Anger as OSS developer drops Red Hat

A member of the open source community transfers his allegiance from Red Hat to Ubuntu; issues a bunch of allegations.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

A key figure in the open source community has transferred his allegiance from Red Hat to Ubuntu this week, sparking a storm of anger.

Using a popular Linux mailing list, Eric Raymond rubbished Red Hat's free distribution, Fedora, and issued a series of allegations.

"After 13 years as a loyal Red Hat and Fedora user, I reached my limit today," wrote Raymond. "Over the last five years, I've watched Red Hat/Fedora throw away what was at one time a near-unassailable lead in technical prowess, market share and community prestige. The blunders have been legion on both technical and political levels."

Raymond wrote the seminal paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar  in 1999, which compared various ways of developing free software.

In his e-mail, Redmond detailed six main objections to Fedora, including "chronic governance problems", problems with maintaining repositories, "effectively abandoning the struggle for desktop market share" and "failure to address the problem of proprietary multimedia formats". He signed off, "Fedora — you had every advantage, and you had my loyalty, and you blew it. And that is a damn, dirty shame."

Raymond will now start working on Ubuntu. Last year, he joined the board of Freespire--part of Linspire, which announced earlier this month that it is basing itself on Ubuntu rather than the Debian distribution.

Several Red Hat developers, including Linux kernel maintainer Alan Cox, were angered by Raymond's move. Replying to Raymond's message, Cox wrote: "Eric, I think you lost the plot. Actually, I don't think you ever got the plot in the first place."

Raymond has vehemently argued that Linux should stray from its roots as truly free software, saying it has become "disconnected" from the "technical and evangelical challenges" that it needs to overcome in order to gain widespread adoption.

This argument has not found favor with other Linux developers, including Cox and Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation. In his reply, Cox wrote: "The moment Fedora includes non-free stuff it becomes a problem for all the people who redistribute and respin it, and it becomes unfair in the proprietary world in the eyes of everyone who didn't get included."

Raymond is renowned for his outspoken views. He emerged from a period of producing literature for hackers in 1997, when he joined the open-source movement. He now has a keen interest in firearms and witchcraft.

Correction: This article incorrectly stated the Eric Raymond was a Red Hat developer. He is not, but Raymond is a key figure in the open source community.


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