Bitkeeper plays spoil-sport. Linux looking for a new SCM

Amidst controversy over work done by Samba developer Andrew Tridgell, Linux is (about time) moving out of Bitkeeper, and looking for a new SCM.

The short story is this.

Background: For some time, Linux has been using the controversial Bitkeeper SCM tool for managing its source code. This was a completely closed source product, which was trying to bypass FLOSS arguments by offering a free hosted solution. For all this while, the proprietary Bitkeeper hosting the source code of the most popular FLOSS operating system - Linux, has been the biggest ironies of our times. This was made possible till now because Linus Torvalds has a very different take on FLOSS related philosophies than most people.

The controversy: Andrew Tridgell of Samba fame started reverse engineering the proprietary Bitkeeper protocol and started working on a free Open source tools which could work with the Linux source code running on the Bitkeeper hosted repositories. Larry Mc Voy, the Bitkeeper honcho took an exception to this and complained to Linus. Linux tried to talk to both Larry and Andrew, and failing a resolution decided to move Linux elsewhere.

Read the article for Larry and Linus’ take on the matter.

I just cant help shouting out at Larry, as to how he expected this story to end otherwise? Open source movement came about to stop monopolizing of essential computing from the common man. Why is it ok to reverse-engineer the Windows SMB/CIFS protocol and make Samba, or to reverse engineer Microsoft Office file formats and make OpenOffice, and at the same time it is not ok to reverse engineer Bitkeeper? Why did Bitkeeper have to go through the exercise of giving free hosting to Linux (a publicity gimmick gone bad), making it so indispensable to the world that a reverse-engineered tool was inevitable? This only shows how clueless the Bitkeeper management has been about what it is getting into.

I for one am thankful that such a gross philosphical crime (using Linux over Bitkeeper) is coming to an end. If Linux places his faith on an Open source SCM now - Subversion or GNU Arch, it is only going to make these software better. Also, one again, students and enthusiasts can start using free tools for accessing the source of a free OS.


Update: Some interesting links:

  1. Kerneltrap has a detailed feature on this matter. (http://kerneltrap.org/node/4966). I wouldn’t call this balanced though. How about asking somebody other than Larry about how good or bad bitkeeper is for the FLOSS community?

  2. Richard Stallman’s view on Linux and Bitkeeper. (http://kerneltrap.org/node/204). I particularly liked this part:

Linux, the kernel, is often thought of as the flagship of free software, yet its current version is partially non-free. How did this happen? This problem, like the decision to use Bitkeeper, reflects the attitude of the original developer of Linux, a person who thinks that “technically better” is more important than freedom.

Value your freedom, or you will lose it, teaches history. “Don’t bother us with politics,” respond those who don’t want to learn.

  1. How Bitkeeper refused a license to a company because one of its developers had hinted about reverse engineering the protocol. (http://lwn.net/Articles/103727/)

  2. Larry Mc Voy’s opinion on people using Subversion and his no-competing-product-sage policy. (http://www.uwsg.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0210.0/1725.html).

The Subversion folks would like nothing better than to displace BK. That’s fine, but they don’t get to use BK to do it. You’re absolutely correct that you could use BK to make Subversion better. It is not our job to help you make Subversion better and we’ve made that clear for a long time.

We’re a business. We’re a business which happens to be committed to helping the kernel team because we think that the kernel is vital to the world at large. Helping the kernel absolutely does not translate to helping people who happen to be our competitors. By your own description and by our experience with you, you would be a competitor.

A further explanation by Larry Mc Voy on the same thread (http://www.uwsg.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0210.0/1735.html)


Update #2:

  1. Subversion puts out an announcement to its fans to Please Stop Bugging Linus Torvalds About Subversion.

  2. Subversion page debunking Bitkeeper claims against it.

  3. Message to debian-devel-: Warning to Debian Developers regarding BitKeeper

  4. Two papers by the Better SCM Initiative on Bitkeeper: The Suitability of BitKeeper and bkbits.net for Free Software Projects and Changing the BitKeeper License and Why it is Needed.

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