Open Source Licensing based on Patents rather than Copyright

Posted in FLOSS, Legal at 12:53 pm by Jens Hardings

This is a very interesting proposal by Larry Rosen and Fred Popowich as explained in an interview on linux.com.

The consequences are interesting, particularly regarding dual licensing. One of the issues (whether it is a problem or a benefit depends on your point of view) regarding dual licensing is that the original licensor cannot embrace code from an external contributor, even if that code is available under the original license, and distribute it both under the original license and under the other, presumably proprietary, license. This is due to the original work of that external contributor being also covered by copyright, unless that contributor voluntarily and explicitly grants the right to re-license the contribution. This does not happen with patents, since the external contribution does not necessarily include any patented aspects.

Read more »


¿Países que han adoptado políticas de “neutralidad tecnológica”?

Posted in FLOSS, IT at 12:53 pm by Jens Hardings

José Antonio Barriga, National Technology Officer de Microsoft en Chile, habla de FLOSS y la coexistencia con software privativo en su primera entrada de su blog.
Primero que nada, creo que es una excelente iniciativa que publique sus opiniones, que finalmente representan también a la empresa para la cual está trabajando. Ojalá que pueda continuar con esa forma de diálogo.
Hay un punto en que toca el tema de la neutralidad tecnológica, diciendo que

“Este principio económico es el que sustenta la política de neutralidad tecnológica adoptada precisamente por los países más avanzados en tecnologías de la información del mundo.”

Read more »


Free Software and Open Source Software

Posted in FLOSS at 4:14 pm by Jens Hardings

gnu-osi.pngThe main difference among the free software and open source software concepts are the motivation of the people identifying with each (that is why I tend to use the term FLOSS when I do not want to be specific about either group. From time to time the question of whether some software is open source or rather free software appears. For example, Linus said that the Linux kernel:

… has never been an FSF project, and in fact has never even been a “Free Software” project.

Whether the kernel is or is not a Free Software project is arguable, because it depends on how the developers feel about it or what their intentions are. But what can we say about the set of software grouped under the label of “Free Software” and the set of software gropued under the label of “Open Source Software”? This is far more objective, although not absolutely objective.

Read more »


FLOSS, Open Standards, Open Services and Open Infrastructure

Posted in FLOSS, Uncategorized at 11:55 am by Jens Hardings

OpenBusiness runs a very interesting inteview with Last.FM on their project, website or service, whatever you may call it. This is an interesting iniciative that offers what we could call an “open service”, although we still do not have a sound definition for what an open service should entail, but both Tim O’Reilly and Tim Bray have made interesting points. This is further followed by Anthony Coates by concluding:

Data matters. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It will outlive your applications.

The differences of FLOSS, Open Standards and Open Services and Open Infrastructure are very interesting, since each of these has its particularities. You would not want to make an open standard free for everyone to change on their own will as many times as they want, since one of the value of standars is that software that implements it can interoperate, so it should be chasing a moving target. On the other hand, anyone should be able to participate in the definition of a standard, but without having the design by committee effect of creating a bloated and far from ideal result by including everyone’s opinion. Bob Sutor has given it a thought, as has Bruce Perens who even has come up with a proposed definition of the open standards concept on which I have commented previously in spanish.

Similar differences apply to both Open Services and Open Infrastructure. On the latter, I personally think that FON is something close to the model of how this concept should be like, specifically when considering the Linus way of using it. The basis here is: I give you mine so you let me use yours. This has been the basis of several widely used iniciatives, ranging from subscription libraries to public goods and infrastructure managed by governments. So why should we not apply these principles to our IT infrastructures, with the benefit that this does not depend on a government making decisions for all of a country’s citizens, and not being bound to any geographic region? This topic have been addressed by Jon Udell and Tim O’Reilly, and we can look at projects like BOINC that take a different path than FON.
To conclude: FLOSS, Open Standards, Open Services and Open Infrastructure do have some relations but also meaningful differences. Their use and development in the future is something to keep an eye (and actively work) on.

Update: there is an interesting discussion about what a specific kind “open service” (they talk about web 2.0 sites that enable people to share content) should look like, triggered by Lessig’s post “The Ethics of Web 2.0” and a nice followup by Tim O’Reilly “Real Sharing vs. Fake Sharing“.


Open Source Drivers for Graphic Cards

Posted in FLOSS at 12:11 pm by Jens Hardings

Drivers for Graphic Cards has been a pain in the ass for open source communities. Since the market is still evolving very fast, the vendors are reluctant to give any information to their competitors. The problem is that they consider open source drivers to be one way of giving away information. I will not comment on that one right here, just mention it as a fact: vendors have been very reluctant to deliver open source drivers or even information to others who would be able to create those drivers. Hence, the end-user in most cases has the choice of using a less-featurefull, lower-performance but open source driver or to use a binary-only driver provided by the vendor.

The open source driver is generally of lower performance because of the lack of information, making it difficult for the programmers to make use of the hardware capabilities. They need to go through a long and difficult process of reverse engineering in order to guess the way the hardware works.

Read more »


OSS Watch Survey 2006

Posted in Education, FLOSS at 2:45 pm by Jens Hardings

The 2006 OSS Watch Survey is available (you may also take a look at the executive summary). This survey studies the usage of Open Source Software (FLOSS) in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) institutions in the UK. The previous survey was from 2003 and some improvements have been made. This time, 23 institutions answered the questions.

The study not only looks at the usage but also into the reasons behind it, contribution to the OSS community and others. Contrary to the 2003 version, this time the vendor lock-in was said to be an issue among the institutions. The study is definitively worth a look.
One of the results states that 56% of the FE institutions use Moodle. This is consistent with the feeling you get about the issue here in Chile, but I would not be surprised that the usage percentage would be higher here (mostly because of the lack of legacy systems and because licensing costs tend to have a greater impact).


GPLv3 beta 2

Posted in DRM, FLOSS, GPLv3, Legal at 4:12 pm by Jens Hardings

GPLv3So, the second draft of the GPLv3 is out. Changes include a rephrasing of the anti-DRM aspects of the code. In fact, the wording DRM is not there anymore. As Richard Stallman has made it clear in his presentation at barcelona, the purpose of these clauses is to avoid the “tivoisation” of programs. That is, even if the source code of the GPL software is available, you cannot change some bit and trust it to be installed on the same hardware it was distributed with, and work. This is because you need a special key to do so, or the hardware will refuse to run the modified code.

If we assume as a fact that software enforcing DRM will exist in the future, I would rather like to have the code available, and being able to reproduce the compilation exactly as to generate the same binary that has been signed as “trusted”. That way, at least I would have enough information to choose whether I could trust the system enough or not, and this would set abuses on the part of publishers to a minimum. This does not mean that the code should be under the GPL, though. So up to this point there is really no problem.

There are some issues, though, where I’m not so sure about. One phrase in particular states:

Read more »


Demistificando FUD: Patentes de Software

Posted in FLOSS, FUD, Legal at 2:29 pm by Jens Hardings

Un argumento esgrimido en muchos ataques de FUD es que los proveedores de software bajo licencias privativas se encargan de velar por que los usuarios finales no se vean afectados por demandas por infringir patentes y otras herramientas legales. Pues bien, Microsoft se ha encargado de probar que eso no es cierto: los usuarios de Office deberán instalar una actualización para que dicha empresa no tenga que pagar más daños y perjuicios a un poseedor de una patente en Guatemala. El costo de esto obviamente lo paga el usuario, y para empresas que tienen decenas de miles de instalaciones de Office, el costo en horas hombre, interrupción de servicio, probables incompatibilidades y otros no es nada de despreciable.

En fin, es exactamente la solución que hubiese generado cualquier desarrollador de software Open Source. Así que los usuarios de productos privativos no están mejor en ese sentido de lo que están usuarios de software Open Source.


Cambio de Arquitectura: adaptación al cambio

Posted in FLOSS, IT, Uncategorized at 10:36 am by Jens Hardings

Apple Logo + Intel InsideHace un tiempo, Apple anunció que se cambia a una arquitectura que utiliza chips Intel en vez de los PowerPC que habían usado durante el último tiempo. Eso tiene varias consecuencias: hay gente ofreciendo una recompensa (que al momento de escribir esto supera los US$ 10.000) para correr Windows XP en las máquinas de Apple, se necesitan versiones recompiladas de los programas, o bien sufrir la degradación de performance (y tener > 1GB de memoria al menos) al utilizar la traducción de Rosetta. Esto último siempre y cuando ese programa no utilice optimizaciones para el PowerPC G5, esos simplemente no se podrán ejecutar en los equipos Intel.

La evolución del software se ha comparado con la teoría de evolución de las especies de Darwin. Básicamente se puede resumir en que las especies (o el software) que mejor se adapta a los cambios es el que prevalecerá por sobre los demás. Veamos qué ha sucedido en esta semana con el cambio anunciado por Apple:

Read more »


Objetivos de GPLv3 con respecto a DRM

Posted in DRM, FLOSS, Legal, Uncategorized at 1:21 pm by Jens Hardings

Ricardo Galli, en un intento por explicarme los objetivos y la forma en la cual el draft de la GPLv3 ataca el DRM, repite los objetivos de las cláusulas y cómo se espera que funcionen. No tengo dudas con eso, lo que yo planteo es que los objetivos no se cumplen, porque las cláusulas no funcionarán. Me hubiese gustado que se refiriera al ejemplo que planteo en el post que motivó su respuesta, así que replanteo los temas:

  • Me imagino que un sistema que entrega llaves para decriptar contenido (como un e-mail encriptado) a un programa en base a algún criterio, y si no cumple con ese criterio (por ejemplo, confianza en que no reenviará ese e-mail decriptado a toda la dirección en la agenda) no se le entrega la llave, debiera poder licenciarse bajo GPLv3.
  • Un criterio bien puede ser que exista una firma del binario por alguien que certificó el programa, sea el usuario mismo o alguien externo.

Si parece aceptable un esquema así, entonces es aceptable que ese programa esté en un sistema de DRM, y con eso no se logra el objetivo de desincentivar el uso de software libre en sistemas con DRM. Pero supongamos que no se considera aceptable el esquema.

Read more »

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »