Eric Raymond's boot to Red Hat's head

Many years ago, I was on the receiving end of Mr. Raymond's annoyance.

Many years ago, I was on the receiving end of Mr. Raymond's annoyance. Suffice to say, he is as brutally direct as a sledgehammer to the chest. That appears still to be the case, at least if his very public rejection of Red Hat is any indication. He sent his letter to a number of popular Linux publications, which is a bit like posting a "Dear John" letter on a billboard along the 405 in Los Angeles.

After thirteen years as a loyal Red Hat and Fedora user, I reached my limit today, when an attempt to upgrade one (1) package pitched me into a four-hour marathon of dependency chasing, at the end of which an attempt to get around a trivial file conflict rendered my system unusable.

That, however, was merely the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Mr. Raymond has made a series of public statements opposing the efforts of Richard Stallman to boost ideological purity through proposed updates to the GPL or narrow licensing interpretations which would prevent the use of proprietary drivers within Linux. He echoed those concerns in his open letter to Red Hat:

If I thought the state of Fedora were actually improving, I might hang in there. But it isn't. I've been on the fedora-devel list for years, and the trend is clear. The culture of the project's core group has become steadily more unhealthy, more inward-looking, more insistent on narrow "free software" ideological purity, and more disconnected from the technical and evangelical challenges that must be met to make Linux a world-changing success that liberates a majority of computer users.

I have watched Ubuntu rise to these challenges as Fedora fell away from them. Canonical's recent deal with Linspire, which will give Linux users legal access to WMF and other key proprietary codecs, is precisely the sort of thing Red-Hat/Fedora could and should have taken the lead in. Not having done so bespeaks a failure of vision which I now believe will condemn Fedora to a shrinking niche in the future.

This is the same Eric Raymond who said not too long ago that there is a shrinking window of opportunity for open source software to make a dent in the desktop world. Once the shift to 64 bit operating systems have been made, whatever operating system accounts for the majority share of the market at that point is liable to remain dominant for the forseeable future. Mr. Raymond clearly considers the ability to interoperate cleanly with the proprietary world essential to open source software's ability to make a credible dent in client market share.

I agree, but I work for Microsoft and can all but guarantee Eric Raymond wouldn't appreciate my agreement. But even so, I still agree. Consumers want their stuff to work. Religious reasons explaining why they can't work don't really cut it with normal computer users.