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Stalwarts Claim Asus eeePC Violates GPL

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the seems-like-everything-neat-does dept.

Linux 247

WirePosted writes "Members of the Linux community have complained that the hot new sub-notebook from Asus, the eeePC, may have violated the spirit of the Linux General Public License (GPL). Some Linux advocates claim the eeePC has not included required source code with the installed Xandros Linux distribution and does not easily enable users to install another distro. However, there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care."

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more than the spirit (4, Informative)

crunzh (1082841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470759)

If the following from the article is correct they violate more than just the spirit. However, the latest complaint has more to do with the modication of a particular module of the underlying Linux kernel concerned with managing the hardware interfaces of the eeePC. The module asus_acpi (ACPI - Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) was found by Java developer Cliff Biffle to have been modified so that it works with the eeePC. As Mr Biffle says in his blog, this would be fine except that Asus appears not to have followed the rules required by the GPL when making such modifications. Namely, they haven't distributed the source code for the modified module, nor have they attributed the changes to an author or given the new module a version number or name. Mr Biffle alleges that Asus also appears to have attempted to hide what it was doing by removing all references to asus-apc.

Re:more than the spirit (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470831)

RIght. They've taken a community-developed kernel module and have modified it, and then released the result as a binary-only kernel module without including the soure orat least posting an offer to obtain the source to the kernel module. That's a direct letter violation of of the GPL.Sounds like the author of asus_acpi has a lawsuit on his/her hands.

more than the spirit-go for the money. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470883)

"Sounds like the author of asus_acpi has a lawsuit on his/her hands."

Sounds like "Lawsuit" happy American has struck again. Why don't you all just invade?

Re:more than the spirit (2, Interesting)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470895)

Sounds like the author of asus_acpi has a lawsuit on his/her hands.

It sounds, though, like there isn't an attributable author.

Is there anybody to sue??

Can second, third, and fourth-hand distribution of unattributed but non-compliant formerly GPL'd work be prohibited?

Re:more than the spirit (5, Informative)

Karzz1 (306015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471171)

Can second, third, and fourth-hand distribution of unattributed but non-compliant formerly GPL'd work be prohibited?

Regarding the first part of your statement, it doesn't matter how many iterations of distribution there are. The *only* license that Asus has for distribution is the GPL. If Asus violates the GPL, they lose their right to distribute.

As for the second part of your statement, what makes you think this code is not attributed? In the kernel tree on my current machine (using kernel 2.6.23) the file drivers/acpi/asus_acpi.c has the following as the first 10 lines of code:

/*
* asus_acpi.c - Asus Laptop ACPI Extras
*
*
* Copyright (C) 2002-2005 Julien Lerouge, 2003-2006 Karol Kozimor
*
* This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
* it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
* the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
* (at your option) any later version.

As far as compliance goes... compliance to what?

And lastly, and probably most importantly, how did you come to the conclusion that the code was "formerly" licensed under the GPL? That is the *only* license Asus has granting them the permission to redistribute.

I don't know if you honestly did not know this or if you are trolling. This really smells of troll to me though.

Re:more than the spirit (4, Insightful)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471465)

And lastly, and probably most importantly, how did you come to the conclusion that the code was "formerly" licensed under the GPL?

Uh, I think everybody here agrees that this software is distributed in violation of the GPL, in other words, it was formerly distributed under the GPL and is now just a warez thing.

Re:more than the spirit (1, Interesting)

Karzz1 (306015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471775)

...in other words, it was formerly distributed under the GPL and is now just a warez thing.

Ok, I can see that. Thanks for the clarification.

Re:more than the spirit (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471199)

Asus....I'm pretty sure they had something to do with it :D

Re:more than the spirit (4, Insightful)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472125)

From the blog that started all this ...

I tend to assume incompetence before malice, and I really do believe they just messed up. (Even the asus_acpi stripping seems more like a botched search-replace job by some overworked driver author than a malicious act. Doesn't make it legit, of course.)

Notice that neither the author of the blog, nor the author of asus_acpi has contacted ASUS and asked them to remedy the issue. It is therefore perhaps premature to talk about a lawsuit. In fact, you cannot even nullify a license without giving some reasonable (or contractually specified) time for remedy and you certainly won't win a lawsuit unless you actually let the offender know in advance what the violation is and what you want done to address it.

]{
PS. Company X makes hot Linux platform. Company X neglects to release source for a module. Linux advocates call for lawsuit. It's not exactly a great way to promote Linux. I am not suggesting we should ignore GPL violations but we should at least be a touch more civilized about it. (Maybe, in this case, someone should contact ASUS and (gasp) offer to help them maintain the module in the proper way.)

It's not the Linux GPL (1, Insightful)

MountainMan101 (714389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470761)

It's just the GPL. Yes Linux is licensed under it, so is a lot of GNU software and millions of other programs.

I'm not after karma, or being a pedant. Just pointing out this piece of information.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (5, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470807)

No, it's not just the GPL. It's the GNU GPL.

Note that this is totally unrelated to the Linux vs. GNU/Linux debate. The name of the license is "GNU General Public License", or "GNU GPL" for short. It's not the only GPL in existence (there's also the Affero GPL), so it's important to correctly qualify it.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471293)

IIRC, "GPL" was first "GNU Public License", then "General Public License". Why they had to bring back the "GNU" to complicate the shorthand is beyond me -- everybody who pays attention to the license knows GNU and FSF already. (And IMO, it's downright idiotic to have "Gnu's Not Unix" as part of the name of a *license* for all sorts of software.) They could easily have given Affero a different shorthand -- why not "APL", "AGPL" (in contrast to "GPL"), or just "Affero"?

I respect and applaud FSF for all they have done and are doing, but the GNU moniker everywhere [not to mention the logo image] is embarrassing.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471547)

http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=%22general+public+license%22+-gnu [google.co.uk]

Yes, a lot of those are references to the GNU GPL without mentioning the word "GNU", and there are some mentions of the Affero licence too, but there are still quite a few "General Public Licenses" that have nothing to do with the FSF.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470809)

interesting how the public apparently starts to confuse the GPL with Linux itself. Makes you wonder how long it will be before we'll see comments like 'GPL rocks' in the mainstream press. After all it's just another buzzword :)

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (1)

TehZorroness (1104427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470823)

Just goes to show how out-of-touch the author of TFA is.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470827)

True, but add one little sign and it's correct: Linux' GPL, that's as valid as "mysql's license". Least I think that's the rule applies to x, sicne it's got the same sound as s.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471415)

To be even more pedantic, the use of apostrophe-s or just an apostrophe is purely a matter of style. Some style guides say do it one way, some say do it the other, while still others say do it this way unless it looks awkward, in which case do it the other way.

Re:It's not the Linux GPL (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470975)

It's just the GPL. Yes Linux is licensed under it, so is a lot of GNU software and millions of other programs.

I'm sure the author just got it wrong, but it actually isn't unreasonable to talk about the "Linux GPL" as opposed to the "GNU GPL", because the Linux GPL isn't, quite, the GNU GPL. Linux uses GPLv2 but modifies it with an exception clarifying that userspace programs are not considered derivative works and therefore don't have to be Free Software.

Is it just me? (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470787)

Is it just me? Or does there seem to be coordinated effort on the part of Microsoft and their cronies to fragment the Linux community by using legal offensives, everything from the patent agreements mentioned in TFA to out and out violations of the GPL, such as this one from ASUS? I think it's sort of a divide and conquer strategy... BUt I also don't think that they fully understand the dynamics involved ... there isn't just the 'purists' vs. the 'pragmatists'... we're a lot more complicated than that, or so I'd like to think.

Re:Is it just me? (3, Insightful)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470915)

It's just you.

You're right that we're a lot more complicated than 'they' think (even though there isn't a single 'they' to reference)

Further, nobody understands the dynamics involved. Notably, the 'leaders' on 'both sides' (the idea of there being 'two sides' is a gross misunderstanding in and of itself) do not understand.

There's no coordinated effort. It's time to get over the idea that there's a villain in a volcano somewhere. Even if it does help some people to validate their 'righteous battle for good.'

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471023)

So you think that Asus putting Linux on their PCs is a secret move by Microsoft? Hmm, didn't think that one through did you.

Re:Is it just me? (3, Insightful)

Taagehornet (984739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471063)

Someone wiser than I once said: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence. I find it hard to believe that there's any evil scheme behind this alleged violation.

The Linux community - or should I say the GNU/Linux community to emphasize my point - has always been fragmented. You might consider this a weakness, I however would say that the very lack of a single 'head' is one of the major strengths of the community.

Furthermore, you are aware that Asus and Microsoft are two different companies?

Re:Is it just me? (2, Insightful)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471485)

Someone wiser than I once said:

Umm ... Wiser isn't a word I would use to extoll Napoleon Bonaparte above myself, but speech is free (and cheap).

Furthermore, you are aware that Asus and Microsoft are two different companies?

If he wants to wear the tinfoil hat, what could be more damaging than making a minor, innocent-looking mistake, and then being attacked legally for it? Make no mistake: to someone without an intimate familiarity with the issues, ASUS being sued -- after releasing a top-notch product that will put Linux and FOSS in the hands of millions, no less -- for not including the source to a driver they wrote for their own hardware, looks really bad. This is the MS PR Department's dream. Whether they had anything to do with it is anyone's guess (and I suspect you're right that it is unrelated), but I challenge you to come up with a more subtle, but equally damaging, feint. And ASUS does stand to benefit from super-low-priced copies of XP for its Eee laptops.

"Oh, but you can! Though you may have to metaphorically make a deal with the devil. And by 'devil', I mean 'robot devil'. And by 'metaphorically', I mean 'Get your coat.'"

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471577)

the very lack of a single 'head' is one of the major strengths of the [Linux] community.

What's all this talk of a "benevolent dictator" then? Isn't the impressive progress of the kernel and core system services attributable to a good foreman keeping the effort organised and focused?

Re:Is it just me? (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471887)

Someone wiser than I once said: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.
I believe that'd be Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org]

Re:Is it just me? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471083)

Speaking as a free software developer, if I was MS I would put people on mailing lists and message boards for free software projects and then have them bitch and moan about every conceivable potential violation.
To exemplify: I released a piece of software, (all original c:a 6000 loc) under the GPL. Some people started bitching to me that I had to include build files, or that my copyright text wasn't right and so on. This caused me to have to go and look it up in the license (which is not trivial because as an original author, not all conditions apply) just to be able to respond.
By the third time this happened, I said screw it, and withdrew my software.

License nit picking can sap developer enthusiasm like a scifi death ray. If MS really wanted to slow down the progress of free software, I'd say that this is a viable attack vector.

Re:Is it just me? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471287)

I think the Linux community is doing a fantastic job of fragmenting itself.

How many distros are out there now? How many whiny zealots shout at the top of their lungs that their preferred flavor is the best and all others are crap? What's worse, these same fragmenters have the stones to openly wonder why Linux has such a pitiful desktop market share.

A few observant folks have noted for years that one of the biggest problems with Linux is the Linux community. In addition to the rampant divisiveness, the flat-out attitudes of most "Linux guys" are...shall we say an acquired taste. Thinking of switching? Go to some Linux forum to get flamed about the distro you're considering. Need configuration help? Go to some Linux forum to get flamed about what a "n00b" you are.

I truly wonder how many eeePC's had Windows installed on them within a week of purchase.

And that's sad perhaps, but the Linux community has no one to blame but itself.

In an open source community, you get exactly the market share you deserve. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

Re:Is it just me? (5, Insightful)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471345)

It would be nice to think that Microsoft put Asus up to selling a small low powered laptop with one of their pet Linux distros on it.. And deliberately breaking the license in the hope that the next Steve the Monkey Boy show could point and laugh at the Linux people being anti business. But I doubt it.

Thanks for the mental image though. I like the idea of the Microsoft upper management seeing the sales figures and the internet buzz over a trojan horse project that was never meant to succeed selling out and a new market that Microsoft can't really compete in being revealed.

A far more likely scenario is that Xandros delivered the distro customized for the Asus machine, and somewhere in the various legal departments, someone didn't bother following the terms of the license fully. I'll wait until Xandros and Asus respond before I start seeing malice where bureaucratic oversight is a good enough explanation. The product hasn't been out that long, so give them time to get the source properly organized and published before calling foul.

Re:Is it just me? (2, Insightful)

tapehands (943962) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471913)

The reason why they need to stay vigilant is two-fold...it allows the community to take down blatant violations of the GPL, and, in this case, that source code could benefit the community.

I don't know specifically if the asus hardware this module interfaces with can be found on any other computer, but even if it isn't, having this module for use with distros other than the bundled one would obviously be beneficial to the EeePC owners out there that want to toy around with it. It just boils down to going after a company to build a better community - had they followed the rules of their license agreement, this wouldn't be an issue.

Shock (1, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470789)

In other news, buyers of stolen goods at knock-down prices claim that they're "not too worried" about where their cheap Blu-Ray player came from.

TWW

Improperly Rated (1, Flamebait)

hdon (1104251) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471815)

This guy's post is NOT off-topic.

Get your heads in the game, mods!

Blu-ray player?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21472211)

What would I need a blu-ray player for? I download all my movies, what I need is cheap stolen hard drives!

What the hell is this weak story? (4, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470793)

I was wondering when Slashdot would pick this story up. But what's this? Violation of the GPL "in spirit?" It's a lot more than that: they've modified the source code, but haven't distributed their modifications. A friend at work couldn't get Ubuntu working with his eee's wireless card for this reason.

And why should the customers be the ones to care about the GPL? It's the people who wrote the GPL'd code that has been stolen by ASUS that care.

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470843)

Someone with a little code in Linux should just do the lawyerish thing and send a cease & desist or a legal injunction to stop sales. That'd get them scrambling pretty quick to be in compliance.

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (4, Insightful)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472201)

... or you know, maybe a polite letter noting that the source is missing and asking them for it.

Because, you know, WE WANT ASUS TO SHIP HARDWARE FOR LINUX IN THE FUTURE.

]{

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (1, Insightful)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471125)

And why should the customers be the ones to care about the GPL? It's the people who wrote the GPL'd code that has been stolen by ASUS that care.
Because the GPL is designed to protect the customers' (i.e. users') rights, not the rights of the original authors. Specifically, under the GPL, Asus has no obligation to distribute the code to the original authors, UNLESS of course the authors are also customers having bought the eeePC.

Nonetheless, the article is stupid anyhow; "However, there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care" is such a lame statement one has to wonder why they included it at all ("indications" and "probably" aren't exactly words that would help in a legal case).

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (2, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471663)

Because the GPL is designed to protect the customers' (i.e. users') rights, not the rights of the original authors. Specifically, under the GPL, Asus has no obligation to distribute the code to the original authors, UNLESS of course the authors are also customers having bought the eeePC.

That is what the GPL says... HOWEVER, the author's have every right to relicense the source code if they chose, and give Asus an exception. And more to the point, the software authors are the only ones who have the right to sue Asus for violating the copyright terms they chose for their work.

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (2, Interesting)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471573)

What do you mean, "stolen by ASUS"? The original GPL code is still there, freely available from wherever the ASUS folks got it from. The owners are still in full posession of the code. Does not compute. EOF

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471927)

They're talking about the IP type of stolen, not the physical goods type.

Re:What the hell is this weak story? (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472083)

It's the people who wrote the GPL'd code that has been stolen by ASUS that care.

If it was used for commercial purposes and forced a renegotiation with the original authors then this would be true, however the GPL liscences the software equally to everyone (except in regards to reliscencing for commerical use) thus they are stealing from everyone.

When the authors offer their software under the GPL they ask the community to improve it but also protect it, reporting abuse is part of this protection.

Run Forrest, RUN.... (-1, Troll)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470797)

Hell, there cannot be nothing Linuzzz related these days without people bitching about licenses, crying foul about competence and screaming GLPv54 or something similar... No wonder normal people avoid this as the plague.

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470829)

Will you stop saying Linuzzz? It's called Linux, and the man who started it is called Linus. There IS NO Z!

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470847)

> ls /boot/vmlinu?
/boot/vmlinuz
SCNR

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (1)

nevali (942731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471377)

That particular file is named that because it's compressed (originally with gzip, but later bzip2). The original output (before "make zImage") was named "vmlinux". Why the resultant file wasn't called "vmlinux.gz" is beyond me...

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (2, Informative)

ctzan (908029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471925)

It's still compressed with gzip, not with bzip2.
It was never compressed with bzip2.
It's not called vmlinux.gz because it's not a
proper gzip file - it's more complicated than
that (vmlinuz include a boot sector, a gzip
decompresser and then the compressed image of the
kernel itself, everything packed like hell)

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470913)

Why do people say Windoze or M$ then?

Linuzzz and Abble have also the right. Discrimination anyone?

Re:Run Forrest, RUN.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471041)

Ah yes, they do say that. Thing is, they're idiots too.

Cool name (0, Offtopic)

usrcpp (1184447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470799)

...Unless you happen to have diarrhea and you say it out loud just a tad too passionately.

A close miss (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470803)

I'd buy one of these if it came without a "Microsoft distro". A little noise might help Asus get their heads out of their asses and deliver a Machine that existing linux users would be happy with.

Source code is fair enough.. (3, Informative)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470813)

If there's source code that needs to be released then great, let them do it.

However I don't understand this business about not being easily able to install another OS?

I've wiped it a few times and installed Ubuntu.

It has no CD/DVD drive, obviously that means you need a USB CD/DVD drive.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (2, Insightful)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470859)

Slashdot lives on hyperbole, misstatements, wild speculation and wrong information. What it comes down to is Asus needs to release the source code from the module they modified. On Slashdot that translate to a Microsoft conspiracy using Asus as its willing pawn. Sheesh.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (2, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470905)

No, they distributed a lot more software under the GPL than just that module.

The GPL puts the requirement on the distributer to provide the source for all binaries they distribute, not just modified ones.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470981)

Which you'll eventually be able to get from the Xandros or Asus website once they get their act together. Most of the eeepc's software is probably already up at Xandros' ftp site, in the standard files. They don't have to release code to proprietary stuff, just GPL stuff they modified for the eeepc, everything else should be available from Xandros. Right now, it's sounding like just the one module.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (0, Redundant)

SillyNickName (1125565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471275)

I'm not sure that releasing the source _after_ you've been caught is good enough.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (4, Informative)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472245)

If you read the original blog you will learn they do distribute source, it just does not include the acpi module. The author of the blog suggests this is nothing more then an oversight.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

]{

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471729)

You forgot to mention it's all George W. Bush's fault.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (2, Interesting)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470903)

Does the eeePC support booting from the net? (pxe, rarp, etc)

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470911)

Prototypes of the EeePC were reported to allow you to boot from an iso image on a USB flash drive. Have you tried this with a production model? If it works, it sounds like it would be a great way of installing/upgrading; no more burning CDs, just copy the CD image to a removable drive.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470917)

The story doesn't even talk about it being hard to install another OS. They just make some off handed comment in the first paragraph saying other people are supposedly complaining about it.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

SillyNickName (1125565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471313)

If there's source code that needs to be released then great, let them do it.
I'm not sure that releasing the source code after you've been caught is good enough. That's kind of like offering to pay for an item after you've been caught shoplifting: It's too late, you've already been caught.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471363)

'caught' makes it sound like they were trying to get away with it. more likely a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, and once it's brought to the attention of the leadership at Asus they will post the source code.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

SillyNickName (1125565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471491)

'caught' makes it sound like they were trying to get away with it. more likely a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, and once it's brought to the attention of the leadership at Asus they will post the source code.
I can imagine a shoplifter trying to use that excuse. "Gee officer, you see the right carried it out of the store but the left hand is the one that does the paying and, well, it just didn't know what the right hand was doing." (sound of handcuffs going on)

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

jargon82 (996613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471777)

Replace "right hand" with "my son" and "left hand" with "me" and you might have a more accurate analogy.

Re:Source code is fair enough.. (1)

Niten (201835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471599)

The point is that Asus's failure to release the source code to asus_acpi (and other GPL-derived software) means that, should a user decide to install the latest Ubuntu over the machine's default operating system, he or she loses whatever compatibility enhancements Asus made to the ACPI code in order to make Linux run well on this device. In essence, better battery life -- or whatever specific benefit Asus's modifications provide -- constitute a lock-in to Asus's particular Linux distribution, until Asus fulfills their legal obligations and releases the source code so that other distributions can incorporate it.

Disclaimer: I cannot say to what extent Asus has embraced-and-extended the GPL software on this device first-hand, because I don't own one; nor would I ever consider buying one unless the company changes its current attitude toward pirating open source software. This action violates the most fundamental principles under which Linux and other GPL software has thrived.

I own an Asus EEE PC (2, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470821)

I can't comment on whether it violates the GPL, but it does include the GPL text in the manual and there is a support DVD in the box. If they didn't include the source on the CD, then they could have and probably should in future.

BTW the Asus Eee PC is a great little machine although like most Linux dists the UI is a little rough around the edges.

Half and Half (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470861)

A couple of things, let's wait an see.

On the GPL issue I like that the poster actually purchased the PC. Give them a few weeks to respond to a request for the sources. Seems easy enough. The GPL is pretty clearcut.

On the upgrades/breaking seals void warranty, that seems completely understandable. If you've tested hardware in one configuration with a specific set of components, that is obviously what you'll warranty.

I don't understand why people think companies should warranty things if you add random, $15 no-name memory or an overclocked, overheating PCI-E card etc. They have no control. Odds are you won't have a problem of course. But anyone who has used computers will realize that even a small change can throw things off. And is a super pain to track down, especially if you weren't the one making the change. This even I have experienced. A good first question is to ask what has changed recently on this system when there are problems.

I did a very short and small stint doing embedded systems programming. Pretty standard small parts under the hood. But that didn't mean if you unscrewed the housing and "upgraded" things we'd feel obligated to warranty it. Especially because there were safety of life implications.

Secondly, there is a simple route to take here. Have someone who actually owns copyright on code make a complaint, or take your complaint to the company, and failing that forward to the FSF/SFLC or whomever....

Care or don't care.. (1, Flamebait)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470907)

Does caring about whether the GPL has been violated matter? Whether I care or not is not the point. The point is that ASUS is currently in violation of GPL. I bet that if I stole something from ASUS they'd come after me the second I appeared to interfere with their products.

Re:Care or don't care.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471107)

Yea, I think people care.

The article does not mention if the developer has even contacted Asus, or received a response.

I really doubt that a large corporation selling cheap Linux PC's is interested in pissing off users and developers.

Lets at least wait for a response and probable solution before we run their good name through the dirt.

Re:Care or don't care.. (4, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471121)

Copyright violation really really isn't stealing.

I agree that if there is a problem it needs sorting out, preferably without anyone having to sue anyone, or any other court intervention, but its not the same a stealing something (arguably its worse) and should not be characterised as such, in this instance it is probably an accident, and may well be an accident on the part of whoever supplied the OS rather than ASUS. We, the F/LOSS community need to try at least to be a little less offensive when it comes to stuff like this. If there is a problem, talk about it, don't shoot first talk later, and the permanent cries of ha! GPL violation, we're going to sue!!! are also counter productive, I'm sure the FSF would agree that legal action is something of a last resort rather than an initial response.

Re:Care or don't care.. (1)

Loganscomputer (1176841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471797)

Obviously you do not from the US where we sue first and ask questions later :p

Re:Care or don't care.. (1)

Virgil Tibbs (999791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472013)

He is british & so am I =D

Fortunatly we don't have to put up with stupid court cases

eeePC fans probably don't care (2, Insightful)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470919)

...there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care.

Which doesn't matter one bit.

What matters is if the person(s) who's software they used cares.

Re:eeePC fans probably don't care (1)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471227)

Actually, it matters greatly.

It means that crime (or a civil infraction) pays. Now it's up to the copyright holders to enforce their rights and make crime (or a civil infraction) unprofitable.

This will be solved quickly (0)

ardle (523599) | more than 6 years ago | (#21470933)

I very much doubt doubt that Asus's modification was made with the intention of exploiting its customers: more likely they are attempting to protect themselves from industrial espionage.
That being so, I presume that all they need to do is to link their changes differently? I don't know (I'm neither a kernel nor legal type) - but I expect that there is a technical solution to this. If so, maybe the solution can be made available for instructional purposes (and not with the purpose of condemning ASUS for something they - or some of their programmers, at least - clearly have put some thought into).
Maybe some day this kind of event will be seen as an embarrassing procedural lapse, rather than a betrayal of the faithful ;-)

Re:This will be solved quickly (3, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472111)

I very much doubt doubt that Asus's modification was made with the intention of exploiting its customers: more likely they are attempting to protect themselves from industrial espionage.

Tough cookies. If you can't handle the terms of the GPL, then write your own goddamn OS.

Violation? Really? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21470999)

I mean... When looking at the GPL it clearly says that you need to meet all 3 specific conditions:
  1. You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
  2. You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
  3. If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)
So, I certainly do not see anything mentioned that demands a version number or that the program be named. What is required are notices that the programs have been changed ("to protect the innocent" </joke>). And did the author of this article (or the people who are complaining) also read all the documentation to see if such notes are indeed present ?

Then there's another thing.. The source code isn't installed or distributed. That too is a very one sided point of view. The GPL clearly learns us that you need to do one of these 3 points (thats one, not all):
  • Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
  • Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
  • Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)
Naturally section 3 doesn't apply here so its either 1 or 2. 1 states that they need to make it available, 2 says that they need to offer it. Which brings me to the following point; can anyone of these users grab the source code from the Xandros website itself? Because if they can then I don't really see anything wrong here. Note; we were talking about the spirit of the GPL right? If users can get the sourcecode somewhere else I don't see any violations being made. As long as Asus makes sure that this situation remains and that if those other mirrors someday stop distributing this software takes over.

Personally, but thats probably just me, I don't understand the need for all this squabbling. Sometimes I also think this to be pretty hypocrite behaviour. When it comes to a widely appreciated website like youtube [youtube.com] almost every user agrees that while copyright and license violations are made they should only be enforced if the copyright holder demands it. Being a youtube fan myself I like the approach but at the same time agree that its totally wrong. How can one expect from such a copyright holder to find his/her work on the thousands if not millions of movies out there?

But if those same guys are Linux OSF zealots then beware if you're closely touching or perhaps violating the GPL or any other open source license they favor. Because then everything is different and you should be made to comply no matter what. Why don't we leave these things as they are as well and only start making noise when someone actually complaints about it for reasons other than "Whaaa, you violated (joke:) section 76, paragraph 6, line 5, fourth word on the right of my license!". Just act when there's a reason; like people who actually own such laptops and are trying to compile / change stuff but are unable to do so. THEN you'd have a strong case.

Re:Violation? Really? (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471163)

Naturally section 3 doesn't apply here so its either 1 or 2. 1 states that they need to make it available, 2 says that they need to offer it. Which brings me to the following point; can anyone of these users grab the source code from the Xandros website itself?
Apparently not, because Asus has allegedly modified the code, which would mean that the version on the Xandros website is different.

And even if Asus hasn't modified the code, there is still a problem. What if Xandros updates one component from version 1.0.0 to version 1.0.1, and Asus doesn't notice that the old version isn't available any more, but there's a subtle regression in the new version that means it doesn't work on the Asus hardware any more? Suddenly anyone who grabs the source code from the Xandros website has a version that doesn't work! Why the hell should they have to debug the problem and then hunt around for a version that works, when Asus has a legal responsibility to be providing it all along?

Note; we were talking about the spirit of the GPL right?
So you acknowledge that Asus is violating the GPL, right?

But if those same guys are Linux OSF zealots then beware if you're closely touching or perhaps violating the GPL or any other open source license they favor. Because then everything is different and you should be made to comply no matter what.
It is true that many people on Slashdot don't mind violating media companies' copyright on Youtube. It is also true that many people on Slashdot get angry when people violate the GPL. However, it does not follow that these two groups are the same, and basing an argument on such an assumption leaves your logic seriously flawed.

In an ideal world, copyright would be a lot weaker, and everyone would have more rights to use and modify others' work. We don't live in that ideal world, so GPL users trick copyright law into creating copyleft, which allows us to grant others those rights in such a way that they are forced to pass those rights on in turn. This only works if we in turn respect others' copyright -- if GPL advocates were proven to regularly infringe others' copyrights on Youtube, then how could we ever expect anyone to respect the GPL?

It would be interesting to do a study of Slashdot comments and find out whether the same nicknames do pop up in both types of discussion, and if so, whether they do (as you claim) take opposite sides depending on who is breaking the law. But until someone does such a study...

Just act when there's a reason; like people who actually own such laptops and are trying to compile / change stuff but are unable to do so. THEN you'd have a strong case.
No. If you wait till someone finds that they are unable to exercise their rights, then it's already too late. The point is to ensure that everyone will always have that ability, whether they use it or not. That's what we call "freedom" -- the ability to exercise any right you like, without having to ask anyone for permission and without having to fight for it.

Stalwarts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471027)

Is it just me, or does Stalwarts sound like somthing you get from sitting on a public toilet ?

Re:Stalwarts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471395)

It sounds like something from "Harry Potter".

Re:Stalwarts (1)

derago (582951) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472209)

I thought of some bearded wart saying that it's GNU/Linux...

mod 04 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471099)

your own towel in ImplementAtion to was in the tea I time I'm done here, it has to be fun all; in order to go development models developers in jocks or chaps in our group

Remember the benefit of the doubt (5, Insightful)

deadline (14171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471201)

I have a Eee PC. It is a nice little system. Once customized a bit is very usable for the hardcore Linux users. The 24 second boot time is nice.

About the GPL. The manual has a printed version of the GPL, so I don't really think Asus is trying to hide anything. What is more likely, and more like most big companies, the Eee was under a deadline to launch before the Xmas season. The last thing to get done is probably posting source code. Has anyone asked the source code? (perhaps someone has)

Their lawyers will make sure that it gets posted as they ship a license with every product that says it will be available. i.e. They could be in a boat load of legal trouble if they don't, not to mention class-action lawsuits, copyright violations etc.

Any finally, here is company that has come out with a full Linux sub-notebook (just 25 days ago). Instead of floating the latest conspiracy theory, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, then allowing/helping a company to do the right thing, does not make for interesting blog headlines. It is all about the page views.

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (1)

SillyNickName (1125565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471381)

Instead of floating the latest conspiracy theory, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt.
What conspiracy? What's in doubt? The claim is that they violated the license. Are you saying that they didn't?

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (2, Insightful)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471597)

The claim is that instead of jumping on them immediately like a pack of ravenous open-source wolves less than a month after they launch their Linux-running product, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt that they intend to do the right thing but just haven't had time yet to post the code.

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471679)

The one other thing that everyone seems to be looking over... The GPL says that the source code must be made available. That does not mean that it has to be posted on a website (ie send them $25 for shipping and handling and they will send you a disk with the code on it).

"But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL."

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (2, Insightful)

cel4145 (468272) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471835)

Any finally, here is company that has come out with a full Linux sub-notebook (just 25 days ago). Instead of floating the latest conspiracy theory, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, then allowing/helping a company to do the right thing, does not make for interesting blog headlines. It is all about the page views.

Exactly! Rather than assuming that Asus is intentionally doing something wrong here, the open source community should mentor Asus and assist them by assuming it is an oversight. I've observed enough open source software communities to understand that newbies often make mistakes in their understanding and implementation of the GPL and other licenses. Shouldn't open source be more about community building and enhanced software production rather than adopting protectionist rhetoric common to proprietary IP development? This is not to say that GPL violations should not be noted or acted on, but don't adopt the strategies and criticisms of the likes of MS and other proprietary vendors. See this as an opportunity first to bring Asus into the community, not put them on the defensive and alienate them.

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472121)

The problem is that an awful lot of GPL non-compliant use of covered works in embedded applications is going on. It seems to be standard practice to be out of compliance by default until called on it. Once called on it, drag your feet as long as possible. The default practice should be compliance from day one. These large companies have legal departments don't they? If they use something like a Microsoft SDK, they aren't violating the licenses as a matter of practice on those now are they?

Re:Remember the benefit of the doubt (1)

lysse (516445) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471865)

"The benefit of the doubt" is only really applicable when there is any doubt. There appears not to be in this case - Asus are in violation now; the question is whether they will voluntarily move into compliance with their obligations, in whatever way is most convenient for them, before they are forced to. But "Give me time" is right up there with "I didn't know" when it comes to legal lines of defence.

I hate to say this but (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471209)

"Violation of GPL" is the best form of flattery. When a commercial company breaks all the rules just to use your GPL'd product. (don't get me wrong though,
I still think that company needs to comply with the terms of the license)

Source is available (1)

moikka (1085403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471387)

This link seems to include the source code.
Sure it is a little hard to find from the website, but there it is.

http://www.asus.com/prog_content/middle_download.aspx?l1=24&l2=0&l3=0&l4=0&model=1907&modelmenu=4 [asus.com]

Or is this not the relevant source?

Re:Source is available (1)

moikka (1085403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471643)

The link seems not to be working.

http://support.asus.com/download/download.aspx?SLanguage=en-us&model=Eee%20PC%204G(701) [asus.com]

Is this working better?

I cannot download 1.8 gigs at this moment so
I don't know whether this file includes the exact content that is in question here.
Even if it does not, then it seems that Asus is trying to do the right thing in here.
They have printed the GPL to manual shipped to the customers and have set up a download section.
The problem might be just a snafu that some component is not included.

Doesn't anybody know what is the response from Asus when pointed to them that something is missing?
Do they tell the complaining person to **** off or do they say
"Sorry, we didn't know XYZ was missing, we'll fix it right away."

The GPL does not require the sources to be put on any website at all.
All they require that the sources to be made available on request
If they respond to the request with "Well put the DVD on mail right away",
that would be perfectly fine and no GPL violation has happened.
So we really need to know what they say to a direct request to sources
before we can complain about them being in violation.

Re:Source is available (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472011)

this file includes some debs, some old versions and some garbage, no sources to acpi

!GPL == !buy (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471493)

I would be willing to become an Eee owner, but the possibility that it may not conform fully to the GPL turns me off. Unless I see the full source code as required by GPL, I'm not going to buy Eee.

Purists vs. pragmatists (2, Interesting)

Borromini (1193985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471701)

From the article: "However, the issue highlighted by the latest revelations concerning the Asus eeePC and the GPL signals a growing rift developing between Linux pragmatists such as Xandros and Novell's Suse, and Linux purists such as Red Hat and Canonical-funded Ubuntu." Dude... I mean - how 'purist' is Ubuntu when it delivers those binary nVidia/ATi blobs out of the box? You tell me.

The source code is available on Asus's site (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21471845)

It's been there since the Oct 16 launch of the eeePC in Taiwan.

The source code for the distro is posted in a 1.8GB tarball on Asus's support downloads site:

http://support.asus.com/download/download.aspx?SLanguage=en-us&model=Eee%20PC%204G(701) [asus.com] -- Find the "Source Code" twisty and expand.

I posted this exact same link on Cliff's blog comments. Fucking people don't look around, don't even read the comments...

-G

Re:The source code is available on Asus's site (2, Informative)

Talavis (906015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21471875)

From TFA:

As Mr Biffle says: "ASUS has posted a 1.8GB ZIP file on their website that they claim is the sources, but it's not -- it contains a few .debs (not even the versions that ship on the machine) and some kernel headers."

So sue them (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472023)

My guess is that with the way that the GPL works, the copyright holder (i.e. contributor) to any other part of the Linux kernel
or even to other GPL software that links with it, could sue a violator of the GPL if that violator is including
the contributor's code in their distribution. Every extension of any part of a single connected GPL software system
potentially violates the copyright of any other contributor, if they violate the license. It is one big cross-licensing
of copyrights.

Correct me if I'm wrong. IANAL.

Benefit of the DOUBT? (1)

rbrander (73222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472029)

Sorry, if you want to violate copyright terms and get some "benefit of the doubt" out of Slashdot, you have to give away for free the work of a team of hundreds of camera, sound, lighting, carpentry and special effects crews, artists, and so forth, who dropped $100M worth of work on an SF movie. Then you can have benefit of the doubt.

But if you fail in the first month of your rushed-to-market product to post source code and hurt the feelings of authors who aren't getting any money for it either way, man, there will be no mercy. Had they the power, you'd be sent to Antarctica in a Speedo.

(That argument's a two-edged sword, of course: since the poverty-stricken software authors ask only for respect and academic cooperation, it IS kicking-down-at-the-weak to abuse their rights.)

This whole argument's already in the comments below the original blog post, by the way. The comments run about 4:1 in favour of giving ASUS that benefit of the doubt. Also common in those postings: please don't imagine we "fans" are doing anything more than offering BotD to a company that put out a cooool product. Even we concede they're the usual bunch of hard-eyed conscience-free businessmen with no inherent respect for the GPL, and do need to be held to account, or they'll never "get around" to that posting.

Some clarifications are in order. (5, Informative)

cbiffle (211614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21472053)

Hi. I wrote the blog post that iTwire cited out of context, and the submitter further mangled. I feel like I should clarify some things.

I'm not accusing ASUS of malice, specifically, just incompetence. They included the GPL in their manual and posted a source tarball, it's just the wrong one. The outside of the retail box even cites the GPL. They've tried to cover their ass and simply screwed it up.

As for the "OMG eee fans don't care!!11", that probably comes from the note I posted which states that I'm not planning to sue ASUS. In fact, what that means is that I've done the lawsuit thing before and simply don't have the time or energy. If I didn't care, I wouldn't have posted my evidence.

I also don't know where that nonsense about making it hard to install another distro comes from, since I posted the info amidst a discussion of installing Ubuntu 7.10 (which I'm using to write this comment).

And finally, I'm not a "Linux stalwart," I'm a "Mac bigot." It says that on my blog.
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