Subject: Re: Linux and GPL vs BSD debate.
From: Craig Burley <>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 00:28:36 -0400 (EDT)

>1- The existence of the the FSF and all the GNU code being gpl'd.
>	This meant that Linux, under the gpl, looked to the casual 
>observer more like part of the project, than the BSD kernels.

I'd like to think this was an overall contribution, though there
are so many people claiming that the GPL actually puts people
off of working on code, it's hard to accept this as a given.

>2- The AT&T vs University of California lawsuit
>	Serious OS developers (including NASA's Beowulf project which 
>started in '93) had to be careful not to use code that might become 
>the property of AT&T.

Yup, though of course this is also related to the advantage FreeBSD
had of having an *existing* code base to use, as I pointed out in
email I just sent to the list.

>3- The fact that Linus was based in Helsinki Finland
>	Meant that Linus had to adopt an extremely open development 
>model.  There were no drinking buddies within driving range to help 
>him, so he had to learn to work with people he had never met.

Do you think this really helped so much?  Reason I ask is, I'm in
kinda the same boat myself -- not working anywhere near other
contributors to the code.  (Perhaps I've a lesson to learn here
about opening up g77 development further, which actually I've
been hoping to do for some time.)

>4- That his native tongue was not English
>	Meant he had no intentional, or unintentional, biases in who 
>he worked with worldwide.

This and the previous item still could be taken as *disadvantages*,
though, right?

I mean, do you know anybody who'd seriously say "okay, we need to
create a new software product that competes with Microsoft -- let's
find a guy who uses English as his second language, doesn't live
anywhere near anybody who is interested in helping, get him Internet
access and make him the project manager"?  Half - ;-) here.

But, this *is* an example of how I reason from other peoples'
reasoning as to why the GPL isn't itself a motivation to make
good software.

>5- The existence of the Internet at the outset of his project
>	Meant that he had to learn to do things, from the outset, in 
>an Internet-friendly way.
>I'm not accusing the BSD and FreeBSD teams of being closed, just that 
>the Linux teams were -perceived to be- more open.  This perception is 
>both evidenced by, and was reinforced by, the fact that there were 
>many vendors of Linux CD-Roms, but only Walnut Creek and 
>Infomagic marketed FreeBSD CD-Roms.

I vaguely recall some discussions emanating from some people (husband
and wife?) involved, I think, in the BSD effort that really seemed
quite off-putting, so this rings a strong bell from many years ago.

Though, my other "offhand" point regarding the success of the GPL is,
look how badly Richard Stallman has run things and projects at the FSF
compared to most other project managers, and the software still ends
up pretty good and pretty widely used.  It's hard to find serious
reasons for this *other* than the GPL.  (Not that rms hasn't *tried*
to do a good job, but I've never seen worse project management in
my professional career or had a more uninspiring "manager" for anything
I've worked on.)

>With the exception of the marketing-benefit of Linus using 
>the GPL to appear to be more GNU-friendly than BSD, I don't know of 
>any impact that the GPL vs BSD license differences had on the outcome.

I think that, barring actual evidence such as important contributors
to Linux saying "no way we would have contributed if it wasn't
GPL'ed", it remains mostly speculation on my part.  (E.g. as compared
to gcc and especially g77, which would be nowhere near as good as
they are without being GPL'ed, as vs. PD/BSD/AL'ed, if they existed at
all.  *Years* ago, people threatened to make a better, but not GPL'ed,
free C compiler, so if there'd been sufficient "enthusiasm capital"
in that notion and if the GPL hadn't been an important element, we'd
have a highly competitive C compiler under PD/BSD/AL that even Linux
developers would make sure their kernel could be compiled with.)

        tq vm, (burley)