Library at the Heart of Linux is Finally Free and Open

A nice bit of software archeology by Simon Phipps. Not just digging up the history of this old Sun code that was up until this month still under a restrictive license, but the challenges and Phipps’ own part in correcting that situation after a few attempts.

This may come as a shock, but all GNU/Linux distributions to date have been built with essential software under a licence that clearly meets neither the Open Source Definition nor the Free Software Foundations’ requirements for a Free software licence. The tenacity of a Red Hat hacker has finally solved this problem for everyone, however, and I’m proud to have played a part too.

The code in question is the original SUN RPC code, buried in the guts of Linux’s, and other OSes’, networking code. The most fascinating aspect is how the original, informal licensing terms purely as a function of time evolved from seeming liberal to quite conservative. As Phipps notes, this code well predates the GPL so didn’t benefit from the kind of legal theorizing and scrutiny that came to software licensing later on.

GNU/Linux – finally it’s free software, Computer World UK

feeds | grep links > Distributed Computing Spots Astronomical Rarity, Search Engine Runs a Tor Enclave, and More

feeds | grep links > Linux Foundation’s Compliance Program, Leaked Google Privacy Document, KDE 4.5, and More

Day two of my trip and the main event, the Cassandra Summit, was excellent. Jet lag and tromping around San Francisco on foot this evening have wiped me out. The hotel WiFi has also decided not to cooperate, slowing down and acting generally very flakey.

Tomorrow I’ll be in training all day and then catching the red eye home. Not sure if or when I’ll be able to blog, so if you don’t even seen a list of links, you’ll know why and I’ll be back Thursday.

Core Android Development Opens a Bit More But Unlikely to Open Fully

The Register shares some news from the search giant around a baby step towards being a bit more open with its mobile platform and rationale for holding back some development, keeping it private. The part of the platform that will be more open to contribution will be the native development kit (NDK). Incoming code, at some yet to be set date, will flow into the public source tree rather than into Google’s private tree as it does now.

The announcement was part of remarks by Android open-source and compatibility program manager Dan Morrill at OSCON, the open source conference sponsored by O’Reilly that has been going on this week. Morrill went on to explain that the delay of source releases to the community is undertaken for reasons of risk management.

Google wants to retain competitive advantage and prevent a scenario where OEMs ship unfinished source code on phones with disastrous consequences for developers and end users as their code breaks or applications downloaded from the Android Market fail to work.

According to Google, this has nearly happened before when one unnamed OEM wanted to start shipping pre-release the Android 1.5 – codenamed Cupcake – on its phones.

It is unlikely that Google will change its stance on this approach, despite criticism form the broader open source community. It is an odd balance to maintain given how inclusive Google has been otherwise with its mobile development platform.

Not surprisingly, The Register has further news from OSCON of some of the friction between Android and the open source community. In this instance, the Linux kernel maintainers have proposed three options Google could pursue with its kernel modifications to have them accepted back into the fold of main kernel development. In this instance, there is evidence of goodwill on both sides, the stumbling block may simply be coordination of kernel releases and code updates. Hopefully some good will come of it yet.

feeds | grep links > Chrome Gains Resource Blocking, Iron Languages Go Open Source, and Apple Answers Location Data Privacy Concerns

feeds | grep links > eFuse Won’t Brick Droid X’s, Electrodeposition of Circuit Traces, Study on Copyright Bypassing Contracts, and More

  • Motorola clarifies that eFuse won’t brick a phone
    As Slashdot points out, it goes into a recovery mode from which the original firmware can be installed and the phone completely recovered. I wonder if that also confirms that the Droid X could be hacked as have other eFuse equipped phones, even if doing so is more of a hassle than it should be. At least this reduces the risk of trying considerably, even if it is far from ideal.
  • Electrodeposition for circuit tracing
    Slashdot links to this IBTimes article that requires a little bit of parsing. What the researchers are working on are not the features on a CPU die, the first clue being they mention scales at 100nm which is much larger than what is found on a die. They are talking about the traces that connect processor elements and components on a circuit board. This won’t do much for power and heat issues on CPUs but across an entire electronic device, could have considerable potential.
  • Academics must review contracts’ effects on user rights
    I don’t know what this will do in practice, but what The Register describes seems like a good idea. One of the worst abuses of IP law has been the privatization of law through the anti-circumvention measures in the DMCA and the DEA and the increasing push of EULAs. What is being advanced here sounds like a comprehensive, empirical study of the potential harms caused by this particular situation. It’s unlikely to recommend wholly reversing things but just suggesting restoring the limits on copyright that have been diminished would be worthwhile.
  • VLC tackling Bluray playback
    Some good news reported by the H up until the end, that the VLC folks won’t have a valid license for the DRM systems used on commercial Bluray discs, AACS and BD+. So in and of itself, VLC will be able to play back the Bluray formats themselves but won’t be able to do so for the vast majority of commercial discs.
  • Wine 1.2 released
  • UK-wide tween hackathon with open government data
  • When the pay-what-you-want model benefits companies, charities and individuals

Open Stack Launches

Via Hacker News, Rackspace and NASA have opened up much of the components they’ve been using to run their large scale swarms of virtual machines under the auspices of the new Open Stack project. A few companies in the space of offering virtualization as a service have made some noises comparable to Open Stack but few have committed this fully to the idea.

Say what you will about the fully buzz-compliant term, cloud computing, using virtualization to help scale large scale service computing has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Most affordable and useful offerings carry a significant risk of lock-in. It has always seemed to me that there was a powerful need for some sort of open standard to allow users to port between public clouds and even run their own instances at whatever scale makes sense, all without introducing any disruptions into higher level applications.

Open Stack also comes with the quality I tend to respect most with open source projects and standards, that of being standard through heavy, shared use. Opening up what Rackspace, NASA and the other couple of dozen companies that have signed on are doing seems like a natural next step rather than a pure marketing ploy. That being said, it is still pretty early days for this particular effort, despite investments prior to opening things up. With a full Launchpad instance backing the effort though they are certainly putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak.

The whole stack is being made available under the Apache 2.0 license which is a respectable choice for balancing open collaboration and courting businesses that might like to use or even innovate upon this effort. I hope that the open availability of this project opens up a much wider market of compatible and competing cloud providers such that prices for the average individual come down to encourage more experimentation with running private instances of services that are otherwise way too consolidated, like Twitter and Facebook.

In the interest of disclosure, I am essentially a Rackspace customer. This very server is a VPS (virtual private server) I set up with Slicehost a couple of years ago. Slicehost has since been acquired by Rackspace. I have a further interest in as far as Open Stack may trickle into Slicehost and I may gain the ability to port my VPS should I ever feel the need to do so.

feeds | grep links > Open Source Hardware Definition, Autonomous Helicopter, and More

Sorry that this is it for today, I am rushing off a bit early to catch a public talk at Google’s DC office.

TCLP 2010-07-11 News

This is news cast 218, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to new donor, Scott, and a request that existing donor Ryan contact me so I can send him his merit badge. Also, there will be new feature cast this week. I need to catch up on writing features for the show and I will be attending two events in DC this week: What Does Light Taste Like and Decoding Digital Activism.

This week’s security alerts are researchers form collective in response to Microsoft’s dismissal of a security concern and REMnux, a linux distro designed for reverse engineering malware.

In this week’s news new quantum states could lead to new approaches to quantum computing, the Apache web server conquers the world, another constructive criticism of transparency, and the NSA is looking to implement domestic surveillance of our infrastructure though they are quick to deny any active monitoring.

Following up this week, two UK ISPs are taking the Digital Economy Act to High Court.

View the detailed show notes online. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Clarification on VLC 1.1.0 Release Dropping Shoutcast

I linked to the news yesterday of the new 1.1.0 release of VLC dropping shoutcast support because of an anti-open source software provision from AOL. AOL controls the technology through its long ago acquisition of NullSoft.

Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet’s Open Source blog has a clarification, that the move may not have been entirely one sided, a push from a proprietary software company trying to exclude an open source project. Rather, the provision in question would have forced VLC to bundle an adware and spyware laden toolbar for installation in users’ browsers. Instead, the VLC project opted to replace shoutcast with an open source workalike, icecast.

The article has some other details on this latest release of the open source, video swiss army knife. There is better support for GPU debugging motivated by use of VLC’s underlying libraries by some gamers. On Windows, there is an adviso on issues with ATI’s current video driver.