[Fsf-friends] The Code... a movie about Free Software/ Open Source and related issues

FN fred@bytesforall.org
Sat, 15 Feb 2003 10:49:18 +0530 (IST)

Synopsis of " The Code" http://www.linuxthemovie.com/

   In  1991, a 20-year old Linus Torvalds, a thin, bespectacled, Swedish-
   speaking  Finnish  computer  science  student  sends  a  posting to an
   Internet newsgroup asking for advice on how to make a better operating
   system.  His  project is a hobby, he says, and would never become `big
   and  professional'.  But  in  ten  years  he and his loose alliance of
   hackers  all over the world creates an operating system - Linux - that
   challenges  Windows  2000  for  the server market and is now poised to
   dominate  the  next generation of handheld and desktop computers. What
   makes  Linux  different, and deeply troubling for traditional software
   companies,  is  that no one owns it. Every user is free to adapt it in
   any  way  they  wish, as long as they pass it on to others on the same

   The Code presents the first decade of Linux from 1991 to 2001. Besides
   Torvalds,  it  includes  many  of  his  closest  allies in development
   process,  that  is  nowadays seen as the greatest success story of the
   Internet culture. Eventually, Linux becomes a viable business solution
   within  the  computer  industry.  Media  loves  the story of `a single
   hacker  against  the  forces  of  darkness'.  `Linux'  becomes a catch
   phrase. Torvalds turns into an international media star. No more a shy
   nerd,  but a relaxed, witty media performer par excellence. Linus is a
   Jesus   for   a   politician,  respected  and  adored  by  both  Linux
   enthusiasts,  the  counter-culture  -  and the big businessmen. A rare
   combination, this time or any other. But even after all this attention
   Linus  Torvalds  remains,  as a person, an enigma. When interviewed in
   the  media,  he  is always asked the same questions and usually giving
   the  same answers too. We think we know him, but do we really? Why did
   he  put  his code into the Net for free, initially? Many can still not
   understand  it.  Maybe  because  `given  enough eyeballs, all bugs are
   shallow', giving a way to a better product? Or is there something more
   to it?

   The hero of the film is the archetype of our times: the programmer. In
   The  Code  programming is seen partially as an art form. Like artists,
   programmers  will  do  it  even  if they do not get any money. Through
   Torvalds  and  his  cohort, following the code development process, we
   get  into the mind-set of a programmer - and the communication between
   programmers.  Operating  from his study in San Jose, California, Linus
   is  the  benevolent dictator among hundreds of Linux developers around
   the  world. This room is the centre of their universe. Everything goes
   through  Linus, or his right hand man Alan Cox, a Welshman. Developers
   compete  in  order to get their solutions and improvements accepted by
   Linus.  He openly admits that he developed only 2 % or 3 % of the code
   in  the  beginning,  and  that  he  built  upon  the  work  by earlier
   programmers, like Richard Stallman. Developers are like monks in their
   virtual monastery. Their change of e-mails through the years opens the
   Linux  saga  in  the  film  like  a  letter novel. Leadership in Linux
   universe  is  about  getting  people  to  trust  enough that they take
   advice, making them to do things because of their own reasons, not due
   to  any external pressure. Linus is strict, loyal, dictatorial, humble
   and  positive,  all  at  the  same  time.  And  this is the key to the
   fulfilment   of  the  collective  dream.  Resembling  cybernetics  and
   communism, it would have never been built without teamwork, collective
   responsibility - and centralized planning.

   Along  the  way,  Microsoft  recognizes  competition,  and throws some
   mccarthyian  dirt towards Linux, calling it un-American. Regardless of
   this, Wall Street applauds, and for a brief time Linux is the cream of
   the  crop  at  the  stock  exchange market. What is more important and
   revolutionary,  the Linux phenomenon makes a lot of ground in Asia and
   Africa,  where  an  open  source  code and a free operating system are
   something  concrete,  not  just  fancy,  elitist idealism. The process
   started  in  Europe  and  the  United  States,  but  it is bound to be
   completed somewhere else.

   The  Code  is  about  the human urge to share and exchange, to achieve
   something  through  collaboration,  the  profit  motive  not being the
   dominating  factor.  Linux  and the free software movement have showed
   new  ways  to  make  profit in computer industry, while raising heated
   debates  on  the  ethics  of  business and the old issue of freedom of
   speech.  In  the end, The Code tells a key story of the digital age, a
   symbolic  saga  about  capitalism during the last fin de si=E8cle of the
   second millennium and the early steps of the third one.

   Hannu Puttonen