Watch Out for That Meteor, Stallman.

Watch Out for That Meteor, Stallman.

Summary: Richard M. Stallman (RMS) the founder of the Free Software Foundation, has labeled prominent Open Source software developer Miguel De Icaza a "Traitor" for  joining the Board of Directors of Microsoft's CodePlex Foundation as well as for his creation of the Microsoft .


Richard M. Stallman (RMS) the founder of the Free Software Foundation, has labeled prominent Open Source software developer Miguel De Icaza a "Traitor" for  joining the Board of Directors of Microsoft's CodePlex Foundation as well as for his creation of the Microsoft .NET-compatible Mono software development framework. While RMS's hatred of all things proprietary has fueled the FSF's and GNU's mission to create Free software alternatives for what seems like eons, the overwhelming desire for interoperability between open and proprietary systems makes this narrow-minded Cretaceous world view ripe for extinction. (Artwork by Spidermonkey)

As I have said in previous columns, I live as a citizen of two distinct worlds with diametrically opposing software development ideologies -- the world of Microsoft, Windows and 3rd-party vendor developed proprietary software and systems, and that of Open Source and Free Software.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

I suspect that this is the case for the majority of enterprises and end-users, in the world where folks just want stuff to work. While I have no doubt that many people and a number of large organizations do and can exist on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) alone, the reality is that a lot of enterprises and people are like me have to and want to use both.

Their world, like mine, is heterogeneous and in order to live that way, they require interoperability between Open and proprietary systems. We have evolved as hybrids, able to adapt to demanding business needs by applying the best of breed and right tools for the job, regardless of their ideological origins.

But some people, particularly our Free Software leaders, are so mired in their hatred of Microsoft and proprietary systems that they will use only Free and Open Source software for the sake of ideological reasons alone.

One of those people is Richard Stallman, who for the past 30 years, has been campaigning with his Free Software Foundation to promote "Software Freedom". I'm not going to get into the long and drawn out history of his movement and not-for-profit organization, which started many of the projects which we now take for granted as part of the GNU Software Stack that forms the basis of Linux distributions and many other Open (and not so open) systems, including flavors of the UNIX operating system, such as OpenSolaris and BSD that it was originally designed to replace.

Suffice it to say that Stallman is a booming voice in the Free Software community, and when he makes statements, many people listen but we don't always agree with him. Like a highly revered modern techno-ascetic monk, we knew we all couldn't live and operate like Stallman, but we respected him for it because of his tremendous contributions to our community for his thought leadership and software he has written.

So when he insists that the Linux operating system be referred to "GNU/Linux" because Linux is the missing kernel to the entire GNU Operating System as it were, we all laugh a little chuckle and forgive him for his indulgences in beating dead horses.

This week, Richard Stallman finally made the transition from Free Software sage and occasional chucklehead to full blown arrogant ungrateful lout. I'll quote blogger, Ubuntu developer and Ubuntu evangelist Martin Owens, who was there in person at the recent Software Freedom Day in Boston to ask Stallman a few questions after his speech at the event:

Miguel de Icaza “is basically a traitor to the Free Software community” This was in response to my question about the new Microsoft “Open Source” labs. He went on to say that Miguel’s involvement in the project doesn’t give much confidence as he is a Microsoft apologist. The project looks to be concerned with permitting “Open Source” programs to work on the Windows platform and thus divert valuable developer time away from free platforms such as Gnu/Linux. He also went into an interesting story about Miguel and the FSF (as Miguel used to sit on the FSF board), but I’m hoping there is a good transcript of the event thing somewhere online.

Mono framework is not so much of a problem, but C# shouldn’t be used in core apps as legal problems would be hard to work around. Recommends uninstalling any apps using C#.

Now for those of you not familiar with the accused, who did Stallracasaurus Rex call a Traitor? Miguel De Icaza is the co-founder of the GNOME project, which is the collection of software that comprises the most prominent GUI for Linux and open UNIX operating systems.

GNOME is the default user interface of Ubuntu and several other prominent Linux distributions including Red Hat and Fedora and its GTK+ development libraries make a very large quantity of modern graphical Open Source software that runs on Linux and UNIX and even Windows possible. Without GNOME and GTK+ there would be no Ubuntu, no GIMP, no Pidgin, no Evolution, no Google Chrome for Linux, no Wireshark, just to name a few.

[EDIT: GTK+, which was designed by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis at UC Berkeley, precedes Miguel's work on GNOME, but De Icaza  became a major contributor on the development libraries in order to build the GUI system.]

Richard Stallman calling Miguel de Icaza a traitor is like the FOSS community equivalent of sending Leon Trotsky into exile during the Russian Revolution. Trotsky called himself a "non-factional social democrat".

It should be noted that this "Traitor" once received the highest honor of Stallman's organization, the Award for the Advancement of Free Software in 1999 for his work on GNOME. Does he have to give it back now?

Miguel's "treason" is having recently joined the Board of Directors of the newly formed CodePlex Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created by Microsoft to promote Open Source collaboration. His high crimes also include creating Mono and the Open Source implementation of the C# programming language, which Stallman and many of his fellow FSF Bolsheviks want to publicly execute him for. STRING THE TRAITOROUS BASTARD UP!

Like Leon Trotsky and due to his desire to live in both worlds, Miguel has by virtue of his recent activity designated himself "non-factional" as well and fully understands that greater interoperability between both the Open Source and Windows worlds is of paramount importance.

Why all this fuss over creating a .NET compatibility layer for Linux and Open systems? And why this displaced anger over Miguel joining CodePlex, a not-for-profit Open Source organization? Because Stallman believes that "Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents" and recommends that developers avoid taking what he describes as the "gratuitous risks" associated with "depend[ing] on the free C# implementations". The fury over De Icaza joining CodePlex is simply an side effect of watching the FSF's prodigal son abandon a failed ideology and becoming a software pragmatist that embraces Open Source and not Free Software.

Stallman and the FSF have gone even further to suggest that Ubuntu and other distributions remove all Mono-poisoned software from their Open Source OSes in the future, for fear of being jeopardized by this evil threat. Fortunately, Ubuntu has taken the practical and sane approach and has told him to go stuff it. Red Hat and Fedora, not so much.

All of this tin-foil-hattering by Stallman and his devout FSF followers is pure speculation and paranoia, particularly given the Microsoft Community Promise that the company has now effectively written in the Google Cache equivalent of blood. Microsoft has committed to this on pain of permanent pariah status, risking loss of customers that require cross-platform interoperability if it decides to use litigation to attack developers of Open Source interoperability software which uses their patented standards and protocols.

Could Microsoft suddenly change its mind and revert to some purist evil, litigious Open Source-hating form instead of the Kinder and Gentler Microsoft that it is trying to create now? Sure, it could. But I seriously doubt it. The genie is out of the bottle.

If we're going to string up Miguel de Icaza for developing Mono, a GPLed software environment, then we probably should start executing everyone else who is evolving beyond the Cretaceous period, like Jeremy Allison and the entire SAMBA group, which is working closely with Microsoft to improve SMB networking on Open Systems.

Or rip out every instance of OpenJDK, and MySQL from every Linux distribution that uses it because God forbid, Larry Ellison, the great Satan of Silicon Valley and devourer of Sun, could start suing everyone for Java and MySQL patent infringements someday.

Better yet, let's hang the entire Linux kernel development team, starting with Linus himself, for allowing Microsoft's GPLed code for the Linux Integration Components to be included as part of the upstream kernel source tree. Besides, the "GNU Operating System" can just replace Linux with that wonderful mature OS kernel, the Hurd, instead. Not!

Stallman and the FSF, like his Cretaceous ancestors 65 million years ago, isn't evolved enough to see that his reign is about to come to an end. The Open world needs interoperability, not shut itself off from other standards just because they originate from proprietary sources.

Is Stallman and the FSF's and the "Free Software at all costs" 30-year reign about to be hit by the interoperability meteor?  Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Disclaimer: The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Linux, CXO, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development, IT Employment


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Show me the innovation Stallman

    While Microsoft pushes forward software technology and produces modern software, open source continues to copy the trailing edge of the innovators. Want an Office97 copy? Want a media player that works on all platforms but just not as well as Windows Media Player, want a graphics program even harder to use than Photoshop? Want an OS that can just about keep up with the 1990s (as long as you don't want games and like to spend hours on fanboi forums)? It's all there for the taking.

    Passionate programmers are not the same as professionals and I've lost count of the time I've wasted on OSS projects, where the documentation is written by (shudder) programmers and each new version breaks the last one.

    Yes, there are a few useful bits out there and even Linux can be used for embedded applications and simple web servers, but do I really want to give up the benefits of modern proprietary software because of one man's delusions?

    Perhaps someone could tell me of the killer apps that OSS or FOSS have delivered that weren't a lame copy of proprietary software. That doesn't make them useless and it provides a great safety net for those unable to pay for modern software, but let's not pretend that they are state of the art. Like it or not, technology and software research requires money and only the proprietary companies (even those "supporting" OSS) appear to have it.

    • The killer app of FOSS, Richard M. Stalinman

      would IMO be Apache. And Linux. While web
      servers had come before Apache, it hit just the
      right spot at the right time. It is not a
      beautiful design, indeed most modules resemble
      something clamped together in someone back
      yard. But it *is* kind of modular and it *has*
      served its purpose for a long time now.

      Unfortunately both have now been infested with
      PHP - the ultimate train wreck of programming
      languages - in the LAMP platform.

      Also, Apache did really well in the Internet
      young years because it was cheap (!) and served
      static pages really well.

      The rest of your comments are spot on. Too much
      ideology and too little innovation and
      practically no grand visions.

      What irks me is the fact that the likes of
      Richard M. Stalinman would like to turn the
      entire software industry into an ideological
      experiment. All software should be free and RMS
      is all prepared to force people into complying
      and now even <i>excommunicate</i> those who

      Under the communism one of the worst problems
      (besides lack of freedom) was the fact that the
      system consistently failed to produce what the
      population needed. Sure, they produced basic
      food (most of the time), but people had no
      choice in jeans, sunglasses, shoes.

      RMSs software world will be like that: Some
      software - the more specialized types - will
      never get produced because even if some were
      willing to pay for it - nobody will produce it
      because it will be immediately poached by
      someone else and sold at the cost of
      reproduction (i.e. zero).

      Time to shun the rabid ideologists. They hurt
      open source by polarizing. RMSs is an
      extremist, and to him a pragmatic like Miguel
      d'Icaza is *worse* than the enemy. Because
      pragmatics threaten his power base.

      RMS is the Stalin of open source. He will
      become its downfall.
      • Amen to your comments!

        Have to agree to both comments made here...
        • Codeplex.. another case of MS being late to the game

          >> While Microsoft pushes forward software technology and produces modern software

          Microsoft buys companies. And from reports, they don't know how to treat talent very well. Bungie Studio (Halo's creator) is one of the more popular examples, iirc. They've also lost lots of people to Google and to others lately.

          They can buy many companies because of their power, money, and dirty or aggressive tactics.

          Google uses Linux and other FOSS, btw. It's very common to find that the new crop of top players rely on FOSS extensively. Look at the major FOSS companies that have been bought out for hundreds of millions or more by the proprietary companies trying to keep pace. [MySQL AB got bought out for 1 billion.]

          >> Yes, there are a few useful bits out there and even Linux can be used for embedded applications and simple web servers, but do I really want to give up the benefits of modern proprietary software because of one man's delusions?

          Are you aware of all the proprietary applications that have fallen by the wayside while FOSS have surpassed them?

          It's amazing that with so much money (eg, for marketing), so many existing partnerships, huge mindshare, and such a head start, some popular proprietary software has failed in so many high performance scenarios, in stability scenarios, and in security scenarios.

          The number of people joining FOSS has been small for most of its history but keeps growing. More people are now releasing their innovative research as FOSS.

          You can't beat the FOSS model for ferreting out bugs at a fast pace.

          You can't beat FOSS on price.

          >> Perhaps someone could tell me of the killer apps that OSS

          The top FOSS killer app is the source code, in other words, the FOSS licenses.

          Or maybe it's the $0 price tag.

          >> RMSs software world will be like that: Some software - the more specialized types - will never get produced because even if some were willing to pay for it - nobody will produce it because it will be immediately poached by someone else and sold at the cost of reproduction (i.e. zero).

          That's what vendors loving lock-in have been saying about GPL software for ages. They will continue to be proved wrong. Developers continue to vote for the GPL for a number of reasons. Remember that in the FOSS model, development costs are shared and development, testing, etc, is done significantly by users.

          Most people are very practical short-term and accept some degree of closed source even when they prefer open source.

          For in-house code, you can just keep that secret without violating the GPL.

          Microsoft even wrote a license modeled after the GPL.
          • Spread much FUD lately?

            [b]Are you aware of all the proprietary applications that have fallen by the wayside while FOSS have surpassed them?[/b]

            Has it really now?

            Windows in all it's various incarnations still rules the roost.

            MS Office is still quite popular in ALL sectors.

            In fact, about the only app Microsoft may be having difficulty with is Internet Explorer. Firefox is doing quite well. But even then, IE is still relevant. It's still in use. It's far from being "gone by the wayside"...

            Thunderbird, Mozilla's email app hasn't killed Outlook/Exchange by a long shot.

            So name one proprietary app that's gone in favor of FOSS... Just ONE.
          • Microsoft == lock-in - thats the largest reason for

            continued used of Windows in such large numbers
          • Every provider has lock ins.

            Even Switching Linux Distro's can cost a hell of alot of money including changing support contracts, so thats a very poor argument.
          • The lock-in myth again?

            People like windows. That's the largest reason for continued use of windows in such large numbers.
          • It's not a myth

            And quit saying people "like" Windoze. They use it because it's the tool they [b]have to use[/b] at work. Why is this? Because they don't know of any alternatives, [b]and[/b] because their employers are locked-in by expensive service contracts that last for years.
            Wintel BSOD
          • @not_nice

            Do you really think they don't know alternatives? common they don't live in a bubble!
          • @keoz, they don't know

            [i]Do you really think they don't know alternatives? common they don't live in a bubble![/i]

            Ask the average Joe Schmoe whether he or she has ever heard of Linux before. Most people have the [i]"what's that"[/i] look on their face.

            When you have 90% of the desktop market and that's all you see, then yes, they are living in a huge bubble.
            Wintel BSOD
          • Right. Microsoft = Monopoly = No Choice = Familiarity = Love Windows!

            Whilst Microsoft remains an almost total monopoly users have little choice but to be locked in, Linux just isn't an option for many (especially non technical users).

            Eventually, when Microsoft's monopoly breaks then it will be a whole new game, but until then M$'s products will remain dominant. It's stupid to argue otherwise.

            Stallman may be a bolshy left-leaning dinosaur but also consider that Microsoft's hardball commercialism puts it about equally far on the right. Both of these extremely polarized positions will continue until Microsoft's monopoly is finally broken. When that eventually happens both will move towards the center and it will be very exciting times--that's when we'll have real competition.

            ...But I wonder if most of us will live long enough to see it happen?

          • @Irritated so start marketing Linux and stop complaining nt

          • Apple anyone?

            Go ahead and talk smack about lock-in (which is EVERY company's ideal way of making steady recurring-revenue money) but don't forget to include Apple's proprietary hardware/software monopoly, or Google's hammerlock on the world's data mining unless you just want to look like an uneducated moron.
          • Outlook vs Thunderbird

            > Thunderbird, Mozilla's email app hasn't killed Outlook/Exchange by a long shot.

            Unless of course you just look at bug count, particularly in the security arena. Anybody using Outlook is in denial and asking for trouble.

            It's the same reason Firefox is popular. If you use the Noscripts plugin you're pretty safe.
          • Marketing software

            I think you don't understand the software business, it dosn't matter who makes the better application, but what matters is who markets it better.

            Given all the resources that Microsoft has they only create average products. Microsoft is good at what they do best and that is marketing. This is what drove the popularity of their products and why its so indispensable in businesses today.

            Many people are obviously blind sited and afraid/uncomfortable about change. There is no reason to conclude that some proprietary application is better than OSS or vice versa, its all just software and up to the users to decide what works best for them.
          • Or maybe it's the $0 price tag.

            Really? and when companies have to pay millions for very very specific people for support
      • I'll throw in

        Secure Shell, which happens to have proprietary incarnations I believe.
        • Secure Shell was not originally Open source..

          It was freeware, then it was proprietary, then it was adapted to Open Source.

          For all intents and purposes, the "Open" came long after the innovation here.
      • Stalin Didn't kill Communism

        Communism killed communism. Gorbachev was just the first person to admit that Communism was dead.

        Unfortunately, Linus just admitted to the world that Linux is scary and bloated, so now we have Communism 2.0 that is falling apart.

        Miguel is actually a genius who is trying to make the Microsoft platform work for more than just Microsoft.

        I think Opensource as opened the eyes to a lot of people and Apache has been a great tool. is out there and pushing the envelope on ideas, but still lacking compared to MS.

        While PHP makes loads of room for kludge programming, frameworks like Zend bring order to chaos.

        So while Stallman is an idiot, he always has been, and probably always will be, some good will come of Open Source.