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GNU is Not Unix

The FSF, Linux's Hit Men 1230

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they'd-had-to-be-called-that dept.
PrimeNumber writes "Forbes has this story about the Free Software Foundation and its quest for Cisco and Broadcom to release the source of GPL'ed linux source used in routers. Forewarning: The open source community is not portrayed in positive light so you might want to skip reading this. However it did help me gain insight into software from a PHB and suit perspective."
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The FSF, Linux's Hit Men

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  • Daniel Lyons (Score:5, Informative)

    by AsparagusChallenge (611475) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @09:35AM (#7207969)
    Remember "What SCO wants, SCO gets" [forbes.com]? Same author. Don't expect any love from him.
  • by Kiaser Zohsay (20134) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @09:49AM (#7208138)

    OK, I did RTFA, and it is mostly bashing.

    For months, in secret,

    If LKML, KernelTrap, Slashdot, and Newsforge stories all qualify as secret, that is.

    ... the Free Software Foundation, a Boston-based group that controls the licensing process for Linux and other "free" programs,

    I don't know about "controlling" the licensing. They wrote the license, Linus and various other project maintainers chose to use the license. There is not much "control" to be wielded here. Open is open.

    ...has been making threats to Cisco Systems and Broadcom over a networking router that runs the Linux operating system.

    The first actual statement of fact in the article, even though "threats" might be a bit of a stretch. Moglen was quoted farther down that all of his conversations had been ammicable and that a resolution would probably be reached without going to court. That doesn't sound very threatening.

  • by leming (640077) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @09:50AM (#7208147)
    If you look at other articles that Daniel Lyons has written for Forbes, you will see that this man is more or less anti-free software. He wrote an article [forbes.com] back in June about SCO vs. Linux. In that article he describes linux users as: "like many religious folk, Linux-loving crunchies [are] convinced of their own rightousness..." This is just another article written by a another man who thinks that Linux will go nowhere because it isn't backed by a major corporation starting with an M.

    It's my personal opinion not to read too much into the article, and take it just as it is, an opinion -- someone else's view on what is happening.
  • by Spunk (83964) <sq75b5402@sneakemail.com> on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @10:03AM (#7208275) Homepage
    It isn't the first time he's cheered on SCO [forbes.com]. Here he goes again [forbes.com].
  • Re:Great quote: (Score:3, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @10:21AM (#7208456)
    Actually, Cisco's only involvment is that they purchased Linksys who had gotten themselves into this mess. Buying a company and then realizing it didn't own its key IP asset would have to go down as one of the biggest business blunders of the decade.
  • by Cramer (69040) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @10:25AM (#7208510) Homepage
    You've obviously never worked with Cisco. Cisco wants to sell you everything. Repeatedly. Look what happened to the guys that ported Linux to a Cat 6500... they now work for Cisco and the code never left the building. If end users could recompile "IOS", Cisco loses a substantial source of income -- even if most people wouldn't know what to do with the source, someone would and that'd be the end of Cisco getting paid for their development. (In my opinion, Cisco has done such a piss poor job of development and testing in recent years, "open source" couldn't do any worse.) Cisco makes great hardware (and always has), however, their software just makes me want to shoot someone -- really, what the f*** are they testing?!

    As a company, "we" once toyed with the idea of loading our own code on Linksys hardware (it's simple really, even before the whole GPL BS.) But that didn't make it past the lawyer(s) :-)

    PS: Cisco is terrified of all the old, "obsolete", "used" hardware floating around. And with all the failed dot-coms, there's tones of it available. Some of it never came out of the box/off the pallet. It might be several years old, but it works perfectly (2500's, 5000's, etc.)
  • the story so far... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jspectre (102549) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @10:46AM (#7208753) Journal
    cliffnotes [cliffnotes.com] version:

    broadcom made the chips..

    linksys used the chipset in their product. they also used linux as the OS in the product. they wrote drivers for the broadcom chips and patched them into the linux kernel. actually linksys didn't necessarily write the code themselves, they could have contracted it out to consultants, india, broadcom, mars, atlantis.

    for months people have been hounding linksys to release the source code for using the broadcom chips (which would greatly enhance open source support for these chips). linksys has been stalling.

    cisco recently bought linksys, so they inherited the whole fiasco.

    cisco's responsibility now is to provide the source code or write new firmware from scratch, patch every one of the offending products out there and still provide source code for the previous versions of firmware (just because you fixed the problem doesn't mean it didn't exist).

  • by ndogg (158021) <the DOT rhorn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @11:00AM (#7208870) Homepage Journal
    The GPL is the legal manifestation of the idea that it is wrong to take free work and sell it.

    ...

    Only articles like this, which through what I'm sure are a series of honest misunderstandings, can convey a mistaken impression of how the process works...

    Fighting misunderstanding with misunderstanding only perpetuates problems rather than solve them.

    The FSF, and most people who use the GPL, are not against making money (see Tivo), but rather are against the violation of the social contract that the GPL puts forth.
  • Re:Great quote: (Score:3, Informative)

    by kasparov (105041) * on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @11:16AM (#7209067)
    Linksys wrote drivers to support the Broadcom chips and directly modified the Linux source to support these chips. Everything is statically linked. There are no modules. Linksys is violating the GPL, and they do have to give us the source to *their* f***ing driver. They distributed it. It's not our fault. I don't think they will be able to successfully undistribute it...
  • by M-G (44998) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @12:15PM (#7209864)
    In many ways Cisco *is* a victim here.

    Hardly. Before you drop $500 million on a company, you're going to perform due diligence. Which means one or more of the following happened:

    * Cisco did a poor job of due diligence

    * Cisco knew of the brewing problem, but considered the potential liability to be worth the risk

    * Linksys intentionally misled Cisco when it came to their software. This is the only scenario in which Cisco might be considered a victim, but also goes back to Cisco doing a poor job.
  • by dissy (172727) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @01:50PM (#7211027)
    > i am still trying to understand something. for years now, proponents to the GPL
    > keep saying (including this article) that if you adopt GPL code into your
    > project, then you have to open source and make available your entire project.
    >
    > isn't this not true?

    Correct, that statement is not true.
    The 'entire project' is usually everything you do.

    If you modify the kernel, your kernel modifications MUST be released.

    Now, if that kernel mod was literally the only thing you did, and the kernel already had drivers for your hardware, then i guess yes your whole project would be released then.
    But usually there is more software needed than that.. what good is a kernel mod with no application to use it. That app has nothing at all to do with the kernel. It is yours and you can licence it however you want.

    In this particular case, no one is even asking cisco for the userland code in their router, we just want the changes they made to the kernel.

  • Businesses which wish to develop proprietary technologies with closed source software should not use GPL code.


    Actually, business that wish to develop proprietary technologies without releasing the source can still use GPL code. Take my company, Kiyon, for example. We're making a kernel module that, once installed into Linux, turns an embedded Linux device into an autonomic router that can do some really nifty things.

    Now the only actual GPL-derived code we have is a modification to a driver to add functionality that hadn't been implemented yet. And of course, we'd have to surrender that code once our product is released. But nothing in there is proprietary -- that's just filling out the feature set of existing drivers to get our code to work.

    Our actual code is derived from a BSD-style license. Since it's an LKM, we can comply fully with the GPL without having to release any of our proprietary source or trade secrets or IP or whatever you want to call it. You can build a system using all of our GPL-derived code, and it will compile and run -- but it just won't have the routing capabilities. The "secret" is safe.

    In fact, this is one of the great benefits of Linux -- the LKM structure allows you to do this. You can build something that integrates into the kernel without needing to release the source for it -- e.g., Nvidia's graphics drivers. This makes Linux particularly business-friendly -- in fact, more business-friendly than WinCE!!!
  • Reading Source Files (Score:2, Informative)

    by KenSeymour (81018) on Tuesday October 14, 2003 @02:32PM (#7211558)
    Agreed. Source files do not contain contracts. But they can contain copyright information.

    I guess I mentioned reading EULAs to illustrate that it is hard to be careful about every piece of software you use.
    It hadn't occured to me that they might not be binding.
    For most EULAs, it is clear that the copyright owner does not want you to make copies of their binary software available for others to use.
    My personal choice is to not read them looking for a loophole around their intentions.
    Others may make different choices.

    Many times in my career, I have looked at source code that came with a technical book.
    Often there is no mention about the source code or whether or not I can use it in programs (derived works) I write at work.
    I bought the book to learn how to use some API, but I am left wondering if there is any legal problem if I use the source.

    If I get some source from the internet, I check the copyright notices and look out for phrases like "free for non-commercial use".

    The nice thing about GPL or LGPL code is it is very clear what you can and can't do with it.
    If my employer does not agree to release the source to "my" whole program, I can't use GPL code.
    I have used LGPL source at work and was careful
    to use dynamic linking.

    When I go home, I can run Linux, program for fun, and use all the GPL code I want.
    Some of that stuff I have done is re-redistributed LGPL, but the rest has not been re-distributed.

    It sounds like some employee at CISCO/Broadcom made a mistake. The companies are paying for the mistake and perhaps the persons involved are as well.

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