I'm well known for being critical when necessary about what happens in the software freedom community, but occasionally, there's nothing to do but thank someone, particularly when they've done something I asked for. :)
I first became aware of the Sun RPC license in mid-2001, but my email archives from the time indicate the issue predated my involvement with it; it'd been an issue of consideration since 1994. I later had my first large email thread “free-for-all” on the issue in April 2002, which was the first of too many that I'd have before it was all done. In December 2002, the Debian bug was filed, and then it became a very public debate. Late last week, it was finally resolved. It now ranks as the longest standing Free Software licensing problem of my career. A cast of dozens deserve credit for getting it resolved.
Many have already opined about the Oracle v. Google lawsuit filed last week. As you might expect, I'm not that worried about what company sues what company for some heap of cash; those sort of for-profit wranglings just aren't what concerns me. Rather, I'm focused on what this event means for the future of software freedom. And, I think even at this early stage of the lawsuit, there are already a few lessons for the Free Software community to learn.
Vincent Untz announced and blogged today about the GNOME Copyright Assignment Policy and a longer guidelines document about the GNOME policy. I want to thank both Vincent and Michael Meeks for their work with me on this policy.
As I noted in my blog last week, GUADEC really reminded me how great the GNOME community is. Therefore, it's with great pride that I was able to assist on this important piece of policy for the GNOME community.
The Linux Foundation announced today their own FLOSS license compliance program, which included the launch of a few software tools under a modified BSD license. They also have offered some training courses for those that want to learn how to comply.
If this Linux Foundation (LF) program is successful, I may get something I've wished for since the first enforcement I ever worked on back in late 1998: I'd like to never do GPL enforcement again. I admit I talk a lot about GPL enforcement. It's indeed been a major center of my work for twelve years, but I can't say I've ever really liked doing it.
I often hear it.
I have to use proprietary software, people
say. But usually, that's a justification and an excuse. Saying
to implies that they've been compelled by some external force to do
It begs the question:
Who's doing the forcing? I don't deny
there might be occasions with a certain amount of force. Imagine if
you're unemployed, and you've spent months looking for a job. You
finally get one, but it generally doesn't have anything to do with
software. After working a few weeks, your boss says you have to use a
Microsoft Windows computer. Your choices are: use the software or be
fired and spend months again looking for a job. In that case, if you
told me you have to use proprietary software, I'd easily
Conferences are often ephemeral. I've been going to FLOSS conferences since before there were conferences specifically for the topic. In the 1990s, I'd started attending various USENIX conferences. Many of my career successes can be traced back to attending those conferences and meeting key leaders in the FLOSS world. While I know this is true generally, I can't really recall, without reviewing notes from specific conferences, what happened at them, and how specifically it helped me personally or FLOSS in general. I know they're important to me and to software freedom, but it's tough to connect the dots perfectly without looking in detail at what happened when.
LWN is reporting a GPL enforcement story that I learned about during last week while at GUADEC (excellent conference, BTW, blog post on that later this week). I wasn't sure if it was really of interest to everyone, but since it's hit the press, I figured I'd write a brief post to mention it.
I've written before about the software freedom issues inherent with Android/Linux. Summarized shortly: the software freedom community is fortunate that Google released so much code under Free Software licenses, but since most of the code in the system is Apache-2.0 licensed, we're going to see a lot of proprietarized, non-user-upgradable versions. In fact, there's no Android/Linux system that's fully Free Software yet. (That's why Aaron Williamson and I try to keep the Replicant project going. We've focused on the HTC Dream and the NexusOne, since they are the mobile devices closest to working with only Free Software installed, and because they allow the users to put their own firmware on the device.)
I sought out the quote below when Chris Dodd paraphrased it on Meet The Press on 25 April 2010. (I've been, BTW, slowly but surely working on this blog post since that date.) Dodd was quoting Frank Rich, who wrote the following, referring to the USA economic system (and its recent collapse):
As many have said — though not many politicians in either party — something is fundamentally amiss in a financial culture that thrives on “products” that create nothing and produce nothing except new ways to make bigger bets and stack the deck in favor of the house. “At least in an actual casino, the damage is contained to gamblers,” wrote the financial journalist Roger Lowenstein in The Times Magazine last month. This catastrophe cost the economy eight million jobs.
Lots of people are opining about the USA Supreme Court's ruling in the Bilski case. Yesterday, I participated in a oggcast with the folks at SFLC. In that oggcast, Dan Ravicher explained most of the legal details of Bilski; I could never cover them as well as he did, and I wouldn't even try.
(These days, ) I generally try to avoid the well-known terminology debates in our community. But, if you hang around this FLOSS world of ours long enough, you just can't avoid occasionally getting into them. I found myself in one this afternoon that spanned three identica threads. I had some new thoughts that I've shared today (and even previously) on my identi.ca microblog. I thought it might be useful to write them up in one place rather than scattered across a series of microblog statements.
A few years ago, I was considering starting a Free Software project. I never did start that one, but I learned something valuable in the process. When I thought about starting this project, I did what I usually do: ask someone who knows more about the topic than I do. So I phoned my friend Loïc Dachary, who has started many Free Software projects, and asked him for advice.
Before I could even describe the idea, Loïc said:
you don't have a
URL? I was taken aback; I said:
but I haven't started yet.
of course you have, you're talking to me about it, so
you've started already.
The most important thing you can tell
me, he said, is
Where are the bytes?
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) announced yesterday a campaign to collect a clear list of OpenOffice.Org extensions that are FaiF, to convince the OO.o Community Council to list only FaiF extensions, and to find those extensions that are proprietary software, so that OO.o extension developers can focus of their efforts on writing replacements under a software-freedom-respecting license.
I wrote 15 months ago thanking Canonical for their release of Launchpad. However, in the interim, a part of the necessary codebase was made proprietary, namely the authentication system used in the canonical instance of Launchpad hosted by Canonical. (Yes, I still insist on using canonical in the canonical way despite the company name making it confusing. :). I added this fact to my list of reasons of abandoning Ubuntu and other Canonical products.
There are lots of evil things that proprietary software companies might do. Companies put their own profit above the rights and freedoms of their users, and to that end, much can be done that subjugates users. Even as someone who avoids proprietary software, I still read many proprietary license agreements (mainly to see how bad they are). I've certainly become numb to the constant barrage of horrible restrictions they place on users. But, sometimes, proprietary licenses go so far that I'm taken aback by their gratuitous cruelty.
Apple's licenses are probably the easiest example of proprietary licensing terms that are well beyond reasonableness. Of course, Apple's licenses do the usual things like forbidding users from copying, modifying, sharing, and reverse engineering the software. But even worse, Apple also forbid users from running Apple software on any hardware that is not produced by Apple.
Seven and a half years ago, I got this idea: the membership of the Free Software Foundation should have a chance to get together every year and learn about what the FSF has been doing for the last year. I was so nervous at the first one on Saturday 15 March 2003, that I even wore a suit which I rarely do.
The basic idea was simple: the FSF Board of Directors came into town anyway each March for the annual board meeting. Why not give a chance for FSF associate members to meet the leadership and staff of FSF and ask hard questions to their hearts' content? I'm all about transparency, as you know. :)
Most of you are aware from one of my previous posts that It's a Wonderful Life! is my favorite film. Recently, I encountered something in the software freedom community that reminded me of yet another quote from the flim:
- Look, uh … I think maybe you better not mention getting your wings around here.
- Why? Don't they believe in angels?
- I… yeah, they believe in them…
- Ohhh … Why should they be surprised when they see one?
I started using GNU/Linux and Free Software in 1992. In those days, while everything I needed for a working computer was generally available in software freedom, there were many components and applications that simply did not exist. For highly technical users who did not need many peripherals, the Free Software community had reached a state of complete software freedom. Yet, in 1992, everyone agreed there was still much work to be done. Even today, we still strive for a desktop and server operating system, with all relevant applications, that grants complete software freedom.
Leslie Hawthorn referred me to an excellent article by Jeremy Allison about Sun merging with Oracle. It was a particularly interesting read for me since, while I knew that Jeremy worked for Sun early in his career, I didn't realize that he started in engineering tech support.
I just returned today (unfortunately on an overnight flight, which always causes me to mostly lose the next day to sleep problems) from SCALE 8x. I spoke about GPL enforcement efforts, and also was glad to spend all day Saturday and Sunday at the event.
I read with interest today when Linux Weekly News linked to Greg DeKoenigsberg's response to Mark Guzdial's ACM Blog post, The Impact of Open Source on Computing Education (which is mostly a summary of his primary argument on his personal blog). I must sadly admit that I was not terribly surprised to read such a post from an ACM-affiliated academic that speaks so negatively of FLOSS's contribution to Computer Science education.
I was intrigued to read Greg Kroah-Hartman's analysis of what's gone wrong with the Android fork of Linux, and the discussion that followed on lwn.net. Like Greg, I am hopeful that the Android platform has a future that will work closely with upstream developers. I also have my own agenda: I believe Android/Linux is the closest thing we have to a viable fully FaiF phone operating system platform to take on the proprietary alternatives like the BlackBerry and the iPhone.
I could not think of anything but the South Park
They took our jobs! when I read
Duck's announcement of their patent, Resolving License
Dependencies For Aggregations of Legally-Protectable Content.
I've read through the patent, from the point of view of someone skilled in this particular art. In fact, I'm specifically skilled in two distinct arts related to this patent: computer programming and Free Software license compatibility analysis. It's from that perspective that I took a look at this patent.
(BTW, the thing to always remember about reading patents is that the really significant part isn't the abstract, which often contains pie-in-the-sky prose about what the patent covers. The claims are the real details of the so-called “invention”.)