BK Fracas

Quick summary of the foo-fah-rah:

(1) Linus starts using BitKeeper to maintain Linux. BK is a proprietary revision control system that has various proprietary whizzy features, and is free (for Linus) as long as
(2) the author (well, CEO of the company producing BitKeeper), the curmudgeonly and not terribly lovable Larry McVoy, is happy;
(3) predictably, one fine day Larry becomes unhappy, and in his curmudgeonly way withdraws the free licensing of BK, whereupon
(4) Linus drops BK and starts looking for something else. What does the Linux community doooo? Hilarity ensues.

Betcha couldn’t see that coming from a zillion miles away.

Well, the attractive thing about BK was that it was (A) whizzy and did things that CVS didn’t do [1], and (B) BK was was or less free as long as Larry was happy. Now that it is not free (it never really was), Linuxites are crying foul and looking for people to blame (for once, Microsoft hasn’t been dragged into the Slashdot muck. Go figure).

What if BK was almost free? Say, ten bucks a head. Would anyone still cry foul? What about fifty? Or five? A quarter? What if BK users paid by the checkin or diff? What if using BK was cheaper than powering your computer 24/7/52?

This loose and inconclusive rhetoric brought to you by four hours of sleep and a really long day that was capped off by a lot of barf (not mine).

[1] CVS should have died years ago; it sucks (the only CMS that I know of that sucks worse costs many, many thousands of bucks). The fact that something is free tends to prolong its life far, far past its usefulness, just like charging megabucks for crappy “enterprise” software works because you couldn’t have made a mistake buying that package, could you? Oh, nossir.

[Correction: It was the other Larry, the McVoy one. Thanks, Steve.]

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0 Responses to BK Fracas

  1. Steve says:

    Minor correction to #2: it’s actually Larry McVoy. Larry Wall is the guy responsible for Perl (left to the reader to pass judgment for that act).

    Also worth noting that if it wasn’t for Tridge (the guy responsible for Samba and Rsync) trying to reverse engineer BK, McVoy was fine with how things were.

    I’m generally uneasy with rabid open-sourcies wanting the world to be free. Sure, some people will make a living providing support, but a lot of software developers will be out of work.