1) European DMCA
Given that you won't visit the USA given the enactment of the DMCA. If the DMCA equivalent passes in Europe, will you move? If so, is there anywhere that is safe from this kind of insane law (it sounds like peru may be a new haven for free software)?
It's very hard to fight laws in foreign countries. Dmitry for example was almost certainly chosen because he was Russian. It's sadly much easier to win a case in almost any country when you use your historical enemies and prejudices to set the precedents. "Foreigner attacking US business interests" just sounds so much better in court than "clever kid helping his grandma read ebooks", especially when someone notices you can easily get a longer sentence for helping grandma read than kicking her down the stairs.
In the EU we are doing what we can to make the EUCD harm limited, and also trying to educate politicians on the damage they have done. If we can tell them in advance the problems the EUCD is going to cause we can help them frame futher law to prevent those abuses, and to update it.
Knowing the EUCD will trip up its much easier to ensure that there is a nail bed where it will land and you know when to stick your foot out as it streamrollers past, than it is to attempt to hit it head on. We've already had some interesting pointers. In a recent case the judge accepted that the law favoured the bad guys, but said openly that had it been brought up several other ways they would have had no defence. So we have some good ideas how to hit back.
I will be staying put for now. Its my job to hell fight the EUCD just as its the US folks duty to fight the DMCA if they believe in the values the USA claims to hold high. Maybe someone can find a way to use the US flag to defeat a copy protection system. That should make a most entertaining hearing.
Slowly the political wheel is turning, although not entirely in ways I like. The european parties advocating that the nation comes before europe and before international treaties are winning more and more votes. Sadly these parties also advocate racism and forced repatriation of foreigners. It is becoming very important for a lot of reasons that mainstream parties recognize what is going on, otherwise there is a real risk the racists will win real power, because it may be the only way people can vote for these other extremely important political changes.
2) What is your political goal?
What is the goal you hope to obtain in regard to the DMCA dispute? How to you intend to meet those goals ?
Personally, I think that as time passes, people will become more and more technical and eventually the absurdity of the DMCA will be exposed on a more general population than just the techies that it is now. So the best means to an end IMHO is educating the general public. Is this your intention?
The ultimate goal has to be to find a middle way that addresses both the rights of copyright holders to protection of their works, and the rights of society to ensure those protections are limited and don't do harm to the general good. Copyright was invented for government censorship and military purposes. It became something for the good of society, and the USA acquired it in that form. Its important it remains for the good of society.
The truth is that the DMCA has no value at all in stopping piracy, only in stopping innovation. It takes one person to break the protection on something and the game is over. That person may be anywhere and well beyond US law. What you can do is to deal with the actual folk who distribute such material. Lets face it, to get a copy of something on the internet you must be able to find it. If you can find it, so can law enforcement.
We need to get to a point where people who actual commit real crimes are punished not people who make tools that might be misused. The 'logic' of the DMCA extended to other regimes makes grim reading for any US citizen:
Photocopiers can be used to copy - ban them, control the libraries
Typewriters can be used to make copies - license then
Web sites can be used to publish illegal material - license/censor them
Which leaves you with a state remarkably similar to the old stalinist block.
The SSSCA mark two and the digital TV rights in the USA are very similar problems. The digital TV one is confused by the fact that encryption of free to air digital tv is heavily restricted in the USA. It isn't in the UK which makes that simpler and you can get Digital TV cards here. The UK encrypted to air TV people went spectacularly bankrupt but thats market forces at work.
I'd like to see the SSSCA stuff solved by market forces and sanity too. Let the Hollywood folks make themselves an antitamper PCI or USB2 hardware card that has only encrypted data in, a smartcard slot for per user rights management and an SVGA analogue overlay/analogue out. If the market is right they can sell/give away such hardware and make a profit on the films. No software system will survive a cracker long, and indeed things like vmware already make a mockery of software only stuff like windows digital media protection since people can record the audio output of the virtual pc trivially.
A tamperproof hardware card also means they can publish all the programming information to load and play movies on it with any OS. That will cut down the number of people interested in cracking it by 99% too.
Keep the government well out of it. Neither Hollywood or the US government (or indeed government in general) has been very good at meddling with technology and innovation. The SSSCA mark 2 is basically an attempt by the studios to make someone else pay for the technology they want to use to sell their product. Thats utterly cynical misuse of power. If its worth doing - let them pay for it.
Educating the public assumes you have access to media that the public proper read and which sees the DMCA as bad. You don't, the media empires helped create that law. That makes such a process very slow and hard to achieve as it has to be done person by person.
3) Microsoft .NET and Linux
What are your feelings on Microsoft's .NET and any initiatives to make the technology work on Linux?
Microsoft has publically stated that it has patents on critical parts of .NET and will enforce them. If you think that .NET is a good idea, or cloning .NET is a good idea, remember you won't have a US market unless they find you amusing enough to allow to live on. And if you think Microsoft can be trusted on this look at their recent activities against Samba.
The system itself is mildly interesting as a technology. Its yet another virtual machine, roughly equivalent to picojava in capabilities. It has an interesting way to self generate IDL, but one which their own papers say cannot represent all programming languages.
The more dangerous parts of all this are not so much .NET but chunks of the model that not only the .NET product and the Java standards rely on. Things like xmlrpc, soap and the stuff on top of them are designed to "interwork through firewalls". A better phrase would be "go through the firewall like a knife through butter in a way that prevents the companies involved monitoring the activity".
When all you have is an encrypted SSL session how are you going to figure out if its a legitimate bit of ebusiness with a related company or someone in your company uploading your entire company customer database?
4) Organizing the OSS community for activism
Free software programmers and the extended community are arguably the most organized non-hierarchical, grassroots constituency in the world. The community includes the tens of thousands developers and millions of endusers tightly networked through institutions like sourceforge, slashdot, countless LUGs, etc. The ability to produce projects of the scale and complexity of the Linux kernel, the Debian distribution, or the engineering behind the Internet itself is a testament to the community's ability to organize more than anything else.
Despite this incredible organizing for software production, support and distribution very little of this gets translated into the political realm. In his last slashdot interview [slashdot.org] Lawerence Lessig chided the community for this.
Organizers of traditional political campaigns for social justice or equitable distribution of power would drool over having a constituency as organized as that which we have. How do you think the community can translate its effective organizing in the technical arena into the political realm?
Most organised grassroots constituency. Nowhere near. It's an elitist rather unrepesentative bunch of lazy people. They have far too small an overlap with the masses or with the political powers. I also think that the church would probably find any claim of that nature by the free software people rather funny. Walk into a random record shop and say "Tipper Gore" then, assuming you survive, count the percentage of people who don't know. Repeat the same by going into a random pcworld type computer shop but saying "EFF". The mainstream awareness just is not there.
The way you fix that is to get up off said backsides and write to politicians, propose alternatives, write letters to the mainstream newspapers and organise events to publicize things. Unfortunately everyone thinks it will be OK because someone else will get up off their backside instead.
You achieve change because everyone gets off their backsides and does stuff. Gandhi didn't free India alone, women didn't get the vote because one person rang the prime ministers office and asked for it. The same goes for much smaller and less important goals too.
5) The end of cheap "open" hardware?
It looks like us PC hardware hackers are likely to have a much harder time in the next ten to twenty years as the average (desktop) PC becomes increasingly integrated. I see a trend away from the PC of today towards an increasingly closed 'black box' where the components are no longer a set of cards which are easily replacable. This is inevitable, especially at the lower end of the PC market, since increasing integration leads to lower costs for the manufacturers. Correspondingly, custom hardware will become more expensive and be increasingly restricted to the high end...
How do you think such a trend away from "open" hardware would affect open source development, especially at the lower end of the spectrum? As the computer becomes more and more of a mysterious black box, do you think that the would-be hardware hackers of tomorrow are more likely to turn towards software and application development, and would this be mostly good or mostly bad for open source software (more applications/systems programmers, but fewer hardware-level programmers)?
The desktop PC is an anachronism already to most people. The high flexibility of the system makes it scary to use, expensive to manufacture, and hard to make reliable. PC's are also noisy, they are hard to reset to the state they arrived in without losing your personal data and so forth.
The low cost sealed box PC is an inevitability, and one that is badly needed to push computing on a stage. It is much cheaper to do safety and approvals work on a system that the user can't poke a screwdriver inside and which doesn't contain connectors sticking up off the board like small aerials.
I don't see all custom hardware getting more expensive, or the inability to fit cards as a problem. If the entire system is cheaper than the new card it is a quite serious recycling problem rather than a financial one. A lot of electronics hackers have found things like USB very good too. Its not hard to write USB devices and its a great way to plug fun electronics into a PC, USB even provides device power for you.
There is a temptation for some manufacturers to make it deliberately hard to twiddle with a computer, to fit non standard external connectors and the like but I'm hopeful the market will address that - preferably better than it did laptop docking stations.
I'm also not sure sealed boxes make less "open" hardware in the free software sense. It may even be advantageous. If the systems are very integrated it becomes easier for all OS vendors to handle things like driver writing because there are less drivers to write. A piece of silicon is pretty opaque without the manual whether you have to saw the box open or undo screws.
It might mean a reduction in the number of programmers with good hardware experience, it might also mean there are more good programmers free to work on the next critical things - user interfaces, security models, or replacing the current web services garbage with something that is scalable and can be made to work for example
6) Free vs Commercial
With free versions of software such as Open Office constantly improving, what place do you perceive commercial software to have in the free software world as free alternatives mature to an acceptable and usable state?
It really comes down to people having a business model that justifies the extra cost of their proprietary product, both in convenience to the user and development cost to them.
Sometimes that equation makes real sense. For example I'm sick of deleting bug reports from people with the Nvidia kernel modules. I've talked to Nvidia folks about why they do it. The bottom line is that I can't make a good case for them to open source it. Their worries about what it might do to their performance relative to competitors are quite well founded.
If the governments would do something properly about the Microsoft monopoly, patent abuse and other false pressures the markets ought to sort it out. Right now its not the "invisible hand" guiding the markets its the "lobbyists jackboots"
I've been programming a computer since I was 8 years old. I'm 29 now. That's 21 years of "experience". Lately, however, I've come to the realization that I'm never going to make it "big" unless I grow a Big Ole Programmer's Beard. I'd like to think it's possible to be a wise UNIX guru without one, but I think it would be easier if I had a beard. A big one.
My question is: Since my wife won't let me grow the Big Ole Programmer's Beard, what should I do to make it "big" in the world of UNIX gurus?
You could try a disguise kit. Maybe a stick on beard would work? I'm glad to see that you have at least decided the wife is more important than a beard.
Linus is proof that you can change the world without a beard, even by accident. In my opinion you have to do two things to be a Unix guru. Firstly you need to know a lot about the system and the philosophy. Being able to say "V7 was the last real Unix" and justify your claim is a good test. Secondly you need to be actively helping and teaching other people that knowledge - which in turn also improves yours immensely. If you want the holes in your knowledge showing up try teaching someone.
8) The future of Linux
With the rise of KDE3, increased user friendlyness and "simple" distros such as Mandrake and Lindows. Do you belive the development of Linux and the open source comunity would be harmed in any way, if Linux ever became mainstream?
Linux is already mainstream in the embedded world and in the server world. Take a look at the huge Wall Street companies using Linux if you doubt that.
The desktop is much more challenging, but I don't actually see it as a "problem" if it becomes mainstream. It will certainly add pressure to improve standardisation work in the LSB for the user interface libraries.
The bigger challenge in terms of not breaking the OS is embedded. The drive for size is not that major a problem but the goal of extremely good real time response does have potential conflicts. Solving those of course also helps on the desktop.
9) What should we fear the most?
There are many plagues that threaten the open-source community and even the software industry in general. There are software patents, DMCA and the like, frivolous lawsuits, MS bullying to name a few. In your opinion which one is the most dangerous? Also, what do you think is the best way to fight it?
Most of them depend what country you are in. I don't see the USA or western europe as a long term software development market for example. They are too expensive and there is too much stupid (as opposed to justified) red tape and expense.
Software patents and frivolous lawsuits all sit together. When you look at the kind of rubbish the USPTO has allowed to be patented - stuff like merge sorting web logs - you being to realize the scale of the mess. Fortunately everyone is now telling the US government this, even patent attorneys. It is going to take a lot of cleaning up and will require political will alas.
Microsoft certainly are a threat. If they are given a slapped wrist then their behaviour after the lawsuit is going to make their behaviour before it look quite saintly. It won't be politicially acceptable for the US to drag them straight back into court. They know that from their last slapped wrist. The fact they have been able to avoid paying shareholders dividends has given them huge amounts of cash and power. Typically a corporation pays over 80% of its profit as shareholder dividends in the USA.
Its actually quite ironic for them to describe Linux as un-American. Work out the tax that would have arisen if they paid dividends like normal companies on their 30 billion plus cash mountain. Now convert that into extra on the ground US security service employees and ask the obvious question..
10) Do you have any other interests?
Do you have any other interests, besides Linux? I know in order to get to the "guru" status you have to be pretty dedicated to one thing. But what else do you like? Or are you a 100% Linux-kernel-hacker? I swear I saw you the other day riding a Harley. ;-)
I don't think you can obtain guru status without having other interests. If you never look out of your own windows you will miss so much that has direct relevance and is usable in your own field of work.
The things I actually do tend to vary, the last couple of weeks have involved playing Illuminati and practicing my world domination skills (one win, one joint win out of two) and investigating furniture. Next week may involve repotting plants I think, and trying to work out why one of my spiderplants is dying.
I know I'm getting older too. There comes that certain point in life when you actually find things like furniture catalogues interesting. As a friend summed it up "I have found in me the urge to buy power tools".
You wouldn't find me riding a Harley however. I've never been keen on bikes. and my mother promised long ago if I ever got one she'd smash it into little pieces (a close relative ended up with a permanent limp from a bike accident). I've done enough damage falling off a real horse, I'll skip iron ones.