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Ode to Groklaw: A Requiem for What Was Lost

It’s not often we here in the Linux blogosphere must cope with death — figuratively speaking — in the projects and products we love.

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After all, when it’s open source, what may “die” one day will likely be reborn the next as something new thanks to the beauty of forking, among other things. Just recall Fuduntu, for example — it may have closed its doors earlier this year, but soon afterwards Cloverleaf was born.

Of course, turns out Cloverleaf development was also justhalted, but hey — no tears! There’s no telling what may come next, right?’The Internet Is Over’The same, however, cannot so easily be said of Groklaw, which closed its doors last week in response to email security concerns.

“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too,” wrote site author PJ in a post last Tuesday.

“There is no way to do Groklaw without email,” PJ added.

“For me, the Internet is over,” she concluded. “This is the last Groklaw article.”

It may perhaps sound melodramatic to say that cries of anguish have been heard throughout the Linux blogosphere ever since, but it’s an accurate representation. More than a few laments could be heard over the weekend down at the blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Saloon.

‘We’re Going to Miss Her’

“It’s amazingly sad to see Groklaw go,” offered Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone, for example. “I’ve been reading Groklaw since it first opened its doors and I’ve come to think of PJ as a trusted friend, despite the fact that we’ve never met or even talked.

“I’m not sure I agree with her closing the doors on Groklaw,” Stone added. “I know and understand why she’s doing what she’s doing, but I wish she could find a way to address her own concerns and still keep Groklaw operational.”

In the end, of course, “it has to be her call,” he concluded. “I can only wish her the very best in whatever she decides to do in the future and hope that we’ll all see her again soon. We’re going to miss her.”

‘The Internet Is a Poorer Place’

Indeed, “I was shocked by this news,” agreed Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. “The Internet is a poorer place for this loss.”

Groklaw was “one of the places that really helped me understand the dimensions of copyright and patent law as applied to open source software,” Travers explained. “It was one of the most interesting sites on the Internet in this regard.”

Today, however, “the Internet is changing fast,” he said. “I think in a few years a lot of things we take for granted now will have gone the way of telnet. It remains to be seen what will go and what will stay.”

‘Canary in the Coal Mine’

Groklaw is “truly the canary in the coal mine,” suggested Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

“When it is no longer possible to tell the truth online sufficiently for it to exist, none of us have the freedom of speech,” Espinoza explained. “The corporations which have bought our government are in the process of buying our silence and obedience as well, and the cost is turning out to be remarkably low.”

Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol took a similar view.

“One by one, the voices are being systematically silenced,” Ebersol told Linux Girl.

PJ “did a great service, and she knew what she was talking about,” he added. “Now, so called ‘patent’ experts keep spreading (paid) nonsense about patents on Free Software, like an idiot’s echo chamber.”

Similarly, “this is not good at all,” Google+ blogger Rodolfo Saenz agreed. “Mass surveillance makes me remember the socialist republics trying to control their citizens at all cost. What is next? Free expression?”

‘Hang Our Heads in Shame’

The United States “has historically been an example to the world,” noted Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.

“At one time we could be proud that our example was about extending freedom and democracy,” he explained. “Now we have to hang our heads in shame as we lead the world into the surveillance state and no freedom and no democracy.

“The Stasi would have loved to do the things our government is doing,” O’Brien added.

‘She Overreacted’

On the other hand, “I do not see closing as a solution,” Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor. “I think it is akin to running from the enemy.

“The best solution would be to move their operations to countries which have laws which are more favorable to the privacy of communications,” Lim explained. “Given how much commerce is involve here, I can imagine that several countries would be willing to becoming the ‘Switzerland of the Internet.'”

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack saw it similarly.

“She overreacted,” Mack told Linux Girl. “The smart play would be to move the whole thing to a safer country, enable SSL with forward secrecy and enable TLS on her mail server. After that, anyone concerned about their privacy can move to offshore or at least make sure their mail provider supports TLS for server-to-server mail transfer.”

‘Right Off the Deep End’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took an even stronger view.

“Honestly, after the SCO case wrapped up Groklaw went right off the deep end, and PJ was seeing bogeymen under every rock,” hairyfeet asserted.

“The fact that PJ runs and hides because somebody says ‘don’t use email’ just shows how Groklaw deserves to go away,” he concluded. “I personally don’t care what the guy at Lavabit says — nobody is gonna shut me up and I’m not gonna hide from the world just because there is supposed to be a bogeyman in the closet.”

‘Epidemic of Intolerance’

Not everyone was convinced, however.

“For more than a decade GROKLAW has been a bastion of freedom,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “Bullies were assaulting the world of IT with campaigns against the GPL, Free Software, and Linux with attempts to put a stop to diversity and even to charge an outrageous tax on GNU/Linux PCs and servers.

“What the bullies could not do was stop Groklaw,” Pogson added.

Now, “what the rest of us do about the NSA’s intrusions remains to be seen,” he said. “I am considering moving my blog and changing my e-mail provider, and browser.

“The train-wreck that is USA politics is too big to stop,” Pogson concluded. “PJ and Groklaw are not the victims of this piece. They are symbols of the epidemic of intolerance that sweeps USA. This is only the beginning of global shifts in confidences and alliances.”

‘This One Is for Keeps’

Indeed, “I have to say that I was honestly not surprised, and I expect to see more of this in the coming months and years,” Google+ blogger Brett Legree agreed.

“I know more than a few folks have been saying that PJ should have stuck around to fight, but you know, it’s very easy to say that from the sidelines,” he noted. “I respect her decision. Everyone has a breaking point.”

Meanwhile, “be careful, folks,” Legree urged. “Be very aware of the consequences of any actions you take if you choose to fight. This one is for keeps.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered ECT News Editor by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

5 Comments

  • The Groklaw site and their services have provided the open source community with invaluable information over the years. On one hand, their services will be greatly missed. But on the other, open source software is stronger than ever now against the proprietary and evil software giants like Microsoft and Apple.

    • It pains me to say it, but Google’s "don’t be evil" mantra has become an old, and extremely unfunny joke. At the heart of this issue is the unavoidable fact that you can’t provide individuals with security, anonymity, and privacy, without doing the same for criminals, terrorists, and corporations and governments whose only interests are in maintaining their own power, privilege and affluence.

      The simple truth is that there is no such thing as privacy on the internet. In the same way as most people would never walk down the streets of Manhattan naked, or share their brilliant idea with strangers without first ensuring that they have appropriate legal protections in place, or have sex with a stranger without the protection of a condom, we should all get used to the idea that nothing truly sensitive should ever be shared on the World Wide Web without the protection of a secure vpn, etc.

      But the answer is not disengagement. The internet is the urban environment of the most profound intellectual revolution since the invention of the printing press. If our ancestors had stopped printing books because they might be stolen or somehow fall into the wrong hands, we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages with the life span of the average person being somewhere between 30 and 40 years, infant mortality above 50%, and 99% of the population would be landless serfs enslaved by despots.

      • They really should be given credit, to many in the FOSS community that "do no evil" has been like a "get out of jail free" card along with their use of FOSS so that no matter how nasty they get (such as i pointed out making an X86 laptop that is as locked down as a cellphone) they automatically get a free pass and anybody pointing out their nasty moves gets the "shill" card played against them.

        While I agree the answer is NOT disengagement what we MUST do is hold ALL companies feet to the fire and give NOBODY free passes. Everyone here is happy that MSFT is no longer the big bad but its not progress to replace one bad ruler with a worse one!

        Mobile has the chance to finally bring true freedom to the masses, to give the combined knowledge gathered through all of recorded history into the hands of anybody with a cheap smartphone and in range of a celltower. But all this will be worthless if the trade off for this is to create a police state, if everything we do and say, every place we go is recorded and analyzed and used against us.

        So remember folks just because somebody gives lip service to "do no evil" or FOSS does NOT mean they hold the freedoms of FOSS or even care about freedom for anyone but themselves, so we must be vigilant and make sure that we don’t replace one master for another.

  • As per usual, people read what they want to.

    Directly from our post about our changes at http://cloverleaf-linux.org/?p=117

    "Q: Does this mean you are stopping *all* development?
    A: No, it does not, we will be continuing our work on our kernel, Mesa, Wine, Netflix-desktop and/or Pipelight, KlyDE, and Consort, targeting openSUSE:12.3 and openSUSE:Factory

    Q: Does this mean Cloverleaf linux is dead?
    A: No, it does not. This just means that we will no longer be making the effort to maintain Cloverleaf as a "Based on openSUSE" distribution. Our repositories on OBS are not going anywhere, and may be added to any installation of openSUSE:12.3 or openSUSE:Factory."

    We are not halting anything. We are just not going to develop an independent distribution anymore, and instead focus our development efforts as a part of openSUSE.

    Doesn’t anybody actually READ anymore? How about a little journalistic integrity and fact checking?

  • And while we are at it on the subject of "should have died years ago" can we PLEASE stop with the "M$" garbage already? HOW many years has DOS been gone now? 20+ years right? You might as well be screaming about how the "big bad Commodore" is gonna sneak out of the closet and kill you, it makes the entire community look like a bunch of nutters.

    Finally you might want to think about focusing on some real threats for once, like the fact Google is datamining you for everything you’re worth and that of course means the NSA has every scrap of that data or the fact that Apple has grown something like 8000% in the past 6 years by selling devices that are so locked down they make the old Compaq RAM look quaint by comparison.

    Finally there is the rotting elephant in the room in the fact that Google has made GPL V3 verbotten, look it up, neither ChromeOS or Android is allowed to have a single line of code that is GPL V3, not a single line…why? Well GPL V3 blocks the "TiVo loophole" that allowed TiVo to turn GPL code into proprietary simply by using eFuses and code signing so it really don’t take Kojack to solve this case, especially when more and more devices that use Android are coming out locked down and require jailbreaking to do anything not approved by corporate. Even Google’s own ChromeBooks take what is a completely bog standard X86 laptop and locks it down so hard the ONLY way you can do anything with it is to throw it into "dev mode" and even then only a small handful of OSes that have hacked bootloaders (that are being maintained by single guys in their basements, yeah good luck on keeping those going) will even run!

    So let us use the ending of Groklaw, a throwback to the SCO days that has long outlived its usefulness, to clear out the dead wood and start focusing on what the REAL threats are for the rest of the decade. MSFT isn’t a threat anymore, the desktop is flatline and folks will treat them like washers and dryers and ONLY replace when they die, the threat now is the rise of mobile devices that are becoming more and more locked down, with proprietary hardware, SoCs with just enough changed (and threats of DMCA) to make sure reverse engineering ain’t gonna happen, and all our data happily handed over to big bro 3 letter agencies because its all gotta be "in the cloud" so these mobile devices can actually access it thanks to the small AM ounts of space on the things.

    Its time to stop fighting previous battles and look at the coming storm and if PJ couldn’t pull up her big girl pants and join the fray? Good riddance, don’t need any wimps in the upcoming battles. I mean can you picture RMS or Torvalds or ESR running because somebody said "psst, they are watching you? Not a chance, they’d say "bring it on" and charge!

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