Ken Brown has a reply to the heavy criticism of his paper claiming that Linus Torvalds did not write Linux. ADTI introduce his reply like this:

Experts from Andrew Tanenbaum to Linus Torvalds agree: a. they are much smarter than AdTI’s Kenneth Brown, b. IBM is good, Microsoft is evil, and c. Brown’s theory of how Linux was probably written is dead wrong. (Dog bites man.) Brown says their accounts are hopelessly shifting and contradictory — not only against the historical record, but in recent weeks. (Man bites back.)

Unfortunately, Brown’s reply fails to live up to the promise they make. Brown does not find any contradictions in their accounts at all. Tanenbaum comprehensively demolishes Brown in his response. An excerpt:

First, Linux 0.01 does not contain any MINIX code, as Alexey Toptygin’s code comparison shows. Second, even if it had, there was no prohibition in using MINIX code for noncommercial purposes, even in the beginning. I find it dishonest in the extreme for Brown to have hired Topygin to compare the Linux and MINIX code, get a report saying they were completely different, and then merrily continue claiming Linux was based on MINIX. I don’t know if Brown used MS-Word to write his book, but saying Linux is based on MINIX is like saying Brown’s book is based on MS-Word.

I can’t resist a comment of my own. Brown claims:

Another reason this is interesting is because the Ritchie, Thompson kernel was 11,000 lines of code over a number of years, and the Torvalds kernel was 32,000 in under a year.

But Linux did not reach 32,000 lines until version 0.96b, 14 months after Torvalds started the project. More importantly, once version 0.01 was released, many other people contributed to Linux. Moon and Sproull’s paper on Linux development (First Monday 5:11 2000) states:

Within two months of Torvalds’ October 1991 announcement, about thirty people had contributed close to 200 reports of errors and problems in running Linux, contributions of utilities to run under Linux, and drivers and features to add to Linux. When Torvalds released version 0.11 in December 1991, he credited contributions by three people in addition to himself (Torvalds, 1991, December 3). In version 0.13, released in February 1992, the majority of patches were written by people other than Torvalds. By July 1995, more than 15,000 people from 90 countries on five continents had contributed comments, bug reports, patches, and features.

People familiar with writing programs don’t find it unlikely that Torvalds could have written 10,000 lines of code in six months. The only person who can’t believe it is Brown, who does not appear to have any background in programming.

I’m a computer scientist. I’ve written on critics of Global Warming (here, for example) not because I’m an expert on climate science, but because I’m not. The critics I’ve written about aren’t experts either and make errors that even I can detect easily. I’ve wondered how professional climate scientists must feel about amateurs like Ross McKitrick who write papers based on ignorance of the field insisting that all the experts have got it wrong. Now, thanks to Ken Brown, I know how they feel.

Oh, and the McKitrick briefing I critiqued was sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition. And what is the Cooler Heads Coalition? Why, it’s group formed to “dispel the myths of global warming”. Look at some of its members:

Yes, ADTI are anti-Linux, pro-tobacco and anti-global warming shills.

Comments

  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    June 8, 2004

    Yes, ADTI are anti-Linux, pro-tobacco and anti-global warming shills.

    The probably like John Lott too…..

  2. #2 Tim Lambert
    June 8, 2004

    Yes, Lott seems to move in the same circles as ADTI. However, the pro-gunner are a genuine grass roots movement, not a fake one lke all the stuff that ADTI pushes.

  3. #3 alkali
    June 9, 2004

    It’s been a while for me personally, but isn’t it fair to say that someone could write several hundred lines of code (perhaps of dubious quality, perhaps not) in a day? If so, 10,000 lines in two weeks — let alone six months — is not out of the question.

  4. We need equally pretentious sounding organization like Alexis de Tocqueville or the Ludwig von Mises Institute for the other side. How about the Michael Hfuhruhurr Necessiter Center?

  5. #5 senorgrand
    June 11, 2004

    PRI is also pro-tobacco, pro-Microsoft industry frontgroup. They all must belong to the same cabal.

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