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The Symmetry of My UnAmerican McCarthyist Cancer (the GPL) (ebb.org)
80 points by mariuz on Dec 15, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

Reading the original comment made on Slashdot by Mark, I find the following part noticeable:

>If your way of seeing the world IS genuinely more productive, effective, efficient, insightful and usable, then you should be confident that you will win in the long term, and folk who dabble in a different way of working will come to realize that you're right eventually

A lot of people seems to strongly believe in this, and I find it a very naive way of thinking. The world is a very interconnected, and the FLOSS world is no exception to this. By accepting non-free drivers, more people will be affected by the damage and dangers of non-free drivers.

Drivers are run at a permission level higher than any application. With the exception of BIOS code, hardware drivers can perform any stealth action and be verifiable undetectable. Thus, criticize non-free drivers, is not about testing which method is more productive, effective, efficient, insightful and usable. Its about requiring that the user gets the key to the computer. If we want security in ring 3, ring 1-2 can't be code covered in secrecy. If we accept it, then all security must be assumed to have the hardware driver developer at the top of the trust chain.

Non-free drivers are not primarily an issue about licences.

People will probably come around to this when their trust is violated but maybe not before...

We already have firmware blobs that do this, ie, printer firmware that add micro dots, and refuses to print images matching a fingerprint database.

There also been drivers thats been sold/offered by the hardware manufacture, but that was pre-infected. Razer was one company who had this problem, ( http://countermeasures.trendmicro.eu/razer-downloads-distrib...), and there have been usb-memory sticks with this problem. This is not something intended by the manufacture, but it shows why the trust put in them is not well placed.

[...] Fortunately, I am pretty sure verbatim copying something into your own brain isn't copyright infringement (yet).

I found that footnote enlightening. Passed as a quip, but actually profound. Wow.

This kind of reasoning is in fact why I oppose most copyright law.

Copying something into your brain is always legal. It's ok to hear a joke and tell it to your friend. But technology is basically augmenting our mental capabilities. A smartphone with a camera is a device that lets you remember images better than your brain can - if our brains could already do it, we wouldn't need the smartphone.

It happens that the smartphone is external to your brain, but over time, we might add that functionality to your glasses (which is closer), then maybe to your eye sockets or cornea, or eventually integrate it directly with your brain.

At which point, laws preventing you from copying things are basically laws that force you to limit the capabilities of human beings.

Current copyright law is based on human limitations - humans are bad at remembering verbatim entire books, so we have copyright laws for that. We don't have copyright laws for short jokes because we can remember those. But that framework of law stands in opposition to actually improving human capabilities. That's fundamentally wrong.

We already have these restrictions on us now; that joke in my post was in part to point this out. I know most of the Dead Kennedys songs verbatim. If I perform them publicly, it's copyright infringement already. If I write them down from my own memory, it's copyright infringement too.

Just getting rid of copyright law is dangerous, though. It'd be unilateral disarmament, because there are plenty of other mechanisms, like EULAs, that can be used to control what was previously copyrighted. We'd need massive reform of all the legal systems at once, lest we eviscerate the only tools we have (i.e., copyleft) while leaving all the opponents' tools in place.

I believe the protocol documentations made by Microsoft were not done out of the goodness of Microsoft's heart, but rather were the result of government action in the US and European Union in the last decade.

(BTW: I'm the author of the topic blog post)

I've not seen it from the inside like the Samba developers have, but I do work closely with them. Based on that experience, I think the relationship between Samba and Microsoft is complicated. It's true that the EU case forced Microsoft to release certain documentation. I doubt they'd have done it without that.

But, Microsoft did take somewhat of a "if we can't beat them, join them" approach to the situation, which I think was useful. I certainly still have a strong bias against Microsoft due to their past actions, but I don't think they've been completely begruging on this issue in their collaboration with Samba.

It's about their self-interest, though: Microsoft now needs Samba more than Samba needs them. They're still acting in service of their profits, but now their profit-motive is more aligned with helping Samba than it once was.

> It's true that the EU case forced Microsoft to release certain documentation. I doubt they'd have done it without that.

I was peripherally involved in that (my employer was part of the lawsuit) and Microsoft releasing the specs for RDP. It was somewhat encumbered which would have been hugely problematic for free software projects, but not for commercial entities (who I worked for).

I'd reverse engineered RDP, but that is way more time consuming than starting with specs. That work was put into escrow along with my papers, hexdump printouts with marker highlighting and scribbles etc.

Only one engineer was given access to the RDP spec which was kept in his locked office. Even the component including RDP was built by him in his office on computers in his office which were not networked.

I don't know if what we did was because our lawyer was too paranoid, or not paranoid enough!

Not strictly how it is. Here's what I saw: They were preparing the specifications before the government action. I worked for an organisation which was working with them at the time and they were pushing drafts of their documentation to us - the same ones you see on the Open Specification Promise.

To be honest, the government action halted this process because they had to get a shit load of legal people involved.

I think Microsoft has two camps inside. Those who really are technology focused and the marketing and management team. The latter are the ones doing all the damage. The technology people I genuinely feel sorry for.

Well, I think they first tried charging royalties before finally disclosing the docs and a patent list to Samba on royalty-free conditions. See this: http://www.samba.org/samba/PFIF/PFIF_history.html http://www.samba.org/samba/PFIF/PFIF_agreement.html

They did for some things. There are several factions inside Microsoft, some more respectable than others [1]. We managed to get MSRPC/DCOM documentation out of them no problems at all. TBH there was very little internal documentation on it apparently, most of it being inside 4-5 peoples' heads.

[1] Small note to IE team: fuck you. I opened a genuine defect with steps to reproduce on Connect 19 months ago which was a regression between IE8 and IE9 and it was canned earlier today with the old bug vs feature thing. This is after 6 months of arguing with PAID UP GOLD PARTNER support over the issue as well which fucked up any IE upgrade plans for our clients for 6 months.

To be honest, MSRPC and DCOM was based on DCE RPC and MS donated DCOM to the Open Group. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeDCE

The Open Group's DCOM implementation wasn't open source. Also, MSRPC/DCOM is just an RPC layer, the real value/lock-in was in the protocols built on top of them, such as Active Directory.

dcerpc.org has a maintained version of the OSF DCE RPC runtime (this bounced around from the FreeDCE project, to PADL, then Novell, Likewise and now Apple).

"I think Microsoft has two camps inside. Those who really are technology focused and the marketing and management team. The latter are the ones doing all the damage. The technology people I genuinely feel sorry for."

Reminds me of this: http://www.os2museum.com/wp/?p=1329&cpage=1#comment-1171...

The referenced PX00307 refers to this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3441885

It's not an inevitable law of human society that if a group is unfairly attacked by some party cannot then go on to unfairly attack someone else. While it's easy to think of victimhood and especially one's own victimhood as an attribute, it's really a transitive relationship.

Not to say which of the FSF or Cannonical is right in this dispute, I'm not sure myself, but this article made a seriously problematic argument.

(I'm the author of the article)

I don't think of myself as a victim here. Indeed, Microsoft's attacks back in 2001 drove me to work hard and learn how to run a non-profit in a time when it's constantly under political attack. This has served me very well, and I use it today when my current org (Software Freedom Conservancy) is attacked for its GPL enforcement work constantly.

Canonical, Ltd.'s attacks are more of the same. My blog post is about how Canonical really is just coming after the same group of people that Microsoft once was. I don't feel I'm a victim of either entity or any of the individuals involved. By contrast, they are my political rivals bent in doggedly pursuing their political agenda while I pursue mine. That's an overly Hegelian analysis of the situation, but hopefully that gives a flavor of what I'm thinking about in juxtaposing the two events politically.

May I suggest that there's a big difference between being called the Devil, and being called a witch hunter after you accuse someone else of being the Devil? I presume that when Microsoft called the FSF a cancer you didn't just sit there but made counter-claims about why Microsoft was saying that, right?

I do think that Canonical was in the wrong on this particular issue, but there's a big difference between someone who is a serious enemy of your organization, and someone who is just hurt due to the mean (if more or less justified) things you said about them and is lashing out based on that.

I don't think that post makes the argument you're objecting to. The author was just noting that advocacy for the GPL's version of "software freedom" has been attacked in the past by Microsoft and in the present by Canonical using oddly symmetrical language.

Not only is Shuttleworth's reference to McCarthyism extremely distasteful (and something he should be apologizing for), the bitter irony is that he's doing exactly what he accuses the free software fundamentalists of, to quote the man himself: "ranting and being a dick".

Throwing a near-Godwin into the debate is not exactly being mature an constructive.

Especially since he should be fully aware that it may be in the short term interest of FLOSS to be pragmatic, we need voices like RMS and the FSF to remain alert for the long term consequences, and dismissing such a voice as dangerous political extremists hurts everyone.

To be perfectly honest none of the parties come out of this with any dignity. I love using F/LOSS. I love the learning that comes with it. I contribute where I can, mainly financially and with help. But...

The F/LOSS community's attitude in general stinks and this whole sorry affair highlights why I believe many are put off by F/LOSS. Its proponents are generally condescending, arrogant, self righteous, sanctimonious, rude, judgemental and overly hostile. There are a few diamonds in the rough, anecdotally the ones I have encountered work for Canonical. This infighting and idealism is doing the F/LOSS community far more harm than Microsoft ever did. To counter with the predictable howls of derision or claims of ad hominem and strawmen fallacies is to ignore a serious issue that the community has, itself.

I didn't read this use of the word "McCarthyist" in that way.

It is really extravagant to use this to smear Canonical as being just as bad as Microsoft-in-the-90s. Really? What is Canonical doing to destroy GPL? Nothing. In the worst case they have used inflammatory language to ask GPL zealots to leave them alone, not to mount some massive assault on Open Source.

I've worked extensively with proprietary drivers in Linux and other OS environments. If you take a pure technical point A to B view of the world, there is little doubt that you should be able to develop better drivers in an open source environment, at least in the long term.

McCarthyism feels like an uncomfortable or inappropriate analogy, but one area where 'open-sourcists' are often utterly unhelpful is the plain business fact that proprietary stacks are commonly implemented for multiple operating systems. If we tried to tie this to the McCarthyist analogy I suppose this issue is like trying to explain that you believe in the redistribution of wealth whilst trying to prove you're not a communist (it is a weird analogy for a corporatist isn't it?).

The long and the short of it is that hardware vendors are trying to do the best by their customers, not always in the right way, and uncompromising zealotry and isolated focus on Linux doesn't help.

Free Software (not open source), which is what the author is talking about, is not a technical view of the world; it's a philosophical position on liberty and ethics. The fact that the drivers would (possibly) be better is irrelevant to the project.

I have nothing to add, except that the post reminded me of this http://xaharts.org/funny/i/Microsoft_Linux_ad.jpg MS ad ( from the GPL-is-cancer days).

Money is the Devil's eye, they say.

The identi.ca discussion on this[1] is fairly interesting and, I think, illustrates some of the zealotry that Mark Shuttleworth was hinting at in his Slashdot post. Nicolas Delvaux[2] made a very clear post admitting that Mark didn't choose his words carefully (implying he disagreed with the way Mark presented his argument), but nonetheless he agreed with the underlying point:

> Mark doesn't always choose his words wisely but I agree with his point. We can be confident that 100% free software will win in the long run [b]ut this won't happen if we don't increase our market share first. To get there we need to be pragmatic about users needs. Usable computers for example. A non-free driver is better than nothing for the people out there who don't care about licences.

That is a totally reasonable argument, and I sensed right away that Nicolas was distancing himself from the inflammatory rhetoric and attacking the underlying point itself, which is a good one.

I totally agree with that point, but I don't see myself ever saying that to Bradley Kuhn's face because even though Nicolas was very careful to highlight the form of the argument as distasteful, Bradley still sidestepped the (good) opinion and badgered Nicolas to death regarding Mark Shuttleworth's rhetoric:

> @delvauxnic, I'm sorry to seethat you agree w/ @sabdfl that those of us opposed to proprietary !Linux drivers are insecure McCarthyist dicks

I do not see Nicolas ever saying that. Look at the rest of the post! He's talking about long-term FOSS strategy, not Communism! He agreed with the underlying argument, not the delivery. I've encountered this before, and it's sidestepping a salient argument based on one tiny inconvenience that can be pounced upon. Nicolas never agreed with the comparison to McCarthyism, but Bradley Kuhn pounced on that straw man quite deftly.

> @delvauxnic, saying @sabdfl "didn't chose his words wisely" says "Not that I would say that, but he's right". You didn't say he was wrong.

The first part of this observation is untrue, and the second part is an irrational expectation for discussion. I can agree with the substance of an argument without agreeing with the way it was delivered or the specific words that make it up, and I am NOT required to apologize for someone else's remarks, tone, or delivery in doing so. Because Nicolas refused to do that, Bradley left this parting shot:

> @delvauxnic, it was more than the "form" that's wrong. It's wrong to call people those things. You & I 've nothing more to discuss, it seems

Completely ignore the point, keep attacking the same thing. Since you won't argue with what Bradley desires you to argue with, you will be shut down with a final dismissal. It's just distasteful, and I hate when a reasonable conversation gets punctuated with an icy "well, go fuck yourself, we have nothing left to talk about if that's your opinion".

I've left out the actual discussion about the point that Bradley did participate in, because this sort of stuff is just as bad as Mark's comments, in my opinion, and it makes it just as tough to have a reasonable conversation.

This is why I hate having any kind of discussion with people who are passionate about their beliefs with respect to capital-F Free software. I'm sorry to single out the group, but this is quite demonstrably how every discussion I've had that's critical of Free software has gone. There is no middle ground. It's all us and them. Either you're all the way, or you're part of the problem. I seem to recall reading a Stallman essay that even outright said that.

It is simply impossible to argue and, eventually, you will have the door slammed on you regardless of your point. I am not claiming that Nicolas's argument was perfect, but he made some extraordinarily salient points and I wish Bradley had addressed those rather than badger him personally for daring to agree.

[1]: http://identi.ca/conversation/97515496

[2]: http://blog.malizor.org/

@jspthrowaway2: You selectively quoted from the thread. You specifically leave out where @delvauxnic and I settled the miscommunication (I've quoted the rest below). I think it was disingenuous of you to selectively edit in that way.

Not only that, but you'll see I never called @delvauxnic "insecure", a "McCarthyist", a "dick" or anything else. I just kept pointed out that he seemed to be avoiding denouncing @sadbfl's own name-calling: in which he called people like me all of those names. Also, while that very thread was going on, (as you note) I was discussing substantive issues with @delvauxnic. I responded to every one of his salient points and engaged in debate. Your characterization of that conversion is completely inaccurate, IMO, and I encourage others to click over, read the whole thing for themselves, and make their own conclusions.

Here's the resolution of the subthread you quote from above:

@delvauxnic says:

> I never said that it was acceptable. I understand that you feel offended but please have some hindsight and read again my comments.

I replied:

> my concern:you seem to avoid saying outright "@sabdfl's name-calling is wrong";You could say so & still agree w/his other points

@delvauxnic replied:

>Once again, the style of this comparison (name-calling if you prefer) was definitely wrong. But what is important (THE POINT) was exactly...

I replied:

> thank you for saying that it was wrong. I disagree that "it's an informal interview" is a legitimate excuse for @sabdfl though.

@delvauxnic also said:

> But yes, "@sabdfl's name-calling was wrong". Are you happy now that I reformulated what I said in my 1st comment?

I replied:

> @delvauxnic, I'm sorry, I thought you were subtly avoiding it; it seems that I was wrong about that; I get you thought you'd said it already

Although you resolved it later, you started it the way I have described, which is what I am taking issue with. I don't care how the argument ended, I'm taking issue with how it started. Most people lose interest when shut down the way you shut that guy down.

How is it remotely logical to expect someone to denounce someone else's rhetoric before they're allowed to discuss the argument with you? I'm not going to apologize to you for something that somebody else said, but if I agree with his points, you know what, I agree with his points.

@jsthrowaway2, your analysis just doesn't take into account how that conversation evolved. We were discussing different issues in multiple subthreads all at the same time. In the subthread you mention, the fellow was initially coming across defending @sabdfl's assessments. He clarified that, and that subthread ended, and the others with the salient points continued.

I challenge you to find any argument that he made, salient or otherwise, that I failed to respond to in that thread.

> In the subthread you mention, the fellow was initially coming across defending @sabdfl's assessments.

...in your analysis, which was demonstrably wrong. I, and probably many other people who read his opening shot, (correctly) interpreted it as disagreeing with the way Mark phrased his arguments. The hint is where he says that Mark didn't choose his words carefully, which you interpreted as meaning "I agree and I would have phrased the exact same thing differently!", which is just asinine. You interpreted his remarks the way you wanted to, which wasn't entirely square with reality.

Again, I don't care how the conversation evolved, because the guy persisted far longer than I would have (and I give him extreme credit for doing so). The standard argument style seems to be "straw man, straw man, straw man, you and I have nothing to discuss". It is to his credit that he continued and was able to reach an amicable conclusion, but I think the majority of people would roll their eyes and just disengage you at that point. It took him several back-and-forths just to get you to stop badgering him for Mark Shuttleworth's words, for Christ's sake.

Let's forget the entire rest of the conversation and let's focus on this:

A: FOSS people are McCarthyists. And the idealism impedes forward motion in an indirect way.

B: Hey, you know, he's right that the balance between idealism and pragmatism is a bit too far one way. Here's some thoughts about that. Why don't we discuss it?

C: I'm sorry to see that you agree that we're McCarthyists.

I'd disengage you at C. He persisted, and kudos to him. That's what I'm having an issue with. You already tried building a straw man with me, claiming that I was being disingenuous by editing the conversation, implying that I've introduced falsehoods and manipulated the truth; I did not edit the conversation, but I did selectively quote the portions that I would like to discuss. Selective quotation is not editing.

In politics, it's very common to use phrasing like "he didn't chose his words wisely, but I agree with his point." as code for: "I'm diplomatically saying I agree with what he did". I see that the fellow didn't mean it that way, and there was probably a language barrier going on too (I suspect, but don't know for sure, that his native language isn't English), and he was furthermore frustrated with the 140 character format.

Regarding the latter of which, BTW, I was giving him advice on how he might fix his 140 char problem in another parallel thread. We were having two other parallel threads too, on the "salient points" you mention. Look at the time stamps on the dents if you want to confirm all that. All of it happened together. The Internet is a wonderful thing: you can have efficient conversations in parallel in semi-synchronous time. You're analogy treats the whole thing like I stonewalled him on that one issue while refusing to reply on any other issue. The timestamps and threads just don't support your claim there.

I again point out that I didn't resort to name calling and I wasn't disrespectful, and I apologized when I realized that he truly believed he'd already made the statement I was asking him to make. You compare me to @sabdfl above; note that @sabdfl name-called, was disrespectful, and it's not the first time he's done that, either.

Meanwhile, I don't think it's reasonable to ask someone to always respond to everyone on the Internet who comment at them, and I believe it's completely reasonable to filter away people for all sorts of reasons. It seemed that this fellow might have been doing standing up for @sabdfl's outrageous claims. I discussed that fact with him on on thread to get a sense of whether or not he was, while I was nevertheless still responding to his other points another. I admit I got close at one point to shutting down at one point. But, I still read his next clarification and we came to an understanding.

This is an example of people who disagree but are still communicating well and sorting something out. This is an example of useful discourse. I realize you see it as exactly the opposite. I just think you're wrong about that, I'm sorry. I encourage others here to read the whole thread over on identi.ca and decide for themselves which of us is right.

I'm about to to go to bed, and I'm sure I won't have time to respond to you further here, as the odds I'll remember to check this site again -- which I don't normally read -- is pretty low. You can email me if you want to discuss it further.

> In politics, it's very common to use phrasing like "he didn't chose his words wisely, but I agree with his point." as code for: "I'm diplomatically saying I agree with what he did".

Now I get it. Dealing with the political world for this long has made you treat everything as political by default. The guy was straight talking with you on identi.ca, not making a political statement nor speaking on camera. He wasn't "speaking in code," as you later deduced after going back and forth a few times. Your assumption was for the worst of his argument, not the best, and that you were presumptuous enough to tell him how to "fix" something that you misinterpreted with an unfair base assumption is even more asinine.

> I again point out that I didn't resort to name calling and I wasn't disrespectful

I know, which is why I ignored this irrelevant statement the first time, because it was a straw man then and still is. I'm not accusing you of name calling nor stooping to the level of those who called you McCarthyists, nor am I accusing you of being disrespectful. I think you shot this guy down fairly hard when he brought up a point with you, and it's that style of argument, the default-hostile world view, that I really get annoyed by out of your camp.

You could say I'm bringing this up because I want to have a reasonable conversation with you, and people like you, without spending a few back-and-forths saying something to you the exact way you want it to be said to you. The technology world is not out to get you. We're not speaking in code at your expense. Most people in this audience here on Hacker News are sympathetic to FOSS because a lot of us build our livelihood on it.

You do have friends in the world, and I think this guy was trying to be your friend. You've either been trained or trained yourself to regard everybody as an enemy from the get-go, and that's what I'm trying to get across to you. I know that running the FSF has exposed you to a lot of bilious argument against your very existence, but this guy wasn't remotely agreeing with Mark or being political, he was just having a conversation. It took a while for him to get that through to you, and speaking for myself, I would have given up long before he was successful.

This is coming from somebody who has built his entire career upon FOSS and believes in its success. You'll often see people say something like "I love FOSS, but its fan club leaves a lot to be desired". Things like this are why.

> This is an example of useful discourse.

It eventually was. It sure as shit didn't start that way.

> I encourage others here to read the whole thread over on identi.ca and decide for themselves which of us is right.

I really hate when people speak past me while replying to me. It's dismissive and belittling.

> I'm about to to go to bed, and I'm sure I won't have time to respond to you further here, as the odds I'll remember to check this site again -- which I don't normally read -- is pretty low. You can email me if you want to discuss it further.

I'm so glad this was edited in after I spent ten minutes carefully crafting a response. What a waste of time.

I was waiting for your reply and couldn't wait anymore. I have to work tomorrow, you see -- I work 7 days a week on Free Software, so I just can't stay up late.

Anyway, I did hit reload one last time and saw your reply, but I assure you this has to be the last one but I welcome you to email me if you'd like.

The reason I used that political way of interacting with him was that I have been one of Canonical, Ltd.'s critics for a long time -- back before it was popular to "pile onto" Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu, etc. (I noted that in my blog post in the section I talk about why I stopped; they'll be more on the next episode of Free as in Freedom audcast [0] released next week.)

I've found that there are a lot of people out there in the Ubuntu community who really do treat Mark like he is, as his title insists, a Dictator for Life and simply are his proxies out defending him. Again, I'm using a politicians' word -- proxies -- and a politician's analysis. But, the fact is, there are a lot of people out there, and many on identi.ca, who proxy for @sabdfl.

I admit that I incorrectly assumed that fellow was one of them. I think you're taking that one conversation and attempting, in a confirmation bias [1] sort of way, to extrapolate that it shows some principle that's always at work in conversations with people like me. Fact is, despite that I suspected the fellow was acting like a proxy, I still engaged with him in multiple threads in parallel, just in case I was wrong (turned out I was), precisely to avoid the very problem you're accusing me of in this thread.

Setting aside the fact that you seem upset that I don't really use this site often, and that I clearly don't keep the same sleep schedule and/or am in the same time-zone as you, it seems we're having the type of conversation and discourse you want. Yet, you've framed the conversation to talk about this meta-issue of "I can't talk to you people" rather than have the conversation about whatever it is you want to talk to Free Software zealots like me about.

I'm sorry you've had bad experiences in communication with some Free Software hard-cores. I hope I haven't been one. I still don't think, for various reasons I've stated (the most important one being the one you keep ignoring: that there were parallel threads going on), that the one I had with that fellow on identi.ca is an example that supports your claim. I completely believe you that you've had frustrating conversations of that nature with others. I know they happen and I will validate that point for you. I just don't think this example was one of them.

I wish you a good $timezone_greeting, but mine is "late in the night" right now for a guy pushing forty-years-old in the US/Eastern time zone, so please do email me if you want to discuss further.

[0] http://faif.us/

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

I'm not begrudging you sleep, I was just annoyed it was edited in while I was in the text window replying to you (and not furiously refreshing). You're even mischaracterizing that by trying to say I'm annoyed you don't often use Hacker News, which isn't accurate or logical on any plane of reality.

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