The future of Linux is getting uglier
Right now, Linux is ascendant, and Microsoft (and a lot of other
people) are worried about its effect on their income.
I quite seriously wonder how long it can last. The oft-discussed
"succession" problem is part of my concern, but it goes deeper than
that. Not that succession isn't important to Linux; it certainly
is. Linus Torvalds may insist it has already been dealt with: (from
I think that a lot of the talk about the 'succession'
is due to this--people see the project growing, and
see other people having a large impact, and don't
realize that it's already long since grown past
being just 'Linus.
but that's really not the case at all. Linus is still the
political head and no one below him has the fame and following to
take over. Others have commented on this: (from http://www.business2.com/b2/web/articles/0,17863,528386,00.html)
A normal corporation is constituted with a board of
directors that makes sure solid succession plans are in
place. No question, a breakthrough such as Linux would
never have happened had Torvalds gone by the rules of a
normal corporation. Still, it's possible that the Linux
movement, and hence further development of the software,
could be thrown into disarray in the absence of a smooth
transition plan for new leadership. It's also possible
- though unlikely - that the Linux movement could splinter
into factions in the face of a leadership vacuum.
I don't know why they say "unlikely". I think they forget that
the corporate interests (RedHat, IBM, et al.) are involved in all
of this. If Linus gets hit by a bus, "taking over" will definitely
be discussed in corporate boardrooms.
But I think there is already danger afoot. This http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5907194/
article tells how companies with a strong interest in Linux
internals curry favor by hiring people in or close to the Linux
Hewlett-Packard, which has hired two maintainers and 100
lower-level Linux developers, tries to hire only people
who are within reach of Torvalds' inner circle.
"I call it 'counting the hops,' which means we figure
out how many steps removed this person is from a top
maintainer. I try to keep it under two hops,"says Martin
Fink, vice president of Linux at HP. "The way to get
stuff done in the Linux community is to hire the right
While those who are hired by HP and the other companies
mentioned may insist that their employment doesn't affect anything,
it's obvious that it does: (from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5907194/
The payoff is real. Linux now contains bits of code written by
Linux flunks the Purity Test.
Yes, that's unavoidable at some level. But surely the public
perception of Linux isn't that companies with enough money get code
that benefits their apps and otherwise.. well, tough. If you aren't
shoveling money at someone close to Linus, you can just step to the
end of a very long line.
That's a situation ripe for abuse. In the case of the NetApp
contributions, these may very well be just legitimate and needed
improvements to NFS code. But who ensures that? What happens when
NetApp or some other company playing this game sees an opportunity
to affect a competitor by way of kernel code? There doesn't even
have to be complicity on the part of the Linus confidant - laziness
and inattention will suffice.
A scandal here could damage Linux. I'm sure that most of the
people involved are aware of this and perhaps even believe that
they can remain totally honest - that they can keep their Linux
contributions pure. History and even the most basic understanding
of human nature says otherwise.
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