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GNU is Not Unix

Journal Evro's Journal: Where are Google's Kernel Modifications? 2

Everybody loves Google. Their search technology is great, and they generally seem to follow their credo of "Don't Be Evil." So they have tons of good karma built up, which leads me to ask the following question out of curiosity and without meaning to imply anything bad about Google.

Google now sells the Google Search Appliance, a 1U machine that sits on a corporate intranet and allows intranet users to search company documents with Google-esque speed and accuracy. And as we all know, Google itself runs on Linux, as does its appliance.

My question is, now that Google is selling a machine that runs Linux, don't they have to also distribute any GPL code on the device -- such as the Linux kernel, and any modifications they've made to it? I asked Google about this via their "request information" form, but have not yet received a reply. I guess since I expressed no interest in purchasing an appliance they skipped over my message. All google is required to do is provide the source code to the people who receive the binaries (if, in fact, they have modified and distributed any GPL code), which they may be doing, but since I don't know anyone who has one of these, I can't determine whether or not the source is provided with the device. There is no mention of the GPL or Linux in the appliance's license terms, though the following clause IS there:

Any and all third party binary or source code included in the Product may be used only in conjunction with the Appliance, and such use shall be subject to all the terms and conditions of this Agreement. THE PRODUCT OR ANY PORTION THEREOF MAY NOT BE USED, COPIED, TRANSFERRED, OR MODIFIED EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY PERMITTED BY THIS AGREEMENT.

Not exactly consistent with the GPL, is it? But like I said, Google has lots of good karma built up, so they get the benefit of the doubt. But... where's the source?

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Where are Google's Kernel Modifications?

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  • unless we buy one. The agreement sounds contradictory, but if they follow the GPL, you'll either get source on the machine with the GPL clearly indicated inside the software, or you'll get a written offer to buy the source code from Google for a NOMINAL fee.

    A lot of people don't realize that written offer part. If I read it correctly, even if you GIVE A FRIEND a copy of RedHat without the source CD, you have to actually sit down and write (or type and print) an offer to your friend to give them the source. Now, your friend's not likely to report you if you don't, but that's what it says.

  • Linux the kernel is covered by the GPL, Google's search engine is certainly proprietary. If the Goolge search appliance runs Linux Google is responsible for providing access to the Linux kernel source for anyone who they sell their appliance to.

    However, the Google search engine is almost certainly proprietary. A similar example would be Mandrake Linux with bundled Star Office 6. Star Office (not to be confused with Open and Free Open Office) is proprietary software that is DISTRIBUTED with a free operating system. It is not part of the OS, so there is no GPL violation.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972