Bradley M. Kuhn

originally from Baltimore, MD, USA.

President and Distinguished Technologist at Software Freedom Conservancy. On the Board of Directors of the Free Software Foundation. Generally, a Software Freedom advocate, GPL Enforcer, and Occasional developer..

  • Pacific Northwest

    2015-08-22T23:58:39Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers

    Does this mean I really live in the pacific Northwest now? My neighborhood, as is all of Northwest OR, has been filled with smoke from wildfires. I didn't check the news and thought it was just a house fire in my neighborhood. That's what I associate that smell with, as that's what it always meant where I grew up on the east coast.

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  • DebConf Keynote Video & other DebConf comments.

    2015-08-16T12:25:02Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers

    I'm here at DebConf and I just met someone who follows me here on at DebConf. I'm really glad to know there are other people than the "usual suspects" :) following me here. is not perfect, or even, um, all that easy to use, but I'm glad there are people that are committed to free as in freedom social networking systems.

    And, as another note, a lot of people have said really kind and friendly things to me here at DebConf about my work. This is a very unstressful conference for me: so many people like what I do here. *Such* a difference between the trade association conferences where everyone walking around things I'm that "infamous GPL enforcement guy". Here at DebConf, I appear to be the "famous and often-thanked GPL enforcement guy".

    As I said in my keynote here, I truly love the people in the Debian project.

    Speaking of which, here's a link to my keynote video:

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    Nice talk. I enjoyed. Thanks.

    Francisco M García Claramonte at 2015-08-17T08:02:32Z

    Famous and not-thanked-enough GPL enforcement guy, I'd say!

    Elena ``of Valhalla'' at 2015-08-24T12:08:47Z

  • The Manipulation Tactics of GPL violators

    2015-08-12T15:21:49Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers

    Ugh, I had a tightly scheduled day of urgent Conservancy work to finish before I leave for DebConf tomorrow, and a GPL violator decided to start playing head games with me this morning. It's already burned an hour of my time today and will likely burn more. Which, at this point, simply translates into less sleep for me, the night before a 18 hr travel day en route to DebConf.

    People rightly point out that I'm often indigant about GPL violators, but it's because they (and their allies who oppose GPL enforcement) *know* that the only orgs that enforce the GPL are tiny compared to them, and squeezing the individuals to the breaking point of overwork is a viable strategy to end GPL enforcement. It's the classic lawyer strategy of "waste your opponents' time when you have more resources than they do"

    I've survived because I simply refuse to break. I hope it continues to work. But many, I wish I could sleep on planes. It's those kinds of things I think at a time like this: I have to become an UberMensch merely to get my job done, and be able to do everything, including sleeping in on a coach flight like I'm in my own bed. If you see me at DebConf Friday morning, at least you'll know why I'm about to collapse. :)

    Anyway, back to work!

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    Why be indignant at the execution of a classic strategy? They are your opponents after all. You are a very limited resource, even if you were somehow dedicated 24hrs/day to GPL enforcement. Why have they not dedicated a bit more of their vast resources to occupying your limited resources? Do they just not find GPL enforcement a very important threat? That's what I'd be indignant about.

    Your classic strategy of refusing to break coupled with (elsewhere) dismal prediction of a dark age brings to mind that folk tale and song about a steel-driving man.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-08-12T21:44:40Z

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    So, do I apply to that SFLC gig to be your assistant or is that structurally separate from aiding you in SFC? $AGENCY has given me a Release To Furlough date.

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-08-13T00:13:26Z

    hey, let's look at the good part: if anything, this will make it *easier* for you to sleep on the plane ;-)

    Stefano Zacchiroli at 2015-08-13T07:17:53Z

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    Mike Linksvayer has a really good point.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-08-22T23:56:05Z

  • Thoughts on Canonical, Ltd.'s Updated Ubuntu IP Policy

    2015-07-15T22:49:28Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers


    Most of you by now have probably seen Conservancy's and FSF's statements regarding the today's update to Canonical, Ltd.'s Ubuntu IP Policy. I have a few personal comments, speaking only for myself, that I want to add that don't appear in the FSF's nor Conservancy's analysis. (I wrote nearly all of Conservancy's analysis and did some editing on FSF's analysis, but the statements here I add are my personal opinions and don't necessarily reflect the views of the FSF nor Conservancy, notwithstanding that I have affiliations with both orgs.)

    First of all, I think it's important to note the timeline: it took two years of work by two charities to get this change done. The scary thing is that compared to their peers who have also violated the GPL, Canonical, Ltd. acted rather quickly. As Conservancy pointed out regarding the VMware lawsuit, it's not uncommon for these negotiations to take even four years before we all give up and have to file a lawsuit. So, Canonical, Ltd. resolved the matter at least twice as fast as VMware, and they deserve some credit for that — even if other GPL violators have set the bar quite low.

    Second, I have to express my sympathy for the positions on this matter taken by Matthew Garrett and Jonathan Riddell. Their positions show clearly that, while the GPL violation is now fully resolved, the community is very concerned about what the happens regarding non-copylefted software in Ubuntu, and thus Ubuntu as a whole.

    Realize, though, that these trump clauses are widely used throughout the software industry. For example, electronics manufacturers who ship an Android/Linux system with standard, disgustingly worded, forbid-everything EULA usually include a trump clause not unlike Ubuntu's. In such systems, usually, the only copylefted program is the kernel named Linux. The rest of the distribution includes tons of (now proprietarized) non-copylefted code from Android (as well as a bunch of born-proprietary applications too). The trump clause assures the software freedom rights for that one copylefted work present, but all the non-copylefted ones are subject to the strict EULA (which often includes “no reverse engineer clauses”, etc.). That means if the electronics company did change the Android Java code in some way, you can't even legally reverse engineer it — even though it was Apache-licensed by upstream.

    This whole situation seems to me a simple argument for why copyleft matters. Copyleft can and does (when someone like me actually enforces it) prevent these types of situations. But copyleft is not infinitely expansive. Nearly every full operating system distribution available includes an aggregated mix of copylefted, non-copyleft, and often fully-proprietary userspace applications. Nearly every company that distributes them wraps the whole thing with some agreement that restricts some rights that copyleft defends, and then adds a trump clause that gives an exception just for FLOSS license compliance. I have never seen a trump clause that guarantees copyleft-like compliance for non-copylefted programs and packages. Thus, the problem with Ubuntu is just a particularly bad example of what has become a standard industry practice by nearly every “open source” company.

    How badly these practices impact software freedom depends on the strictness and detailed terms of the overarching license (and not the contents of the trump clause itself; they are generally isomorphic0). The task of analyzing and rating “relative badness” of each overarching licensing document is monumental; there are probably thousands of different ones in use today. Matthew Garrett points out why Canonical, Ltd.'s is particularly bad, but that doesn't mean there aren't worse (and better) situations of a similar ilk. Perhaps our next best move is to use copyleft licenses more often, so that the trump clauses actually do more.

    In other words, as long as there is non-copylefted software aggregated in a given distribution of an otherwise Free Software system, companies will seek to put non-Free terms on top of the non-copylefted parts, To my knowledge, every distribution-shipping company (except for extremely rare, Free-Software-focused companies like ThinkPenguin) place some kind of restrictions in their business terms for their enterprise distribution products. Everyone seems to be asking me today to build the “worst to almost-benign” ranking of these terms, but I've resisted the urge to try. I think the safe bet is to assume that if you're looking at one of these trump clauses, there is some sort of software-freedom-unfriendly restriction floating around in the broader agreement, and you should thus just avoid that product entirely. Or, if you really want to use it, fork it from source and relicense the non-copylefted stuff under copyleft licenses (which is permitted by nearly all non-copyleft licenses), to prevent future downstream actors from adding more restrictive terms. I'd even suggest this as a potential solution to the current Ubuntu problem (or, better yet, just go back upstream to Debian and do the same :).

    Finally, IMO the biggest problem with these “overarching licenses with a trump clause” is their use by companies who herald “open source” friendliness. I suspect the community ire comes from a sense of betrayal. Yet, I feel only my usual anger at proprietary software here; I don't feel betrayed. Rather, this is just another situation that proves that saying you are an “open source company” isn't enough; only the company's actions and “fine print” terms matter. Now that open source has really succeeded at coopting software freedom, enormous effort is now required to ascertain if any company respects your software freedom. We must ignore the ballyhoo of “community managers” and look closely at the real story.

    0Despite Canonical, Ltd.'s use of a trump clause, I don't think these various trump clauses are canonically isomorphic. There is no natural mapping between these various trump clauses, but they all do have the same effect: they assure that when the overarching terms conflict with the a FLOSS license, the FLOSS license triumphs over the overarching terms, no matter what they are. However, the potential relevance of the phrase “canonical isomorphism” here is yet another example why it's confusing and insidious that Canonical, Ltd. insisted so strongly on using canonical in a non-canonical way.

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    Well, this will still get interesting. I had the opportunity to read through the toybox rationale against copyleft and am not satisfied with that write-up either. As I see through work at my employer, someone determined to get something will try very hard to make it happen regardless of the preparations in place. Compliance violators don't like to come into compliance either.

    In the can we appropriately address this in copyleft-next?

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-07-16T00:16:06Z

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  • Did You Actually Read the Lower Court's Decision?

    2015-07-04T20:13:07Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers

    I'm seeing plenty of people, including some non-profit organizations along with the usual punditocracy, opining on the USA Supreme Court's denial for a writ of certiorari in the Oracle v. Google copyright infringement case. And, it's not that I expect everyone in the world to read my blog, but I'm amazed that people who should know better haven't bothered to even read the lower Court's decision, which is de-facto upheld upon denial by the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

    I wrote at great length about why the decision isn't actually a decision about whether APIs are copyrightable, and that the decision actually gives us some good clarity with regard to the issue of combined work distribution (i.e., when you distribute your own works with the copyrighted material of others combined into a single program). The basic summary of the blog post I linked to above is simply: The lower Court seemed genially confused about whether Google copy-and-pasted code, as the original trial seems to have inappropriately conflated API reimplemenation with code cut-and-paste.

    No one else has addressed this nuance of the lower Court's decision in the year since the decision came down, and I suspect that's because in our TL;DR 24-hour-news cycle, it's much easier for the pundits and organizations tangentially involved with this issue to get a bunch of press over giving confusing information.

    So, I'm mainly making this blog post to encourage people to go back and read the decision and my blog post about it. I'd be delighted to debate people if they think I misread the decision, but I won't debate you unless you assure me you read the lower Court's decision in its entirety. I think that leaves virtually no one who will. :-/

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  • There were more last time.

    2015-07-01T00:40:36Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I got curious when the last time there were this many candidates for the Republican presidential primary. I only had to go back on election. In 2012, there were 19. So, we're only at 14 at the moment!

    I really wish they just throw all the primary candidates from all the parties (including third parties) into one big election with STV. Bernie Sanders might actually win that way. :)

    Of course, this would require a major constitutional amendment.

    A lot of the so-called Founding Fathers were against a two-party system.

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    No hard feelings about that link, @wolftune . Wasn't going to get anything done today anyway. ;-)

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-07-04T15:31:38Z

    Yeah, single seat STV is really just IRV, which has serious issues. For multiseat constituencies it seems to me it should have something going for it. I can't see reweighted range voting happening in a proportional system any time soon. Would be happy to see more research in the proportional vote area.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-07-04T15:40:21Z

    It's interesting to observe how internal party dynamics turn primaries into an informal asset voting system.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-07-04T15:41:41Z

    A constitutional amendment wouldn't be necessary, as long as the result was rubber-stamped by the Electoral College.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-07T04:09:52Z

  • 2015-07-01T00:33:44Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I realized it must be very frustrating to be Steve Smith, the original drummer for Journey today, because the news keep saying that Journey's drummer is facing a rape charge. I got curious and I looked this up, and as I suspected, Journey's drummer has changed various times. (It's one of those bands that's more of a franchise than a band; they got news a while back when they replaced Steve Perry with a singer they found on youtube). Deen Castronovo is the current drummer who is facing the rape charge, for the record.

    I started wondering how many people wondered about this when they heard the story, but then I realized most people have probably never heard of Journey. (They were very popular when I was a kid which is why I've heard of them). I guess that Glee show using their song gave them new life or something? I suspect without that, it wouldn't even be news that Journey's drummer is facing rape charges.

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    For me Journey is "hey, isn't that that band with that song ... no, that's Toto". Will have to look them up. I *know* I'm supposed to know one song by Journey.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-07-04T21:06:27Z

    Journey did that keeping the faith I think it's called.... the one with the midnight train going anywhere. that had some play on a family guy.

    David "Judah's Shadow" Blue at 2015-07-06T03:00:30Z

    Fontana, I think (since you don't disclose your year of birth), that you are a few years older than me. It may turn out that Journey's popularity missed you by a few years.

    They charted in the early 1980s.

    Those who grew up in the USA with formative years in the 1980s probably realize that radio airplay in the USA during that time, mixed with the burgeoning MTV, made "missing" the big current band virtually impossible.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-06T22:01:04Z

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    It's more complicated than whatever age I may have been.  The main thing was that I was turning away from exposure to commercial music radio at precisely the time period in which Journey was apparently reaching its zenith of airplay.

    Looking at the Wikipedia article on Journey, I see that "Who's Crying Now" was one of their hits from 1981. I definitely remember that one though I have no memory of knowing that the song was by Journey. I guess the same is true of "Don't Stop Believing" - also from 1981. I remember that song but I am not sure I knew it was a Journey song before the coverage of The Sopranos finale. I imagine there were other Journey hits from the early 1980s I'd recognize too.

    My main memory of Journey's existence was some TV show I remember watching in the early 1980s which profiled Journey. Also on this show there was an interview with Stephen Stills and I remember him saying that Neil Young showed up to Crosby Stills Nash & Young recording sessions stoned and that this caused a strain on the group. So I remember that kind of detail, but Journey all I remember was the name and that they had long hair.

    I am pretty sure Journey was not popular with the kids I was going to school with at the time. Which might mean there was already a class thing going on and Journey was seen as a variety of Jersey/Long Island band (cf. my vague association of Journey with New Jersey).

    Beginning at the end of summer 1982 I began listening to all sorts of alternatives to commercial music radio (this was in the New York radio market - the stations I discovered were WBGO (jazz), WKCR (better quality jazz and weird classical stuff), WNYC (classical but I was mainly interested in John Schafer's 'New Sounds' show), also the more conventional classical station around 103 FM whose call letters escape me. This opened up multiple new worlds for me although I did not quite leave behind commercial FM music radio, because I remember still listening to WLIR as late as fall 1983, though I think it was mainly something to listen to in the morning while getting ready for school.

    The other issue was MTV. Remember that I lived in Brooklyn and (beginning fall 1983) Queens -- which had no access to cable TV at the time or for several years after that, related to the Donald Manes scandal. I had some exposure to MTV at a sort of summer school/camp for elite snobs that I went to in the summer of 1982. It didn't make a huge impression on me.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-09T03:23:55Z

  • GPLv3 is now 8.

    2015-06-30T21:09:45Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    It seems that no one noticed yesterday was the 8th anniversary of GPLv3. I was going to write a blog post yesterday morning about it and then got too busy.

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    It's also the 24th anniversary of GPLv2 this month, BTW.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-06-30T21:10:23Z

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    Do we count birthdays for copyleft-next or does it officially have a Date of Death?

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-06-30T23:52:35Z

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  • John Oliver Falls For Software Patent Trade Association Messaging

    2015-06-26T20:05:41Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers

    I've been otherwise impressed with John Oliver and his ability on Last Week Tonight to find key issues that don't have enough attention and give reasonably good information about them in an entertaining way — I even lauded Oliver's discussion of non-profit organizational corruption last year. I suppose that's why I'm particularly sad (as I caught up today on an old episode) to find that John Oliver basically fell for the large patent holders' pro-software-patent rhetoric on so-called “software patents”.

    In short, Oliver mimics the trade association and for-profit software industry rhetoric of software patent reform rather than abolition — because trolls are the only problem. I hope the worlds' largest software patent holders send Oliver's writing staff a nice gift basket, as such might be the only thing that would signal to them that they fell into this PR trap. Although, it's admittedly slightly unfair to blame Oliver and his writers; the situation is subtle.

    Indeed, someone not particularly versed in the situation can easily fall for this manipulation. It's just so easy to criticize non-practicing entities. Plus, the idea that the sole inventor might get funded on Shark Tank has a certain appeal, and fits a USAmerican sensibility of personal capitalistic success. Thus, the first-order conclusion is often, as Oliver's piece concludes, maybe if we got rid of trolls, things wouldn't be so bad.

    And then there's also the focus on the patent quality issue; it's easy to convince the public that higher quality patents will make it ok to restrict software sharing and improvement with patents. It's great rhetoric for a pro-patent entities to generate outrage among the technology-using public by pointing to, say, an example of a patent that reads on every Android application and telling a few jokes about patent quality. In fact, at nearly every FLOSS conference I've gone to in the last year, OIN has sponsored a speaker to talk about that very issue. The jokes at such talks aren't as good as John Oliver's, but they still get laughs and technologists upset about patent quality and trolls — but through carefully cultural engineering, not about software patents themselves.

    In fact, I don't think I've seen a for-profit industry and its trade associations do so well at public outrage distraction since the “tort reform” battles of the 1980s and 1990s, which were produced in part by George H. W. Bush's beloved M.C. Rove himself. I really encourage those who want to understand of how the anti-troll messaging manipulation works to study how and why the tort reform issue played out the way it did. (As I mentioned on the Free as in Freedom audcast, Episode 0x13, the documentary film Hot Coffee is a good resource for that.)

    I've literally been laughed at publicly by OIN representatives when I point out that IBM, Microsoft, and other practicing entities do software patent shake-downs, too — just like the trolls. They're part of a well-trained and well-funded (by trade associations and companies) PR machine out there in our community to convince us that trolls and so-called “poor patent quality” are the only problems. Yet, nary a year has gone in my adult life where I don't see a some incident where a so-called legitimate, non-obvious software patent causes serious trouble for a Free Software project. From RSA, to the codec patents, to Microsoft FAT patent shakedowns, to IBM's shakedown of the Hercules open source project, to exfat — and that's just a few choice examples from the public tip of the practicing entity shakedown iceberg. IMO, the practicing entities are just trolls with more expensive suits and proprietary software licenses for sale. We should politically oppose the companies and trade associations that bolster them — and call for an end to software patents.

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    Patents build on top of patents all the time. That's not an argument against software patents. The best arguments I have found against software patents is that software is already covered by copyright and the fact that the claims of a software patent without any source code to go with them do not actually disclose anything of value to the public.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-06-29T09:43:29Z

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    I read the end of that aeaweb article, The Case Against Patents. I really liked the list of reforms to gain actual advantages. Especially the point that phasing out patents is not a difficult thing if you have the political will. The value of the patents held today will not erode if you shorten the lifespan of future patents, so nobody's balance sheet is hurt directly, companies will have time to adjust to the new reality. Existing business practices will be hurt of course, adjustment will be essential for the companies affected.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-06-29T10:01:00Z

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    @Mike Linksvayer , I don't think there's anything we can do about this problem, other than create a record that there were people who opposed these things. I'm somewhat convinced that those who support software freedom, etc. are simply relegated now to recording their objections to how things went in hopes that future generations will solve these problems. The people who want to control and manipulate Open Source but will not give up their power is too great.

    Free Software had a better chance when companies ignored it. Now, it's their plaything they will use against us.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-01T00:45:03Z

    @bkuhn so by 'politically oppose' you just mean make statements for the record and you don't believe this will have any effect on abolishing software patents. As to future generations, volumes of objections to patents were recorded in the 1800s, almost totally forgotten. Sounds dismal. I'd work in some other field if I were you. IMO the beauty of free software is that it is not merely recording an objection, but blazing a different path.

    Your claim that free software had a better chance when companies ignored it is extraordinary. A better chance at what? I urge you to spell this theory out.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-07-01T16:42:01Z

  • Why Greet Apple's Swift 2.0 With Open Arms?

    2015-06-15T16:40:25Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers


    Apple announced last week that its Swift programming language — a currently fully proprietary software successor to Objective C — will probably be partially released under an OSI-approved license eventually. Apple explicitly stated though that such released software will not be copylefted. (Apple's pathological hatred of copyleft is reasonably well documented.) Apple's announcement remained completely silent on patents, and we should expect the chosen non-copyleft license will not contain a patent grant. (I've explained at great length in the past why software patents are a particularly dangerous threat to programming language infrastructure.)

    Apple's dogged pursuit for non-copyleft replacements for copylefted software is far from new. For example, Apple has worked to create replacements for Samba so they need not ship Samba in OSX. But, their anti-copyleft witch hunt goes back much further. It began when Richard Stallman himself famously led the world's first GPL enforcement effort against NeXT, and Objective-C was liberated. For a time, NeXT and Apple worked upstream with GCC to make Objective-C better for the community. But, that whole time, Apple was carefully plotting its escape from the copyleft world. Fortuitously, Apple eventually discovered a technically brilliant (but sadly non-copylefted) research programming language and compiler system called LLVM. Since then, Apple has sunk millions of dollars into making LLVM better. On the surface, that seems like a win for software freedom, until you look at the bigger picture: their goal is to end copyleft compilers. Their goal is to pick and choose when and how programming language software is liberated. Swift is not a shining example of Apple joining us in software freedom; rather, it's a recent example of Apple's long-term strategy to manipulate open source — giving our community occasional software freedom on Apple's own terms. Apple gives us no bread but says let them eat cake instead.

    Apple's got PR talent. They understand that merely announcing the possibility of liberating proprietary software gets press. They know that few people will follow through and determine how it went. Meanwhile, the standing story becomes: Wait, didn't Apple open source Swift anyway?. Already, that false soundbite's grip strengthens, even though the answer remains a resoundingly No!. However, I suspect that Apple will probably meet most of their public pledges. We'll likely see pieces of Swift 2.0 thrown over the wall. But the best stuff will be kept proprietary. That's already happening with LLVM, anyway; Apple already ships a no-source-available fork of LLVM.

    Thus, Apple's announcement incident hasn't happened in a void. Apple didn't just discover open source after years of neutrality on the topic. Apple's move is calculated, which led various industry pundits like O'Grady and Weinberg to ask hard questions (some of which are similar to mine). Yet, Apple's hype is so good, that it did convince one trade association leader.

    To me, Apple's not-yet-executed move to liberate some of the Swift 2.0 code seems a tactical stunt to win over developers who currently prefer the relatively more open nature of the Android/Linux platform. While nearly all the Android userspace applications are proprietary, and GPL violations on Android devices abound, at least the copyleft license of Linux itself provides the opportunity to keep the core operating system of Android liberated. No matter how much Swift code is released, such will never be true with Apple.

    I'm often pointing out in my recent talks how complex and treacherous the Open Source and Free Software political climate became in the last decade. Here's a great example: Apple is a wily opponent, able to Open Source (the cooption of Free Software) to manipulate the press and hoodwink the would-be spokespeople for Linux to support them. Many of us software freedom advocates have predicted for years that Free Software unfriendly companies like Apple would liberate more and more code under non-copyleft licenses in an effort to create walled gardens of seeming software freedom. I don't revel in my past accuracy of such predictions; rather, I feel simply the hefty weight of Cassandra's curse.

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    History, . at 2015-06-16T21:25:46Z

    X11R5 , Jason Self like this. link in article broken.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2015-06-17T02:12:51Z

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  • The Satirized Is the Satirist, or Who Bought the “Journalists”?

    2015-06-04T00:18:44Z via Dianara To: Public CC: Followers


    I watched the most recent Silicon Valley episode last night. I laughed at some parts (not as much as a usual episode) and then there was a completely unbelievable tech-related plot twist — quite out of character for that show. I was surprised.

    When the credits played, my draw dropped when I saw the episode's author was Dan Lyons. Lyons (whose work has been promoted by the Linux Foundation) once compared me to a communist and a member of organized crime (in, Forbes, a prominent publication for the wealthy) because of my work enforcing the GPL.

    In the years since Lyons' first anti-software freedom article (yes, there were more), I've watched many who once helped me enforce the GPL change positions and oppose GPL enforcement (including allies who once received criticism alongside me). Many such allies went even further — publicly denouncing my work and regularly undermining GPL enforcement politically.

    Attacks by people like Dan Lyons — journalists well connected with industry trade associations and companies — are one reason so many people are too afraid to enforce the GPL. I've wondered for years why the technology press has such a pro-corporate agenda, but it eventually became obvious to me in early 2005 when listening to yet another David Pogue Apple product review: nearly the entire tech press is bought and paid for by the very companies on which they report! The cartoonish level of Orwellian fear across our industry of GPL enforcement is but one example of many for-profit corporate agendas that people like Lyons have helped promulgate through their pro-company reporting.

    Meanwhile, I had taken Silicon Valley (until this week) as pretty good satire on the pathetic state of the technology industry today. Perhaps Alec Berg and Mike Judge just liked Lyons' script— not even knowing that he is a small part of the problem they seek to criticize. Regardless as to why his script was produced, the line between satirist and the satirized is clearly thinner than I imagined; it seems just as thin as the line between technology journalist and corporate PR employee.

    I still hope that Berg and Judge seek, just as Judge did in Office Space, to pierce the veil of for-profit corporate manipulation of employees and users alike. However, for me, the luster of their achievement fades when I realize at least some of their creative collaborators participate in the central to the problem they criticize.

    Shall we start a letter writing campaign to convince them to donate some of Silicon Valley's proceeds to Free Software charities? Or, at the very least, to convince Berg to write one of his usually excellent episodes about how the technology press is completely corrupted by the companies on which they report?

    Jason Self , jrobb , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Stephen Michael Kellat like this.

    jrobb , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , fr33domlover and 4 others shared this.

    Could you please set up something akin to capwiz to launch this effort?

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-06-04T02:09:11Z

    I sympathize with your views, but i believe that asking them to donate money from their bank account to your cause due to a perceived transgression could inspire disrespect for the free software movement and/or the people involved.

    Andrew Engelbrecht at 2015-06-04T05:45:12Z

    Could it be a different Dan Lyons?

    Richard Fontana at 2015-06-05T23:13:47Z

  • When the Powers That Be Try to Rewrite History

    2015-05-28T19:54:09Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I just discovered again, as has happened to me more than five times I can recall, someone sent me a URL that was public and existed when they emailed it to me, but in the 24 hours it took me to read their message.

    In my work in GPL enforcement, I work a lot of beats where people tend to try to rewrite history by taking stuff off the Internet. While it's impossible to take most things off the Internet, I tend to want to look at stuff that very few people are interested in (e.g., a GPL violation report, or once-public discussions about some GPL issue) that there are a very few people (e.g, GPL violators) who want to take this off the Internet as quickly as possible.

    My thought just now was that perhaps I should have a script that looks at all my incoming email, finds URLs in it, and does two things:

    (a) immediately downloads a copy,

    (b) submits the URL to

    Does anyone know of such a thing, or do I need to write this myself?

    Meanwhile, as a public service announcement to those who care about the GPL and other things: EVERY TIME YOU SEE a URL that has SOMETHING about the GPL that looks politically important, be it evidence of a GPL violation or anything else, submit that URL to ASAP!

    Stephen Michael Kellat , Carlos Augusto ARES , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Jason Self like this.

    Stephen Michael Kellat , Olivier Mehani , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) and 1 others shared this.

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    You're probably better off having a filter that matches for URLs and either auto responds reminding emailers to make a local copy and submit the URL to or that creates a queue of URLs for you to review. Or do both :)

    Auto downloading links sounds like a bad way to go for many reasons.

    der.hans at 2015-05-28T22:21:20Z

    Stallman wrote that he use something like (a).

    mnd at 2015-05-28T22:38:59Z

    Andrew Engelbrecht likes this.

    If you can find the funds to pay me as your secretary/OA I'll gladly monitor your e-mail for you. My current employer has been getting weirder than usual lately.

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-05-29T02:24:20Z

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , ghostdancer like this.

    One other problem... A robots.txt "Disallow:" line will prevent from saving a given URL, per, which says the Internet Archive "does respect robots.txt instructions, and even does so retroactively".

    Dan Scott at 2015-06-03T04:08:54Z

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  • NYPD Deputy Commissioner advocates violating proprietary licenses, or?

    2015-05-10T17:27:01Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    On This Week, John Miller claimed "Isis is using Apple computers. They're using Directors Final Cut software … same stuff that every other 19 and 22-year-old who's got some creativity can use to send out powerful messages.".

    So, how many 19-22 year olds, in the USA alone, has well over $1,000 (cost of a Mac plus a Final Cut Pro license)? What about around the world? Does he really believe every 19-22 old has access to such? Is he so wealthy that he's that out of touch with how expensive Apple products are?

    Isis probably steals their equipment and violates the proprietary licenses to get this stuff.

    Is Miller suggesting that 19-22 year olds do the same so they can get an anti-Isis message out to their peers?

    I'm deeply offended by Miller's comments. I had plenty of creativity when I was young. I could barely afford my own computer when I was a undergrad. I could only run the most advanced operating system available for PC's because GNU/Linux was not only free as in freedom, but free as in price. That free as in price was the only reason I was able to "exercise my creativity" as a 19-22 year old.

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    People are just now noticing that many of the folks leading these groups in the modern Near East have MBAs and other sorts of contemporary education? Why is this something people are only just now noticing? History did not start 10 minutes ago.

    If the bad guys are making slick propaganda, poke holes in it. Make fun of them. Tear them down. If we have the power with GNU/Linux or even GNU/SystemD/Linux to do it...then let us go ahead and do it.

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-05-11T02:07:52Z

    I saw about a minute of <a senior US gov't official> being interviewed about IS propaganda. He actually said something that surprised me (because previous folks in his position would never have thought far enough to realize this):

    It isn't really about US and other Western people trying to out-propagandize IS leaders and spokespersons. Instead, other voices within the same cultural and religious traditions have to speak up and tell people why IS' dogma does not fit in with their traditions.

    Those who are listening to (and in some cases being convinced by) IS propaganda are not listening to people in suits speaking in front of some building in Washington, DC. They are listening to people whom they feel some connection. at 2015-05-11T02:30:20Z

    jrobb , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Doug Whitfield like this.

    What is "Directors Final Cut software"? I researched it and discovered it's Final Cut Pro we are talking about.

    jrobertson at 2015-05-11T11:01:19Z

    Re: whatever Isis might use for their video
     - most likely its stolen anyway ... that's not really an indication of being able to "afford" anything

    michaelmd at 2015-05-11T11:11:11Z

  • US/Pacific collaboration?

    2015-05-08T17:34:47Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I'm relatively used to the idea of US/Pacific and US/Eastern collaboration from the west side.

    I typically was always awake no later than 06:30 anyway, and often earlier. The only real change is that I must "roll out of bed and begin work", but I rather like that. It makes one feel important to have to dial into a conference call immediately after waking up, possibly while it's still dark.

    But, the main issue I have is this: I would ideally like to cook breakfast while I am on the phone. If I have to be the one talking, it will wake up my wife in the nearby bedroom.

    This morning, I did a long conference call while walking the dogs, which worked ok, but I had the problem of returning to my apartment and being really hungry at that point and needed to cook the oatmeal, but still being on the phone.

    I could plan ahead and not eat oatmeal the days when I have to do this, but I don't really like many of the 'cold breakfast' options (at least, I don't like any of the healthy ones, which is why I make oatmeal every day. I'd certainly enjoy, say, a big cheese plate for breakfast but I try to treat cheese more like a dessert than a meal these days).

    Today, I handled this by going in my office to talk and then running back out at moments when the other person was talking to stir the oatmeal. My wife says I did not wake her up doing this, so it was a reaonable hack, but:

    I'm curious, has anyone else had the problem of taking early morning US/Pacific conference calls and needing to cook breakfast at the same time when someone is still sleeping in a nearby room?

    (BTW, I do work really hard to make my problems specific in nature rather than generally say: "HOW TO CONFERENCE CALL EARLY MORNING FROM WEST COAST TO EAST COAST?" I'm good with bug reports that way -- I dig down until the problem is well defined ;)

    Olivier Mehani likes this.

    @Bradley M. Kuhn I highly recommend investing in a decent rice cooker (I like the induction heading ones). You can just dump in oatmeal and the appropriate amount of water and whatever else (fruit, etc), turn it on, walk away. When you come back, perfectly cooked oatmeal!

    Christopher Allan Webber at 2015-05-08T17:46:37Z

    Andrew Engelbrecht , jonkulp , j1mc , Mike Linksvayer like this.

    I guess it is terrible responding to bug practice to question a tangential part of the user's experience, but I wouldn't call oatmeal healthy.

    But ignoring that, can't oatmeal be made pretty much noise-free? You could use an electric tea kettle to heat the water, even in your office.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-08T17:47:01Z

    j1mc likes this.

    WONTFIX: calling US/Eastern conferences from non-US/Eastern timezones is not a supported use-case and will be disabled in future versions


    Olivier Mehani at 2015-05-09T05:39:17Z , sazius (old account) like this.

  • Some Things *Are* His Fault

    2015-05-08T01:10:39Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    Large parts of Portland's public transit are shut down as POTUS goes from PDX to downtown Portland.



    Christopher Allan Webber , Dan Scott , jrobb , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) and 2 others like this.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.

    I'm glad to be able to work from home these two days.

    Charles Stanhope at 2015-05-08T04:08:57Z

    RiveraValdez likes this.

  • Charity Fundraising

    2015-05-08T00:02:01Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    This is completely scattered and unclear, but I doubt I have time to work this into a clearer blog post, and if I save it to edit later, it won't see the light of day, so I'm just going to post it. Here goes:

    Is it only because I'm a non-profit geek that I become jealous of public radio fundraising drives, thinking: "If only what my org did could easily interrupt the flow of publicmix benefit it does for 5 minutes to explain why donations are needed?"

    I'm not a fan of Shareware, but I do think, say, what Wikipedia does for fundraising is reasonable (the banners could be a little smaller, but that's a minor tweak).

    However, most Free Software projects, and even more, orgs that serve the needs of Free Software projects just don't have the ability to interrupt the flow of the "public benefit work" to remind the public of the importance of the work. But, if you take a look, orgs that can do that have had a much easier time getting funding. WMF is a very wealthy org, as are most public radio stations.

    It's just tough not to be jealous. My colleagues and I talk in terms of "how in the world can we raise another $N", where $N << 100,000. These are numbers that other charities can raise so easily, merely by doing a fundraising drive via their "standard medium". For other orgs, they can only raise that much when there is a huge crisis, and those donors don't repeat the following year, so you get to do some good work for a while, and then what?

    I read a study a long time ago arguing that NPOs should invest much much more in fundraising overhead, since the study showed orgs that did that increased size (and thus public good work done) by orders of magnitude.

    Maybe that principle applies easily to the typical org, which has a simple and clear message of what it does that is hard to criticize, but what if you're raising money for a radical cause that lots of powerful people have convinced many would-be donors shouldn't exist at all? Think about how GPL enforcement has been portrayed by the powers-that-be, and you'll get a sense of why it's not like raising money for an animal shelter. (And yes, I give to animal shelters; it's not that I'm against them, I'm just saying that some of these things are just easier to raise money for).

    This is the world I live in. And, while fundraising is thankfully not my job anymore, everyone who works for a small non profit has to help on this, particularly when the charity is so taxed by overwork that everyone fights proverbial fires all day.

    Which just brings me back to jealousy. I always try to set it aside, but it's tough not to. I try not to think about the OpenStack party at OSCON 2013 that looked, upon inspection of the event and back-of-napkin calculations, to cost more than a year of Conservancy's operations (gratis FIji water and full bar with mixed drinks for hundreds of people?!?!). I try not think about the fact that Oregon Public Radio, whose fundraising drive has been playing the whole time I've been writing this, probably will raise Conservancy's entire annual budget just this week, just during All Things Considered.

    To combat the jealousy, my new way of approaching this situation is simply this: basically, if people don't give to Conservancy, it's my fault, not theirs. If Conservancy can't fund its rather meager operations, I and my coworkers just weren't doing work that mattered to the world. Conservancy just shouldn't exist if people don't want to fund it. I've worked for charities where the leadership had a fundraising "sense of entitlement" that they deserved to get donations because of who they were. I certainly never want to work at a place like that again.

    But, this in turn leads me into a sprial of self-loathing: if so few people actually support Conservancy's work, then I am clearly wasting my life.

    I've thus generally come to the conclusion that being a radical activist requires a careful balance of self-righteousness and humility. I've not met a single person, including myself, who has gotten an appropriate balance on that front. I've also seen a bunch of people move away from radical activism because they leaned too far in one direction.

    e.g. I've met people who got so self-righteous about their cause, that they conflated it with their own professional success. I've also met people so humble that they can't motivate themselves to do anything bold in activism because they feel they just "aren't important enough to make a difference".

    I want to be neither, but hopefully you see why I think it's a balance of those two seemingly incompatible tendencies found in activists.

    OTOH, there's really no room for jealousy, but to deny that jealousy exists is simply not being introspective. As I said to someone recently when discussing this issue of "pecking order of charity jealousy": "someone on the block always has a nicer house". Every charity is jealous of the charity that has 3-5x its budget. I know for sure: because when you talk to colleagues frankly at other non-profits, you can tell them how jealous you are of them, and they'll tell you who they're jealous of. That's how I figured out that 3-5x "jealousy number". :)

    Richard Fontana , sirgazil , Mike Linksvayer , Christopher Allan Webber and 3 others like this.

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    A FaiF episode in the style of NPR fundraising would be good theater.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-08T14:28:24Z

    Doug Whitfield , Nathan Smith like this.

    That's an interesting insight, Bradley. It would be interesting to try to think of ways that a free software project could "interrupt the flow" for fund raising without interfering with the functioning of the software. I think it also helps to have specific targets and limited fund raising periods. Projects have wiki pages, download pages, and mailing lists. Messages could be placed there. For rapidly released projects, perhaps a release cycle could have fund raising messages in documentation or startup banners. Distributions could consider cooperating with appropriately tasteful fund raising drives and pass along messages during installation or upgrade of packages. For organizations such as SFC, interrupting the flow will definitely be more challenging. Hopefully the projects you help manage would point back to you during their own campaigns.

    Charles Stanhope at 2015-05-08T15:27:28Z

    Mike Linksvayer likes this.

    Some free software projects could definitely "interrupt the flow" to remind people of their importance. For example Firefox could occasionally delay the rendering of a web page to display "an important message" :-) I doubt people would stand for that very long, though, and there would be a fork out soon :-)

    sazius (old account) at 2015-05-08T17:19:39Z

    Mike Linksvayer likes this.

    @sazius I think you're right, user-facing programs can easily interrupt flow. Firefox doesn't need to (because search revenue) but they do in subtle ways occasionally. More programs could, and get away with it, particularly if they had strong relationship with their communities already. Are there any good examples? 

    Don't tons of 'apps' do in-app upselling to a proprietary version or other in-app purchase? Do any faif apps ask for donations or offer in-app purchase of crowdfunding-like perks? I guess I should try more 'apps' so that my knowledge isn't secondhand.

    I know the bigger problem is not having millions of users, but lack of $ for development and marketing only perpetuates that problem.

    As @wolftune might be reading, perhaps after finally launches with real money, it should somehow enable in-app/program pledging.

    I don't know that there's a solution for Conservancy wrt applications interrupting users, other than some of its member projects raising lots of money that way and giving Conservancy its cut. But I suppose (modulo it not having enough resources to do anything beyond what it is already doing, etc) that it could conceivably also help member projects do in-application asks.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-08T18:20:30Z

    Christopher Allan Webber , Aaron Wolf like this.

  • 2015-05-06T01:41:40Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    I have always loved the sound of disk I/O. I'm listening to the Conservancy backups run now. That bursty crunch is like music.

    Has anyone compiled sounds of how hard drive I/O noise changed over the decades? I am wondering what made that high-pitched note in the middle of the crunch that went away sometime in the mid 1990s.

    And, this may be a lost sound, like modem noise. At least for the moment magnetic disks are still cheaper than solid state, though. :)

    Jason Self , jrobb , Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) , Olivier Mehani and 1 others like this.

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    what about the sound of floppy drives? .. haven't heard that for a while!

    more of a worry is finding one that still works of you want to get a file from an old floppy!

    michaelmd at 2015-05-06T03:29:45Z

    Douglas Perkins likes this.

    I like how the Amiga500 emulator UAE makes use of that and plays back a recording of an actual Amiga loading from disk

    mray at 2015-05-06T10:24:18Z

    Elena ``of Valhalla'' likes this.

    tried to set that up years ago .. but I think it needed a rom image to work ... didn't find anywhere to get that (guessing maybe a real amiga but don't have one)

    michaelmd at 2015-05-08T05:44:24Z probably not your intention, but this gives me a fun idea for some electronic music I've been kicking around

    x1101 at 2015-05-08T16:44:47Z

  • 2015-04-23T23:39:39Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    The thing I probably hate most about being a software freedom activist is how often the politics dictate that I ingratiate myself to proprietary software company employees and leaders.

    I then always wonder how often environmental activists ingratiate themselves to Exxon employees.

    Then I wonder if I really am an activist at all.

    Robert Musial , Sean Tilley , Aaron Wolf , Matthew Tift and 3 others like this.

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    I don't really understand what you mean. Could you give an example, either real or fictional?

    Douglas Perkins at 2015-04-24T04:57:22Z

    in my opinion the problem is in, some, environmental activists. employees as individuals are not "guilty". environmental activists neither work in the same industry than petrol or car industry employees. microsoft emps, I imagine, think they are developing the best software and that the non-community approach is better, at least some of them. I don't think that they have all the time in mind how to slave their user. everybody try to see the positive parts of the work they have. in my opinion the free software community have a much more healthy attitude than some, more noisy is true, parts of the environmental movement. long and awfully written. sorry.

    lard at 2015-04-24T06:16:09Z

    Scorpio20 likes this.

    Why would ingratiating ever be necessary? Or to put it another way - if you are being fair to yourself about accusing yourself of ingratiating yourself, what has such ingratiation actually achieved for you?

    When I look at how companies deal with one another, I don't see anything like the sort of ingratiation I think you are talking about (ignoring things like sales pitches - surely you're not talking just about corporate fundraising). 

    Richard Fontana at 2015-04-24T18:34:00Z

    i do not get it at all

    hellofgames at 2015-04-30T13:00:47Z

  • Wikipedia on 60 Minutes

    2015-04-06T02:57:41Z via Pumpa To: Public CC: Followers

    The media admittedly often takes the worst possible soundbite, but it's unfortunate that the Wikipedia story on 60 Minutes tonight included a Wikipedian saying that "its growth could be infinite".

    I assure the world with complete certainty that Wikipedia will remain finite forever.

    The quote was probably a mis-speak, but I'm disturbed that 60 Minutes decided to use a quote that had a Wikipedian stating a mathematical impossibility in a story about knowledge and its dissimenation freely to the public.

    Also, I wonder if there's a subtle sexism in the editing, since that item just happened to be a quote from a female Wikipedian rather than the male ones.

    Meanwhile, I must also note I'm quite disturbed that Sue Gardner said "Wikipedians are a little bit OCD". It's really not appropriate to opine publicly that a class of people in our community have a psychological disorder. Sue is not the only community leader I've seen do this, though, it's just that she was on 60 Minutes saying it.

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    this assumes human expansion is finite, which may or may not be true. Of course, distributed computing across planets will make for some serious diff issues.

    I suppose at some point there are also concerns about speciation, so perhaps we should just be talking about intelligent beings (though intelligence is also debateable).

    Doug Whitfield at 2015-04-06T17:14:41Z

    I agree with lnxwalt. My point was that nothing we do on a computer is infinite. It can't be.

    If the speaker really meant to talk about growth that would continue as long as human beings are around, then the right words are "unbounded" or "indefinite". They don't sound as exciting as infinite, of course, but the accurate rarely sounds as exciting as the inaccurate.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-04-06T17:22:50Z

    I just learned that "infinite" can mean "immeasurably great"

    Whatever the accepted definitions though, clearly the use of the word leaves one open to criticism, and I suppose is to be avoided. There are other words that fall in this category. For example: &"niggardly"

    Doug Whitfield at 2015-04-06T17:40:05Z

    The supposition of sexism seems to be based on the assumption that 60 Minutes agrees with you on the pedantic criticism of the Wikipedian's use of "infinite growth" (if I understand the point correctly). This however seems highly unlikely.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-04-09T17:09:10Z