Kernel programmers need to keep track of patches. That's pretty obvious, but what isn't immediately obvious to those of us who aren't kernel developers is just how onerous that task is for Linux kernels. Enter Bitkeeper , a SCM (Source Code Management) tool that dulls the pain and attends to the nasty details, leaving the developer more time to focus on development.
But wait: Bitkeeper is a commercial product. Linux isn't about commercial products, right? Well no, but technically Bitkeeper isn't part of Linux; it's just something that developers could use to track their changes. And Bitkeeper itself quietly helped out by letting those developers use the tool for free. That was the status quo up till recently. There were people like Richard Stallman who warned that this was bad practice, but nobody pays attention to GNU/Richard.
But then Bitkeeper pulled the plug. No more freebies. Shoulda listened to Richard, I think. This was a choice of convenience over principle. It's not the only place Linux flunks the Purity test, but it was a big one.
There's another place where I think Linux packagers are making a big mistake, and that's Cups. Not that Cups isn't good, it is. But it's was also a commercial product and right now it is owned by Apple. I'm not saying that Apple is likely to cause problems (imagine if Microsoft bought it!), but the point is that they could. I'd just rather see unencumbered code.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2012-07-20 Tony Lawrence