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Linus and his Merry Men (aka H4) 63

jra wrote int to send us a link to another ESR composition, this one humorously titled 'Halloween 4'. It's actually a funny little extrapolation on the recent comments from MS's Ed Muth referring to the Open Source Community as Robin Hood and the Band of Merry Men. It's New Years, It's Funny. Enjoy it.
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Linus and his Merry Men (aka H4)

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  • Face it man. Guns ARE offensive weapons, encryption is not. The argument, which sadly no one in this thread has hit, is one of DESIGN, not of USE. Encryption is a kind of procedure _designed_ to make data unaccessible to those without the key; guns are a kind of machine designed to _kill and maim_ living things. Encryption algorithms, no matter if someone may creatively use them in an offensive manner, don't have anything offensive in their design, while guns are designed to serve for offense.


  • Argument from authority. And anyway, these were people living in the early post-revolutionary USA, who had, a bit more than a decade before, fought a war against one of the world's biggest superpowers.

    People here in this thread are not going into some very important issues about guns. Reading this, it's like if guns were the product of some domestically grown plant or whatever. The truth is, guns are built by big companies for a profit. For a profit means they are willing to sell to almost anyone. For example, to third world dictatorial goverments that use them to arm death squads against peasants. In fact, the US government has been this whole century heavily involved in that (think El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia and others, armed by the US).

    I think most USians have never seen armed official repression first hand. I for one, have luckily only had a really slight taste of it, which involved no shooting, just sharpshooters aiming rifles from helicopters at unarmed students for no good reason; just to make a show of force, film the whole thing, edit it, and make some propaganda about "students attacking our democratic ideals". Political persecution, that's it. (The pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico has a long history of political persecution against independentists. Kidnapping, murder, infilitration, and public massacres in my university included).

    The point being, it's easy to defend the right of USians (and conveniently ignoring the rest of the world) to bear arms (and therefore defending the arms industry) while sitting comfortable in front of a computer, reading /., getting flown around first-class to give conferences, and, in general, close to the top of the food chain, claiming that you need to defend yourself from those in the bottom of said chain.

    Just thinking about the immediate issue of 'self-defense' is failing to grasp the big picture, where a few privileged few who enjoy huge power, which the people did not appoint to, benefit from all this misery. Think Indonesia and Guatemala again: governmental death squads, armed by the US, massacre people to defend the interests of huge corporations.

    I figure I'm just ranting by now. So I'll come to a close. The best reasons for opposing arms are, IMHO, antimilitarism and pacifism in general. This does not mean opposing the right to defend oneself against criminal aggression in the USA; it means opposing the purported right of a select, non-elected few to profit from widespread misery, all over the world.


  • I find the put downs of ESR distasteful. He wrote something intended to give you a chuckle or two on the first day of 1999.

    I use Fetchmail everyday and am greatful to ESR for his excellent software as well as how he has promoted OpenSource, but I also share some skepticism about all the different licenses that are coming out. I agree with the poster that said it makes things confusing for the average programmer.

    I'm curious as to why some posters had to bring up ESR's politics in their comments. What that has to do with this piece of writing is baffling.

    However, since gun control was brought up i'd like you to consider the following:

    Look at all those gun freaks always ranting and raving about their Freedoms. Only criminals need guns anyway, right? Besides, we have a trained professional military and police force with better resources than some scruffy gun freak to protect us.

    Sound anything like:

    Look at all those open source freaks always ranting and raving about their Freedoms. The only people who need encryption are criminals, right? Those folks are a bunch of ragged hackers, why do they need to build an OS when we have professional programmers with better resources to build us one?

    I'm truly curious what people think about this. I am all for Geeks with Guns. Its in the American Bill of Rights for a purpose. Think Free Speech not Free Beer:)

    Happy New Year!
  • The analogy of guns and encryption is flawed. Encryption is basically defensive; it prevents people from doing something to you--namely finding out things that you want to keep secret (like passwords, credit card numbers, personal info) and using that knowledge against you. Guns are basically offensive weapons; they allow you to do something to someone else--namely injuring or killing someone else. Even when one uses a gun to defend oneself, it is still an offensive tool, preventing one from doing something to you _by doing something to them_.

    The analogy is flawed. Be careful.

  • Posted by yuiop:

    I was ready to cringe when I saw this -- some already consider ESR a bit too daffy [] for the spokesperson role.

    However, the story turned out to be hilarious, well written & has a nice plot twist at the end (cliché, but hey, it's a fairy tale!). I hope this gets passed around by email.

    Why be boring? The world doesn't need more 'Nightline'-friendly talking heads, it needs millenial pranksters [] with a serious message.

    Friar Eric seems to get all the best lines for some reason, though. :)

  • > This simply gives the states of the US the right to keep up their own militia. That's all. No right to arm bears!

    This absurd interpretation of the Second Amendment isn't shared by serious legal scholars -- or indeed by anyone who has studied the Amendment's history.

    You may want to check out some or all of these:

    Palladium of Liberty? [] (Oklahoma City U Law Review, 1996)
    The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration [] (Georgetown Law Journal, 1991)
    The Embarrassing Second Amendment [] (Yale Law Journal, 1989)

    These are just a few of the more than 40 articles published in the last two decades on the subject. Of these articles, only two (both, incidentally, by lawyers known more as political hacks than scholars) agree with your assertion.


  • by pohl ( 872 )
    Face it, people love to bash. MS isn't the only target (don't kid yourself). If it's not them, then it's ESR or RMS. And if it's not them, then it's the slashdot crowd. If not them, then it's Anonymous Cowards. If it's the bashing that you don't like, that's one thing. But it looks like it's the bashing of MS in particular that's getting under your skin. Am I reading you wrong?
  • to combat MS-FUD. Humor is one of the strongest weapons in our arsenal, methinks.

    Down with MS-FUD in '99!

  • Most excellent piece of literature.
  • Hehe. Loved it. I kept thinking of the Robin Hood cartoon all the way through. I liked the Vinod character the best.

    How about Lord of the Rings next? Bill could be Sauron, Ed Muth plays Saruman, Vinod plays Wormtongue (hehe). Hmmm, except I don't quite see Linus as Frodo. More of a Gandalf really. Oh well ...

  • Though certainly composed in haste--he could have at least mentioned RMS...King "Richard", off on a holy crusade, which is why we don't see him in the story.

    Nathless, I got a kick out of it.
  • Sheesh, what you might find funny is not what I find funny. I mean, does everyone like Monty Pyhton? Half the people I know can't stand it... the other half love it (happen to love it myself.)

    You know, the only selfserving things I could find that ESR says are in major press publications (on line or on dead wood.) And we all know they NEVER take statements out of context, right? Hell, half the things I've seen that they've quoted from Linus make him sound like an egotistical jerk. I've just seen enough outside the press that I know this is exactly opposite of truth. I don't think it would matter who the press (or the community) chose to be "spokesman." Until we get more writers like Nick and Jon, we are going to have to deal with the press not understanding, and in turn misleading the public.

    ESR has a dry sense of humor, it seems. Alot of hidden sarcasm (which I find funny, because I see it even in some misleading mainstream articles.) Maybe less of that, with monotone, humorless statements is what you'd like? Maybe that would create a better image... but personally, I like it. It forces intelligent reading, not just letting the words go in and stick. People should THINK, man. Of course, too few do these days (else FUD would not exist at all.)

    This isn't a marketing machine, after all. And thank God for that.
  • Hmmm. Granted that it's not about state rights, then what is it about? It's there for a reason. No other statement of individuals' rights contains such an elaborate justification, a preamble the size of half the article. Not e.g. the freedom of speech stated in the first article.

    What is this "well-regulated militia..." thing, if it isn't intended as a restriction/qualification? The writers of the Constitution are otherwise so exquisitely economical with words. If the 2nd Amendment is intended to just give individuals the right to bear arms whenever and wherever they please -- why not just say so? Just wondering, I am no law man.

    And why is it, that in quotes of the 2nd Amendment by NRA folks, this preamble commonly is forgotten? What do their lawyers know that I don't?

    I don't mind people keeping Kalashnikovs for hunting rifles, or hand guns for target practice. It's OK with me, Eric, you're safely on the other side of the ocean ;-) But think about it!

    Back to topic, your newest piece was good for a smile. But I didn't like the name. I think the "Hallowe'en theme" has been milked enough by now.

    And I still like fetchmail more.
  • The analogy between the government maintaining armed forces and police, and professional programmers taking care of software, is flawed. The government is elected by the people (well, sort of).

    It would be more accurate to compare Microsoft with, e.g., Mussolini (yes, he did make the trains run on time).

    And about the Constitution, please read it first (Art. II of the Bill of Rights):

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    This simply gives the states of the US the right to keep up their own militia. That's all. No right to arm bears!

    Time for another tea party, I guess.
  • I think we all need to take a chill pill and enjoy what is really just a piece of satire, intended not for self-aggrandizing but to make people laugh. Ever read User Friendly []? Is Iliad bad for making fun of Microsoft? He did a hilarious parody of Star Wars with Tux as one of the heroes and the Death Orb being Microsoft's coroporate HQ.

    People..get a clue. I don't *know* ESR, but I have met him. He is warm, witty and passionate about Linux, open software and other geeky things. I don't happen to share his love of firearms, but then again I don't have any right to judge him about it either.

    It's his choice to write these pieces, and your choice to read it or not. It is his right to be able to express himself as he so desires as long as he harms no one. On the other hand, you have NO right to expect him to make you happy or agree with you.

    Happy New Year to all of you, including the MSCEs out there. It's going to be a wild year for us geeks so put on your seat belt...

    ESR, thanks for you sharing your gift of words and IMHO funny sense of humor!

    --Rick []

  • I didn't find this particularly funny. And, what does this have to do with the "halloween" memos?
  • Can you say "self-indulgent", boys and girls? I knew you could.

    When I saw "Friar Eric", I got a bad taste in my mouth. "Hey, gang, my very funny story, starring ME!" Umm, I think not. If someone other than ESR had written it and assigned a role to "Friar Eric", perhaps I would not have hit my back button so fast. So sue me.

    With all due respect to ESR for "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", IMHO his apparent grandstanding is counterproductive to Linux and free software/open source at times.

  • Living in South FL, the story about Citrix was well known.(They got totally screwed).
    Heres a typical Scenarios... MS comes in, checks out your software, announces they could do the same thing with a couple of programmers, offers you an insuliting low price to purchase. When you refuse, they hire a couple of programmers, steal your ideas, make it different enough to avoid being sued, put you out of business.

    Borland (now Inprise) caught MS using Borlands' own technology against them. They had to modify their license agreement, so that you have to get permission to distribute more than 10,000 copies of your software. (Don't worry, if you're not making something that is competing with them, you will get approval, and still royalty free).

    So, in the end, MS realy does believe in open source, that is, everybody elses open source so they can benefit. Can you say "hypocrosy"?
  • by Pyro P ( 7396 )
    Same old cliches, different setting. To me, this was not funny.
  • Good King Richard!

  • Is your car specifically built to kill me? No.

    Is a gun specifically made to put holes in people? Well... That appears to be the function that the designers had in mind, yeah.

    But still, a gun (or your car) CAN be used offensively, but so far I haven't seen any casualties from the use of encryption. Which was the original point, if you remember.

  • But the analogy is still flawed.

    It doesn't matter if you can use a gun defensively, it's still designed to be a pretty offensive thing. I don't see how you can use encryption in an offensive way.

    And how about ICBM's with nuclear warheads then? They are used defensively most of the time too. Yet you have to admit that they can be pretty damn offensive once you actually use them.

  • I don't think I would write a hero worshipping story with myself as one of the heroes and describe myself as "smarter in my sleep" than Bill Gates. But then I'm not Eric Raymond.

    I happen to know a guy who likes Linux (in fact, he was the one who introduced me to it) and is a MSCE at the same time. He must earn money to survive somehow. Go figure! But I guess all who are in any way associated with Microsoft is tainted and evil?
    "A few MCSEs try to lay hands on them. Tove side-kicks the luckless minions. They fall down."
    Haha. Violence. Fun.

    I'm also sick of Eric's "nerds with guns" propaganda which has occasionally appeared in Slashdot.
    "If you're politically correct you'd better skip this -- it might put you in danger of learning something." Right.
  • Forgiven... and I see exactly what you're seeing. And trying not to laugh. That's great. Here's the names I remember...

    BillG = Melkor
    SBallmer = Sauron
    Ed Muth = That spider thing (predecessor of Shelob)
    Vinod = Just another Balrog
    Saruman & Wormtongue = traitors (yet to be determined)
    Free software bashers = Orcs
    RMS = Iluvatar, maybe? (Father of all, including the gods, humans, elves, earth, and whatever else)
    Linus = Ea
    Other high-profile PROGRAMMERS = other gods (sort out yourself)
    Mithrandir (Gandalf) and his peers = loud voices we all know (insert names here), that try to steer our future course. Who is who is yet unknown. (Remember, possible traitors can be in this catagory as well:)
    Elves = All the hackers, programmers, and others that have been contributing for a long time.
    Humans = the general public
    Heroes = those that GET IT, understand, and try to help. Some on a par with some of the elves.

    Just some ramblings. Corrections/improvements welcome.

    No I'm not a big "Hero Worship" guy. I just find much amusement in analogies. :])
  • Egad. I hadn't thought of that.
  • I think a lot of fun could be had with Bill being Gargamel, and the happy little Linux/OSS community being the Smurf village.

  • Isn't this somewhat of an overkill? I think we pretty much covered this in the comments section on the related slashdot article yesterday. It is funny the first time, but not the twelve-hundreth time!
  • "oh, it's so precious i could just die."

    he's not as cloyingly cutesy as larry wall, but that's not saying much. humor requires a lighter touch and a greater sense of the absurd than ESR has (or for that matter larry wall, who makes piers anthony look subtle). ESR is not a fool, and he has contributed infinitely more to OSS than i have, but he's making an ass of himself trying to play a role that doesn't fit.

    he also seems to be trying to bootstrap a halloween memo industry here. he's milking it for all it's worth. "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" is great stuff, and important to boot, but all he's doing now is advertising himself. i read his annotated version of halloween II, and the comments were mostly obvious, pointless, and cocky. i was embarrassed for him.

  • Lighten up

    point taken.

    Are you saying there's only The One True Way to humour?

    eek! i'm not denying that there may be many roads to humor; i'm simply saying that ESR isn't on any of them. he's writing schlock.

    And you have a patent on it? Geeezz, if you don't like it, write your own!

    oh, lord, i can't write humor worth a damn. it's hard to write humor, and i'm not much of a writer to begin with. i guess my excuse (for what it's worth) is that i can't write operating systems either, but i can still judge for myself whether or not win95 is a crock.

    i think, anyhow, that there's plenty of room to respect ESR and value his many contributions, while still thinking that the robin hood play is terrible. and if i "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" hadn't impressed me so much, i wouldn't give a damn about ESR one way or the other. i am not saying "ESR sucks!", because he doesn't suck. though i haven't met him, i think he's cool. what sucks is lame cash-in sequels, and unfortunately an apparently cool guy just went and did one.
  • "If you're politically correct you'd better skip this -- it might put you in danger of learning something."

    as long as he doesn't complain about microsoft being arrogant and propagandistic, i don't mind. heh.

    the problem here IMHO is that we have an Open Source Spokesmodel who is not actually speaking for the whole OSS community. he undoubtedly speaks for a large portion of it; there are a lot of very favorable comments here. but, uh, i don't necessarily want this guy to speak for me, thank you.

    but how do you appoint spokesmodels for a completely decentralized movement? how, indeed! you let them float to the top, just like ESR did (and for good reason at the time), and stallman, and the rest. when they slide back down, though, it becomes divisive. the Open Source Trademark Battle thing is really depressing. this internal bickering makes OSS look like a bunch of squabbling kids. it doesn't help either that a lot of talk out of the OSS camp makes it look like a bunch of random people united by their dislike for bill gates, rather than a stable and remarkably productive technical culture dating back to the 1950's, which is what it is (and ESR if anybody must know that, because i learned it from the jargon file!). microsoft is our retarded younger brother. be firm with him, but don't be mean.

    slashdot wouldn't be slashdot without microsoft-bashing, but our spokesmodels should know better. how long has the linux advocacy FAQ been around?

    if he were just speaking for himself it would be an entirely different matter. i, for example, am just a random nut. nothing i say will ever be public enough to affect public perceptions of OSS.

  • Long live RMS, the lion-hearted!
  • by mwr ( 12650 )
    Perhaps a bit self-aggrandizing, but pretty cool. Loved the bit about "nervous henchman Vinod".
  • So... What wasn't true?
  • "There is nothing magical about UNIX that makes [it] automatically better professional[ly]."

    Yes there is. Unix expertise is harder to fake than Windows. Any idiot can fake their way through an interview for a Windows NT administrator position. The same can not be said about a Unix administrator position. This is simply due to the fact that the minimal skills required to be a competant Unix administrator are much greater than the minimal skills to be a competant WindowsNT administrator. There are more options and greater flexability in Unix systems, so the knowledge base must be larger than that for WindowsNT.

    Point being, if you prove yourself as a competant Unix administrator it usually means you actually know something. If you prove yourself as a competant WindowsNT administrator you may actually know something, but it is not a given and certainly not the usual case.

    ON AVERAGE expert Unix administrators have more knowledge and skill than expert WindowsNT administrators. This is not to say that no WindowsNT administrators have more knowledge or skill than Unix adminstrators, some do.

    Sorry I had to explain this to you. You may have more knowledge of TCP/IP and "all the related technologies" than I, but I sincerely doubt it.
  • Encryption as an offensive weapon - Have you not heard of the "virus" that encrypted files on a users hard disk randomly?

    Even if it is not true, it makes for a good "offensive" use of encryption. Especially if you held the encryption keys in "ransom" until the company paid up - supposedly to some untraceable electronic fund.

    Do you not find kidnapping an "offense?"

    You login is flawed, mostly because you don't have the imagination to see how encryption can be used as an offensive weapon.
  • How, exactly, could Linux be turned into a "marketing strategy to takeover the world?" Marketing strategies are for companies. Now, maybe RedHat or Caldera could have a marketing strategy, but what we are promoting is competition in the OS field. An OS can't have a marketing strategy, only companies.

    BTW: I've been using Linux since 0.96. I believe before /. was even around???
  • Now this is what i call classic literature!

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982