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Tuesday, 25 September 2018 11:56

Why didn't Linux Foundation chief Zemlin pull Torvalds into line?

Jim Zemlin: his time of reckoning may have arrived. Jim Zemlin: his time of reckoning may have arrived.

When you are the employer of any individual, even the king of Bahrain, there are certain regulations that you expect to be observed. For years, Linux Foundation chief executive Jim Zemlin has built up an empire based on Linux creator Linus Torvalds, without once bothering about the way his employee behaved.

Why didn't Zemlin have a quiet word with Torvalds about his behaviour if it was that big an issue?

In the first fortnight of September, when Zemlin got wind of the impending publication of a hit job on Torvalds, he must have got a serious jolt.

Torvalds has been a milch cow for for the Linux Foundation all these years. He has been the drawcard for all the big corporations that have agreed to pay big money to be members of the Foundation.

In effect, what they were paying for was access. Something that is more typical of the political world. For all these companies that benefitted from using Linux, what could be better than being able, now and then, to drop a few hints into the ear of the man who was heading development of the software?

The previous effort to marshal Linux into something that the Foundation has grown into, known as the Open Source Development Labs, fell apart because of the leadership of Stuart Cohen. Zemlin is a master of public relations, but made one big mistake: he managed to avoid a stink by putting into practice the equivalent of security through obscurity.

Torvalds is not paid as highly as others would be in a commercial environment. Last year, he earned US$1.6 million, a small amount considering the amount of work he does, and the way in which he has built up the kernel project into a unit that can run without him being there. The man running Australia Post, a tiny enterprise compared to the kernel project, was drawing US$4.35 million when he quit last year.

Zemlin has fed off Torvalds' fame; who knows the name of any other individual associated with the Foundation? Zemlin has kept quiet all these years and hushed up everything that went on, afraid that the money spout would be blocked.

Even now, after Torvalds decided to take a break from kernel development, Zemlin is pretending that it is business as usual, to the extent that he keeps mum when a media query is made about relevant issues. Nothing to see here, move on, is the message he seems intent on sending.

The golden aura around the Foundation may be just about to disappear after those who targeted Torvalds for years finally got their pound of flesh via Noam Cohen, a man who was keen to try and see if what he apparently fantasised was another #MeToo exposure would bring him glory.

Zemlin's days of ruling the roost could well be about to end as he shows himself unable to handle these matters as they should be – in an open and transparent way.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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