With Andrew Tridgell silent, apparently on legal advice, open source community leader Bruce Perens has stepped up to defend the work Tridgell did reverse engineering the protocols used by Bitkeeper. Bitkeeper is the closed source proprietary source code management tool that until last week, Linus Torvalds used to manage Linux kernel source code.
Torvalds has responded to the controversy by blaming Tridgell, and made two extraordinarily intemperate attacks on him online, the second accusing him of willful destruction.
Perens told us that Torvalds needs to "cool it."
"There are times when Linus Torvalds can be a real idiot, and this is one of these times," said Perens.
He pointed out that the closed source tool was foisted on kernel developers despite the consensus that it was inappropriate for a GPL project. Many declined to use it regardless of the gateways McVoy created, says Perens. So the criticism is "very severely unfair" to Tridgell, he says.
As for McVoy, who Perens has known since he was seven (the pair grew up on Long Island), the advice is emphatic.
"Larry could have left gracefully, but I'm afraid that's just not in him... If he has any sense, he'll shut up."
That's the summary. Here's the Q&A.
Larry, Mungo and Tridge
Why, according to Torvalds, is exploring proprietary Microsoft protocols good, while exploring proprietary Bitmover protocols is bad? This does not compute.
"Let's look at what Tridge has done," said Perens.
"Firstly, he's well known because of Samba. He reverse engineered the over-the-wire protocol of Microsoft networking, so he could interoperate with it from a Unix system or Linux or a Macintosh. This is very welcome, and it's in commercial products from HP, IBM, Apple, and many other companies. No one seems to have a problem with this."
"There was never a question of copyright infringement, because he did not look at the software, only how it communicated over the wire."
"So becoming commercially very desirable for this task [Tridgell is on sabbatical from IBM Research as an ODSL Labs contractor, where he was named the second Fellow after Torvalds himself - ed] he again started a hobby project - which is how Samba started - which is a Bitmover compatible product. And he reverse engineered the over the wire protocol."
"He never laid hands on the Bitkeeper software. He did not look inside the software to do this."
"So I think a lot of people are giving him a great deal of trouble for the exact thing he did for Samba. It seems to me hypocritical. I can't tell Linus Torvalds what to say. But it's Andrew Tridgell who is literally not allowed to reply, here, and Linus is being very severely unfair."
"There are times when Linus Torvalds can be a real idiot, and this is one of these times."