GPL 3 release, related thoughts

Recently the GPL 3 was released. While this was an important step for the Free Software Foundation others do have objections against the new licence.

The GPL 3 is the probably most discussed software licence of these days: it is the precious child of the Free Software Foundation and will most likely be adopted by the software projects which are closely related to the FSF, like the gcc development tools.
On the other hand big projects like the Linux kernel don’t have any plans to switch to the new licence.

Looking at the discussions it is hard to make an easy judgement about the pros and cons of the licence. However, I find some arguments of Linus Torvalds to be quite reasonable: for many and maybe even most of the projects the GPL v2 is simply just fine and works. It even worked in court and therefore fits to most needs.
Also it is about the code itself, and not about moral objections or theories: the GPL v3 additionally influences when you are allowed to use the code and when not (Tivoization):

Some devices utilize free software that can be upgraded, but are designed so that users are not allowed to modify that software. […] for example, sometimes the hardware checksums the software that is installed, and shuts down if it doesn’t match an expected signature. […]
When people distribute User Products that include software under GPLv3, section 6 requires that they provide you with information necessary to modify that software.

This is something I don’t like – while Stallman, the main person behind the GPL, mentioned that this was the basic idea of the GPL from the beginning, for me the GPL was always about the code itself and not the usage of the code with other hardware.

But there are also other objections in the FLOSS world against the GPL: some people in the BSD camp don’t like the new licence at all:

More threatened than anyone are free software projects that abhor licensing restrictions imposed by the GPL, such as the BSD variants.

The background of this fear is that there is one important difference between the BSD and the GPL idea: the BSD licence is all about giving credits to authors, while the GPL is all about staying open. Now while the BSD derivatives mainly consist of BSD licenced software some tools like the gcc collection are still necessary and are soon to be expected to be released under the GPL v3. And the BSD developers are now concerned that in this way the GPL v3 could influence their projects indirectly.
But according to the above linked text it doesn’t look like that the the BSD project leaders are too concerned about such possibilities.

Anyway, I don’t think that the new licence will influence the software industry as much as the GPL v2 did: the GPL v2 revolutionized the software industry and also the view on software in general. It changed the world.
The GPL v3 will continue the way which was begun by the GPL v2, but it will not create another revolution of any kind.
Also I doubt that the negative side effects of the licence are too bad and will harm the FSF – there were too many people, companies and lawyers involved with creating the GPL v3.
A good example that the GPL v3 matured over time and that the final version is even ok for some of the strongest critics is a recent statement by Linus Torvalds:

I was impressed in the sense that it was a hell of a lot better than the
disaster that were the earlier drafts. […]
I consider dual-licensing unlikely (and technically quite hard), but at
least _possible_ in theory.

So, after all, simply a new, interesting and long expected licence is now out. Congrats for that to the FSF!

The usual Microsoft at Norway’s schools

In these days someone might think that Microsoft makes a switch to become a normal software vendor instead of the aggressive monopolist they have been in the past. However, news from Norway show that Microsoft is as far away from that position as usual.

Microsoft is officially fighting for standards – and they are officially fighting for things like interoperability. For example, the Firefox team was invited to get the ability to improve the browser for the then upcoming Windows Vista. Also, a Silverlight plugin was produced for Firefox. And there are im- and export libraries for ODF available.

However, these are small drops, and the pressing question remains: did Microsoft change its behaviour in regard to other, competing software vendors? Did they move away from the “we will crush you with monopoly forces instead of better technology” approach?

Sometimes I’m tempted to say maybe, but then I’m always remembered that the answer is a clear no. That’s sad, btw. So, what happened?

It turned out that in Norway Microsoft forced schools which bought Microsoft products to also pay for Linux and Mac computers. And Microsoft forced the schools to buy a set of other Microsoft products as well if the schools wanted to get better price conditions. And this contract was not an old one – it was filled in 2005!

Fortunately, Norwegian software company Linpro stepped up and complaint about this – and when it turned out that Microsoft had to face sanctions they changed the terms:

Schools will no longer be subjected to Windows licensing for Linux or Mac computers. Furthermore, Microsoft has accepted to discontinue their commercial bundling which required schools to buy several Microsoft products to obtain discounts.

As a side note: this also means that these terms where in a certain degree illegal, I think.

It is nice that the terms had to be changed – however, what I don’t like is that this only happens when brave people stand up and complaint. Think of the Ogg Vorbis/Janus problem which was also declared illegal by judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. In this case a company which was already facing an antitrust lawsuit tried to implement even more monopoly enforcing terms.
The question is now how many other terms are out there which are also illegal, but which are not changed because there is no company/person brave enough or powerful enough to stand up?

To summarize, until now Microsoft haven’t changed a bit. I know there is this talk about interoperability and stuff, but on the other hand Microsoft places FUD very exactly all the time at all rivals. And: working towards interoperability means having at least a little bit of trust. But how can I trust a company which does not stop at being illegal while fighting against rivals?

This reminds me of a recent blog post by Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu:

I don’t believe that […] Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so

Even more specific:

I have no objections to working with Microsoft in ways that further the cause of free software, and I don’t rule out any collaboration with them, in the event that they adopt a position of constructive engagement with the free software community. It’s not useful to characterize any company as “intrinsically evil for all time”. But I don’t believe that the intent of the current round of agreements is supportive of free software […]

True words. Microsoft might become a good partner for other software vendors sometimes, but the way till there is still quite a long one.

Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit Coverage – Part II: Slides

The Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is over. There wasn’t too much official press coverage while it took place, but the blogosphere was alive, and now the slides are available also. This post gives a summary about the slides which are now available.

Following Part I about the “coverage” of the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit which had a look at the blog posts this post gives an overview about where to find available slides.

The main problem is that there is no central place where you can download the slides, but that they are a bit spread: While the LSB Face to Face meeting and the Open Printing Summit linked the slides directly from their schedule the Desktop Architects Meeting created a dedicated page just for the slides.

The other meetings have not published any slides at all – yet. Also, the slides of course only cover the presentations given at each meeting and of course not the outcome. So for example if you are – like me – interested in the outcome of the “LSB 3.2 and 4.0: Owners and Key Issues” discussion you have to wait until someone else tells you.

Still, some slides are worth reading. For example Google’s Linux wishlist (PDF):

  • file manager: xdg-open-folder-highlight-file
  • screen saver interface: xdg-add-screensaver
  • web: xdg-add-mimetype, xdg-add-protocol
  • pkg manager interface: xdg-add-trusted-repo
  • 32 bit library pkgs on 64 bit ubuntu
  • Stable, fast CJK fonts
  • Stable OpenSSL abi
  • Easier inotify (cf. FindFirstChangeNotification)

Note the heavy dependency on an xdg/Portland tools extension!

Also interesting is Adobe’s presentation about Flash Player 9 (PDF) development: it shows the decisions Adobe was faced (which GUI toolkit, which Audio toolkit, etc.), and shows how they decided each time. Most often the decisions where to take solution xyz because “Works for today’s devices”. It is a pretty realistic approach and does not try to artificially push or support anything.

I was however a bit confused by the Helix Community presentation (PDF). I do like Helix and helped testing the newest player – I even had great expactations for it to become the standard backend on Linux. However, today Helix doesn’t really play a role in the Linux desktop: current stable neither supports x86_64 (!) nor Alsa, and the next release will only fix the Alsa part, not the x86_64 problem. A possible Linux multimedia backend would at least have to support x86, x86_64 and ppc!
Of course you might argue that we should not give up hope, but in the meantime Gstreamer is shaping up quite a lot, and Xine became more and more interesting in the last months since it was spilt in free and non-free parts.

But read the slides for yourself, mabye I don’t get the point. Also, have a look at the other meetings pages, maybe the slides will appear there as well in the next days.

Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit Coverage – Part I: Blogosphere

The Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is over. There wasn’t too much official press coverage while it took place, but the blogosphere was alive, and now the slides are available also. This post gives a summary about interesting blog posts about the topic.

The Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is over. I’m a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more press coverage – but it might also be that some news sites wait with a summary till Monday. I’m especially curious how Phoronix will cover the topic.

Until then you have to go with the blogs covering the event – and the slides slowly appearing at the collaboration page (which I will cover in the second part).

It looks like it was not allowed to blog too much about the event:

kudos to the Linux Foundation for explicitly stating that the first day here is 100% bloggable

Could be an explanation for the fact that I mainly found information about the first day in blogs.

However, judging from the different blog news there was quite some interesting discussion. For example it looks like the power consumption is a real issue in the corporate world – much more important than it is for home users for example. I wouldn’t have thought that. Less surprisingly is that the coopeartion has to be improved: think of bug reports which have to be shared down- and upstream. There is no cool collaboration tool yet, but it would help a lot.
Another important topic seems to be mobile devices: hardware vendors like Nokia and Motorola put quite some money into this area and exepct Linux to become a main platform here. I like that!
Also positive is the information that Microsoft didn’t play the role they might have wanted to at the summit: according to the different blog posts most people were interested in other things at the law and IP panel discussion. Good to see that not even the corporate members take Microsoft really serious here. Also, the GPLv2/GPLv3 issue was more interesting since the GPLv3 will be released soon, and many people and companies have to deal with it.

The thing I am interested most is of course how to install software on Linux. That topic was also addressed by the question how to get more software to the desktop. However, I haven’t seen more information about the outcome of these discussion or if for example the idea of the last Desktop Architects Meeting to create a unified installation API was picked up.

But anyway, here is an unsorted colleciton of blog posts regarding the summit:

Last but not least some quotes I’d like to share:

If you’re a small ISV and you’re only platform is Linux, it SUCKS being you

I cannot agree more! Remember: Linux is hostile to small applications and niche software!

When the GPLv3 is final…just CHILL !!!

Probably the most quoted sentence of the summit…

More details about Novell-Microsoft cooperation

More details about the Novell-Microsoft deal have been published by the SEC.

This news appeared today at German the SEC published details about the cooperation between Microsoft and Novell. The information are rated as confidential and therefore information like account numbers, financial details and so on are replaced by ***.

The documents are separated into three parts:

I’m not too much into this topic but it is nice to see that more information come up to the surface, whether you like the deal or not.