My Conversations with Linux Zealots

In my column last week — “Pros, Priests and Zealots: The Three Faces of Linux” — I divided the folks who have been writing to me about Linux into three groups. The most controversial statement I made in that column was a comment about the last group: I wrote that I was having trouble differentiating between terrorists and the glowing example of humanity I call the Linux Zealot.

As you might suspect, my inbound e-mail has been interesting over the past week, but not in the way I expected it to be. A rough look at the breakdown puts about 50 percent of writers in the “I agree with you” category and 25 percent in the “terrorist was over the top” category (many of those readers suggested that I use the word “thug” instead). The last 25 percent was made up mostly of the Zealots.

There was a time when I did respond to all the e-mail I received, but I’ve increasingly been avoiding responding to hostile e-mail. So, rather than writing back to all of the Zealots individually, I thought I would use this column to capture the theme of their comments and then provide what I hope is the measured, articulate and adult response that these people have demonstrated they truly deserve.

The comments here are actual direct quotes. Those that are not direct quotes are closely based on the e-mail I received, but edited for clarity and vulgarity.

Fixated Zealot

I’m sure that you are far closer to the Microsoft situation and have been closer for far longer than anyone else. This no doubt puts you in a state of mind where you feel you can educate the common man who hasn’t had your extensive direct and close-up experience. However, for the thinking man, it’s seen very differently.

No one will question that you have had your head up Bill’s butt so far for so long that it’s probably hard to shove the boatload of cash payoff up to you.

Being the soulless jerk that you so convincingly demonstrate yourself to be, I can see why you worship your host. You, after all, have found your niche. Bill’s colon is the perfect place for a stinky little brainless turd after all.

I’m sure you’re a happy guy, since ignorance is bliss and you have it in spades. Yes, your “analysis” simply isn’t worth replying to or countering point by marketspeak point. Anyone who could actually believe your comments is a dead loss to humanity and one of the fellow morons you can call one of your own, a true American.

What a well thought-out and articulate note. It demonstrates both a sense of humor and at least a grammar-school education while reflecting well on the open-source community in general. If you know of a way to get this huge cash payoff you are speaking of, I would love to know the process. I certainly would not turn down the largesse of anyone who wanted to write me a huge check.

My hope is that the physical location you’ve suggested that I need to be in to get the boatload of cash is but metaphor — because I don’t actually know Bill that well, although I can see how I would know him a little better afterward.

I hope someday to visit your country, as I understand a great deal of my tax money has gone to help you make ends meet and I would like to see something more out of that investment than notes like this. You’ve clearly dashed my hopes that it went for a quality education. Of course, given that we seem to be in a bit of a budget mess over here this year, it would be nice if you sent some of that money back.

Focused Zealot

I read that you think that some Linux programmers are being sued by their employers for putting proprietary code into open source. I can’t believe that this is possible and would be willing to put up $30K to pay you to research this further and, if you don’t find a single case (and you won’t because employees would never do this), I would like you to publish a full retraction of your statement.

I understand that, at my suggestion, you asked a paralegal to look this up for you and he knew of a case off the top of his head that supported what I was suggesting. I also understand that you now believe I likely didn’t know of this case because, if I did, I wouldn’t be lying. While I can appreciate the depth of analysis that went into this conclusion, I would hope that you’ve come to realize the damage that too much caffeine can do and will find decaf to your liking.

Psychic Zealots

You are such a terrible writer, and your latest article is so poorly written I decided not to read it. Let me tear it apart point by point.

Actually, I think you want the Psychic Readers Hotline. You can find it at 1-800-YOU-R-NUTS.

Same old BS, huh? Except now you have to create a fictional company to look like you know something instead of having the mantle of Giga. Why do you hate us so much, Rob? Is it because so many people wrote Giga after your Internet Week article — you know, the one proclaiming that your opinions were for sale — that Giga canned your sorry ass? I guess that would be a reason.

I am coming to see why you would think I was bribed because only people who are would suggest, as I did in that article, that people think before making a major platform decision. (The Linux section was an artificial argument and identified as such, but I know that concept is difficult for you after a life of reading “See Spot Run”). Of course, I’ve known some very smart people who suggest actually reading an article before you comment on it. You might try that some day.

Grammar-School Zealot

Why do you keep lying about your job history? I know you were fired from IBM because a friend of my father’s fired you.

When you grow up, you’ll find that making up stories about an adult’s job history can be a bad thing. I was fired once, 30 years ago, by a woman, may she rot in hell, that I hold absolutely no animosity for. By the way, the IBM I’m talking about isn’t Inland Bay Mattress. I have it on good authority that this is where your friend’s father actually worked. The clue is that my IBM’s motto was “think.” This IBM’s motto was “our employees sleep on the job.”

None Too Threatening

You’ll note that none of these letters are particularly threatening. I didn’t include any here because, in the current environment, I don’t see anything funny at all about threats — even though I have received plenty of them.

All in all, I wonder if people who write stuff like this really think through what kind of impact they are having and what kind of impression they are building around open source. Right now, my personal impression is that Microsoft is busting its hump to fix the serious problems it has, and open-source software is busting its hump to cover up the serious problems it has.

Granted, there are exceptions on both sides, but that is the honest impression I have. And according to the other e-mail I’ve received, I’m far from alone in this impression.

Rob Enderle, a TechNewsWorld columnist, is the Principal Analyst for the Enderle Group, a company founded on the concept of providing a unique perspective on personal technology products and trends.


  • oh dear. You’ve done it again. Not made any real point and have managed to massively over-generalise.
    Anyone with any dignity would consider other peoples opinions and use them to broaden their own. I’m pro open source but I don’t slam microsoft at every turn. Maybe you should try the same thing: be pro microsoft but dont slam open source at every turn. You might learn something. You might even start writing balanced articles.
    Oh, and most of open sources problems are fairly well known and aired since that’s the nature of the community. If people dissagree they often do it in public and not behind closed doors. Don’t fall into the trap of alienating a whole community based on a handful of induviduals. That’d be ignorant and unprofessional of you.

  • Rob,
    Whilst I can appreciate the passion by which you slap words down on the screen, I can not help but consider the possibility that such dedication is misplaced.
    Let me elucidate.
    First, Alex is correct in that as a journalist whose opinion is sought after, there is a responsibility to raise the level of discussion to an intellectual level worthy of people’s time, rather than just expectorate on the audience. Any 2 year old can do that and revel in the moment, much as yourself.
    Second, if you are going to express strong opinions, then why not do so in a way that respects the reader.
    I for one could care less that you have been the (self induced) target of Linux groupee enathma. What I was looking for in both your articles, and failed to find indications of, were salient reasons why Linux, in your opinion is not worth the time and effort. I also expected you to back up your conjecture with solid observation.
    You’ve had two opportunites in the last couple of weeks to convince me and other readers who think for themselves why we should take your opinions (and by extension, yourself) seriously. You have failed, IMO, to convince me you are worth my time. I have advised the people I do business with that you are not worth paying attention to, as you have not so far provided good sound business reasoning why we should not use Linux – period.
    Operating Systems come and go. 10 years from now, there will something different and most everyone will have forgotten all about today and these interesting religous postulations concerning Linux, Microsoft, ecetera. In the meantime, I would suggest you start to make your column inches count.
    I would suggest for your edification that you read Steven Vaugh Nichols work, or for that matter, David Coursey. They can, at the very least, take a position and defend it adequately.

  • Great "article!"
    While I think the zealots are the more vocal minority, I don’t think they represent the majority of open source advocates. Just the embarassments.
    I wonder why the true unix community has such a hard time accepting that these flamboyant characters do more harm then good to the open community?

  • This is a response to yet another Rob Enderle "Linux Zealot" FUD article.
    It is interesting that you, Rob Enderle mention "Religious Zealotry and even Terrorists" when referring to proponents of Open Source software, in most, if not all of your recent articles. Focusing on the demeanor and personalities of these proponents.
    I believe you used a DOS attack on SCO as your proof of terrorism from the OSS community. There simply is no proof of that allegation. If you are referring to the Eric Raymond’ admission to Darl McBride that the DOS attack was caused by someone in the OSS community, then you failed to do proper research.
    I will encourage everyone to listen to the Sept 9, 2003 (archive) edition of the Linux show ( I believe beginning from minute 14 on, will enlighten you. Eric, as their guest for that week, explains that he received an anonymous phone call. The caller told him that it was a member of the OSS community, who he also refused to identify, who caused the DOS attack. This was the sole basis of Eric’ admission. This was a double blind admission. Eric had no real knowledge of who was responsible for the DOS attacks. He screwed up making that admission. I’ve seen this reported over and over in the press, it is simply wrong, and needs to be corrected.
    Furthermore, there were a flurry of reports within the OSS community about the fact that the (so called) DOS attacks didn’t have the classic signatures of DOS attacks, instead, coming like clockwork. Suggesting the possibility that SCO had actually taken down their own site for maintenance etc… or (speculation) FUD effect.
    My move to Open Source software was based on these realities. First and foremost, Microsoft products are the wrong choice (anywhere) today because they can never be private or secure. Not because they are more virus prone or more easily hacked than any other system. That argument can never be won by proponents of any system or software and is just subterfuge and fluff covering the core issues of privacy and security. The simple act of installing Microsoft products, registering them with product activation, and accepting the end user license agreement, introduces any (unknowable) number of closed source back doors plus the viri/worm/spyware that is Microsoft itself. Any time you put closed source code on your computer or grant the maker of that code access to your system, you are acting in "faith" that the maker of that code is trustworthy and will act in your best interest. Microsoft’s history of spyware (Alexa installed by default etc…) and dirty tricks that always further their own self interest at the expense of the end users choice, privacy, and security are legendary in their vileness and cannot be credibly challenged by you or anyone else. Microsoft’s reprehensible business practices should be considered the official "New Testament Bible" of untrustworthy.
    Those who would defend Microsoft products as private or securable are little more than "faith" based Microsoft "evangelists". Prostituting themselves in defense of a known "Beelzebub" for filthy lucre (money) and or job security. Or they are just plain stupid. Effectively putting the religious zealot label squarely on you, Rob Enderle. Why don’t you let that religious Zealot nonsense die a well deserved death, and move on to some provable facts.
    Until recently, a viable alternative, open source operating system like GNU/Linux wasn’t available and we pretty much had no choice. Now we do. So figure this into all of your long term "Bottom lines" folks, If you have any regard for real choice, privacy, security, and/or freedom, there is no contest. Microsoft and Microsoft’s closed source products, and "faith" based privacy and security have got to go. Open Source GNU/Linux is now the Porsche of privacy and security and there truly is no substitute!
    All the fancy fudsters and clueless pundents in the world cannot change these simple facts!

  • This is really sad Rob.
    You don’t have to like Linux – that’s your right. But you’re pushing the dialog on Linux down to the level of a usenet flame war. In my opinion you can’t blame the Linux zealots for this. After all, you’re the important guy who’s being published on a major website, and you’re perfectly capable of raising the level of dialog if you want to.
    Meanwhile, the fact that you are disliked by "Linux zealots" (doubtless Osama bin Laden in a penguin suit) is of no interest to me whatsoever.
    Your job as a columnist is to rise above stuff like this and give us information we can use or opinions that make us think. If you want to have a flame war, step down off the TechNewsWorld soap-box and surf on over to alt.flame so I can ignore you.
    On the other hand, if you don’t want to be ignored, there are a lot of important things happening in the Linux world these days. You can give us reports/opinion on the SCO vs. IBM matter and the SCO vs. RedHat matters (links to all the relevant court filings are available at,) the pending release of the 2.6 kernel, the US Army’s decision to use Linux instead of Windows on the next generation battle dress, (available here – this is big news – and of course the interesting work that’s currently being done on the Linux desktop (intelligent comments pro or con are welcome.) All these issues can be intelligently discussed upon, and all these issues are worth some serious research and careful thought.
    History suggests that I’ll probably disagree with your opinions, but at least (right or wrong) you’ll be expressing some substantive thoughts. Giving the whackos column space just wastes your time and mine.

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