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Who’s behind Linux now, and should you be afraid?


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Excerpt:

 

"Most Linux kernel code isn't developed by who you might think. Here's a closer look at why this matters.

 

If you think that Linux is still the "rebel code"-- the anti-establishment, software-just-wants-to-be-free operating system developed by independent programmers working on their own time -- then it's time to think again.

 

The Linux kernel is the lowest level of software running on a Linux system, charged with managing the hardware, running user programs, and maintaining security and integrity of the whole set up. What many people don't realize is that development is now mainly carried out by a small group of paid developers.

 

A large proportion of these developers are working for "the man" -- large establishment companies in the software and hardware industries, for names like IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments and Cisco. That's according to a Linux Foundation report on Linux kernel development published in February. I

 

Nobody codes for free

In fact, it turns out that more than 80 percent of all Linux kernel development is "demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work," by these big (and sometimes smaller) companies, according to the report.

 

One organization that isn't featured in the report's list of companies paying its staff to develop the Linux kernel is Microsoft, a company whose proprietary software model once made it enemy No. 1 for many in the open source movement, but which now claims to embrace free code.

 

But one that is featured in the report is Huawei, the Chinese technology company founded by a former Chinese People's Liberation Army officer. That's a possible cause for concern: The company denies having links to the Chinese government, but some governments, including those in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, have banned the purchasing of certain Huawei hardware products amid worries that they may contain software back doors that could be used for spying.

 

About 1 percent of all the changes to the Linux kernel are currently written by developers paid by Huawei, according to the report."

 

The rest of the multipage article goes on to point out why the expertise is pretty much only found in paid pros with few exceptions here:

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2909558/operating-systems/who-s-behind-linux-now-and-should-you-be-afraid.html?phint=newt%3Dinfoworld_open_source&phint=idg_eid%3D6aa01e18b29f7b6f9149f611f8eac228#tk.IFWNLE_nlt_openenterprise_2015-04-15

 

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One of the things that sets Linux apart from most other systems is the open source. Yes there are paid programmers and everyone from China to Russia, to England have made contributions. Those contributions still have to,pass through the Linux Foundation as well as they get reviewed by the likes of Red Hat, Susie, and Ubunto. In addition there are some real geeks out there that play around with the source just for there own amusement. Many overlooked vulnerabilities are caught by armatures.

It is not impossible for some nefarious person to slip something in but the fact that so many people and orginazitions have access to the source code makes it less likely that it will make it out to general distribution. Next to VMS, and maybe AIX, Linux is till one of the most secure operating systems.

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This has been bandied about for some time now. IBM and Red Hat have both been prolific contributors to Linux code. But I'm not sure it's the kernel. Lots of code becomes de-facto part of the kernel when it operates in kernel space (not user space) but simply provides drivers for devices like hard drives, printers, modems, USB cards, etc. So a company in China might well be writing a driver for their printers but it's not, strictly speaking, part of the kernel. That is strictly controlled by Linus and his top associates.

 

I wonder if they're counting device drivers as code for the kernel.

 

WDR

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If you really care you can go here and download the 2015 report: (name and e-mail required)

 

http://www.linuxfoundation.org/publications/linux-foundation/who-writes-linux-2015

 

You can see the process of getting something into the kernel here, not any prettier sight than watching sausage made so I don't recommend a visit unless you really care.

 

https://lkml.org/

 

 

Personally I'd be a lot more worried by submissions from various US government sources than China. They are making a pile of money off of the dirty tricks we have been pulling on folks buying US made equipment and software and they want to keep their hands clean and not disrupt the cash flow.

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Here is an interesting article on why we are seeinf more paid interest in open source and Linux.

 

http://www.linux.com/news/software/applications/823796-corporate-open-source-participation-reaches-all-time-high-but-more-formal-management-needed

 

 

Record Corporate Use of Open Source

Corporate use of open source has been on the rise for years, and this year’s Future of Open Source Survey results serve as further proof of that trend. Seventy-eight percent of this year’s respondents said their companies run part or all of operations on OSS, with 66 percent reporting their company creates software for customers built on open source – up from the 42 percent in 2010 who said they used open source in the running of their business or IT environments. A staggering 93 percent stated their organization’s usage of open source had increased or remained the same in the past year.
Companies Are Contributing Back to the Community
Companies like Facebook, Netflix, and even Microsoft have made headlines recently for their consumption of open source, in addition to their contributions back to key OSS projects. And, according to this year’s survey results, they’re not the only ones.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said their companies currently participate in open source projects (up 14% from 2014), and over the next 2-3 years 88 percent are expected to increase contributions to open source. These high rates of open source use and participation beg the question: what benefits do these organizations gain from their increased OSS adoption and community involvement?
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DoD is really changing, I remember the frustrations John Junod had in getting the WS_FTP program he wrote while assigned to West Point released as free software. Not even open source, just the compiled Windows binary.

 

I pass out a few SPI - LPS Linux CDs to folks with broken Windows computers, it gets them on-line until they can find someone to fix their problems. The DoD came up with it as a way for Windows users to securely connect to DoD systems without being vulnerable to Windows malware. So the DoD may be afraid but it isn't of Linux! :-)

 

http://www.spi.dod.mil/lipose.htm

 

 

Looks like Microsoft is making changes to their open source efforts too:

 

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MS-Open-Tech-Comes-Back

 

 

 

For the past three years Microsoft Open Technologies Inc (MS Open Tech) has been Microsoft's subsidiary to interact with open-source communities, increase Linux / open standards interoperability with Windows, etc. That subsidiary is now being merged back with Microsoft itself as the company continues to embrace open-source.
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DoD is really changing, I remember the frustrations John Junod had in getting the WS_FTP program he wrote while assigned to West Point released as free software. Not even open source, just the compiled Windows binary.

 

MS is going to have to bite the bullet and actually make their kernel secure; which will probably break the backwards compatibility they've stubbornly retained for 15 years.

 

Apple did it when they moved to OSX a long time ago but it's clearly been a big benefit to them. But I remember a lot of gnashing-of-teeth and gotterdamerung when it happened. Apple's Macs were very popular in elementary schools and suddenly software publishers had to move to an entirely different platform. Lots of unhappy people but it was a wise choice in retrospect.

 

WDR

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