Halloween Document IV
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When Software Things Were Rotten
Microsoft executives dismiss open-source as
hype. ``Complex future projects [will]
require big teams and big capital,'' said Ed
Muth, a Microsoft group marketing manager.
``These are things that Robin Hood and his
merry band in Sherwood Forest aren't well
attuned to do.''
-- From a 30 Dec 1998
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
Friar Eric: Shall I go to the town of Nottingham, Linus, and
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 side-kicks a nearby tree by way of demonstration. The
tree falls down.
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: Huzzah! 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
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
The two put their heads together, whispering...
Scene: Sherwood Forest, That Evening
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 us utterly.
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: Natheless, 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 Town Square
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
him without mercy!
Vinod: Yes, master. I go to watch the packet sniffers.
Linus, Alan-a-Cox, Tove, and Friar Eric enter the square disguised as
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 figure out who you are.
Linus: Stout heart, lads! He reaches into his
quiver and withdraws a golden CD-ROM. On it is the fateful sigil
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
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
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 friends, 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: Aaaarrgggh! My stock options! Vinod, think of
Vinod: Down here, boss. He
has slipped out the castle door at street level.
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: Huzzah! Hurray for Linus!
Exeunt omnes, laughing.
Early responses to this satire have suggested that a few of our less
informed readers need to have the following points explained:
This satire proved unexpectedly prescient. In October 1999, about five
months after it was published, the author learned that Vinod
Valloppillil had left Microsoft to join a Linux-based startup company
in Silicon Valley.
- Vinod Valloppillil was the principal author of Halloween I and Halloween II.
- Ed Muth was the person VinodV referred reporters' inquiries to when the
Halloween Documents came out.
- Tove Torvalds, Linus's wife, was six times karate champion of Finland.