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We Have Multiple Funding Sources
And you thought you'd seen everything.
Andrew Tannenbaum, author of MINIX and presently professor at the Free University of Amsterdam, received a curious phone call from the US about a year ago. The caller identified himself as one 'Ken Brown', president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.
The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (ADTI for short) have reputedly been around since 1988 and specialise in what they term 'omnicurious journalism' [sic] in the international political arena. A quick check of their whois information shows they've been online since 1998.
The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution's basic areas of interest (omnicurious journalism) are 'Opportunity Africa', 'Democracy China', 'Cuba', 'Defense', 'Education', 'Reform', 'Environment', 'Immigration', 'Intellectual Property', 'International Monetary Fund', 'Democracy Switzerland', 'Taxes and Regulation', 'Technology', and 'United Nations'.
Yet somehow after all these years they developed a deep and burning interest in the life and times of one Linus Torvalds.
Ken Brown wanted to fly the pond to meet with Tannenbaum. Ostensibly this would be his only reason for making the trip. Still not knowing who Brown or the ADTI were, Tannenbaum said it would be OK.
Things got off to a funny start. Tannenbaum himself paraphrases their first meeting:
Tannenbaum: 'So what is the ADTI anyway?'
Ken Brown: 'We do public policy work.'
Tannenbaum: 'Ah! So you're a think tank like RAND Corporation?'
Ken Brown: 'Sort of.'
Tannenbaum: 'So what exactly do you do?'
Ken Brown: 'We issue reports and books.'
Tannenbaum: 'Who fund the ADTI?'
Ken Brown: 'We have multiple funding sources.'
Tannenbaum: 'Is SCO one of them? Is this about the SCO lawsuit?'
Ken Brown: 'We have multiple funding sources.'
Tannenbaum: 'Is MICROSOFT one of them?'
Ken Brown: 'We have multiple funding sources.'
Brown was extremely evasive about why he was interviewing Tannenbaum and who was funding him. He kept saying he was researching the history of Unix, but it became apparent to Tannenbaum that he knew nothing at all about it.
And Brown was no Mr Bright either. As Tannenbaum expresses it: 'As I soon learned, Brown is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.' Brown could have learned enough in a paperback about Unix to be able to drop buzzwords and perhaps fool a few people, but he hadn't bothered. He knew nothing about Unix and nothing about law.
What was Brown after?
The debacle between Tannenbaum and Linus Torvalds in USENET is probably Tannenbaum's greatest claim to fame today. He's done quite a lot of work with Unix and even worked at Bell Labs alongside the likes of bwk, dmr, and ken, but most people know him for the seemingly acrimonious debate about the direction and design of Linux - and for the way Linus literally tore him to pieces.
To a dumb outsider like Brown it would seem obvious that Tannenbaum had never buried the axe and would welcome the opportunity to get back. Brown presented such an opportunity.
He was working, or so he said, on a book which would expose Torvalds as a fake. For no single individual could ever write a complete operating system kernel, according to Brown. No, Linus stole the code, and he most likely stole it from Tannenbaum, and now Tannenbaum could get back.
But Tannenbaum didn't bite. He and Linus weren't enemies: despite the much publicised debacle, they were friends - something dimwitted outsiders like Brown could not have known or even suspected.
Tannenbaum sent Brown off. Brown was found later in the day still wandering the corridors of the Free University, accosting people and trying to get them to now 'spill the beans' about Tannenbaum.
But no one played along.
Way back before the Millennium someone from Microsoft sneaked a copy of what later became known as the Halloween Documents to Eric Raymond. The New York Times got in the picture and later squeezed an admission out of Microsoft that the documents were indeed genuine.
The result of a secret research project in Redmond, the Halloween Documents painted a bleak picture for the future of the software monster. Linux was on the rise and it used a radically different development model (the bazaar) and Microsoft, the documents concluded, had no way to win: if it was purely between rival technologies, the game was over and Microsoft were the inevitable losers.
That being said, the documents went on to speculate about how Microsoft could still possibly stay the inevitable. Other somewhat less savoury methods could be used, for example, the foremost of which would be a personal attack on Linus Torvalds himself, and another front runner the ability to sow dissension in the open source ranks: smear the character of the founder and get everyone in open source fighting each other and Microsoft might yet save the day.
But Halloween Documents or no, Ken Brown or no, isn't this all macabre fantasy? Surely no corporation, regardless of the recommendations of an advisory committee, would stoop to such tactics?
The individual who sent the Halloween Documents, ostensibly an employee of Microsoft Corporation, evidently did not think so. Obviously this individual was worried - and troubled.
And if anyone - any unwitting innocent computer end user - still does not 'get it', that someone need only look back at recent history in the sphere of IT to remember the kind of sleaze Bill and his 'frat boy plumbers' so willingly engage in.
All in the interests of free enterprise and the need to innovate of course.
- Bill Gates woos MS-DOS from Tim Paterson's company for a facile $50,000 by not revealing who his own client is. When Paterson's company find out, they sue. Gates agrees to settle out of court for another $400,000.
- Bill woos David Cutler from DEC to Redmond. Cutler takes his then current project across town and intact. DEC later find out and sue. Gates settles out of court for nine figures and an agreement to support the DEC Alpha processor on their coming NT.
- Bill finds out about DR-DOS and writes a memo asking someone to 'do something about it'. The result is the infamous AARD code. Unraveling itself at runtime, the evil snippet finds out if DR-DOS is running, and if so issues a full screen scare page. It took the likes of Andrew Schulman and Mark Russinovitch to track the code down and expose it for all its intentions.
- Bill buys and steals code from Spyglass to come out with a competitor to Mosaic. He doesn't want a browser; he just wants to keep cross platform development away from Windows. He's already told Mosaic they may not release a Windows version of their web browser, but Mosaic aren't listening, and so now Gates has to destroy them.
- Bill's minions rob names off gravestones to start what is supposed to look like a number of 'grassroots movements' petitioning the US Department of Justice to drop their investigation of Microsoft - all in the interests of free enterprise and Microsoft's 'need to innovate'.
- Bill releases a PR bomb wherein he accuses the DOJ of jeopardising the security of the US by continuing their investigation into his illegal monopolistic practices.
- Jim Allchin heads the internal struggle within Redmond to migrate the bulk of Windows system code into new modules run and controlled by Internet Explorer so that the DOJ cannot succeed in removing it from Microsoft operating systems. Bill Gates has claimed all along that IE is integrated into Windows, which is a blatant lie; this is an attempt to cover up his lie after the fact.
- Bill plants a mole in the Linuxworld organisation. This mole is in charge of the forums and is to 'astroturf' them so as to sow as much dissent as possible in the Linux community. Straight Halloween Documents recommendations.
- Bill and Steve start ranting about how Linux is a cancer and the work of communists. Steve keeps it up to this day, spouting nonsense such as no one knowing who writes things in the world of open source.
- Steve even goes so far as to threaten world leaders with retribution if they abandon Microsoft and move to open source.
- Even though both Bill and Steve know open source is a better and cheaper method (their report proved it) they initiate huge research projects instructed to 'prove' their model - and products - are better and cheaper.
- Bill continues to insist his number one headache Internet Explorer is not insecure. He also insists that download statistics for Firefox lie and that the number of Firefox users is insignificant.
- Neither Bill nor Steve have ever commented on Amit Yoran's condemnation of Internet Explorer; neither Bill nor Steve have ever commented on CSIS' condemnation of Microsoft's IIS web server software. Neither of them have ever commented on the increasing number of statements by security authorities that Microsoft software is to be abandoned in the interests of user safety.
- Bill's involvement with SCO and financing of their attempts to harass IBM and the open source community and movement are now more than satisfactorily documented.
- Bill's minions are now harassing visitors to the Microsoft site by making the CSS code compatible only with the non-compliant IE: browsers that follow the standards - meaning almost all browsers except IE - will read the deliberately corrupted CSS code and trip up.
Although it doesn't matter if Ken Brown is on the Microsoft payroll or not, everything points to it. He's ostensibly brain dead and precisely the kind of individual Microsoft end up employing.
And although there is no truth to his assertions, his book will by all accounts be released anyway. Bad journalism can hurt an author and is generally not a good idea unless the author is being richly rewarded for running that risk.
And finally, this is the only weapon left at Bill Gates' disposal. His code sucks; his empire has crumbled around him; his own internal research team told him years ago his situation is hopeless; all he can do to fight back is to fight dirty.
And for him that's not much of a challenge.
After all the brouhaha, Ken Brown and the ADTI have put their revelations offline - you need security clearance to see their explosive material.
But you can write to Ken Brown and ask him for a copy - and while you're at it ask him a bit more about his 'multiple funding sources' - by clicking here.
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A scathing comeback by Herr Torvalds.
Samizdat: Stinks on Ice
ESR reviews Ken Brown's book.