Archived entries for GPL

Free on the green

Matt Mullenweg speaking at WordcampNZ in Wellington, August 2009. © 2009 Kathryn Wilson, used with permission.

Matt Mullenweg speaking at WordcampNZ. © 2009 Kathryn Wilson, used with permission.

I spent much of last weekend in the peaceful surroundings of the Mount Victoria Bowling Club with a committed crowd of  bloggers, and software developers enjoying New Zealand’s first WordPress conference, WordcampNZ.

Attendees came from around the country, with a scattering travelling further, including an appearance by Matt Mullenweg, one of the founders of the WordPress project. Mullenweg ran a ‘town hall’ session where he talked about his passion for open source, the software bill of rights and some of the background of the WordPress project and then took questions from attendees on the future of WordPress development. While he was in town he also visited RadioNZ for an interview on the Saturday Morning with Kim Hill programme: Matt Mullenweg: blog king [ogg].

The two day conference covered a wide range of topics related to WordPress and blogging. Barrister Steven Price, who writes the Media Law Journal blog, opened proceedings with an excellent talk entitled “Staying out of legal trouble”. He outlined six rules that can help bloggers to do just that and, having piqued my interest, disappeared straight afterwards.

Day one’s other presentations covered various uses and developments for WordPress: organiser Dan Milward talked about building stores with the WP e-Commerce plugin; Ryan Hellyer of PixoPoint.com discussed his theme services for helping people to theme WordPress without writing HTML and CSS; Miraz Jordan spoke about supporting communities for virtual Zen retreats; Philip Fierlinger of Xero.com talked about corporate blogging; Gareth Townsend talked about developing a better WordPress interface for iPhone users; the folks at Xedbidy.com and the Indie Travel Podcast talked about travel writing; and Doug Casement told us all how to work with the press in “How to be a media darling“.

Day two had more of the same: Anthony Cole opened with a presentation on BuddyPress, the WordPress “Facebook-in-a-box”; Chris Ipscombe gave a business angle with “Making great deals”; Harley Alexander discussed some of the finer points of theme development; Nicki Gemmell talked about the use of WordPress to support school web sites; Bernard Hickey discussed his experiences of financial reporting using WordPress at Interest.co.nz; Jeff Waugh discussed tactics for improving your WordPress site performance; and, for the last of the formal presentations, Sam Bauers of Automattic talked about the forum software from the creators of WordPress, bbPress.

It was a great conference for ideas and interesting discussions with other WordPress developers and users and I’m looking forward to more like it in the future.

“Donating” Code

I am a bit pressed for time but just need to address a particular topic that is hitting the headlines right now, and for good reasons.

Microsoft has released some code; that is not news. What is news is that the licence used is GPLv2 and that this code is for drivers intended to run with the Linux kernel. So has the sky fallen in? Has Bill Gates’ company decided that “Communism” and “anti-Americanism” are the true path to lightness of being after all?

Well, no. It appears to be a bit grubbier than that. Whilst all parties involved in this deal are falling over themselves to be nice to each other there are a few clues emerging as to the truth behind this particular release.

Greg Kroah-Hartman who works for Novell put together the deal. His blog entry links to another Linux hacker’s blog which has some far more interesting titbits.  Read the blog and you see he says things like:

“a lot of work was done behind the scenes to get the offending company into compliance.”

and

“A little googling found the necessary drivers, but on closer examination there was a problem. The driver had both open-source components which were under GPL, and statically linked to several binary parts. The GPL does not permit mixing of closed and open source parts, so this was an obvious violation of the license”

and

“Rather than creating noise, my goal was to resolve the problem, so I turned to Greg Kroah-Hartman.”

So, if my reasoning is correct, and I am very happy to be corrected, this is what seems to be the order of events:

  1. MS wants Linux to run on its Hyper-V platform.
  2. They develop and release drivers that use some GPL code and link to static GPL binaries. I don’t know where that original GPL code came from but it sure would be interesting to find out.
  3. These drivers are in breach of the GPL and a third party notices.
  4. MS are forced, nicely, to comply with the GPL, just like every other organisation whose GPL breaches have been seriously challenged.

So, whilst this is all good and marvellous, especially if you want to run Linux on Windows (keep this other factlet in mind), Microsoft has shaken money out of at least 500 organisations including Linux distributors, claiming IP rights over code they have not written because of patents they refuse to identify in public.

This is an interesting story, but not in the way it is being told.  Celebrate because we can chalk it up as a success… to the GPL.



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