates Minix code, for which Brown presents not a shred of primary evidence and which has been resoundingly rebutted by the author of Minix.

I note that Prentice Hall currently publishes a number of books about Linux, including Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager, Linux Programming by Example, Samba 3 by Example. Since their offerings cover a broader range than just the design of microkernel operating systems I would venture that Prentice Hall probably sell more Linux books than Brown's estimate of 500 lost Minix sales.

"Arguably" means "it may be argued that". But Brown doesn't actually argue it. Why didn't Brown ask Tanenbaum or Prentice Hall if they felt Linux infringed their copyrights, or if they bad about the idea of lost sales? Apparently either he didn't ask, or he didn't like the answer.

pg59:

Another interesting perspective on the credits files is the limited credit to members from developing countries in the Tuomi chart. 85 This can be explained away by simply suggesting that non-English speaking countries would have been slow to show interest in Linux development. However, by 2000, although it is widely known that China and India are heavy Linux developers, they both receive an insignificant amount of credit in the Linux credits files 86. In fact, India, an English-speaking country, is non-existent, while countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina are recorded with minimal presence. Amusingly, while the Tuomi chart studies Linux credits from 1991 to 2000 from over thirty countries, according to Tuomi's study of the credits files, Finland per million inhabitants, remains the number one source of original Linux code for the ten year project.

It is almost certain that Tuomi, a scientist and rigorous researcher, does not introduce this data to argue that there may be country bias in the credits files. However, Tuomi's point "History has a very selective memory..." could be relevant in this instance as well. After all, the Matthew Effect historically has been very effective in purging the origin of invention from developing countries for many years. We don't have any evidence that it occurred with Linux. However, it is conspicuous that an open source model, touted to uplift developing countries, does not seem to have contributions from the very countries Linux advocates are a rguing they are interested in promoting.

Tuomi, a "rigorous researcher", doesn't see any bias here. But the less rigorous Mr Brown does, or at least tries to imply it.

Mind you, he doesn't actually name even one Indian developer who has been omitted, or say more than "it is widely known that India and China are heavy contributors." I think I'd question that point: I've personally only seen a lot of people from India coming into open source over the last two or three years, which is after this survey concluded. Even then, many of the contributions seem to be in other places than the kernel. (I use the circumlocution because of course there have been ethnic Indian and Chinese people living in other countries and working on free software for a rather longer time.)

Credits in the Linux kernel are maintained by the developers themselves, using patches like this. If anyone feels they have not been credited sufficiently or accurately, they can easily correct the record just by sending a patch or a request for their name to be added. This policy is stated in the file in question, linux-2.6/MAINTAINERS:

PLEASE try to include any credit lines you want added with the patch. It avoids people being missed off by mistake and makes it easier to know who wants adding and who doesn't.

I am not aware of any complaints from developers that Linus is ignoring those requests. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence on the kernel list archives that the credits file is updated when people request it. For example, here is an excerpt of the changes in linux 2.6.5, showing updates to author information:

@@ -1875,6 +1864,13 @@
 S: D53424 Remagen
 S: Germany
 
+N: Colin Leroy
+E: colin@colino.net
+W: http://www.geekounet.org/
+D: PowerMac adt7467 fan driver
+S: Toulouse
+S: France
+
 N: Achim Leubner
 E: achim_leubner@adaptec.com
 D: GDT Disk Array Controller/Storage RAID controller driver

It seems to me the onus is on Brown to prove that there is a conspiracy to not give credit to Indian developers. He does not provide any evidence.

pg62:

Brown says that "reverse engineering" (of what?) is a possible explanation for how Linux developed so quickly.

Anyone who has ever seen how slow and painful reverse engineering can be is welcome to laugh at this point. Given the choice between reverse engineering a program and writing one from scratch, I'd always go from scratch.

Brown also proposes that the reason why we can't find Minix code in Linux is that it was obfuscated. Never mind that the designs are completely different. Brown doesn't actually point to any code in Linux which shows signs of obfuscation.

pg72:

Handwave at outsourcing. Of course.

pg74:

Paradoxically, every dollar of advertising and promotion corporations such as IBM and Oracle contribute to increasing customer interest in ree Platforms' respectively will cost these companies lucrative accounts.

IBM is fortunate to have Microsoft/AdTI be so concerned for IBM's welfare. No doubt IBM and Oracle would have been better off to forgo their billions of dollars in Linux-related revenue.

pg75:

To defend themselves, all open source organizations are slowly becoming more bureaucratic and more closed--more like proprietary software companies.

I'm sure Microsoft/AdTI wishes that were the case, but I don't see it happening. On the contrary, open source processes seem to be getting more efficient all the time: GNOME and Fedora for example now ship on a regular schedule, whereas Microsoft's Longhorn has slipped another couple of years.

If Brown has evidence of open source projects becoming bureaucratic I would be interested to read it, but it seems he does not.

pg77:

A section titled "Achieving Balance". Given that the entire essay to date has been Brown's fervid imaginings without a shred of evidence, it is hard to see why any adjustment is required.

Corporate interests cannot fund truly free software because their interests are tied to the promotion of their business.

Is he saying that corporations are not able to fund free software, or that they must not be allowed? If the first, who is Brown to tell people how to run their business? If the second, on what grounds does he propose to outlaw cooperation between free parties? I see no answer here.

It is in the best interest for the federal government to take the lead on funding a bigger open source project at universities. The commercial open source model is 1) depreciating the value of U.S. proprietary software 2) depreciating the value of U.S. investment in the IT industry 3) diminishing the returns of the IT industry which is in turn send U.S. jobs overseas to make up for losses. 4) funding the devolution of the U.S. intellectual property rights economy.

On the other hand, free software is making some American businesses more efficient, and offering better products to some American consumers. Perhaps we could try to estimate the costs and benefits, or perhaps we could just say that the free market will work it out. But Brown just rather tediously makes the assertion and moves on.

(At this point in the essay Brown seems to switch from "ironic" to "inane" as a favourite word to wave around when he can't think of anything better to say.)

1) The government should support R&D at universities with open source projects that produce research that all parties can use. This includes developers and commercial interests. However, taxpayer dollars cannot support open source projects that are tied to commercial open source models that compete with the private sector.

2) Universities and colleges that receive government grants should not be able use taxpayer dollars to generate source code that is restrictive. Both individuals and business should be able subsequently to develop free software and protect it as its own intellectual property

Here, at last, two consecutives paragraphs(!) that are concrete and not contradictory. He seems to argue that all government projects should produce code that is MIT-licenced. I can see some sense in that, though there are some difficulties.

If consistently applied, it would also prevent universities from working on proprietary code, as they might currently do in joint ventures. I'm not sure if Brown sees that as a positive good or if he just didn't think of it. It might be a reasonable tradeoff. One might equally argue that all work should be GPL'd, so as to guarantee ongoing public access. Or one might argue that, as at present, it should be decided by the university case-by-case.

If AdTI wants to persuade universities to release their work under the MIT licence, they need to make a stronger argument than they have to date.

To be clear, the hybrid open source model encourages conspicuous development and proprietary software models.

I'm not sure exactly what that is meant to mean, but I like the sound of it. "Conspicuous contribution", rather than "conspicuous consumption." Nice.

Finally, U.S. corporations, especially in today's economy, would only benefit by more research and development assistance.

Oh, so AdTI is not so liberal after all. Here we get close to the truth: a plea from Microsoft to the government to make the nasty free-speech subversives go away, and to give Microsoft more public money. How sad. Adapt or die.

pg87:

Here is included a list of many papers by Andrew Tanenbaum. An impressive record, but most of them have little to do with Linux. Who knows what it's doing here? If it's an attempt to rub some of Professor Tanenbaum's credibility of onto AdTI, it seems they failed miserably.

In conclusion, I can do no better than to repeat David Skoll's summary of the previous AdTI fluff:

The entire AdTI study is a commercial funded by Microsoft, whose sole aim is to counter the growing adoption of GPL'd software. The report contains nothing constructive or useful. It is a sham.

New slogan for AdTI

Someone on Groklaw calls the Alexis de Tocqueville Insitution the think tank that didn't. I love it.

AdTI's "Samizdat"

Ken Brown's “book” Samizdat says Linux and Open Source is like samizdat, the self-publishing books of Russia. From a foreword by Cynthia Martin (Associate Professor of Russian, Maryland), who surely bears no blame for the travesty of the book itself:

To understand the appropriateness of the word samizdat in the title of this paper, a brief discussion about the word's meaning and its significance in Soviet history is in order.

Russian culture has always recognized the power of the word, spoken and especially written. In contrast to a democratic tradition predicated upon the notion that protecting free speech is necessary to foster the open exchange of ideas, a monolithic world-view, be it tsarist, monarchy, or Communist totalitarianism, cannot tolerate the potential for alternative positions or systems of government gaining broad support. The written word, as the bearer of such alternative ideas, is viewed as quite powerful, and hence, it is not surprising that official control over all forms of publication has been exercised throughout Russian history, especially during the Soviet period.

State-sponsored censorship developed during the pre-1917 tsarist period, and subsequently found its full elaboration in the Soviet Union. Samizdat was a response to the attempt by the Russian government to control access to all publications and publication outlets. Samizdat referred to the practice of "self-publishing" by dissident thinkers in a variety of areas, including political thinkers, academics and scholars, scientists, and literary and artistic figures in the Soviet Union. [...]

The punishment for producing samizdat or even possessing such self-published literature could be harsh, resulting in prison sentences or worse. To prevent unauthorized publishing, state control of the printing apparatus was so meticulous, that over long holiday weekends, for example, publishing offices containing typewriters and other forms of copying technologies were literally locked and their doors were sealed. The particular keystrokes of all typewriters were registered with the authorities so that illegally typed works might be traced to those responsible.

One of the most famous cases of a dissident writer whose works, political and literary, were published via samizdat is the case of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His personal fate is evidence of how much Soviet Russia feared the bearer of alternative ideas, and how total the attempt was to control the dissemination of texts that offered alternative views. Solzhenitsyn came to be seen as more of a threat inside Russia, where he could still spread his anti-Soviet views, than outside, and therefore he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and expelled from Russia in February 1974.

What a noble enterprise! The goals of samizdat publishers are those which I think many open source contributors would admire: speaking truth, sharing information and ideas, and doing it using their own tools even when it inconveniences or annoys the regime.

Brown slanders the open source and Unix community in the body of the book. But at least in the choice of his title, he is far too kind. The comparison to samizdat publishers is inspiring and flattering, but eventually an exageration: few of us run the risk of the gulag to publish our code, and though the cause of free software is worthy it is not so grand as the liberation of a country from totalitarianism. I do my bit, but I am no Solzhenitsyn.

The rest of the book is truly awful. Were it a university paper, every page would have red ink... at least until halfway through, when I think any marker would give up and just write FAIL.

If there is one worthwhile thing that AdTI ever said, it is this: even our enemies see Linux as being like dissidents under communism.

Register on AdTI

John Lettice at the Reg has a good report on AdTI, and some links.

"Now he's making a big joke, saying it was Santa and the Tooth Fairy," said Brown, "but I want all of your readers to ask themselves, in the history of computing, has anyone else ever written an operating system who never was a licensee, didn't have operating system experience, and didn't have the source code? How did he develop so much code in just six months? Everyone else has taken years to develop operating systems.... Linus perpetuated the lie [that he is the inventor of the Linux kernel], and I have a problem with this smarmy attitude."

You could point out that what Linus developed in the first six months was actually.... but really, why spoil it?

It would appear therefore that Brown went into the interview with Tanenbaum with the view that Torvalds must have stolen Linux and couldn't possibly have written it, that Tanenbaum went to great pains to disabuse him of this entirely unfounded notion, and that Brown emerged sufficiently unsullied by knowledge to just carry on and write his "path-breaking study".

Justin Orndorff and AdTI

In the context of the recent AdTI shambles, it is interesting to note recent posts by someone writing as "Justin Orndorff" <raison__d_etre@hotmail.com>, who says he works for the Alex de Tocqueville Institution:

samba mailing list, May 18

Greetings,

I'm currently doing research into corporate contributions towards open source projects, such as Linux. One of the recent Credits Files lists Mr. Anton Blanchard as a contributor. Is Mr. Blanchard still an employee with the company?

Also, does the company have any policies regarding open source contributions by employees? If so, are there any differences between on and off the clock contributions?

Minix list, 28 April

I'm a noob. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction towards downloadable earlier version of Minix. Anyone?

(Why would a "noob" want to download anything but the most recent/usable version?)

linux-kernel mailing list, 12 April

Hello, my name is Justin and I'm doing some research into the specifics of Linux. Out of curiosity, who owns the Linux kernel?

Is it owned by Linus Torvalds, its contributors or the public?

Dev Hardware forums

Hello board,

I'm currently conducting some research into the history and background of operating systems. Any comments on the following questions would be welcome.

1. Describe the components of an operating system, besides the central component, the kernel.
2. What do programmers usually develop first, the compiler or the kernel?
3. Does this sequence impact the OS at all?
4. What's more complicated, the kernel or the compiler?
5. Why does operating system development take as long as it does? What are the three key things in all operating system development that take the longest to perfect?
6. Do you need operating systems familiarity to write a kernel? Yes / no? Elaborate please.
7. In your opinion, why aren't there more operating systems on the market?

It does sound a bit like he wants someone else to do his undergraduate homework, but I think that is not quite the case.

Same questions on "WebMasterWorld" and OSDev.org. (Would you think webmasterworld would be a good forum to try to find the history of Linux?)

Further information on Usenet.

Anyone considering talking to Justin or AdTI might want to read about Prof Tanenbaum's experience first.

Tanenbaum on AdTI

Andrew Tanenbaum responds to silly accusations by Ken Brown, President of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, that Linus didn't write Linux:

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

He was extremely evasive about why he was there and who was funding him. He just kept saying he was just writing a book about the history of UNIX. I asked him what he thought of Peter Salus' book, A Quarter Century of UNIX. He'd never heard of it! I mean, if you are writing a book on the history of UNIX and flying 3000 miles to interview some guy about the subject, wouldn't it make sense to at least go to amazon.com and type "history unix" in the search box, in which case Salus' book is the first hit? For $28 (and free shipping if you play your cards right) you could learn an awful lot about the material and not get any jet lag. As I soon learned, Brown is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I was already suspicious. As a long-time author, I know it makes sense to at least be aware of what the competition is. He didn't bother.

Strongly recommended if you want to get an idea of the calibre of the “researchers” at AdTI.

(link from LWN)

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