[Linux-aus] AUUG to close? Will there be a rush of new members to Linux Australia?

David Newall david at davidnewall.com
Wed Dec 19 03:46:07 UTC 2007

James Turnbull wrote:
> I would strongly resist the inclusion of proprietary Unix in the mandate
> of LA.  It is not unimportant to me nor should it be to anyone else who
> is attempting to advocate FLOSS.

Few people would care if proprietary UNIX were excluded.  I care little 
either way.  Proprietary UNIX is merely an artifact of history.

That being said, such exclusion would, had they existed at the time, 
have prevented Linux Australia advocating RPC, XDR and NFS.  These were 
technologies developed by Sun for SunOS, which, at the time, was a 
leading proprietary UNIX.  Linux Australia would look pretty foolish, 
snubbing something as important NFS on the basis that it was an adjunct 
of a proprietary UNIX.

I think many people are making a mistake in their interpretation of "we 
include proprietary UNIX."  I don't remember any occasion when AUUG has 
promoted proprietary UNIX.  What it did regularly do was promote and 
support projects, usually 'open', that happened to have been developed 
on proprietary UNIX.  Of course, there was no free UNIX for most of that 

The "proprietary UNIX" in AUUG's charter is not an endorsement of any 
company's product (other than what was USL), rather it is an endorsement 
of a common, open platform, of which Linux is simply one example.

>> When AUUG was started, I don't think anybody considered the the 
>> proprietary nature of UNIX.  UNIX was proprietary, and it was so good, 
>> and so important, that that wasn't a concern.  AUUG still caters to 
>> proprietary UNIX because UNIX embodies the spirit of "openness."  
>> Exclude no-one.  (Such a small point, that I'd agree to the contrary 
>> rather than argue.)
> I think if you polled AUUG members they would not see this as the reason
> AUUG caters for proprietary Unix.  AUUG caters for proprietary Unix
> because members used those operating systems in their professional lives
> and livelihoods.  Hence they wanted to support and advocate for those
> operating systems much like LA does for Linux.

I couldn't agree less.  It came as something of a shock to AUUG members 
when Bell said, at an AUUG conference in mid-80's, that UNIX was and 
always had been proprietary.  Naturally the statement was recognisably 
true, but it was surprising none-the-less because AUUG members had the 
mindset that UNIX was free of corporate shackles.  The alternative to 
UNIX on any computer was VMS, but only on VAX; or MVS, but only on IBM; 
or PrimeOS, but only on Prime.  UNIX was the best free and open 
platform, even though, if you'd thought carefully about it, it wasn't 
technically free.

AUUG caters for proprietary UNIX because unix is what is important, and 
in the sense that "unix" means the sense of UNIX, Linux is unix.  Of 
course the members used proprietary UNIX.  It was that or VMS, MVS or 
another closed system.

Never, in my recollection, did AUUG advocate a brand name.  It advocated 
the concepts and platform, and Linux unarguably shares those.

> This disagreement could potentially lead to concerns from AUUG members,
> and the broader non-Linux Unix community, about what exactly LA does and
> what its mandate is regarding non-Linux operating systems.  This worries
> me as it has the potential to dilute our message on Linux and open
> source software.

Linux Australia's message is already diluted by BSD (originally 
proprietary; since freed.)  It's diluted by Minix (is it still proprietary?)

Despite the name, Linux Australia has *never* been a Linux advocacy 
group.  From day one it's been an advocate of a wide range of open 
source software, and as FSF rightly point out, Linux was not the major 

> I think the question is broader than simply the name.  I think any
> proposed amalgamation would need to clearly articulate the scope of the
> new organisation and in my opinion should exclude proprietary Unix
> operating systems.  I'd argue that this potentially could be a
> show-stopper for some AUUG members.

A small number of members, maybe as many as six, might say it's a 
show-stopper, but I don't see even one of them snubbing a unified 
organisation that excluded proprietary UNIX.  On the other hand, would 
Linux Australia refuse to discuss an open source projects, for example a 
great, new VM algorithm, if it was developed on, err, I forget what 
proprietary UNIX people do research work on.  Is there any?

I've said all along that proprietary UNIX is a minor point, almost 
irrelevant.  Anybody, (and let me say this in the strongest possible 
terms), anybody who argues that AUUG and Linux Australia are a bad fit 
because of proprietary UNIX is being nothing short of mischievous and 
obstructionist.  There currently is a golden opportunity for Linux 
Australia to preserve AUUG, and this opportunity is being hijacked by 
children who irrationally hate the parent.  (Linux is the child; UNIX is 
the parent.)

> All of this being said, I do think investigating any proposed
> amalgamation is a very good idea but not at the expense of potentially
> diluting LA's ability to be a strong advocate for both Linux and open
> source software generally.

AUUG was a strong advocate of Linux before Linux Australia existed.  
There were no barriers then, or now.

Please don't squander this opportunity.  AUUG needs help.  The John 
Lions Award needs help.  Absent Linux Australia, and both of these will 
disappear into the night.

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