Category Archives: opensource

Software Freedom Conservancy Shares Thoughts on Microsoft Joining Open Invention Network’s Patent Non-Aggression Pact

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it was joining the open-source patent consortium Open Invention Network (OIN). The press release the two shared this week was short on details on how the two organizations intend to work together and what does the move mean to, for instance, the billions of dollars Microsoft earns each year from its Android patents (since Google is a member of OIN, too.) Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit organization that promotes open-source software, has weighed in on the subject: While [this week's] announcement is a step forward, we call on Microsoft to make this just the beginning of their efforts to stop their patent aggression efforts against the software freedom community. The OIN patent non-aggression pact is governed by something called the Linux System Definition. This is the most important component of the OIN non-aggression pact, because it's often surprising what is not included in that Definition especially when compared with Microsoft's patent aggression activities. Most importantly, the non-aggression pact only applies to the upstream versions of software, including Linux itself. We know that Microsoft has done patent troll shakedowns in the past on Linux products related to the exfat filesystem. While we at Conservancy were successful in getting the code that implements exfat for Linux released under GPL (by Samsung), that code has not been upstreamed into Linux. So, Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact. We now ask Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-later. This would provide two important protections to Linux users regarding exfat: (a) it would include any patents that read on exfat as part of OIN's non-aggression pact while Microsoft participates in OIN, and (b) it would provide the various benefits that GPLv2-or-later provides regarding patents, including an implied patent license and those protections provided by GPLv2 (and possibly other GPL protections and assurances as well).

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Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger’s Application: No One Knows If It’s Dead or Alive, No One Really Wants To Look Inside

British IT news outlet The Register looks at the myriad of challenges Apache OpenOffice faces today. From the report: Last year Brett Porter, then chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, contemplated whether a proposed official blog post on the state of Apache OpenOffice (AOO) might discourage people from downloading the software due to lack of activity in the project. No such post from the software's developers surfaced. The languid pace of development at AOO, though, has been an issue since 2011 after Oracle (then patron of the project) got into a fork-fight with The Document Foundation, which created LibreOffice from the OpenOffice codebase, and asked developers backing the split to resign. Back in 2015, Red Hat developer Christian Schaller called OpenOffice "all but dead." Assertions to that effect have continued since, alongside claims to the contrary. Almost a year ago, Jim Jagielski, a member of the Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee, insisted things were going well and claimed there was renewed interest in the project. For all the concern about AOO, no issues have been raised recently before the Apache Foundation board to suggest ongoing difficulties. The project is due to provide an update this month, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.

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Microsoft Open Sources Parts of Minecraft’s Java Code

Four years after Microsoft acquired Minecraft developer Mojang, the company has decided to open source some of Minecraft's Java code. According to Kotaku, Microsoft and Mojang released two parts of Minecraft's Java code in library form, so that "anyone can pick them up and use them in their own game," says Lead Engineer Nathan Adams. From the report: For now, there's just the two libraries: "Brigadier," a "command parser and dispatcher"; and "DataFixerUpper," designed for "incremental building, merging and optimization of data transformations ... [to convert] the game data for Minecraft: Java Edition between different versions of the game." While the news doesn't mean much for players, it will be a boon for interested programmers and developers, keen to see the guts of Minecraft. The plan is to open source more components in the future, though no time frame is specified. For now, if you want to check out Brigadier or DataFixerUpper, both can be found on Mojang's GitHub page.

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An Open Source Resistance Takes Shape as Tech Giants Race To Map the World

Shadma Shaikh, reporting for FactorDaily: Chetan Gowda, 27, was speaking to a room full of students in IIIT Hyderabad for a workshop on OpenStreetMap for beginners organized by Swecha, a non-profit organization to support free software movement last month. There were close to 40 students in the room. Beginners often ask him: Why use open source maps when we already have Google Maps? For Gowda, it was the fact that Google Maps is a global, commercial product and did not capture local detail. Like the old banyan tree that was a major landmark in his hometown Hassan or public benches just outside the town where pedestrians could stop to catch a break or fire catchment areas in Bellandur lake in Bengaluru, India. "It was fascinating to add little but important details of my town to open maps," says Gowda who was introduced in 2013 to OSM or OpenStreetMap, a global community of mappers formed as a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world in 2004. Since then he has been an active contributor to OpenStreetMap and has conducted many workshops in colleges and institutes to induct more people in the community. Gowda has made 8500 edits in the OpenStreetMap, mainly covering areas in Bengaluru, Hassan and Hyderabad. Gowda and a few other contributors from India are part of a tiny yet growing resistance movement which doesn't want giant corporations to own all the mapping data. For the average consumer, this may not seem like a big deal. But mapping is big business. The market opportunity for suppliers of mapping to the autonomous car industry is going to be worth over $24 billion by 2050, according to one estimate [PDF]. And that's just one industry. A study commissioned by Google in 2015 estimated that industries that run on top of the Global Positioning Satellite Systems and mapping generate nearly $73 billion in annual revenue. Worldwide, that industry is was estimated to generate $150- $270 billion in revenues. Although new research isn't available, with growing smartphone usage and the birth of companies such as Uber and many others it is safe to assume that the industry has only grown bigger. All the more reason why map data can't be held by only a few companies. With Google Maps beginning to charge small and medium-sized businesses and indie developers more for access to its platform, many have started to explore and switch to open source alternatives of Maps, and commercial services such as Here Maps. Further reading: What OpenStreetMap Can Be, and Ten Years of Google Maps, From Slashdot to Ground Truth.

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‘Best Open Source Developer Software of 2018’ Chosen By InfoWorld

This week InfoWorld unveiled their annual list of "the leading open source projects for software development, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning." [E]ven as we grapple with the likes of microservice architecture, distributed data processing frameworks, deep neural networks, and "dapps," we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring you -- this year and every year -- the best that open source has to offer. In this year's edition, you'll find our picks for the best open source software development tools, cloud computing platforms, databases and data analytics tools, and machine learning and deep learning libraries. From Kubernetes and Docker to TensorFlow and PyTorch (49 projects in all), these are the projects that are ushering in the next stage of enterprise computing. An anonymous reader writes: Their choices for the best open source software for software development include .NET Core, Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, and Jenkins, as well as programming languages like Kotlin, Julia, and Rust. ("By now it's something of a cliche to talk about Rust as the next step beyond C and C++. So be it...") And their final award for best open source development software went, surprisingly, to Vanilla JS. "Some clever wag created a website that promises that the Vanilla JS library will be the smallest JS framework you'll ever use and then delivers a zip file with zero bytes of code along with the suggestion that you should just use the built-in function calls in JavaScript to manipulate the DOM."

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Richard Stallman Says Linux Code Contributions Can’t Be Rescinded

An anonymous reader quotes iTWire: Linux developers who contribute code to the kernel cannot rescind those contributions, according to the software programmer who devised the GNU General Public Licence version 2.0, the licence under which the kernel is released. Richard Stallman, the head of the Free Software Foundation and founder of the GNU Project, told iTWire in response to queries that contributors to a GPLv2-covered program could not ask for their code to be removed. "That's because they are bound by the GPLv2 themselves. I checked this with a lawyer," said Stallman, who started the free software movement in 1984. There have been claims made by many people, including journalists, that if any kernel developers are penalised under the new code of conduct for the kernel project -- which was put in place when Linux creator Linus Torvalds decided to take a break to fix his behavioural issues -- then they would ask for their code to be removed from the kernel... Stallman asked: "But what if they could? What would they achieve by doing so? They would cause harm to the whole free software community. The anonymous person who suggests that Linux contributors do this is urging them to [use a] set of nuclear weapons in pique over an internal matter of the development team for Linux. What a shame that would be." Slashdot reader dmoberhaus shared an article from Motherboard with more perspetives from Eric S. Raymond and LWN.net founder Jonathan Corbet, which also traces the origins of the suggestion. "[A]n anonymous user going by the handle 'unconditionedwitness' called for developers who end up getting banned through the Code of Conduct in the future to rescind their contributions to the Linux kernel 'in a bloc' to produce the greatest effect. "It is worth noting that the email address for unconditionedwitness pointed to redchan.it, a now defunct message board on 8chan that mostly hosted misogynistic memes, many of which were associated with gamergate."

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New Custom Linux Distro is Systemd-Free, Debian-Based, and Optimized for Windows 10

An anonymous reader quotes MSPowerUser: Nearly every Linux distro is already available in the Microsoft Store, allowing developers to use Linux scripting and other tools running on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Now another distro has popped up in the Store, and unlike the others it claims to be specifically optimised for WSL, meaning a smaller and more appropriate package with sane defaults which helps developers get up and running faster. WLinux is based on Debian, and the developer, Whitewater Foundry, claims their custom distro will also allow faster patching of security and compatibility issues that appear from time to time between upstream distros and WSL... Popular development tools, including git and python3, are pre-installed. Additional packages can be easily installed via the apt package management system... A handful of unnecessary packages, such as systemd, have been removed to improve stability and security. The distro also offers out of the box support for GUI apps with your choice of X client, according to the original submission. WLinux is open source under the MIT license, and is available for free on GitHub. It can also be downloaded from Microsoft Store at a 50% discount, with the development company promising the revenue will be invested back into new features.

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Linus Torvalds Reflects On How He’s Been Hostile To Linux Community Members Over the Years, Issues Apology, and Announces He Will Be Taking Some Time Off

On Sunday, Linus Torvalds spoke about the confusion he had regarding Maintainer's Summit, but more importantly, how this incident gave him a chance to realize "that I really had been ignoring some fairly deep-seated feelings in the community." In an email to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Torvalds apologized for hurting people with his behavior over the years, and possibly driving some people "away from kernel development entirely." On that end, said Torvalds, "I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately." He wrote: [...] It's one thing when you can ignore these issues. Usually it's just something I didn't want to deal with. This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good. This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry. The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely.I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately. Put another way: When asked at conferences, I occasionally talk about how the pain-points in kernel development have generally not been about the _technical_ issues, but about the inflection points where development flow and behavior changed. These pain points have been about managing the flow of patches, and often been associated with big tooling changes - moving from making releases with "patches and tar-balls" (and the _very_ painful discussions about how "Linus doesn't scale" back 15+ years ago) to using BitKeeper, and then to having to write git in order to get past the point of that no longer working for us. We haven't had that kind of pain-point in about a decade. But this week felt like that kind of pain point to me. To tie this all back to the actual 4.19-rc4 release (no, really, this_is_ related!) I actually think that 4.19 is looking fairly good, things have gotten to the "calm" period of the release cycle, and I've talked to Greg to ask him if he'd mind finishing up 4.19 for me, so that I can take a break, and try to at least fix my own behavior. This is not some kind of "I'm burnt out, I need to just go away" break. I'm not feeling like I don't want to continue maintaining Linux. Quite the reverse. I very much *do* want to continue to do this project that I've been working on for almost three decades. This is more like the time I got out of kernel development for a while because I needed to write a little tool called "git". I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow. And yes, some of it might be "just" tooling. Maybe I can get an email filter in place so at when I send email with curse-words, they just won't go out. Because hey, I'm a big believer in tools, and at least _some_ problems going forward might be improved with simple automation. [...]

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