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Freeside Internet Services: Doing Well With Purely Free Software (Video)

Roblimo posted about 2 years ago | from the making-a-good-living-by-giving-software-away dept.

GNU is Not Unix 53

While attending ITEXPO West in Austin, TX, Slashdot editor Timothy Lord met Ivan Kohler, the "President, Founder and Head Geek" of a company called Freeside Internet Services that is 100% open source (no dual-licensing) and makes its living supporting software Ivan says is used to manage some of the very unsexy backend tasks that ISPs and VoIP providers need to do, like track usage and send bills to customers. Freeside uses the AGPL license, which Ivan calls "a GPL variant for web applications" that, he says, "prevents people from taking our software, modifying it, and selling it in a hosted capacity as proprietary software."

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You must be kidding... (-1, Flamebait)

geminidomino (614729) | about 2 years ago | (#41670895)

Jesus, /., you're not even pretending anymore. Suck a little harder, I don't think you've quite earned your paycheck for this particular slashvertisement.

Re:You must be kidding... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671025)

I 100% agree with you, but let's keep this discussion at what the summary really is.. using 100% open source in your daily activities. How many people actually worry about being sued by the various codec patent holders out there? None, because who wants another RIAA-esque shakedown? No the money is in the big companies. This is why Oracle/Samsung/Google etc. are being targetted with the Android platform.

As for myself I can say I am almost 100% opensource , after Windows 7 borked on my system, I started defaulting to my Kubuntu-derivitive installation. A project aiming to be a 100% licensed open-source operating system. Let's face it, MP3 is not free no matter what mpg123 or xmms tells you. Every decoder is supposed to pay a royalty-fee that is conviently ignored in your home installation. So this project aims to provide the royalty payments as necessary while providing a free operating system. An open-source warranty from liability, if you will. How many other open source providers will do that for you? And I can safely say I no longer need to use Windows, as LibreOffice, Ardour, and Kexi all replace the COTS products I've always used.

It's relevant. A point against the AGPL deniers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671305)

This is an actual factual example of how the Affero GPL IS DAMN USEFUL for GPL'd code.

Re:You must be kidding... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671313)

All right, Slashdot's not even trying to be subtle any more. Or maybe they still are, in which case: wow, that's kind of sad.
Either way, I'm getting the feeling Slashdot's trying to spam us.

Re:You must be kidding... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41672909)

What kind of kids are modding this down?? He's exactly right. This is a pure, blatantly obvious slashvertisement.

Kids (even physically grown-up ones) who just came to this site, and don't know shit about what's going on: Go fuck yourselves, and go back to your 4RedFaceDiggTwitChanBook!

Freeside sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670949)

Freeside is only free if your time is not. Having looked into it in a previous life the interface, coding and feature set of freeside are all terrible.

Open source is a positive thing but it does not automatically mean all open source projects are worth using.

Re:Freeside sucks (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41671037)

On the other hand, even if its all as you describe, the only way to make it worse would be to charge for it.

Re:Freeside sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671317)

I'd argue LINUX, for the n00b, is only free if your time is not

pffft (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41670965)

Where's the mug of frosty piss guy when you actually _need_ him?

Sheesh, this is news for nerds, right? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671023)

I think we all know what the AGPL [gnu.org] is.

And if you're worried we might not, you could give a link (like I just did, or this [wikipedia.org] ), instead of some random person's summary.

I wish this was in Print form... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671045)

then I could wipe my smelly Irish ass with it.

Freeside (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671093)

Damn... I tought that one was about an orbiting balneary station/criminal paradise

AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671139)

The great thing about the GPL, from an enforcability perspective, is that violating it is an automatic copyright violation under default (i.e. "all rights reserved") law, so it really doesn't matter if one agrees to it or not; agreeing to it is the only way to have any redistribution permission at all.

The AGPL, on the other hand, tries to restrict use where there is no copyright-violation because there is no distribution of source or binary. This sort of restriction is valid only if agreed to in a contract. Serious commercial software (CAD and such) requires you to sign a contract of some sort to receive the software, which is pretty rock-solid. With EULAs, at least there's clicking an "OK, I agree" button, which may be considered to create a legally binding contract, though in many jurisdictions this is not valid. With the AGPL, there's NO ACTION OF AGREEING AT ALL -- good luck ever enforcing it in court. They will say they never agreed to the AGPL's terms, and they'll get away with it.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (4, Insightful)

Digana (1018720) | about 2 years ago | (#41671315)

In addition to the terms of the GPL, You violate the AGPL when you (1) copy the source code and (2) modify it (3) host the modified version over the network and (4) don't provide source for your modifications. Since by default (1) is a copyright violation if there isn't an explicit permission to do so, if you say you don't agree to the AGPL, then you don't have permission to do (1) either. So if you do the above, you can't claim that you didn't agree to the terms of the AGPL without acknowledging copyright infringement.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671565)

In addition to the terms of the GPL, You violate the AGPL when you (1) copy the source code and (2) modify it (3) host the modified version over the network and (4) don't provide source for your modifications.

Since by default (1) is a copyright violation if there isn't an explicit permission to do so, if you say you don't agree to the AGPL, then you don't have permission to do (1) either. So if you do the above, you can't claim that you didn't agree to the terms of the AGPL without acknowledging copyright infringement.

Eh, no. There's no copy necessarily involved. When you download it, the copying happens at the server, you just receive a copy. And the transient copies due to network buffers, untarring, loading from disk to RAM, etc. don't count [cornell.edu] .

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 2 years ago | (#41671763)

By your logic, CDs aren't copyrightable because you buy them but someone else makes them.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41672949)

But you dont buy the cd, you buy the rights to use the cd under the terms of the eula.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675699)

Copying a CD without a license = bad.
Receiving a CD = ok.

Copying a tarball without a license = bad.
Receiving a tarball = ok.

Is it hard?

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (1)

Talennor (612270) | about 2 years ago | (#41673901)

Unless they wrote all the code from scratch, you may request and receive a copy for GPL'd code (and only GPL!). That was the way Freeside downloaded it and the restriction placed upon them in order to use code like Linux. You may not add further restrictions (like paying for source). Now, anything they wrote themselves, they can release under any license.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41674763)

I didn't copy it, the guy who gave it to me did.

Someone had to copy the source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671471)

on to their systems.

That's a copyright violation right there.

Re:Someone had to copy the source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671901)

No, it's not. It's receiving a copy from some server.

Y'know, exactly like how uploading music/movies/whatever is copyright infringement, but downloading isn't?

You need to read what the AGPL says. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41674189)

It stops someone owning the server that has the code running on it from not allowing you, the user running the code on their server, from refusing to supply you the source code for the software you are using running on their server.

So when someone wants to take Freeside's code, THAT company (hereafter called THEY) must obey the AGPL.

Since the code has to get on THEIR server, they cannot copy the code on to THEIR server without giving YOU the same rights as THEY got from Freeside. Including if that person works for Freeside or is asked by Freeside to get the code.

Re:You need to read what the AGPL says. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41674879)

I read it, dumbass.

So when someone wants to take Freeside's code, THAT company (hereafter called THEY) must obey the AGPL.

Only if you agree to the license.

Practical example:
Gitorious is AGPLed.
Click this. [gitorious.org]
You've just downloaded AGPL software WITHOUT EVER SEEING A LICENSE. You may say that the license is magically binding, but it won't hold up in court.

As I said, EULAs at least have clicky agree buttons to try to meet the legal standard of a contract, but AGPL software as a rule doesn't have even that. After you click that link you're in exactly the same state as if I (in place of the gitorious.org server) hand you a textbook (in place of the gitorious tarball) with a license printed on page 10 attempting to restrict you from writing in the margins. It's unenforceable without some evidence of you agreeing

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (2)

RobKow (1787) | about 2 years ago | (#41671557)

IANAL, but I think the AGPL is pretty solid. The Ninth Circuit held in MAI v. Peak that copying software into RAM for execution is indeed copying, and the provisions of 17 USC 117(a) don't apply to mere licensees (as opposed to copyright owners). Being that the AGPL license, which allows you to use, copy, and modify the software, only remains valid if you continue to comply with its terms, you are infringing copyright by continuing to copy the software into RAM for purposes of executing it if you're not abiding by the license. You have no right to copy the software otherwise.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671823)

First, the existing exemption for copies necessary to the intended use of the software (e.g. loading it to RAM to execute) didn't apply, because it was a computer repair shop, not a user.
And Congress promptly fixed that oversight.

But that wouldn't be relevant, because loading it to execute is covered under the exemption that already existed then.

The bigger issue would be about "licensee" vs. "owner". But since open-source software of whatever license is almost invariably distributed freely, with no license displayed, much less with any act of assent required, prior to download, nor prior to execution, this is weaker than a EULA.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (1)

RobKow (1787) | about 2 years ago | (#41672321)

The MAI court held that 17 USC 117(a) wasn't applicable because the end-users were licensees--regardless of Peak's actions as a repair technician. Also see Vernor v. Autodesk for more on the difference between owner and licensee rights.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675397)

In both those cases, there was a mutually agreed license -- Peak's clients and the original licensees in Vernor had to indicate agreement in order to receive and/or the software.

Click this. [gitorious.org] Note that there's no requirement to agree to any license! Without indication of assent, there is no legal contract. You've just been handed a piece of copyrighted code, just like being handed a book.

From Vernor:

We hold today that a software user is a licensee rather than an owner of a copy where the copyright owner (1) specifies that the user is granted a license; (2) significantly restricts the user's ability to transfer the software; and (3) imposes notable use restrictions.

1 can be accomplished unilaterally by dropping a license.txt in a tarball. But 2 and 3 fail without a legally binding contract to do the restricting. No agreement, no contract. No contract, no restriction. No restriction, no "licensee" status under the Vernor test.

Re:AGPL, legally weaker than a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675777)

God damnit we've got a fucking MICRO$OFT $H!77 FAGGET here!

Freeside Support (5, Interesting)

54mc (897170) | about 2 years ago | (#41671269)

TFS mentions that Freeside makes their money on support. Here's the caveat - you need it.

I spent a full work week, with the assitance of several high level (in charge of thousands of servers, been doing it for 10+ years) admins and perl programmers (Freeside's native tounge) attempting to install it. To put it shortly, the documentation is terrible. I discovered over seventy undocumented modules, not including those modules required modules, that were required simply to even install the thing. We spoke to one of the developers on the project who basically told us this difficulty was intended and let us know he'd be extremely impressed if we got it installed without his help.

So yea, it's free... If you don't mind either paying them to install it or spending an inordinate amount of time installing and configuring it.

Re:Freeside Support (2)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 years ago | (#41671393)

Cool, so now you can sell an installer that installs it for people (unmodified, of course)...

Re:Freeside Support (4, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 2 years ago | (#41671797)

This tells me the software is poorly designed and problematic, and is not a good product, and that the company is abusive to its customers and is tithe-extracting. Next product.

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675173)

So it's basically like every other proprietary software out there and the company acts like a regular evil corporation? Shocking.

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671803)

Wow, if it's really as you say then that sucks. As a Perl guru and CPAN contributor I have to say, that's not the way things should work. The next step down that crazy rabbit hole is Scare Ware: Let people install your product, then charge them for the uninstaller.

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41672215)

We spoke to one of the developers on the project who basically told us this difficulty was intended and let us know he'd be extremely impressed if we got it installed without his help.

Freeside [wikia.com] is the main slum of New Vegas in 2281. Controlled by the Kings and the Van Graffs, the streets are dangerous and lack the luster of the New Vegas Strip. There is a conflict between the locals and squatters.
- Fallout: New Vegas [amazon.com]

Yep, sounds about right.

Re:Freeside Support (4, Informative)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#41672283)

Agreed. We had the same experience - discovered that the software and documentation appeared to be deliberately rigged so that it was effectively useless, virtually requiring a payment for someone to show up with the keys and make it work. Were it not for the perfectly valid choice of "Fuck this. I'll use something else", we'd call that extortion. Yes, with enough time and expertise, one could discover where the broken bits are and fix them, but then (with enough time and expertise) one could write something from scratch too.

Re:Freeside Support (5, Informative)

_ivan (31342) | about 2 years ago | (#41672601)

Hi,

I am the person interviewed in this video.

It is a completely and utterly false statement that we attempt to make the software difficult to install on purpose. The documentation is resonably straightforward for any competant sysadmin, and all prerequisites ARE listed. The documentation is in a Wiki if folks from the community would like to help improve it for a more novice-oriented audience.

We even provide a completely installed and functional VMware appliance with each release, for folks who have difficulty installing from source code but who would still like to evaluate or use the software.

May I respectfully ask that you consider saving the vitrol for companies that ACTUALLY falsely represent themselves as "open source" while having pro versions, proprietary plugins and other such nonsense? It seems a bit unfair to pick on a small company doing the best we can to employ people full-time writing 100% free software, just because a free installation tutorial wasn't handed to you on a silver platter.

Thanks.

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675049)

Ivan did you or your organization pay money to have this slashvertisement posted?

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675189)

Don't bother getting upset with the whiners, Ivan, they are just mad because you gave them everything, so they can't rip you off.

Re:Freeside Support (1)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | about 2 years ago | (#41677509)

How funny: a free software advocate conflates "free software" and "open source." Usually the "free software" people are hardcore about reminding people of the difference.

Re:Freeside Support (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#41673393)

That is the problem with the "give it away and charge for support " model. Anything you do to make it easier to use will result in a reduction of business.

Re:Freeside Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41678659)

Installing a complex program onto a complex system is ... hard. Corner cases will pop up constantly, and yes, documentation will always fail you. Try installing kerbros at a company with 100+ servers, with say a webshop, staff sites, user sites, api's and so on. If you do not identify atleast 20 bugs, undocumented features, and corner cases the developers didnt think of, then the hats of to you for building an utopia style IT system.

Same goes for ldap, nagios, snmp, samba and almost everything else. No documentation in the world will make anything like that simple, and billing, trouble ticketing, network monitoring and provisioning are all complex tasks.

Very Strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41681231)

Your description is both disturbing and very strange. I happen to have a need for this type of software and went to their website after seeing the article (didn't read, this is Slashdot). I see a VMWare appliance offered for download. Does this appliance not work? Is it incomplete?

Head Geek? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671467)

Seriously. To anyone using a title that stupid: fuck you and your company.

Re:Head Geek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41672033)

A head geek eats chicken heads. I'm more of leg geek myself.

Good software, Really Complex (5, Interesting)

banetbi (459822) | about 2 years ago | (#41671513)

I actually had Ivan install Freeside and train the staff when I was still running a dialup ISP. The software is a bear to install, but mainly because it is so massive a piece of software. At the end of the day, Freeside saved us a ton of man hours by automating most of the administrative tasks like account suspension and billing. Since I used it last Freeside has gotten loads of new functionality. It was well worth the initial cost of having Ivan come out and install, transfer our old accounting info, and train the staff.

No I don't work for Freeside or Slashdot.

Open source is the cause... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41671915)

Of the worlds financial issues. Stop putting out free software, it kills global economies. Suck it up and PAY for software...

fuc4er (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41672383)

Re:fuc4er (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675871)

Suitable for work

The AGPL implies a right of software audit - dange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41674231)

The AGPL is one of the most restrictive and dangerous licenses out there. it gives the ither party an implicit right to audit your code base. The AGPL is an example of purity vs relevance. all the interesting work these days is being done on bsd/apache/mit licensed code.

I fired them after they failed to disclose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41675759)

all the requirements up front and delayed the install several times.

Compare to BillMax (1)

kriebz (258828) | about 2 years ago | (#41676105)

I use this system at my WISP called BillMax. I didn't pick it, but I put up with it for a while. It uses fairly generic MySQL and Apache, and you get most of the source when you license it. They seem to think the only OS in the world is RHEL, though. Recently though, they've switched to a leased licensing scheme, take a lot of our money, and don't do very much for it. If I'm going to recommend giving someone a heap of dollars for making this work, I'd rather it be a real Open Source project and one that presents less restrictions on where I install it.

Has anyone used both and can comment?

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