future projects [will] require big teams and big capital,” said Ed
Muth, a Microsoft
group marketing manager. “These are things that Robinhood and his merry band in
Sherwood Forest aren’t well attuned to do.”
The Halloween documents were made public last year. These internal
Microsoft documents analyzed the OpenSource software movement and suggested methods ( like
decomoditizing standard protocols) that Microsoft could use against OpenSource software.
These documents were made public by Eric S Raymond at www.opensource.org. This piece is
written by him, in response to the statement quoted above.
Reprinted with permission.
Scene: Morning, Sherwood forest
Linus Hood, his trusty lieutenant Alan-a-Cox, Friar Eric, Maid Tove,
and sundry merry men enter, stage right.
Linus: Hey, my merry men! What entertainment shall we seek in
the greenwood this day?
Alan-a-Cox: Let us betake ourselves to the Information
Superhighway passing through this noble wood, and waylay some corporate IT managers.
Friar Eric: Shall I go to the town of Nottingham,
with smooth words recruit the gossips and trade press to our cause?
Maid Tove: And I, sweetheart, should practice my karate lest the
Sheriff’s dastards seek to lay hands on thee.
Maid Tove sidekicks a nearby tree by way of demonstration. The tree
Linus: And I have a new kernel release ready, the which to
dazzle our enemies with. These plans seem good. Let us away!
Merry men: Hurrah! Hurray for Linus!
All exit, stage left .
Scene: Later that
day, Nottingham castle
Present are Ed Muth, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and his nervous
Sheriff: My master, King Billy, is displeased. Reports have
reached even to his palace in Seattle that Linus and his ruffians purloined another
Fortune 500 account today.
Vinod:That’s terrible, master! If this goes on, hardware
vendors will begin to defect soon. Then how will you collect the Microsoft tax?
Sheriff: And those jackals in the trade press have been writing
this-is-the-year-of-Linux stories again.
Vinod: It’s dreadful, master! Dreadful!
The Sheriff rounds on
Vinod, cuffing him soundly.
Sheriff: You fool! This is all your fault. If you hadn’t
let those damned memoranda leak, the peasants would still think we are invincible.
Vinod cringes elaborately.
Sheriff: We need a cunning plan. Some way to trap and crush
those outlaws. Hmmm…
Vinod: Master, I have an idea. Why
don’t we write software so complicated and protocols so obscure and undocumented that
only we can figure them out?
Sheriff: Yes. Then we will use our superior marketing forces to
cram them down everyone’s throat, and neither Linus’s outlaws nor any other
competition will be able to get a toehold in any IT shop anywhere, ever again.
Vinod: Exactly, master. I call it “de-commoditizing”.
Sheriff: Brilliant idea, Vinod! I’m glad I thought of it.
The two put their heads
Scene: Sherwood forest, That
Linus, Alan-a-Cox, Maid
Tove, Friar Eric, and the merry men confer deep in the Greenwood…
Friar Eric: I like not the rumors I have been hearing–of
some vast and complex engine the Sheriff’s men are constructing, with which to crush
Alan-a-Cox: Indeed. ’Tis said it is called “Windows
2000″. But the beta rollouts have been greatly delayed, and performance has been
unimpressive. I fear it not.
Linus: We shall see, lads. On the morrow, there will be a great
benchmarking contest in the town of Nottingham, with OS developers from across the land
competing for the gold.
Maid Tove: Linus! This smells of a trap laid for thee!
Friar Eric: Verily. I like it not. Mayhap they will rig the
results, and seek to discredit your work.
Linus: Nonetheless, I must attempt it. For surely they will
display their fearsome engine, and I must take its measure with my own eyes.
Merry men: Huzzah! Hurray for Linus!
Scene: Next morning, Nottingham
Festive crowds mill around
a number of PCs set on trestles in the square. Banners proclaim Solaris, Novell, SCO, and
names of other competing teams. On a castle balcony overlooking the crowd, the Sheriff
confers with sundry marketroids and press shills.
Sheriff: That arrant knave could never resist a challenge to his
prowess. Mark me, he will be among the contestants somewhere.
Vinod: Yes, master. And then?
Sheriff (smirking): When we discover his disguise, we shall FUD
him without mercy!
Vinod: Yes, master. I go to watch the packet
Linus, Alan-a-Cox, Tove,
and Friar Eric enter the square disguised as peasants.
Friar Eric: Look! There it is! He points.
At dead-center of the town
square there looms a vast, complex and glittering device. A huge monitor stares forth from
it like a lidless eye. Below the monitor Gothic letters proclaim: Windows 2000. MCSEs
scurry about its base.
Maid Tove: But…it’s huge!
Alan-a-Cox: It has to be. Haven’t you seen the minimum
hardware requirements for their last couple of releases?
Friar Eric: I’ve registered our handle with the heralds.
You’re “Robin of Helsinki”, Linus. But…are you sure you want to go
through with this? I can see dozens of flacks and marketroids from here. They’re
waiting to pounce if they figureout who you are.
Linus: Stout heart, lads! He reaches into his quiver and
withdraws a golden CD-ROM. On it is the fateful sigil “2.2”.
A herald calls out: Let the
throughput trials begin!
Linus inserts the golden
CD-ROM into a nearby PC and boots it up. A vast Microsoft logo appears on the monitor in
mid-square. Other teams finish their preparations. The heralds begin simulating a typical
intranet job load on all servers. The load gradually rises.
Alan-a-Cox: So far, so good…uh oh! We’re being
Around the square, machines
are crashing. Meanwhile, on the balcony…
Vinod: Master! Master! I think I’ve found them!
Sheriff: Oh? Which ones?
Vinod: Yes. They’re over there–the only contestants I
couldn’t crash with the latest CERT exploit.
Sheriff: Curses. How do they do that? That alert has only been
on the Net for three hours!
Vinod: Well, master, I’ve told you before that the ability
of the OSS process to collect and harness the collective IQ of thousands of individuals
across the Internet is simply amazing.
The Sheriff cuffs Vinod. Vinod cringes.
Sheriff: Never mind that now, you idiot. We’ve got them
where we want them. Calls out: Unleash the dogs of FUD!
Various press shills and
Microsoft lackeys, alerted, begin pointing fingers at Linus and his little band.
Shill #1: Linux has no support!
Shill #2: It’s not a mature product!
Lackey #3: It’s not a safe choice, like Microsoft!
Lackey #4: Yeah, those hippies will never build anything really
complicated or difficult!
The crowd turns ugly.
Rotten vegetables appear and are waved threateningly at our heroes.
Linus: Steady, lads, steady. Linux is still running. All we have
to do is wait…
Suddenly there is a
commotion from mid-square. Heads turn towards the giant monitor. The crowd gasps.
Tove’s soft voice is clearly audible in the ensuing silence.
Tove: Look! Look! It’s the Blue Screen of Death!
Alan-a-Cox: Indeed it is. They’re wedged solid.
Linus: And Linux is still running. Nobody beats our
Friar Eric: Time for me to do my bit.
The band quickly makes its
way to the wedged Windows 2000 engine. A few MCSEs try to lay hands on them. Tove
side-kicks the luckless minions. They fall down.
Friar Eric climbs atop the
inert hulk and begins haranguing the crowd:
Friar Eric: What you’ve seen is the power of peer review
unleashed. Yes, my friend, we’ve found a way to build truly reliable
software–publish the sources…
The Sheriff interrupts him,
screaming from the balcony…
Sheriff: No! Noooo! Windows 2000 will be perfect when it comes
out of beta. Honest!
Linus: Sure it will be. Just like Windows 98 was.
The crowd begins to laugh,
louder and louder. The MCSEs, lackeys, and press shills flee in confusion. Pieces begin
falling off the great engine with loud clanging noises. Vegetables pelt the Sheriff.
Sheriff: Aaaarrgggh! My stock options! Vinod, think of
Vinod: Down here, boss. He has slipped out the castle door at
Sheriff: Well? Deal with them!
Vinod: I believe I will. He walks over to Linus’s band.
Boss? I quit. I always hated the Windows API anyway, and these guys are smarter in their
sleep than you are awake.
The crowd cheers: Hurrah!
Hurray for Linus!
Exeunt omnes, laughing.
Vinod Valloppillil was the
principal author of Halloween I and Halloween II.
Ed Muth was the person
Vinod V referred reporters’ inquiries to when the Halloween Documents came out.
Tove Torvalds, Linus’s
wife, was six-times karate champion of Finland.