NEWS: Dramatic new 'decision' announced... to make GNU/Linux visible

NEWS: Dramatic new 'decision' announced... to make GNU/Linux visible

Post by F » Thu, 03 Apr 2003 15:17:05



DRAMATIC NEW DECISION ANNOUNCED, RAISING HOPES OF MAKING GNU/LINUX VISIBLE

By Frederick Noronha

IT HAPPENED WHILE America slept. A sudden announcement came through,
carrying with it the immense promise to make the impact of GNU/Linux not
only more noticeable worldwide, but also to bridge the chasm between those
who can't agree on what is the best name for Free Software.

On Tuesday (Tirsdag, in Norwegian) April 1, 2003 -- a potentially historic

volunteer-driven LinuxCounter made a stunning announcement.

Harald wrote in an email circulated worldwide:

        Hot off the press:

        Red Hat, Debian and Mandrake have all accepted a proposal to make
        Linux Counter registration mandatory for all users of their
        products.

        The deal clincher was that Richard Stallman threatened to make
        registration part of the language of GPL version 3. "If you're not
        willing to stand up for free software, you don't deserve to use it",
        he said. In tribute to this, the Counter will be renamed to the
        GNU/Linux counter as soon as we can figure out how to get
        "Gnu/LinuxCounter.org" registered as a domain name.

        The new server farms for the counter are expected to be installed
        shortly.

The LinuxCounter (counter.li.org) is an attempt to track the users of
Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) throughout the globe. But the
volunteer nature of tracking such usage means that only a few of those using
FLOSS actually sign up at this website.

As of March 31, 2003, there were some  133,442 persons and 116,174 machines
registered as users of FLOSS. The Counter guestimates that "between 0.2% and
5% of all Linux users have registered with the Linux Counter".

So, it argues, the total number of GNU/Linux users is probably between
2,668,840 and 66,721,000 people.

Incidentally, the tiny Faroe Islands -- with 57 GNU/Linux users -- ranks
first in terms of density of FLOSS users per capita. Antarctica (with three
persons using GNU/Linux there) ranks second, with Iceland third and the
birthplace of the Linux kernel Finland is fourth.

The debate over such a development quickly started pouring in.

Quote:>From the Spanish speaking world, Evert Meulie quickly wanted to know whether

"commercial companies like Red Hat & Mandrake will start paying us a
handsome salary for maintaining the counter?"

Alan Bort, another volunteer country manager, short back: "Money isn't
everything! Come on. perhaps they will pay us, but it's not likely... they,
after all, don't have that much income..."

"BTW... I wouldn't like to see the counter turned on a comercial website...
I mean... I think that advertising certain distros could be helpful in some
way... though I'm not sure if it would be moraly correct.... and CERTAINLY I
would hate to see some off-topic ads in the counter," added Bort.

Reportedly, at least one journalist smelt the scope for a scoop and dashed
across some questions....

But the different dimensions of the whole story soon became apparent.

Giving a hint of cross-cultural misunderstandings in a globalised world,
Alan Bort <333101 at personal.net.py> was soon found questions what exactly
the date of the announced news had to do "with Richard Stallman's decison
(and Mandrake's, Redhat's, etc's)".

Someone else wrote back to point out that April 1 is April's fool day.
Something similar to what is prevalent in the Spanish culture, which is
celebrated on December 28 -- el dia de los inocentes.

David Guerra Aragao wrote in from Portugal: "For more then 15 minutes, this
morning, I was fooled. Then when i look at the calender I smiled. I
thought of answering but then remember others could be fooled also."

Commented Dutchman Hugo van der Kooij: "It seems cultural differences still
exist. Perhaps you could see why this particular day is used for this
announcement? To the best of my knowlegde the Dutch originate this day to
1572 when we bluffed the Spanish out of the town of 'Den Brielle'."

But what if this wasn't just an April Fool's prank? Would such a
long-overdue growth in GNU/Linux's visibility at all be possible?

Alvestrand felt it was "fun watching the responses roll in" but didn't think
it was at all possible to make registration mandatory.

Said he: "The freedom to code should include the freedom to remain anonymous
while doing so -- look at DVD-Jon and his two fellow (anonymous) coders for
the DeCSS effort, for instance. First of all, we should make sure
registration is *easy*."

On the issue of calling this the GNU/Linux counter, Alvestrand told this
correspondent in an interview (realistic, though also conducted on April 1):
"My personal opinion is that the Linux kernel is the Linux kernel, while the
overall systems are GNU/Linux systems, ensuring that I'll be equally reviled
by all parties.

"And my usual terminal laziness is the only excuse why that straddling isn't
reflected on the Counter web pages -- when listing or referring to
"distributions", those should be GNU/Linux distributions, while the
references to "kernels" should be to Linux kernels."

Free Software guru Richard M Stallman <rms at gnu.org> also didn't see this
happening: "To require registration for use of a program would make the
program non-free.  It might be possible, but we will never do it," he said.

But, RMS added, in an email interview with this correspondent, as could be
expected given his persistent campaign to remind everyone what Free Software
is all about: "However, renaming the counter would be a nice thing to do."
(ENDS)
--
Frederick Noronha    : http://www.veryComputer.com/  : When we speak of free
* Journalist : http://www.veryComputer.com/       : software we refer to
Ph 0091.832.2409490  : Cell 0 9822 122436               : freedom, not price.

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