Episode #11

Direct download links: MP3 & Ogg

Interview with Rob Landley

Toggle full show notes
A slightly different format this episode, due to our in-depth interview later in the show. For anybody waiting to hear Paddy’s First Impressions of Bridge Linux, tune in next time when normal service will be resumed.


Critical crypto bug leaves Linux, hundreds of apps open to eavesdropping; some specific detail

Valve Asks Users to Disable SELinux to Play Portal 2, Linux Community Reacts (apparently now fixed, after we recorded our audio but before we released the show)

Red Hat Intros Kpatch For Dynamic Kernel Patching

Gartner Says Worldwide Tablet Sales Grew 68 Percent in 2013, With Android Capturing 62 Percent of the Market

Why Firefox — yes, Firefox — will become the mobile OS to beat

A closer look at Facebook’s motives in acquiring its fleet of Titan drones

Are there enough users for Linux Mint Debian Edition to survive?

Debian Developers Are Preparing an LTS Version for “Wheezy” (a little speculative…)

X.Org Foundation Loses Its 501(c)(3) Status

Linux Foundation to Build Massive Open Online Course Program with edX, Increase Access to Linux Training for All

Google Replacing GTK2 With Aura In Chrome 35

Mark Shuttleworth: Mir By Default In Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (and about that beard of his…)


Thanks to Dale Visser for the mention on Linux Outlaws, and to Andrew Gregory for the one on the Linux Voice podcast.

Here on the website, dogbert0360 asked if we’d have a look at antiX. Yes, happy to add to our list of future reviews. Also here, Brian36 expressed some doubts about Android-x86 as a replacement desktop, and outed himself as being of a similar vintage as Paddy ;)

Via email, Glen Skiner picked up on Paddy talking about Markdown editors, and recommended ReText. Glen also pointed us towards the LinuxBBQ website, which has a frightening number of Debian sid based variants to download.

Dave thanked us for previously looking at Semplice, which he is thoroughly enjoying using. He also asked about our non-existent IRC channel; would anybody else be interested in us setting one up?

Jack Dennahower gave us his initial impressions of his new Galaxy Note 10 – thanks, Jack.

Jezra had a few unflattering words to say about Firefox OS, which doesn’t bode well for Joe’s in-depth look at that platform in an upcoming show. Ray Woods experienced some unrelated Firefox woes, but managed to resolve matters.

Chris Leffelman asked if we could recommend a good general guide to Linux server set-up and management. If any listener has a book that they’ve found particularly helpful in this regard, please feel free to plug it in the comments below. Let’s see if we can’t come up with some distro-agnostic as well as distro-specific suggestions. Chris also became the first person to donate to the show via our new PayPal button – many thanks, Chris.

Brendan Perrine queried why we have recently had so much coverage of mobile devices, whilst Jonathan Groll told us about installing Sven-Ola’s Debian Kit on his phone, and running a Tomcat server on it! As we mentioned on the show, we appreciate different folks have different interests, and we’ll continue to attempt to provide reasonably balanced coverage of all the platforms where Linux is found – from the data centre, across the desktop, and down into your pocket.

Interview with Rob Landley

Kicking most of our regular programming off-air this show was an interview that we recently recorded with Rob Landley.

Rob is a former maintainer of BusyBox, and we wanted to speak with him about his Toybox project, which he hopes will move Android towards becoming the self-hosting environment it needs to be in order to displace traditional desktops. Along the way we talked about the origins of open source software and the Free Software Foundation, Rob’s experiences of GPL enforcement, the rise of public domain software, the evolution from mainframes to minis to PCs and beyond, why the fabled ‘Year of the Linux Desktop’ will never happen, why GUI projects benefit from being run by a dictator, and how he sees Android as the 900lb gorilla in a mobile marketplace that looks set to disrupt how we all interact with computers.

Thanks again to Rob for spending so much time with us, and for giving us an interview that proved to be informative, thought provoking, and – no doubt to some – controversial. If you have any comments on what Rob had to say, please add your thoughts below the line.

As ever, we’d welcome your feedback about the show either here on our website, via a mail to show@, or on Twitter @linuxluddites. Thanks for listening.


  1. Rob Walker

    Absolutely loved the interview with Rob… His long-winded rambling’s were 100% interesting and engaging. Easily beats the regular fluff that Linux podcasts cover!!

  2. Greg

    Great show, Rob was very engaging and obviously very passionate about his work. I wouldn’t want this every show but it was a great insight into the OSS/Linux back rooms.

    Another show comment: Joe mentioned Windows XP support life v LTS linux. I think if you compare LTS to each service pack life would be a better comparison. XP was released in 2001 and sp1 ended in 2006, sp2 ended in 2009 and sp3 ended in 2014. So each sp only has about 5 years to EOL.

    BTW love the random distro reviews. Its a sadistic pleasure to listen to you both document the pain you endure.

  3. Richard

    Yep, fascinating talk from Rob Landley. Take it all with a grain of salt though – without the GPL, I think we’d only have proprietary spyware software right now. The fact that some airheads on github don’t know how to choose a licence correctly doesn’t mean that it is a sensible thing to do.

    The GPL 2 vs 3 thing is a pain though. It has already bitten Debian and RedHat. OpenSSL was declared a “system library” to get around the licencing problems in RedHat. On the debian-dev mailing list there was a post “GPLv2-only considered harmful”.

    I wonder if Android will eventually switch to a BSD kernel? It’s not out of the realms of possibility. I think Google will switch their build infrastructure to LLVM/Clang at one point soon. The native dev kit for Android has shipped with clang for a while, but they need to include GCC too as it is used by random developers to build all sorts of hairy C/C++ code. One day Google will flip a switch, turn clang to the default in the NDK and try and then use their influence to gradually fade GCC out of the Android universe. You can see how it’ll play out – right now GCC is the default, then clang will be the default with GCC behind a flag, then GCC will be “deprecated”, then it will go away. That’d leave the kernel as the only GPL code in Android. Finally they switch to a BSD kernel. Then they no longer have to provide the source for any part of Android and they “win”. Full proprietary stack. At which point Microsoft releases Windows Phone as Free Software under the GPLv3. Ha ha.

    • Rob Landley

      I used to be the world’s biggest fan of the GPL: http://sf.geekitude.com/content/pros-and-cons-gnu-general-public-license-linucon-2005

      I didn’t leave the GPL, it left me. I also note that Linux wasn’t released under the GPL until 0.12, the first couple releases were under a different license. So “linux is open source” clearly didn’t happen _because_ of the GPL. Before I switched to Linux there were tons of OS/2 projects with source code on the old Walnut Creek/Hobbes Archive website, and “you get the source when you register this shareware” was the pre-internet norm from WWIV to Minix.

      As for the GPL making projects successful: the Hurd was always GPL. Its failure to take off is no more mystifying than BSD’s failure to take over the world (outside of Darwin/MacOS X). The 1997 usenix paper “The Cathedral And The Bazaar” was a comparison of the FSF’s development style (the Cathedral) with Linux’s (the bazaar). The License was secondary, Linux development methodology incorporated the internet in a way the Hurd and the BSDs didn’t. If copyleft was actually a requirement, how did Apache become the dominant webserver (even on Windows)?

      I blogged about some of the history behind all this a long time ago:

      And did a (sadly incoherent) talk on the rise and fall of copyleft at Ohio LinuxFest last year:

      If you’re really bored, go read the Ken Olsen interview in my giant heap of research material at http://landley.net/history/mirror (then read Steven Levy’s book “hackers” for the other side of the same story)…

      Reality turns out to be complex. Who knew? :)

  4. HankB

    Interesting show and engaging talk with Rob Landley. However I do not understand nor agree with his distaste for cross development targeting Android. Cross development is SOP for embedded systems and it would be ludicrous to suggest that they be fortified to the point where they could support a tool chain. I see Android devices much he same way. They have (barely) sufficient resources for web browsing, email and so on and a plethora of custom apps. I want a lot more horsepower for my dev environment and copying executables to the target is not really that awkward. I have developed embedded systems professionally and am now dabbling with Android development and find neither to be inconvenient or awkward.

    (And yes, I do remember piping output from ‘tin’ to ‘patch’ to obtain kernel upgrades. ;) That’s a distant memory.)

  5. Oskar

    The interview was absolutely awesome. Rob is genious and he gave really some insight into open source world.

  6. SonOfNed

    Another great podcast, and what a fantastic guest!

    Rob Landley covered multiple topics of interest with keen insights IMO. The historical context he provided around his real world developer experiences with FOSS licensing was fascinating. I found his perspectives on FOSS law, the evolution of mainframe/mini/pc/mobile technology, and cross-compiling’s drawbacks, all to be stimulating and thought provoking even when they challenged some of my current beliefs.

    Rob’s follow up in these comments with links to his writings moves him to the awesome guest status as far as I’m concerned. I’m working through some of it now and gladly admit it is altering some of my views.

    Two thumbs up!

  7. philnc

    Best general book on System Administration is “Essential System Administration” by Aeleen Frisch (O’Reilly, 2002). This book’s real value isn’t in the details of using any specific software, but in providing a best practices framework for beginning sysadmins that they can use for the rest of their careers.

    • Steven Rosenberg

      I saw in the post for the next show — http://linuxluddites.com/shows/episode-12/ — that you also recommended “UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook“(http://admin.com/). I have that book and am not as crazy about it as I thought I would be. I think the previous edition(s), where they were broken out as separate books for Linux and Unix (i.e. all Unixes that aren’t Linux) was more successful. Way too much of the “new” book is dedicated to systems that are too damn obscure to care about. I don’t even think they really covered BSD. It was stuff like HP-UX and AIX that I could care less about. I would have preferred a focus just on Linux, or Linux and BSD.

      Given that everything is about cloud at this point, and more specifically (wait for the buzzwords) DevOps in the Clouds and Platform as a Service on AWS/Google Cloud/OpenShift/etc., things are way more in flux now than at any time in the past 10 years.

      I’d prefer to see a sysadmin book that focuses on Linux and/or BSD AND takes into account the new cloudy world. I don’t know what’s out there, but nothing much is leaping out at me at this point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *