Originally Published: Tuesday, 4 July 2000 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Diary of a Madman: Day Four

We attempted to release our Linux kernel fork today, allowing anonymous access through our CVS server. Unfortunately, the code didn't get very far. I had expected to get flamed, but I never expected our data warehouse go up in smoke. So far, the initial reports from the fire marshal is that arson is suspected. Only minor injuries were reported.

We attempted to release our Linux kernel fork today, allowing anonymous access through our CVS server. Unfortunately, the code didn't get very far. I had expected to get flamed, but I never expected our data warehouse go up in smoke. So far, the initial reports from the fire marshal is that arson is suspected. Only minor injuries were reported.

I couldn't help but think of that strange e-mail I received from Kyrgyzstan the other day. That makes no sense. Are there really zealots out there that would commit a felony just to prevent us from releasing some software? At first, I just considered it paranoia. What reason is there to connect the events? I told myself that is was all just a coincidence. Anyway, we have several off-site backups and mirrors ready to roll. This was only a temporary setback.

Four hours later, I knew that I had gotten myself into something far more insidious and frightening. Almost immediately after being informed about the fire, Joseph e-mailed me for the second time:


Delivered-To: jake@kernelkrusaders.org
Date: 04 Jul 2010 02:50:11 -0000
From: root@respite.kg (joe root)
To: jake@kernelkrusaders.org
Subject: Are you watching yet?

Perhaps I've gotten your attention now. I regret that we had to take some drastic measures, but you ignored my fair warnings. I told you last time that we have the resources to make your project and if necessary your life wretched. Consider yourself warned and please stay the hell away.

I know what moves you are going to make before they even spring into your head. My group feels that a fork is not in the interests of anyone involved. My associates have a sizable investment in making sure that public perceptions about Linux stay positive. Your forking is not going to help matters. If you don't take our small hint and stop your work, we may have to escalate matters. We both don't want that Jake.

Life is a Go game Jake; we've got you in atari and you don't even know where the pieces are. I get paid well to make sure my clients win.


Yours in Peace,
Joseph


I could discount the first e-mail. The second I had some trouble digesting. The sun was beginning its descent into a moon-less sky. I began to sweat in the humid July air as I walked through my apartment. I checked that everything was properly secured.

Somewhat reassured, I decided to call the police. I flipped through the phone book until I could find the number of the local dispatch. As the phone rang and rang, I wondered exactly how I could explain something like this. I didn't think I was in immediate danger, but I wasn't sure what was going on either.

Finally, a toneless man picked up the line. As I tried to explain the events that had taking place, I could hear him typing into the computer. I could tell I wasn't making much of an impression. There wasn't much urgency in his voice when he recommended that perhaps I should contact the local FBI field office instead. They had better jurisdiction over something like this. However, he assured me he'd make sure a patrol car would cruise through my neighborhood.

There was something dehumanizing about the whole thing. It was as if the dispatcher didn't know what to do unless there was an algorithm already spelled out on his little computer system. I felt like he wanted to tell me to reboot and reinstall my OS.

I tried calling the FBI office, but it was Sunday and a holiday weekend. I wouldn't be able to get a hold of anyone until Tuesday at the earliest.

I badly needed to hear another human voice. I tried ringing several friends with no answer. Seems everyone had better things to do. Next, I dredged up a number of another project member. After dialing, I heard his answering machine pick up. I left a message for him to call me as soon as possible. I was a bit worried, it wasn't like him to be out, but maybe he'd found himself a life.

I continued to ring every hour or so, my concern growing each time. After the third try, instead of his machine picking up on the second ring as it would until he returned to play the machines, the machine rang through till the fourth. I figured he must have returned and played back his messages.

No one answered, so I waited five minutes and redialed. Maybe he was in the bathroom. This time, the line picked up on the third ring. No one answered. The line was completely silent. I must have said hello ten or fifteen times until suddenly I hit dial tone.

The sense of urgency I was feeling began to increase. Adrenaline was starting to squirt through my body. I redialed several times only hitting his answering machine. The fourth time someone or something picked up the line again. I shouted hello into the line hoping for some response. I heard a quick breath and then nothing. I must have listened for a minute and a half hoping to hear any noise. There was nothing.

I was beginning to panic at this point. There was definitely someone in the house. I couldn't come up with a scenario that wasn't sinister. I hung up and dialed information to get the number for the cops in my friend's town.

Deja vu flooded my senses when the dispatcher dispassionately listened to my panicked voice. He kept telling me that he needed an address in order to send a unit out. He didn't seem to understand nor care that I only had a name and a phone number. I finally hung up. There didn't seem to be much I could do at this point. Either something had gone horribly wrong, or I was over-reacting. I would find out for sure by the next day.

I darted through my apartment jumping at every sound, wondering if I was going to be next on some hit list. For the first time in my life I wished I had a gun.

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Matt Michie lives in New Mexico. He maintains a web site at http://daimyo.org.