The Emperor Has No Clothes

"Today I am one of the senior technical cadre that makes the Internet work, and a core Linux and open-source developer."

---Eric S. Raymond

Shut Up And Show Them The Code

Several years ago ESR's advice to RMS, no less, was to "shut up and show them the code". Let us apply the method of the master to the master himself, by examining the code that backs up the grand declaration that heads this page.

Core Linux Developer?

Hmm, easy to check. Let's see, shall we?
$ sed -n '/Eric S. Raymond/,/^$/p' /usr/src/linux/CREDITS
N: Eric S. Raymond
D: terminfo master file maintainer
D: Editor: Installation HOWTO, Distributions HOWTO, XFree86 HOWTO
D: Author: fetchmail, Emacs VC mode, Emacs GUD mode
S: 6 Karen Drive
S: Malvern, Pennsylvania 19355
So: terminfo database, maintainer of; three howtos, writer of; fetchmail, coder of; a bunch of emacs macros, coder of. Core Linux developer, did he say? Core Linux developer, even?


"one of the senior technical cadre that makes the Internet work". That had me puzzled. Then the penny dropped: translated out of ESR-speak, this means "I wrote fetchmail"! In reality he didn't, he took over an existing program called "popclient", and added some bells and whistle, but let's leave that aside. The work doesn't really match the self-description, does it?

Not that fetchmail is much to boast about in itself. A real Unix hacker has called it, among other things, an abomination before God. Fortunately, there's a simple replacement. Ironically, it's written in ESR's latest craze, python. Why use getmail rather than fetchmail? The FAQ explains:

"Why did you write getmail? Why not just use fetchmail?

I do not like some of the design choices which were made with fetchmail. getmail does things a little differently, and for my purposes, better. In addition, most people find getmail easier to configure and use than fetchmail. Perhaps most importantly, getmail goes to great lengths to ensure that mail is never lost, while fetchmail (in its default configuration) frequently loses mail, causes mail loops, bounces legitimate messages, and causes many other problems.

In addition, fetchmail has a long history of security problems:

getmail users have not had to worry about any of these security holes."

The Code Exposed

What have we got for "show and tell"? A utility for accessing POP3 mailboxes (that doesn't work properly), some editor macros, a few other toy programs (ASCII chart printers, hex dumpers... the sort every beginning programmer cuts their teeth on, and usually prefers to forget), and a handful of HOWTOs. Wow. Roll over, Ken and Dennis. But wait! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's... CML2!

CML2: A solution in search of a problem

The Mountain is With Child...

CML2 is, or rather was, an add-on for the new kernel build system, kbuild 2.5, designed to replace make config, menuconfig and all those nifty scripts that Linux hackers know so well. Gifted hackers can often make the difficult seem oh-so-simple. ESR has a different gift: he makes the simplest stuff oh-so-complex. To replace the handful of scripts that comprised "CML1" has taken ESR two years, since announcing the project in the summer of 2000, and it still is not ready. Truly, the mountain has given birth to a mouse.

"Hacking Social Systems"; or, how to lose friends and alienate people

ESR's announcement of his CML2 project on linux-kernel sparked the first of several flame wars on the subject. These were notable for our hero's complete lack of ability to work with other people. Matters came to a head when ESR adopted some rather "cathedral-like" tactics. Eventually, kernel hackers simply gave up trying to reason with him.

"Note that kbuild 2.5 and CML2 are independent, each can function without the other, complaints about CML2 have nothing to do with kbuild 2.5."

---Keith Owens, kbuild maintainer

So CML2 would seem to be finally dead and buried.

Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr Raymond?

The Jargon File

The original jargon file was maintained on MIT-AI for many years before being published by Guy Steele and others as the Hackers's Dictionary. Many years after the original book went out of print ESR picked it up, updated it and republished it as the New Hacker's Dictionary.

Picked up, updated... and destroyed, in one hacker's judgment. Another goes so far as to say that "the "author" stole the Jargon File fair and square.".

Although the "author" is a noted advocate of "Open Source" (that's Free Software to you and me), the production of successive versions of the jargon file is not open. That's bogus.

Cathedrals, Cauldrons, and... Charlatans

ESR, notwithstanding his limited experience (see above), has written copiously on the right way and the wrong way to do software development. But his three long essays are summed up nicely in one phrase: "Vulgar Raymondism".

An entry you'll never see in the "jargon file":

Raymondism: The deluded belief that free software defies Brooks' law, has fewer security exploits than non-free software and that just because thousands of people have access to the source code those same thousands of people will actually examine it."

And Then He Finally Lost It

"Now, you have an unprecedented opportunity to witness one man's descent into insanity online. Apparently having begun his "journey" by dressing up as James Bond and pretending his CD is a gun, computer nerd Eric S. Raymond has been on a slide into insanity ever since.

"His descent into insanity is exemplified by a series of posts, so self-evident in their detachment from reality, that they really require no commentary. Over at his site, Raymond has been going through the motions of putting together an Idiotarian Manifesto or some such. He's been trying to get the words right, trying to work out whether the terrorists, who he defines rather broadly, are "feral beasts" or "rabid dogs". This manifesto is the latest in a long line of ridiculous offerings from Raymond, beginning with his series of factually-challenged screeds ranting and raving about the evils of Islam and the hitherto unknown spectre of "Islamofacism"."

Read more at Warblogger Watch.

ESR Watch

Sun Jun 8 2003

From NTK comes this blast:
Good to see the increasingly eccentric ERIC S RAYMOND keeping himself occupied these days. His latest tweaks: a version bump or two to the JARGON FILE, the ancient hacker bible of which he is current custodian. But how steady is his hand on the sacred tome? Worrying is esr's recent inclusion of unfamiliar terms like "Aunt Tillie" and "GandhiCon", which on closer search-engine examination, appear to have been used almost exclusively by Raymond himself. And esr's current expansions of hacker dialect is curious too. New terms include "fisking" - a term pretty much restricted to the warblogosphere, and defined by your impartial host as "Named after a Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment". Also included is "anti-idiotarianism", as in Eric's Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto, a fascinating call to arms that implies "Anti-Idiotarian" means "To be against listening to anyone who would tell you you're sounding like an idiot these days". Finally (and not included in the changelogs), Eric has tweaked the Hacker Politics page, from its previous description as "vaguely liberal-moderate" to "moderate-to-neoconservative (hackers too were affected by the collapse of socialism)". Go tell that to the Kuro5hinners, Eric. Recalling Raymond's familiar defence of previous changes, "rather than complaining that I am 'rewriting history', help me write it!", let it be noted that if someone did want to fork the Jargon File, now would be the time to do it. Raymond's previous googlejuice at has been cast to the winds. A new, reformatted and popularly linked-to upstart could quickly seize the top Google slot. Ha, ha, as we apparently all say, only serious.

Mon Jun 23 2003

The Jargon File Lexicon.
Even though Eric Raymond makes the hypertext freely available, he does not make the tools and masters that generate the hypertext freely available. It's bogus, and there's no apology. That's not very open-source.

Open source is designed to advance the intellectual property of the corporation at the expense of effort by individuals outside the corporation. As such, it falls under corporatism, as defined in John Ralston Saul's dictionary The Doubter's Companion.

Could a community-maintained Wiki replace the jargon file?

A Final Word from MC ESR In Da House

I am EEE ESS ORR, elite hack-ORR, hear me ROAR!

I am of the hacker elite, can't you see?
fetchmail, blindfolds in nethack, er... (hum-hum diddle dee)
Bow down on your knees, don't you diss me!


I am an author, I "wrote" New Hacker's Dictionary
Well, in fact I done stole it from MIT
I didn't get in there, so I figured they owed me!


I am founder and leader of OSI (word!)
Now my Open Source show is really on the road!
Free Software? Hah! Show me dat code!


I am ESR Skywalker, elite Jedi Knight
I'm packing mah gun and I'm ready to fight
You diss me and I'll send you to eternal night!


I am wealthy board member, VA Something-or-other
Got plenty dollar bills, at least on paper
What's that? crash? Oh fuck! See you later!

(chorus x 2)

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