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Re: glibc and the Linux libc fork

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: glibc and the Linux libc fork
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 16:31:48 +0200

Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
> For anyone who'd like to read about the "Linux libc" fork in the mid-90s, or
> for anyone who hasn't heard this story, I've put together all the info I
> could find here:
> --
> CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan __________________ \
> _________ \  GPLv3 and other work supported by
> \   Fellowship:

Responsible for this release are the usual suspects whom I want to

        Bruno Haible
        Isamu Hasegawa
        Andreas Jaeger
        Jakub Jelinek
        Geoff Keating
        Mark Kettenis
        Kaz Kylheku
        H.J. Lu
        Roland McGrath
        Andreas Schwab

And now for some not so nice things.

Stallman recently tried what I would call a hostile takeover of the
glibc development.  He tried to conspire behind my back and persuade
the other main developers to take control so that in the end he is in
control and can dictate whatever pleases him.  This attempt failed but
he kept on pressuring people everywhere and it got really ugly.  In
the end I agreed to the creation of a so-called "steering committee"
(SC).  The SC is different from the SC in projects like gcc in that it
does not make decisions.  On this front nothing changed.  The only
difference is that Stallman now has no right to complain anymore since
the SC he wanted acknowledged the status quo.  I hope he will now shut
up forever.

The morale of this is that people will hopefully realize what a
control freak and raging manic Stallman is.  Don't trust him.  As soon
as something isn't in line with his view he'll stab you in the back.
*NEVER* voluntarily put a project you work on under the GNU umbrella
since this means in Stallman's opinion that he has the right to make
decisions for the project.

The glibc situation is even more frightening if one realizes the story
behind it.  When I started porting glibc 1.09 to Linux (which
eventually became glibc 2.0) Stallman threatened me and tried to force
me to contribute rather to the work on the Hurd.  Work on Linux would
be counter-productive to the Free Software course.  Then came, what
would be called embrace-and-extend if performed by the Evil of the
North-West, and his claim for everything which lead to Linux's

Which brings us to the second point.  One change the SC forced to
happen against my will was to use LGPL 2.1 instead of LGPL 2.  The
argument was that the poor lawyers cannot see that LGPL 2 is
sufficient.  Guess who were the driving forces behind this.

The most remarkable thing is that Stallman was all for this despite
the clear motivation of commercialization.  The reason: he finally got
the provocative changes he made to the license through.  In case you
forgot or haven't heard, here's an excerpt:

  [...] For example, permission to use the GNU C Library in non-free
  programs enables many more people to use the whole GNU operating
  system, as well as its variant, the GNU/Linux operating system.

This $&%$& demands everything to be labeled in a way which credits him
and he does not stop before making completely wrong statements like
"its variant".  I find this completely unacceptable and can assure
everybody that I consider none of the code I contributed to glibc
(which is quite a lot) to be as part of the GNU project and so a major
part of what Stallman claims credit for is simply going away.

This part has a morale, too, and it is almost the same: don't trust
this person.  Read the licenses carefully and rip out parts which give
Stallman any possibility to influence your future.  Phrases like

   [...] GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free
   Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your
   option) any later version.

just invites him to screw you when it pleases him.  Rip out the "any
later version" part and make your own decisions when to use a
different license since otherwise he can potentially do you or your
work harm.

In case you are interested why the SC could make this decision I'll
give a bit more background.  When this SC idea came up I wanted to
fork glibc (out of Stallman's control) or resign from any work.  The
former was not welcome this it was feared to cause fragmentation.  I
didn't agree but if nobody would use a fork it's of no use.  There
also wasn't much interest in me resigning so we ended up with the SC
arrangement where the SC does nothing except the things I am not doing
myself at all: handling political issues.  All technical discussions
happens as before on the mailing list of the core developers and I
reserve the right of the final decision.

The LGPL 2.1 issue was declared political and therefore in scope of
the SC.  I didn't feel this was reason enough to leave the project for
good so I tolerated the changes.  Especially since I didn't realize
the mistake with the wording of the copyright statements which allow
applying later license versions before.

I cannot see this repeating, though.  Despite what Stallman believes,
maintaining a GNU project is *NOT* a privilege.  It's a burden, and
the bigger the project the bigger the burden.  I have no interest to
allow somebody else to tell me what to do and not to do if this is
part of my free time.  There are plenty of others interesting things to
do and I'll immediately walk away from glibc if I see a situation like
this coming up again.  I will always be able to fix my own system (and
if the company I work for wants it, their systems).


"Live cheaply," he said, offering some free advice. "Don't buy a house,
a car or have children. The problem is they're expensive and you have
to spend all your time making money to pay for them."

        -- Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman: 'Live Cheaply'

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