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Gmane
From: Rob Landley <rob <at> landley.net>
Subject: I'm going out now. I may be some time.
Newsgroups: gmane.linux.busybox
Date: Saturday 30th September 2006 20:17:08 UTC (over 10 years ago)
Bruce [expletive delted] Perens sucked all the fun out of this project for
me, 
and at the moment I really don't want to work on it anymore.  He may have 
lost the licensing dispute, but he did manage to suck out all my enthusiasm

for working on any project he can take credit for.

I was always a volunteer here, and now it's a chore.  I could sit here a
few 
months to see if I get over it, but I don't think that's in the best 
interests of BusyBox.  I'm still putting out a 1.2.2 bugfix release (which
is 
purely mechanical backporting, you can't get writer's block on something
like 
that), but afterwards I'm leaving Denis Vlasenko in charge: he already has 
write access to the downloads directory, and after 1.2.2 further releases
are 
up to him.  As far as I'm concerned, that makes him maintainer.  (Also,
he's 
never wanted the position, I trust his technical judgement, and he didn't
run 
fast enough when I asked him.  These are all important qualifications.)

I'd like to thank TimeSys for letting me spend so much of my time on
BusyBox 
this year.  I wasn't maintainer when they hired me, and there's no shortage

of other things for me to do for them, but they were really cool about it.

Some backstory: I spent a couple years tracking the SCO thing very closely
and 
doing what I could to help.  (You may remember Halloween IX and the OSI 
position paper I co-authored?  There was more.  I laugh at the whole "is PJ

of Groklaw a real person" thing because I was on a conference call with
her.  
BusyBox isn't the first hobby I've put lots of time into, late at night at 
various coffee shops...)

The bit that always got my blood pressure up was the "SCO Disease" theory
of 
intellectual property, where code could be contaminated with nebulous 
ownership claims that you cannot find by examination of the code, and can't

remove no matter what you change.  I also studied a lot of detail on the
USL 
vs BSD case, years ago, where Berkeley had removed all of the AT&T code in 
the normal course of a decade of development.

I didn't realize that I'd developed some emotional scars until Bruce showed
up 
after a decade long absence and arogantly lay claim to everything everyone 
else had done with a project he'd abandoned, and started dictating terms. 
He 
didn't even bother to read the archives of the discussion he jumped into. 
He 
could not be swayed with rational argument, wouldn't go off and do
something 
useful (like maintain his own fork), and even a detailed forensic analysis 
showing that we're not using his code anymore (shades of BSD vs USL) wasn't

enough to get him to shut up and go away (and certainly no guarantee
against 
a return in future), because in some nebulous way he _still_ somehow owned 
the project, and always would.

So what if Bruce quickly abandoned BusyBox to the obscurity of the Debian
boot 
floppy until Erik restarted the project years later?  So what if Bruce
never 
posted to this list for the whole of Erik's tenure?  So what if Bruce was
so 
out of touch that when he finally _did_ post to the list his personal page 
taking credit for BusyBox still pointed to busybox.lineo.com which was last

valid in 2001 (and which he apparently only knew about because Erik told
him 
about it in 1999 according to oldnews.html)?  Oddly, I worked on BusyBox
for 
over two years before I even knew Bruce had anything to do with it, and I 
didn't know the details until I did research for that lwn.net article I
wrote 
a few months ago.

The fact is, Bruce still founded the project, and named it, and is still 
taking totally undeserved credit for seven years of Erik Andersen's hard 
work, and still thinks he has some kind of moral authority over what we do 
with it.  And nothing I do will change that.

It's particularly annoying since Bruce didn't make a single original 
contribution while founding BusyBox.  I'm not referring to "all these
command 
line tools already existed", I mean even the idea of tying several binaries

together with different behavior based on the name it's called under comes 
from gzip.  (BusyBox 0.25 includes a badly mangled copy of gzip 1.2.4, and 
that varied its behavior based on argv[0] when it was released back in 
_1993_.)  Bruce never looked at the embedded market as Erik did, or dreamed

of a general-purpose package to replace the bloated gnu stuff like I did.  
The project Bruce declared complete and abandoned was approximately as 
interesting as Red Hat's "nash" package, which is another "command shell
with 
things like mount and insmod glued on", this time for initrd rather than
boot 
floppies.  It's by Erik Troan, part of the mkinitrd package, and it's still

in use by Fedora: http://www.die.net/doc/linux/man/man8/nash.8.html
And if you've never heard of "nash", you're in good company, because it
didn't 
have someone like Erik pick it up and turn it into a general purpose tool.

The last straw was a recent conference call with the SFLC lawyers where
they 
confirmed that I could release a GPLv2 only version, and confirmed that
files 
I apply a GPLv2 only patch to can only be distributed GPLv2.  But a strict 
reading of the GPLv2 apparently requires preserving old license notices
even 
when they don't apply (since section 2 includes section 1 verbatim; it's a 
bit muddy).  Apparently it was ok changing them before they pointed this
out 
since I was acting in good faith, but they wanted me to stop now that
they'd 
pointed it out to me.  They want me to leave the old license notices
intact, 
and add a new license notice to correct the old one, which is _deeply_
silly, 
and probably not an enforceable requirement.

At this point I got a mental image of Bruce pointing and laughing (yes,
right 
in the middle of a conference call with lawyers), which just won't go away.
 
As usual, Bruce was wrong on substance in every meaningful way, but managed

to make trouble by harping on a technicality in hopes of finding a
loophole.  
After years of tracking SCO, boy did _THAT_ feel familiar.  And I'm just 
sick of it.  It was the last straw.  I have now officially wandered into
"out 
out damn spot" territory thinking about Bruce's claims to BusyBox.  I see
it 
every time I look at the code, even though I can PROVE it's not there.  How

do you remove something that doesn't exist?

So to me, BusyBox has now acquired Bruce Disease.  To say it's no fun
anymore 
is an understatement: I've developed an aversion to even looking at it.  I 
just get sick to my stomach at the idea of working on it at all anymore.

I mentioned there's no shortage of non-BusyBox work for me at Timesys 
(although they did kind of enjoy having the BusyBox maintainer on staff :).
 
Hobby-wise if the only way to have a _simple_ license notice is to start
over 
from scratch, I can do that.  I've started a new project called "toybox" 
(purely for my own personal amusement so far).  Right now it's just a 
mercurial repository with a half-dozen files in it, but I'll be porting the

applets _I_ wrote to the new base (and maybe Erik's if he doesn't object,
he 
already said I can use his code GPLv2 only without actively stupid broken 
license notices), and that's also where I'll be writing a new shell and 
mke2fs and so on.  Maybe I'll put it up at http://toybox.landley.net or some 
such when I get the new server I ordered set up.  (Which won't be this 
weekend.  Memo to self: next time I check whether "barebones" includes a 
processor or not. :P )

I think this is long and rambling enough.  Denis wanted to make sure I'd
stay 
subscribed to the list, so I will, but I'm not planning on posting much.

Rob
-- 
Never bet against the cheap plastic solution.
 
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