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[fab] final rough draft



Looking for any last feedback, since there's no questions unanswered at this point.

I'm going to get lunch, and then I'm going to read through for typos, and then I'm going to hit send to /.

--Max

--
Max Spevack
+ http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/MaxSpevack
+ gpg key -- http://spevack.org/max.asc
+ fingerprint -- CD52 5E72 369B B00D 9E9A 773E 2FDB CB46 5A17 CF21
Hi everyone.  I'm looking forward to answering all of the questions, but 
before I start diving into that, I guess it would be useful to give a 
little bit of perspective about me and my role within Fedora and Red Hat, 
because it will offer some context around the things I have to say.

The Fedora Project, as many of you know, is a partnership between Red Hat 
and the OSS community.  The highest level of decision-making within Fedora 
is the Fedora Project Board, a group that is empowered to make the 
decisions about Fedora policy, to set priorities, and to hold the rest of 
the Fedora sub-projects accountable for what they are doing.  The Fedora 
Board has nine members, five of whom are Red Hat employees, and four of 
whom are community members.  That breakdown is not set in stone -- 
that's just what we started with.  It is my hope that down the road, the 
majority of the Board will be Fedora's community leaders.

In addition, the Board has a Chairman, and that person is whoever happens 
to hold the position of "Fedora Project Leader" within Red Hat -- since 
February of this past year, that's been me.

As much as possible, we try to conduct our business within the confines of 
the Fedora Advisory Board, which is a larger group (about 50) of the most 
prominent contributors to Fedora.  This is an open mailing list with 
public archives and open-posting, and its participation is strong both 
from @redhat.com and community contributors.

For more information about the Fedora Project Board, please <a 
href="http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board";>see our website</a>.

In the spirit of complete transparency, a word about the answers:

All of them were composed directly by me -- it's my voice and writing 
style that you're reading.  But, I didn't answer them all by myself 
without speaking to anyone else.  I discussed some of them with folks on 
the Fedora Advisory Board mailing list, with various colleagues at Red 
Hat, and a draft of the responses was shown to Red Hat's corporate 
communications team (not because they have any editorial control over what 
I say, but as a sign of respect) and a draft was also shown to Fedora 
Advisory Board.

=========================

1) Why such a divide?
(Score:5, Insightful)
by dsginter 

It seems to me that 'Linux should be Linux'. Rather, we're seeing articles 
about one linux distro killing another. We never see "Windows Professional 
is killing Windows Home". IMHO, Ubuntu's success should be a boon for all 
Linux distros.

Unfortunately, package management seems to be the great divide. What are 
you doing to bring One Package Manager to all Linux?

A)

I agree with your initial comment -- one of the great powers of OSS is 
that when you have a strong upstream in place that is always having 
changes fed back to it, success for one distribution translates to success 
for all distributions.

When you look at the landscape of all the many Linux distros out there, it 
isn't surprising that there's some level of competition among them.  Most 
people want to feel like they are the best at what they do, and a certain 
amount of competition among distros is healthy.  It keeps people 
innovating, it keeps them working hard, etc.  Personally, I think it's 
important not to lose the perspective that in the end, everyone who works 
on OSS -- regardless of whether they run Fedora, Ubuntu, Slackware, or any 
other distro -- is ultimately working to promote more or less the same 
core set of principles (more on this later).

To speak directly about Fedora:

First, we believe very strongly in working with various upstreams.  The 
diff between any package that we ship in Fedora and the upstream version 
is as small as possible at any given time, and we are constantly 
submitting our patches and changes upstream for consideration.

To your point about "one package manager to rule them all" -- well, I 
think it's an admirable goal.  Do I think it would be a good thing for 
Linux to begin to standardize on a single package manager?  Yes, I do.  
Does Red Hat have strong ties to RPM?  Of course.  But what does that mean 
for Fedora?  Well, Fedora is also tied to RPM (yum is our 
application-layer package management tool, with RPM providing the 
lower-level work) -- but that doesn't mean that the Board is unopen to 
considering the idea of change.  RPM is the reality of the moment.  If 
there's a better solution that gains a critical mass of Fedora engineers 
who are interested in experimenting with it, then we will try it out.

You ask specifically what Fedora is doing to bring about a "one package 
manager to all Linux" -- well, I guess there's a couple of directions that 
Fedora could go:

1) Try to convince anyone not using RPM to do so.  I don't like that idea 
very much -- if RPM is the tool you want to use, feel free.  If you've got 
something that works better for you, that's fine too.

2) Fedora could abandon RPM in favor of another package manager.  Like I 
said -- if Fedora engineers want to start the "Fedora 
$OTHER_PACKAGE_MANAGER Project" and see how far they can get and how the 
technology works, that would be a great learning experience.  We're set up 
in a way that a project like that could be possible, without getting in 
the way of the mainline Fedora releases.

3) Try to create something entirely new, that everyone will love.  Call me 
cynical, but trying to build a consensus before you actually have any code 
just seems like a waste of time.

I guess the "problem" with package managers is that they are so integral 
to the rest of a distro that it's a major endeavor to switch them.  One 
reason is that a switch of that kind would break the upgrade chain.

Technical challenges like that lead to a high level of inertia, and 
therefore requires a tremendous added benefit that is gained by making a 
switch.

=========================

2) Drivers Vs Linux
(Score:5, Interesting)
by eldavojohn 

A lot of people I talk to say they don't like Linux due to lack of driver 
support. Is there anyway you see this problem being eliminated? How do you 
court vendors to support their hardware on your flavor of Linux?

A)

Linux enjoys a large amount of driver support in general, but proprietary 
software drivers remain a large problem.  From the perspective of Fedora, 
our stance is clear.  It has and will always be our goal to create a 
distribution that is 100% free and open source.

Fedora Core 5 and Fedora Core 6 Test 2 have tremendous amounts of driver 
support, as a result of the work of many people within the community, and 
also as a result of the millions of dollars that Red Hat has invested 
into certification, testing, and development over the years, which has 
played a role in getting things to the point at which they are right now.

The rub, of course, is that having a giant pile of open source drivers is 
wonderful, but as soon as a single user runs into a single piece of 
hardware that doesn't work for them under Linux, then all of a sudden 
Linux "driver support" is terrible.  I'm not saying that's what the poster 
of the question thinks -- I'm just saying that's a general problem of 
perception that Linux deals with.

One way to deal with this, or course, is to vote with your wallet.  When 
there are drivers and hardware that don't work under Linux because of 
proprietary limitations, state those limitations honestly and 
transparently, and let the users decide whether or not to buy them.

From Red Hat's perspective as a company, we do a lot of work with hardware 
providers -- Dell, HP, Intel, Fujitsu, etc., and that work is often done 
directly in Fedora.  We've worked with Broadcom on network drivers, and 
with Promise on SATA.  We're hoping to bring more and more into the fold, 
and we're hoping that the open testing and certification system that is 
being developed (and was announced at the Red Hat Summit) will allow 
partners and individuals to help us bring even greater driver support to 
Fedora.

But ultimately for Fedora the goal is free software.  Including support 
for proprietary drivers in our distribution would violate our core 
principal of freedom in software.  We choose to adhere to that principal, 
even when that means that technical problems remain that could otherwise 
be made to disappear.

By choosing not to ship any proprietary or binary drivers, Fedora does 
differ from other distributions.  Ubuntu is one example, as there is very 
strong language about freedom, right up until the moment at which they say 
that they include binary drivers on their CDs and in their repositories.

http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/philosophy
http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/licensing

=========================

3) What's changed?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by KDan 

You mention that opinions are rooted in the world of 5 years ago. What do 
you think has changed in the linux world since then, and how does it 
affect Fedora development?

A)

I remember walking into the lobby of Red Hat's headquarters two years ago 
when I showed up for my job interview, and in big letters, the first think 
you see is "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight 
you, then you win."  Gandhi wasn't talking about Linux, but I am inspired 
by that quote every day.

In the last five years, Linux has moved along down that path, most 
certainly.  Market share increases.  Mindshare increases -- I see open 
source mentioned in magazine and newspapers when it never was before.  
Name recognition for Linux and why it is different (and better) is 
becoming more ane more mainstream.  Far from being ignored, Linux is 
getting more and more support, and in turn the fight against it 
intensifies as well.

In the technical realm, the changes in Linux in the last five years have 
been extraordinary.  I don't think I need to enumerate the differences 
between a linux distro in 2000 or 2001 and today, certainly not for this 
readership.

Another gigantic change over the last five years is the fact that the PC 
is no longer the king of the electronic device.  There was an article in 
'The Economist' last week about this, discussing the fact that PDAs have 
such a huge market penetration now, that many tasks that used to require 
your desktop or your laptop are moving toward portable computing.  
Breaking into that part of the computing world is something that is a 
possibility today that wasn't really a consideration five years ago.

Fedora needs to change.  It needs to be less bulky, and more customizable.  
The actual "core" packages that are required to get a system up and 
running should be broken out, and applications layered on top as users 
need them.

In Fedora Core 6, the installer will be able to reach out to any 
network-accessible repositories and pull in packages from them, which is a 
step in the right direction, and also is a big step in breaking down the 
distinction between Core and Extras.

=========================

4) Worst Aspect of Fedora?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by eldavojohn 

On the Fedora Project website, there are plenty of reasons listed for 
Fedora to be your operating system of choice. In your eyes, what is the 
most lacking aspect of Fedora as it exists today?

A)

In my opinion, the most lacking aspect of Fedora as it exists today is the 
separation between Fedora Core and Fedora Extras.

For those of you who aren't familiar with what that means, I shall 
explain:

Fedora Core is a set of packages (right now about 2200) that is completely 
self-satisfying from a dependency perspective, and is the pile of code 
that we ship, for example on the Fedora Core 5 DVD, or in our bittorrent 
tracker.

Fedora Extras is another set of packages (more than 3000) that is 
installable adjacent to Fedora Core, but isn't shipped on the media.  
Greg DeKoenigsberg worked to kickstart Fedora Extras in early 2005, and 
since then it has become arguably the most successful part of the Fedora 
Project.  It has thrived under the leadership of Thorsten Leemhuis and the 
rest of the Fedora Extras Steering Committee.  The packages in Fedora 
Extras are maintained by whoever is capable of stepping up and doing the 
work, regardless of whether or not they are employed by Red Hat.

The reasons for the separation between Core and Extras have to do with 
build systems, CVS locations, and artifacts of antiquated Red Hat 
attitudes toward Fedora, as well as antiquated processes.

I would like all of that to change.  I would like for the Core/Extras 
distinction to go away, and instead be replaced by the idea of a Fedora 
Universe, which is a giant pile of packages that are blessed by Fedora, 
and any subset of those packages that produces a functioning OS can be 
called Fedora.

I believe that we will get there in time, but it's not an overnight sort 
of change.  Right now is the time during which we should be planning how 
we can achieve a goal like that, and it's my hope that as RHEL5 stabilizes 
and Red Hat engineers have some cycles free up, we'll be able to get some 
of the work done on the Red Hat side of the fence that is required.

Separate from that, we would love to have more contributors.  People who 
want to work on code (especially code that isn't package maintenance), 
documentation, infrastructure, and artwork.  People who are organizers and 
who want to be leaders.  That's not to suggest that we don't have 
contributors today who have those qualities and skillsets, but there's 
more than enough work to go around.

=========================

5) Vista a Problem?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by eldavojohn 

Do you view Vista as a threat to your user base? Do you or people on your 
team ever change your mind about things or let looming Vista influence 
your decisions?

I'm hoping that Linux distros are not pressured into adding unneeded bells 
and whistles in a desperate attempt to compete with Vista. Are you 
invulnerable from this mentality?

A)

Truthfully, everything I know about Vista I learned in two places -- right 
here on /. and on the mini-MSFT blog.  I don't particularly pay any 
attention to it, and I can't really tell you what is or is not supposed to 
be in it at this point in time, or when it's going to ship (insert your 
jokes here).  I used to have a XP partition that I'd boot to for gaming -- 
probably not unlike a good number of /. folks -- but it's been over a year 
since I blew that away and I haven't looked back.

In terms of getting people to use Linux instead of proprietary operating 
systems -- I think that battle is best fought in the world of people who 
are new to computers.  People will tend to be loyal to the first thing 
that *just works* and doesn't cause them pain.  Making that first 
experience for people a Linux one as opposed to a proprietary one -- 
that's the challenge.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that you can't show long-time proprietary 
software users the light of open source, but it's a much more gradual 
process: "Another Internet Explorer exploit, huh?  Hey, have you heard of 
Firefox and Thunderbird?  Let me help you set them up, you might like it."

=========================

6)  NTFS support in Fedora/RedHat.
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Anonymous Coward

If Fedora is actually not controlled by Red Hat anymore, and Fedora is 
user-oriented, why are both the only general-purpose GNU/Linux 
distributions that disable the NTFS driver from the Linux kernel?

Users do need this option (unlike RedHat's customers, which are 
organizations as far as I know), and for evidence, Linux-NTFS is one of 
the projects with the most downloads on sourceforge.

I would like to add that NTFS is part of the mainline kernel. Compiling it 
as a module will cause it to not take any memory resources other than the 
few kilobytes on disk that any un-used hardware module is taking, unless 
of course the user has a mounted NTFS partition.

RedHat's reason for disabling NTFS support was that RedHat is a US-based 
organization and that they fear patenting problems from MS. No law action 
was ever taken, and no actual patent was referenced. As far as I know, 
NTFS is not even patented or patentable. Fedora is not RedHat as you say, 
so this old reasoning is not exactly valid for Fedora. The IBM/SCO saga 
also cleared the issue about patents in the mainline kernel.

Unless Fedora will change this simple flag in the kernel config file, I 
assume it is still controlled (and not only sponsered as some would say) 
by RedHat.

A)

Heh, the actual question asked is a reasonable one.  I think it's sad that 
it has to be surrounded with such vitriol.

First of all, I am not a lawyer.  The AC who posted didn't mention his 
background, but I'm guessing that he/she INAL also.

FACT -- Red Hat retains legal liability for the Fedora Project.  The 
Fedora Project is not a separate legal entity or organization.  The Fedora 
Project receives a tremendous amount of resources (people, money, 
infrastructure, etc.) from Red Hat.

FACT -- If you are a proprietary software company looking to exercise some 
patent litigation against an open source software company, Red Hat might 
not look like an awful choice.

In the past, Red Hat's counsel has been uncomfortable with enabling NTFS 
support in the kernel due to the fact that the implementation is well 
patented by Microsoft.  Recently, the kernel has become protected by the 
OIN and the question of NTFS in our kernels has been raised on the Fedora 
Advisory Board recently (within the last month or two).  When we have an 
answer regarding that, the analysis and result will also be published 
transparently for people to comment on and discuss.

=========================

7) Dependency hell
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Tet 

The introduction of yum has vastly improved the user experience when 
installing software, or updating existing packages. However, it's brought 
with it a new kind of dependency hell. For example, if I want to install a 
PostScript previewer:

    % yum install evince
    [...]
    Installing:
    evince x86_64 0.5.1-3 core 773 k
    Installing for dependencies:
    nautilus x86_64 2.14.1-1.fc5.1 updates-released 3.9 M
    nautilus-cd-burner x86_64 2.14.2-1 updates-released 414 k

That's clearly wrong. I only want to install a PostScript previewer. Doing 
so should not require a filemanager (which I don't need or want), and 
certainly not a CD burner. But these are added as dependencies due to the 
clumsy packaging that seems to be increasingly prevalent in Fedora. 
Perhaps (and I remain unconvinced) there's some aspect of evince that can 
make use of nautilus being present. But if so, I haven't seen it. I could 
well believe that nautilus could make use of evince, but not really the 
other way around. But assume for the sake of argument that it can use 
nautilus. That still isn't a reason to have it depend on it.  
Dependencies should be packages that are required in order for another to 
run, not packages that will merely enable additional functionality. In 
this case -- the prime function of evince is to view documents, which 
isn't significantly enhanced by having a file browser present.

Fedora is still my distribution of choice, but it's becoming increasingly 
hard to use for those of us that prefer to run with a minimal system due 
to the way that the dependencies have been getting out of hand. Are there 
any plans to fix this, or is any work already underway to do so? I 
understand that some consideration has been given to providing "soft 
dependencies" within RPM (like dpkg's suggested dependencies), which would 
help. Is there a timeframe for this? Is anything else being done?

I quite understand the focus on getting the system to be usable for the 
average unskilled user. But the impression I'm getting is that it's being 
done at the expense of letting those of us that know what we're doing do 
what we want. Does Fedora have a position on the type of users it's aiming 
for, or is it still trying to be a general purpose OS?

A)

To your specific example, ask and ye shall see some improvement.

http://bugzilla.redhat.com/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=201967

To your more general question, there's a couple of things that play a 
part:

Part of the dependency requirements come from the manner in which the 
packages are written, in which (for example) it's far more common for 
someone to install a large set of inter-related packages than just a 
single package.  Regardless of that, it's entirely possible (such as in 
this specific evince example) that some extra work can simplify the 
dependency requirements.  Bugzilla is always the best way to bring issues 
like that to the attention of the packagers.  From there, it's just a 
matter of code and time.

=========================

8) Goals
(Score:5, Insightful)
by redkazuo

While Ubuntu has a clear, selfless mission, it seems to me the Fedora 
project misses this. I'm sure while Fedora was still within Red Hat, its 
mission was simply commercial. "It must be good so we can make money." 
That mission no longer applies, and http://fedora.redhat.com/About/ 
[redhat.com] almost sounds like Fedora is just a rejected part of Red Hat, 
left Free so that they could attempt to profit from community 
contributions.

Is there an objective in the Fedora Project? One that is clear and may 
motivate developers to join? Or is it here really just to reduce costs for 
the Red Hat team?

A)

Just to clarify one thing in the question first -- "while Fedora was still 
within Red Hat" -- I'm not quite sure what that means, but I hope my 
explanation about the Fedora Project Board at the top of my answers clears 
up any questions there.

I'm really glad this question was asked, because it gives me a chance to 
try to bust the NUMBER ONE MYTH about Fedora -- that Fedora is "just a 
beta for RHEL" or that "Fedora only exists to make Red Hat money" or "Red 
Hat doesn't care about Fedora, it's just a dumping ground for half-tested 
code".  I hear all of those things from time to time, and *none* of them 
are true.

Let's back up for a moment -- the Red Hat Linux/Fedora Core split took 
place in 2003, I believe.  And while I wasn't at Red Hat during that time, 
I think it's fair to state that there were some unfortunate choices made 
internally about how Fedora was positioned, and because those statements 
were made with a Red Hat voice, it helped to create a very strong 
perception that Red Hat abandoned the community, and that Fedora wasn't 
"good" for anything, or was a rejected part of Red Hat.  I think there 
were some people within Red Hat who were afraid that the "admission" that 
Fedora was production-quality, or that Fedora was anything more than 
beta-quality, would cause difficulty for the people trying to sell RHEL.  
Three years later, and that perception is still very strong in certain 
places -- without fail there are a few comments about that in every 
Slashdot story that mentions Fedora.

And that's fine.  Red Hat had a part in creating that perception, and so 
Red Hat will have to work particularly hard to undo it.

The real story of Fedora, of course, is entirely opposite from the "beta 
code only, not production worthy" stance.

Our mission statement is clear, and is one that I think any open-source 
developer would appreciate.

Fedora is about the rapid progress of free and open source software.

That's it.  We strive to produce a quality distribution of free software 
that is cutting-edge, pushes the envelope of new open source technology, 
and is also robust enough that it can be relied on for server or desktop 
use.  One of the terms that I really like, and that I think we're doing 
better and better of making a reality is that of Fedora as an "open 
development lab".  As a user, if your priorities are cutting-edge 
technology (without the nicks and cuts of a blade) and freedom, Fedora is 
a great disto to use.

The second half of the story, as it relates to Red Hat's desire to make a 
profit, is equally simple in my mind.  Fedora is upstream of RHEL.  
Fedora is also upstream of various other derivative distributions -- 
CentOS, for example.  
(http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/DerivedDistributions)

So when someone says "Fedora is beta for RHEL" they are stating only a 
very small part of what Fedora is.  Fedora is the best of what works 
today.  RHEL is the best of what will work for the next seven years.  And 
the users can decide what is best for their needs.

So saying that Fedora is the beta for RHEL, and that Fedora is *only* a 
beta for RHEL, is to take a purposefully narrow view on the truth.  
Fedora's upstream relationship to RHEL is simply one aspect of the Fedora 
Project, which stands on its own as a distribution.

http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Objectives

In conclusion, anyone who tells you that Fedora isn't suitable for a 
production server is lying.  Ask wikipedia whether or not Fedora is 
production-capable.  And if someone tells you Fedora is "just a beta for 
RHEL" or other such nonsense, and they are telling you that with 
@redhat.com after their name, then they're not just lying, but they're 
also doing tremendous damage to Red Hat as a company.

=========================

9) Directory Server
(Score:5, Interesting)
by IMightB 

Hi, I've been using Fedora Directory Server for quite a while, and it is a 
fantastic product.  I read some rumours that it would be Integrated with 
FC5, but sadly it was not. When can we expect this to be a standard 
feature/integrated with authentication and other areas in Fedora?

A)

Regrettably, answering this question honestly also requires admission that 
the integration of Fedora Directory Server and the rest of the Fedora 
Project (particularly Fedora Core/Extras) hasn't happened as quickly as 
many would have liked.  Directory Server is a great piece of software, but 
the true merging of that into Fedora Core is something that doesn't have a 
lot of traction at the moment.  The Directory Server community isn't 
necessarily very well integrated with the rest of the Fedora community, 
and therefore the two communities are in a similar state to that of the 
two projects -- in theory capable of being very good together, but in 
practice sort of just existing side by side, but not as closely knit as 
they could be.

When will that change?  As soon as we can get enough people on both sides 
of that fence able to spend the cycles necessary.  I can't give an exact 
date, because one doesn't exist right now, so I'd rather not just make 
something up.

=========================

10) Have you tried Ubuntu?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Anonymous Coward

Have you tried Ubuntu yourself? Is there, in your opinion, something 
Ubuntu does better than Fedora?

A)

Those of you hoping for some flamebait, I'm sorry to disappoint.

Yes, I have tried Ubuntu.  I have played around with SuSE, though not in 
any significant way for a year or so.  Prior to coming to Red Hat in 
August of 2004, I had always been a Slackware devotee, and my subscription 
with them is still active.

So what does Ubuntu do better than Fedora?

Let me start without even mentioning the actual distributions.  I think it 
is clear to anyone who is looking that Ubuntu's website is in much better 
shape than Fedora's.  Ubuntu.com is clean, clear, and easy to navigate for 
people who are browsing it, and if you dig down a little bit, you can also 
get to the Ubuntu wiki, which from what I can tell, serves a similar 
purpose to the fedoraproject.org wiki.

Here's the difference -- fedoraproject.org is *just* a wiki.  It's got a 
tremendous amount of information, and as someone who uses the site 
frequently, I know how to find what I'm looking for.  But it has a bit of 
a learning curve before it becomes useful.

Fedora's websites are in a state of flux -- fedora.redhat.com is 
deprecated, but the killing off of that site is taking longer than I would 
have hoped, as there are a variety of infrastructure issues at play.  Our 
wiki gets the job done, but I'd like to see a more professional looking 
front-end put on it, with the wiki continuing to function as it does, but 
just ever-so-slightly in the background.  The biggest hurdle to making 
that happen -- just having enough cycles and enough people to do the job 
properly.

That aside, I am impressed by Ubuntu's LiveCD, directly installable 
feature.  We have similar work going on within Fedora, but so far it 
hasn't achieved the same level of "officialness" as the Ubuntu code.  So 
that's an area in which Ubuntu is ahead of Fedora.

I played around recently with Dapper Drake.  Like I said, the LiveCD was 
cool.  The desktop -- Gnome is pretty much Gnome, Firefox is Firefox, etc.  
Personally I'm a huge fan of NetworkManager, which didn't appear to be the 
default in Dapper, but something like that is just a detail.  I'm sure if 
I were to use Dapper full time and I wanted it, I could probably get it.

This goes back to what I wrote near the beginning about the importance of 
upstream.  If everyone is pushing their latest work back upstream, and the 
maintainers at the top level have the time and resources that they need to 
keep everything in order, then most GNU/Linux distros are going to feel 
pretty similar once they are installed.  Which is why I think a lot of the 
OSS "religious wars" don't make a lot of sense.

=========================

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