NSA Spying Scandal – An Analysis

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NSA Logo

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the NSA Spying Scandal closely. In fact, I’ve been following it for several years, since before I first ran into Barrett Brown. Seriously. The leaks about go back a long way, and most writers appear to have missed the implications.

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The Charge of the Tablet Brigade

With apologies to Alfred Lord Tenneyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Shops
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward the Tablet Brigade!
Charge for the consumers!" he said.
Into the valley of Shops
Rode the six hundred.

Let’s talk about tablets.

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Software Licensing – Don't Complain If You Don't Like The License

Over and over again, I hear complaints about software licensing. The two main complaints are always the same:

1) Proprietary Licenses are too restrictive.

2) The General Public License is too restrictive.

Do you see a theme here?

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SCOicide – The SCO Group vs the World

On June 28, 2002, Darl McBride became the Chief Executive Officer of Caldera International, and proceeded to kill the company.

The above statement may seem rather strong to those who don’t know the background. Caldera International was a Linux Distributor. The company had made many improvements to Linux (including the first GUI installer), and while the Caldera version was never as popular as the Red Hat version, it was generally well respected. But Caldera was a money losing proposition. It had never made a profit one during it’s years of operation.

One move that Caldera made to try and become profitable was to buy the Unix business from the Santa Cruz Operation. The aim was to use the software distribution channel that Santa Cruz had successfully built up as a Unix vendor to sell more Linux, as Linux was expected to replace Unix in the X86 marketplace.

And then came Darl. The story gets really murky at this point. The people involved either aren’t talking, or are lying like a rug. This sounds harsh, but it’s the only viable conclusion based on the available evidence.

The public story is that Darl noticed that Caldera’s main source of income was the Unix business it had bought from Santa Cruz, and decided to concentrate on growing it. He also started asking questions about how Linux could be competitive to Unix in features and capabilities when it was a free software project (Darl apparently considered Free Software to be ‘hobbyist’ products, the sort of thing your Aunt May did on Saturday evening). As I said, this is the public story. Supposedly Darl was convinced that someone had transferred capabilities from Unix to Linux, and so Caldera sued IBM.

The lawsuit against IBM which originally was for $1 Billion US sent a shockwave throughout the tech community. Many of us wondered if maybe there wasn’t something to it – after all, the source for Linux was widely available, and if someone had copied something they shouldn’t have into it, it would be easy to find. Another consideration is that only an idiot would sue IBM without solid proof. Seriously. Would you launch a lawsuit against a company that was capable of ‘darkening the sky over Utah with lawyers’ without solid evidence to back up your claims?

I, along with a lot of other geeks started looking for answers. One of my searches lead me to a blog over at Radio Userland called Groklaw in early 2003 (the blog moved to Groklaw.net soon after). The blog was written by a PJ (Pamela Jones), who said she was a Geek and a Paralegal. PJ had written a lot of detailed articles. She explained how the legal system in the United States worked, evaluated the legal filings in the Caldera v. IBM case as they were filed, researched cases that were referenced and explained why they were important, and effectively ran an online seminar for programmers on legal system basics. It was a great resource.

Due to the interest in the case, Judge Kimbell told both parties to minimize redactions in the documents that they filed, and not to minimize the number of documents filed under seal. Because of this we learned that Caldera had hired people to investigate and prove the transfer of code, and that they reported that they COULD NOT FIND PROOF OF ANY TRANSFER. They filed their reports before the original lawsuit was launched. Darl, the CEO knew that he didn’t have any proof. None. But he went ahead with the lawsuit against IBM anyway.

Also there was the issue of whether or not Caldera actually owned the Unix copyrights. It was about this time that Novell, the seller, claimed that they sold the business to Santa Cruz, not the copyrights. So now Caldera sued Novell too. And Red Hat sued Caldera. And Caldera sued AutoZone. And Daimler Chrysler.

It was like watching a rabid dog running down the street, attacking everything in sight.

Or maybe watching a train wreck in slow motion. It was less than six months after the original lawsuit had been filed that PJ, along with the regulars who hung out at Groklaw managed to prove that what Darl was claiming was impossible. Which didn’t stop Darl of course. Remember at the start that I said only an idiot would launch a lawsuit of this sort?

It’s only now, that Caldera (which changed it’s name to SCO Group, apparently to confuse the Jury) has finally ended up in court, in front of a jury. The CEO is gone, they are in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and even if they win, they probably won’t survive.

And every day, for the last six years, I’ve visited Groklaw at least once a day. My wife at one point accused me of having an online affair with PJ, much to my amusement.

Thank you PJ – for doing a wonderful job. For teaching me so much. For working so hard.

Thank you.

Wayne Borean
Thursday March 11, 2010

Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists

What’s This About?

Our community and the people in it, are under attack. We are being disrupted, we are being defamed, we are being lied to, and, in some instances, we are even having our lives invaded.

Sounds serious. Can you supply any examples?

More importantly, there is a consistent thread running through these attacks, invasions and disruptions. This attack comes not from Microsoft, but from a parasitical pseudo-“community” that attempts to pretend it’s actually our community.

Sounds scary.

We are a community of not just coders, but localizers, artists, writers, marketers, conference volunteers, web designers, legal experts, photographers, experience and interface designers, and users who file bugs, make suggestions of provide feedback. This is the community that accomplishes and supports the work on the software we use and love.

Community is important.

We are seeing people making a pretense of involvement in FLOSS and in our community, people who we don’t actually know, people who never join us at conferences, don’t work in projects, and only participate in mailing lists to instigate flame wars. We are seeing people who seem to be making a sort of religion out of “free software” and issuing their demands to the rest of us to do things their way. These are people who will excoriate you as something less than a “true GNU/Linux user” if you should touch a Macintosh or (heaven forbid!) a Windows box. These are folks who will berate you for buying a piece of software or owning an iPod. These are people who will classify you as a “freedom hater” if you express reservations about the GPL v3.

Ah, now I see where this is going. Let’s take this point by point. I don’t attend conferences due to health reasons. I do work on a couple of projects, but nothing big, and not main line. But then again, I’m the only one who’s capable of doing this stuff, and I’m going to get in done and documented by Christmas. I promise. I do comment a lot. I have an opinion. In fact I’ve been described many times an extremely opinionated. I’m also a philosopher, and one of my responsibilities has always been technological analysis and prediction. I think Windows is an overpriced piece of junk. I like OSX, it feels a lot like Linux, and I like that I can run Linux on my MacBook. Apple makes excellent hardware. I’ve never called anyone opposed to GPL V3 a “freedom hater” – I reserve the word “IDIOT” instead.

Our community thrives on disagreement, and we (mostly) deal with it in healthy ways. We reject uniformity of opinion and we always have. In stark contrast, this pretense of “community” insists that their way is the One True Way, and we should all just shut up, learn the catechism, and do their bidding.

As to disagreement – a good example of how well you handle disagreement is on display in Carla Schroder’s blog, in her post on sexism. As to the “One True Way”, it comes down to this. There are only two important licenses in Free Software. The Modified BSD License and the GPL V3. None of the others serve the philosophical requirements of the Free Software Community. As to the Open Source Community, Open Source is dying due to it’s philosophical background.

Our community is founded on reputation, we value people based on their contributions: this is the “rough meritocracy” within which we operate. When the imposters of true community engage in defamation, invasions of personal privacy, taking mailing list disagreements into real life by contacting people’s employers, they create a chilling effect—people fear to express themselves as themselves, and reputation is lost.

Imposters? Do you have proof? Do you have proof of invasions of privacy?

These people are the “Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists”. They are disrupting and dividing our community with their demands that we do things the way they say, and their tactics of anonymous comment-bombing, mailing list trolling and defaming members of the community.

I have a copy of your enemies list. I’m on it. Nice start to a site, posting an enemies list, with comments. I was amused to see I was on it, since I don’t do any of the above. I do tell people what I think – I guess that’s a crime around here.

We say enough is enough. We are putting our collective feet down as far as strident demands from complete non-participants in the community go. We are saying “no” to Faux FLOSS Fundamentalism, and people like Roy Schestowitz, Sam Varghese, “Penguin Pete”, “Jason” of mono-nono, and the like, as well as the assortment of associated and sympathetic trolls who post endless anonymous comments to blog postings they dislike and start up flame wars on development lists.

Non-participants? Do you have any proof of this? Do you have any proof I post anonymous comments? Starting flame wars I’ll admit to. Anyone who has an opinion can start a flame war.

The Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists have nothing to offer the community but their propaganda, their dogma, and their misplaced sense of entitlement. We need to reject those who demand that we all sign up for “Freedom the Way We Tell You To” and we need to make it clear to them that they need to either actually start participating in a meaningful way or simply stop “advocating” at us.

But… You haven’t explained what Faux FLOSS Fundamentalism is. How can you object to something that you don’t define. And as an aside, you don’t seem to be American. I would guess that you are Ukrainian, or Slovac from your attitudes.

Plain old “freedom” is good enough for us.

But it’s not good enough for us. I wonder if you see the irony?

Oh, and I did a cap on your enemies list. Interesting. Very interesting.