Thursday, May 10, 2007

A bit closer to making up

Some good news for GPLV3 watchers: Apache and GPLV3 compatibility is closer to reality after differences over the patent-termination clauses in GPLV3. Some more details are available, including the following:
An inconsistency with the Apache license involves a potential interpretation of Apache rules that would have rendered it incompatible with GPL version 3...An indemnification clause in the Apache license stipulates that if a software provider offers a warranty on its software, then the provider would have to indemnify other contributors to the program from being liable for that warranty. The clause is vague on what kind of indemnification would have to be provided....It could be construed as an additional restriction that is not part of GPL 3, he said. The GPL requires that code offered under the GPL cannot be combined with code that carries additional restrictions....
With V3 due in August, a reconciliation with a big-daddy like Apache can only mean good things. An interesting subtext to this discussion (well, perhaps its been more explicitly expressed than subtexts usually are), is the need to avoid the public-relations fiasco that would result from prominent projects and personalities' public disapproval and attendant rejection of the V3. The latest draft seems to have addressed many of those worries (if it could calm down a Torvalds frothing at the corners, then it must have done something good) - and it seems the upward trend continues with SUN continuing to make encouraging noises about their move to GPL (Java for now, and possibly Solaris later).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sun, Java, governance and community

A progress report on Sun's move to free Java (under the GPL). The GPL version of choice is 2, and while most of the work is complete, some issues remain:
Sun hopes the open-source community will help it resolve the issue of Java source code that remains "encumbered," where Sun doesn't hold enough rights to release the code under GPL.
The article goes on to discuss how this situation will be first worked-around, and then resolved fully with a rewrite of the code. But code availability, as long recognized in any flourishing FOSS community, is only part of the picture, and Rich Sands, community marketing manager for OpenJDK community at Sun has done well to note this:
"Open-source developers need to have rules and governance spelled out for them for how they use and interact with the code base".
Sun's approach is to create an OpenJDK interim governance board, tasked with creating a constitution and gaining the community's approval for it. Of the five-person board, two will be Sun employees. With a constitution in place, the OpenJDK community will elect a new governance board (including two Sun employees).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Dell gets Linuxed - to be precise it gets Ubuntu'd. Very interesting move for all the obvious reasons. To be honest, I'm not sure how big Dell's sales are going to be and if this is going to be the move that rescues them from their financial doldrums. Also, will people who buy Dell/GNU/Linux machines be first-time GNU/Linux users or will they just be older GNU/Linux folks who want the convenience of a pre-install? And, will anyone else follow suit?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Who has the power indeed

So, last Thursday, both Scott and myself spoke at a Brooklyn College conference on Govermentality and Globalization. Scott spoke on the political economy of free software (using material from Chapter 1 of Decoding Liberation) while I presented material from Chapter 5 while speaking on the political philosophy of the cyborg world (yeah, it was as exciting as it sounded). So, interestingly, one comment we got in response was, (roughly), "Who is the "we" that is asking for these freedoms? Aren't these freedoms just of interest to software?" or, "This freedom is of no use to me; I can't program!", or "How am I placed in a more autonomous, powerful position vis-a-vis technology when I'm not tech-literate". These are all very good points (I've heard them before in various forms), and worth addressing in detail (which I promise to do in a future post, honest). But for the time being, I want to quickly throw out a little intuition tickler in reponse to these questions, which hopefully would suggest that there is something these questions are missing out in their prima facie take on the free software argument. Suppose these folks heard the news that, say, a Ford auto plant had just been taken over by the workers and run as a cooperative (or something). Would their immediate response be, "What difference does that make? I don't know how to build cars!" Presumably not. And then what if those cars went on the market, with user manuals for their use being written by other drivers, who were making elementary maintenance tips available to everyone else, with the slightly more expensive ones available from other co-operatives, who because they had access to the blueprints, could also offer service contracts for the same cars, and so on. You can embellish this picture in plenty of ways. The basic point remains: shouldn't the passage of control from the former entity (the corporate entity) to the latter (the workers co-operative) speak to a whole set of different imperatives and have exciting implications for the control of the technology?