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By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
The feud between Maureen O'Gara of Linux Business Week (left) and Pamela Jones of Groklaw has ended with O'Gara's professional destruction.
Days after SCO CEO Darl McBride claimed "Jones is not who she claims she is," O'Gara weighed in with a long, highly-researched piece filled with intimate personal details of Jones' life. It did not, however, substantiate McBride's charge. Pamela Jones is precisely who she claims to be, a paralegal turned journalist, a meticulous researcher, and an ethical human being. (No link to the story -- the reason will soon become clear.)
Jones responded with a Groklaw post accusing O'Gara of stalking her and trying to intimidate her into silence. Jones' supporters in the open source community responded to that with a letter-writing campaign and, one editor claimed, a denial-of-service attack against the company that posted O'Gara's work, Sys-Con Media.
First off, you all should know that the entire Sys-Con set of sites has been under multiple Denial of Service Attacks since the beginning of the week, basically making the place unusuable. So if the editorial staff (and especially Sys-Con management) seems a little distracted, there's a good reason.
There's been a bit more clarification on exactly what the future will look like here. From this day forward, there will be no more new material published by Maureen O'Gara. All links from the LinuxWorld site to Maureen O'Gara's work have been eliminated. All of Maureen's SCO coverage has been removed (in fact, except to the degree that we as the editorial staff choose to cover it, all SCO coverage period has been removed.)
So you'll continue to see the MoG byline showing up, especially on Linux Business Week, for a while. It will slowly dillute out as no new material is added, until it disappears entirely. This should make those of you who objected to her deletion en masse happy.
As far as apologies go, there's only so much that can be done from this end. The editorial staff of the magazine is certainly sorry that it happened, but we're not sorry for any action on our part. Other parties (most notably Ms O'Gara, who has a lot of 'splaining to do) must search their own souls and make their own decisions in this matter. I would say this though: actions speak louder than words.
Not only did they sever ties with O'Gara, they tried to erase all her stories. (That doesn't work kids. Take my word for it.)
The key benefit of open source is transparency. (That's a transparent Mozambique garnet, from CLDJewelry in Tucson, Arizona. Transparency doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.)
The key benefit is not that the software is free. It's not that you can edit it. It has nothing to do with the obligations of the General Public License. It's inherent in every open source license out there.
The key advantage of open source is you can see the code. You can see how it works. You can take it apart. You can fix it. You can improve it. Most people do none of these things, but all benefit from this transparency.
The benefit became clear when I got responses to a ZDNet post called Is Linux Becoming Windows? The news hook was a Peter Galli story about how some folks were getting upset over the feature bloat now taking place in the Linux 2.6 kernel.
Those who responded said simply that the complainents, and I, had lost our minds. Kernel features aren't mandatory. Just because something is supported doesn't mean you have to do it. You can pick and choose among features, because you can see the whole code base -- it's transparent. You can look at the various builds out there and, if there's something you don't like, something you can do better, you can fork it, and maintain your own enhanced code base.
When Microsoft changes its software it makes things incompatible. When Linux software changes this doesn't happen, because the change is transparent. New builds are transparent, and if you come to a fork in your operating system road you can take it.
Transparency is the key term. And it doesn't just apply to software:
Sun's plan to release Solaris under its CDDL open source license got a boost yesterday with an endorsement by...The SCO Group? (This cute Linux penguin keychain from Promotion Potion doubles as a stress ball.)
"We have seen what Sun plans to do with OpenSolaris and we have no problem with it," is the way eWeek's Steven Vaughan-Nichols quoted SCO's Darl McBride in a conference call yesterday.
The question is, with friends like these, does Sun need enemies?
It's beginning to look like the SCO-IBM case won't make it to the finish line, an end to discovery and summary judgement.
SCO's sponsors are blowing up. Literally.
Maureen O'Gara (left), whose name is like fingers rubbing a balloon to most in the open source community, and is regularly accused by them of being an SCO shill, reported last month that both Ray Noorda's daughter and another executive with Canopy Group, SCO's largest owner, committed suicide.
More telling, perhaps, was her reference to SCO itself, a company she has regularly defended on teleconferences. She called it "the infamous SCO Group."
When your shark-jumper jumps ship, who's left?
The real news from last month is that Canopy's position in SCO has transferred to former Canopy CEO Ralph Yarro, who chairs the SCO board. When the former VC leaves his firm and becomes your CEO, you've got no net below you and (most likely) no new money coming in the door.
SCO could use new money, because when it finally delivered its financial results for fiscal 2004 (on April Fool's Day no less) it had a net loss of $23.3 million on revenue of $42.8 million, against profits of $5.4 million and $79.2 million in revenue. Why? Because sales of licenses to Linux users totaled just $809,000, down from $25.8 million in 2003.
How can this be bad news for open source?
Simple. If SCO fails to make it to the end of discovery, the judge in the case can't set a precedent that will keep others from trying the same con.
Remember a week or so ago when I wrote about how someone had cracked their iPod's DRM to stick Linux in there?
Well, Novell has released a version of Linux that loves that environment.
Silicon.Com reports that SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 (SUSE is now owned by Novell) includes automatic recognition and support for the Apple iPod.
Wind River is continuing its slow march toward the computing mainstream. (The illustration, from the Wind River site, shows the engagement model the company follows with its customers in producing products. It's careful and complicated.)
It's easy for someone to criticize Wind River's strategy as an attempt to maintain proprietary control in a world of open source, but the fact is there are opportunities here for the Always On world that need to be explained, and then seized.
Fact is Wind River's VxWorks is the leading RTOS out there. RTOS stands for Real Time Operating System, folks. An RTOS is used to make a device, not a system. You find RTOS's in things like your stereo, and your TV remote. What the device can do is strictly defined, and strictly limited. Your interaction with the device is also defined and limited.
An RTOS is not a robust, scalable, modular operating system like, say, Linux. And over the last few years, Wind River has been creeping into your world. VxWorks is used in most of your common WiFi gateways. This limits what they can do. They become "point" solutions. You can't run applications directly off a gateway, only off one of the PCs it's attached to.
Now, slowly, this is changing.
PCs crash, and Google deals with it.
(By the way, that PHP pinup girl comes from a Lithuanian PHP tool maker.)
Then I took a look at the recent output of this blog. All recent stories here carry the .php extension. They're no longer HTML. The output is still readable by any browser as an HTML file, they're just not written with a pure HTML tool.
The real news, however, is much bigger.
We're seeing nothing less than a mainframe revolution.
There's nothing journalists like better than a good old fashioned catfight. (The animated gif catfight is from Supah.Com. I guess you can send it to friends as a postcard.)
And in tech journalism today it doesn't get any better than Pamela Jones vs. Maureen O'Gara.
Jones edits Groklaw, the free community blog which has covered the open source revolution's legal defense so expertly. Her stuff is so good that SCO talked about putting together a rival site, called Prosco.Net, last year. (As of this writing that site is still empty.) Jones is so ethical she actually quit a really good job to stay on the beat, writing "money is nice, but integrity is everything." (I think I'm in love.)
O'Gara edits the $195/year LinuxGram newsletter. She writes fast, tight, "insider-type" stuff, with tabloid headlines like "Ray Noorda's Competence in Question." She learned her trade at CMP, and calls her company G2 Computer Intelligence.
Conflict was natural because of their differing styles. Jones is careful and shy to the point of near-invisibility. She writes like a lawyer. O'Gara is brassy and bold and uses the rest of the press as her PR machine. She writes like a journalist.
What got the feud rolling was a stunt O'Gara pulled before the court in the case of SCO vs. IBM. She filed her own motion to unseal the records, then did a story on her heroic act.
Newspaper companies do this all the time. They fight to unseal records of criminal trials or government decisions, writing a series of stories on the filings and the reaction. But Jones didn't like O'Gara's headline, nor the attitude in her story which was (to say the least) self-congratulatory.
No hostility there. Maybe a little around the edges, oozing out? Leapin' Lizards, Batman, the heroine action figure who apparently wishes to Take the Open Source Movement Down singlehandedly is none other than Maureen O'Gara, who is asking the Utah court to unseal all the sealed records:
I love the Brits. (But I love everyone.)
As executives, Brits have developed this wonderful, pugnacious, straight-talking chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in our time. It's a kind of "oh yeah, sez you" that owes more to soccer yobs than fox hunting.
And for a journalist it's great fun.
Over at The Scotsman, lawyer Alison Bryce is featured in one of those stories that doubtless led to Shakespeare having Dick the Butcher say "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
Her headline is "Don't believe the software scaremongers" but in fact the article is a classic bit of scaremongering.
She's repeating the Microsoft line that Linux is scary. She calls the GPL "the most restrictive license" and states quite baldly that having the source code published is dangerous. No evidence is offered.
There are also some outright howlers, like this one. "Software released under the GPL, such as the popular Linux operating system," never apparently realizing that not all Linux distros are GPL. Fine misunderstanding for an amateur, but this lady claims to be a highly-paid professional, and an expert on software law to boot.
This bit of garbage could easily have been written by Microsoft itself (and he probably cribbed off their stuff), but here's where I get angry:
Gary Wolf has a piece at Wired which had me shaking my head for some time.
Several folks have pointed me to it. It's an imagined memo, dated three years into the future, after Linus Torvalds has supposedly gone to work for Mr. Bill Gates.
The idea behind the imagined memo, something I've written about extensively recently over at ZDNet's Open Source, is based upon building a Linux desktop suite. Wolf's point, apparently, is that Microsoft moving to Windows isn't that far-fetched, that Steve Ballmer doesn't get it, and that Gates has the imagination to listen to the market rather than the yes-men in Redmond.
Well, yeah. But so what? Ain't gonna happen.
I happened upon a sad case recently, a man named Jeff V. Merkey. (The image is from ScienceaGoGo, a great site for science lovers of all ages. The article is about how stress can be good for you.)
Merkey was once chief scientist at Novell, so hes not dumb. But hes also, well, a bit unusual.
From what I have seen I'd say hes paranoid (but I'm not a psychiatrist, and I didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night). He sees enemies everywhere (including on this blog), and always shoots his mouth off before asking questions.
He also has a rather cramped, and to my mind paranoid, view of copyright. (This is something I have real experience writing about.) He allegedly tried to hide his own work from his employer, Novell, leading to a 1997 lawsuit and a 1998 settlement. (That's public record.)
He hasnt changed. My story was his claim that all of Linux is dirty, filled with copyrighted material, and that the only way to protect it is with a clean version (that he writes) and a new license (that hes having written). To make everything crystal clear (to his mind) he wants the Cherokee Nation to oversee the licensing scheme. (He says he's a Cherokee.)
To the State Department.
Brazil isn't going to open source because they hate Windows, or Gates. They're going toward open source for rational, even reasonable reasons. With open source, Brazilians control their own code base. With Windows, Gates does.
Over the weekend C|Net ran a story indicating the Mozilla Foundation hopes to add calendaring functions to its Thunderbird e-mail client (right), turning an open source Outlook Express clone into something more like Microsoft Outlook.
What follows is pure speculation, but this could make Firefox the big story of 2005, and beyond.
Open source has a lot of well-publicized advantages over proprietary systems, but one of the biggest is not well understood by Americans.
That is localization.
If you want Microsoft Office in, say, Swahili, you have to wait for Microsoft to decide the effort is worth it, then you have to wait for Microsoft to hire some programmers who understand Swahili, or hire Swahili-speakers who can talk to its programmers, and eventually you get something.
For OpenOffice, Kilinux simply put together a team of volunteers and got to work. The result is a suite for 70 million people in eastern and southern Africa, voila!
It's smelling like a political campaign.
Linux this week is undergoing a full-on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) attack.
When my wife first got her current job, as a programmer at a local transaction processor, she said she enjoyed it because her computer "actually does something."
Fact is that operating systems, by themselves, do nothing. They are a platform on which you build programs that actually do things.
This remains the biggest challenge faced by open source.
Following publication of an interview with Linux Times, much attention is being paid to Linus Torvald's description of "Desktop Linux" as being alive and well.
Hurd, the GNU attempt to completely replace the Unix kernel, is Dead On Arrival.
As usual, Linus didn't play the Microsoft game and just assert it. He explained what he meant by that provocative statement:
Yesterday I described how Linux users were getting some of the "love" from hackers and malware enthusiasts Windows users have grown accustomed to. (And we're increasingly seeing real exploits of Linux flaws.)
In news that, as you can see, has spread from India to here in a great big hurry, we learn that Version 2.6 of the Linux kernel has a flaw that could be exploited to create a Denial of Service (DOS) attack against your system.
Now that I have your attention, we have some good news and some bad news:
I'm going to begin working soon on a new blog about open source (a formal announcement will come in the fullness of time) but meanwhile here's an important point.
As Linux grows in popularity it is becoming heir to all the ills that plague Microsoft.
Exhibit A is a so-called e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org, which claims to be an important update but is in fact a phishing scam. (Real Red Hat alerts come from email@example.com and carry digital security.)
Be careful out there. At minimum more careful than the average Windows user.
Cut through the verbiage, and that's the charge made against Linux by the Gartner Group.
Desktop Linux is really just a dodge to get a stripped-down PC that will actually run a pirated copy of Windows, the research group said. (Image from the CPFC.)
It really puts all those stories about Microsoft creating cheap, stripped versions of Windows for foreign markets in a different light. Better we get something and give them a chance to advance something for us in their local language than we get nothing.
What about all those governments that talk about running Linux, and all those politicians praising the penguin?
Gartner has an answer:
The problem with Unix has always been that there were many different versions of it. As a result you couldn't shrink-wrap applications, as you can with Windows, because no one package could reach the whole Unix market. (The illustration is from the site of Barcelona programmer Michael Wolf.)
Linux is changing that. The new Linux Standard Base 2.0 will unify Red Hat, SuSE Linux, MandrakeSoft, Conectiva, ThizLinux Laboratory, Sun Wah Linux, Turbolinux and Progeny. It has the backing of IBM, H-P, and Dell in this effort, along with chip-makers AMD and Intel.
IBM has decided to make some of its key speech technology open source. (That's an old Kurzweil AI poster found at Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company that could be important in what follows after the jump.)
This is great news, and they're doing it for all the right reasons. The following quote, from a New York Times story on the decision, could have been written by Linus Torvalds himself:
"We're trying to spur the industry around open standards to get more and more speech application development," said Steven A. Mills, the senior vice president in charge of I.B.M.'s software business. "Our code contribution is about getting that ecosystem going. If that happens, we think it will bring more business opportunities to I.B.M."
Apache has told Microsoft to stick its Sender ID proposal where the sun don't shine.
Microsoft's plan to force its license paperwork on Internet servers through the standards-setting process was thus dealt a real blow.
Apache (the name has nothing to do with the native American tribe -- it means "a patch-ee") on Linux is the leading Web server, and their refusal to play ball here is important. (But I happen to be a Burt Lancaster fan -- hence the illustration, a DVD release of his 1954 film "Apache.")
Unix vendor SCO Group (Quote, Chart), in the midst of copyright infringement lawsuits over parts of Linux, reported a net loss of $7.4 million for its fiscal third quarter on lowered revenues and higher legal fees. The results more than reversed its profit of $3.1 million during the same, year-ago quarter.
You almost never hear from IBM anymore, except once a quarter when they announce record earnings.
It's time they got some proper respect. It's time they got their props. (Image from the BBC.)
This year IBM will bring in $4.66 in profit for each share of common stock, currently worth about $85. It has sales of almost $93 BILLION per year now, and brings $8 billion of that to the bottom line. (By contrast Microsoft, which claims it has run out of ideas, has one-third the sales, albeit nearly the same level of profit.)
Ah, yes, you say, but what has IBM done for me lately?
Fact is there are many types of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). There is Microsoft FUD, there is Political FUD, there is Security FUD. Then there is the kind of FUD that is so transparent, so ridiculous, and (at bottom) so howlingly funny you can only call it (with apologies to the good people at Warner Brothers and in tribute to the late, great Chuck Jones) Elmer FUD.
That's what we got here.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
In English class, "back in the day," I was taught that T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" (the ending is quoted from memory above) was the greatest poem of the 20th century. (With apologies to Langston Hughes, Alan Ginsburg, and anyone who wrote after 1970.)
What's so great about the poem is that, in journalism, it's so often true. Especially in technology journalism.
Heard from SCO lately?
A well-meaning French bid to protect open source may in fact lead to its splitting.
A new license called CeCILL is designed to make the GNU compatible with French law, which tends to make software authors liable for user problems unless there is specific language to the contrary. (Parents, get your kids a book set in France to wile away the summertime from the list this image illustrates.)
Well and good. But what happens when you try to marry something written under CeCILL with something written under the U.S. version of GNU? What is the license agreement on the new software?
The question seems esoteric, but it matters when you're trying to get a software system used by big companies and governments. A Microsoft user license is the same everywhere. You may not like it but at least you understand it, if you're a lawyer.
Linux licenses must be the same. The Free Software Foundation, Europe is asking the French to talk, and hopefully they will (once they get over yesterday's Bastille Day parties).
Tim O'Reilly could have been a lot of things on the Internet. (The image is from the HollandSentinel.Com.)
He could have dominated it. A decade ago his Global Network Navigator was THE place to start every Internet session. Launched in 1993 it was the Web's first real home.
Of course, the Web outgrew it very quickly, and Tim had to decide where he wanted to fit into what would quickly become a whole new World. So he sold GNN to AOL, in 1995, and remained true to himself, as publisher of esoteric technology books with woodcuts of animals on their covers.
Since then, of course, O'Reilly & Associates has become an important brand for technical types who need a deep, honest understanding of a language, a protocol, or an Internet technology.
And O'Reilly himself has continued to speak out on things that interest him.
John Derrickson of Freeveda.org has released LadyLinux, a new (that is, a GNU) Linux distribution he claims works and plays well with the Windows software you're presently using. (The illustration is the cover of a translated book on The Vedas I hope John doesn't mind me mentioning.)
From Windows® to Linux®
Easier Than You Think
Handles all your old stuff:
Word, Excel, PowerPoint
Internet Explorer or Netscape®
Outlook or Eudora® mail
Money or Quicken®
There is a caveat, however.
Bruce Perens says that if they don't they will lose the dynamic potential of open source. And he's right. (The illustration is from his commentary.)
But IBM and Red Hat, which are profitable in the space, are just as threatened, even if they don't admit it.
Because operating systems are meaningless. Only applications mean anything.
In the U.S. Microsoft's political work is rigorously bi-partisan. It invests in both sides. Company executives give to both parties, and Microsoft lobbyists advise both parties' candidates.
In Brazil, apparently, no such bipartisanship is apparently possible. (That's the Brazilian national soccer shirt to the left -- available for sale here.)
Thus, Microsoft has tied Linux to the leftist government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and hopes to benefit financially from its fall.
Emilio Umeoka, Microsoft's man in Brazil, was as subtle as a heart attack in attacking that country's embrace of open source. He is quoted as telling Reuters, "If the country closes itself off again--as it did when it protected its information technology, 10 years from now we will wake up and be dominant in something insignificant."
Given The New York Times' poor record with stories like the Iraq story (which they have acknowledged) maybe I shouldn't be upset over a single snarky headline. (Although one good snark deserves another -- I found this illustration at the Long Hair Care Group.)
I will also stipulate that journalist Steve Lohr isn't responsible for this: R.I.P.: The Counterculture Aura of Linux. And the rest of the story is fairly responsible.
But since thousands of top executives won't get past the headline, and are bound to conclude from this that Linux is about 35-year old hippie stereotypes, it burns me up nonetheless.