OK, this is a post I’ve been planning for months, I think? Several past drafts have been injured and killed before I gave birth to this one, the succesful one. So, let’s jump straight into it: I wanna talk about GNU.
GNU. Not the FSF, not RMS… Why are all these three letter acronyms? Are all of these cover operations of some three letter agency? I hope saying that doesn’t get me into any trouble, so you better read my post before I suddenly disappear… Just kidding! But I will address the FSF and RMS some time in the future… Now, let’s just focus on the GNU.
This comes from a cultural thing that has bugged me for very long time. The Anglo FOSS community is way over this kind of stuff, except for the few people who still listen to the BS the FSF spits out… But the Spanish community loves the FSF and RMS so much it’s unnerving. Actually, I almost was about to write this post in Spanish, but then I realized that I enjoy writing in English way more than in my native language… for some reason?
So, this post is to cut off the falsehoods, the half truths, the weird propaganda around GNU. Some of it comes from the FSF, but most of it actually comes from their fans. This is not just a “culture war,” but this has actual, tangible technological consequences… and that’s what bothers me at most.
Let’s get into this, shall we?
And, by the way, if someone at the FSF is reading… Please, no emails? Thanks! We are acquainted already, and last time wasn’t very pleasant, OK? Nope, I will never say “GNU/Linux,” because…
GNU is just a userland.
But as in all good stories, there’s a lot of nuance, a lot of history… and people who defend the “GNU/Linux” name aren’t just idiots… In my opinion they confuse some historical accidents with what really goes on in a Linux system…
Software piracy is the act of distributing software that one does not have the rights. For example, if I share a copy of Adobe Photoshop with you, then that’s obviously software piracy because I don’t have the rights to distribbute that software. Probably only Adobe does. I didn’t author it and I don’t own the copyrights to it.
What about software that was written and published specifically to be allowed to be copied, such as software published under the General Public License? The GPL specifically says that anyone can copy or redistribute the software:
if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights.
It would seem clear as day that you therefore cannot pirate GPL software because anyone has the right to copy it. For most of the decades of involvement I’ve had in the Linux community this seemed well understood, but recently things are getting weird.
First off, if you haven’t kept up with the saga of Amazon Web Services and Elastic, here’s the briefest of recaps. A few years ago, AWS basically forked ElasticSearch to offer it as a service, much to the open source community’s dismay. In response, and after some time, Elastic decided to change the licensing on ElasticSearch earlier this year to restrict its downstream use, again, much to the open source community’s dismay. AWS then announced it would fork the project to keep it fully open source, suddenly becoming the apparent good guy in the scenario. Finally, just a few months ago, AWS released OpenSearch under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (ALv2), essentially completing the circle.
Well, until now.
Many people will tell you that running your own email server on the internet is crazy, and that the likely result is the email you send will end up in the recipient’s spam folder if it is delivered at all. They aren’t wrong, running your own email server on the internet is up there with rolling your own crypto in the list of technical things you should never do. While I’m all about defying established convention, there’s a twist to this this story that makes it less crazy than it sounds. Let’s go on a journey for the reasons behind the change, alternatives I considered, why I chose to run my own email server, and how I configured it.
The Stockfish project strongly believes in free and open-source software and data. Collaboration is what made this engine the strongest chess engine in the world. We license our software using the GNU General Public License, Version 3 (GPL) with the intent to guarantee all chess enthusiasts the freedom to use, share and change all versions of the program.
Unfortunately, not everybody shares this vision of openness. We have come to realize that ChessBase concealed from their customers Stockfish as the true origin of key parts of their products (see also earlier blog posts by us and the joint Lichess, Leela Chess Zero, and Stockfish teams). Indeed, few customers know they obtained a modified version of Stockfish when they paid for Fat Fritz 2 or Houdini 6 - both Stockfish derivatives - and they thus have good reason to be upset. ChessBase repeatedly violated central obligations of the GPL, which ensures that the user of the software is informed of their rights. These rights are explicit in the license and include access to the corresponding sources, and the right to reproduce, modify and distribute GPLed programs royalty-free.
2020 was a bad year at the end of a bad decade for software freedom. This post discusses how software rules everyone’s lives, how bad the situation is for software freedom, why software freedom matters, and explains why I believe that free software developers should direct their efforts toward emerging language ecosystems.
GitHub is currently causing a lot of commotion in the Free Software scene with its release of Copilot. Copilot is an artificial intelligence trained on publicly available source code and texts. It produces code suggestions to programmers in real time. Since Copilot also uses the numerous GitHub repositories under copyleft licences such as the GPL as training material, some commentators accuse GitHub of copyright infringement, because Copilot itself is not released under a copyleft licence, but is to be offered as a paid service after a test phase. The controversy touches on several thorny copyright issues at once. What is astonishing about the current debate is that the calls for the broadest possible interpretation of copyright are now coming from within the Free Software community.
GitHub recently announced a tool called Copilot, a tool which uses machine learning to provide code suggestions, inciting no small degree of controversy. One particular facet of the ensuing discussion piques my curiosity: what happens if the model was trained using software licensed with the GNU General Public License?
The big Android news of the week was the announcement that Microsoft is adding Android support to Windows 11. Alongside the existing Windows Subsystem for Linux, they are adding a Windows Subsystem for Android. Android apps will live alongside Windows apps in the Microsoft Store, and installed Android apps will live alongside Windows apps on desktops and notebooks.
This should be a positive development for Android and app developers. Adding hundreds of millions of potential users does not happen all that often. I thought that Google might be aiming for Android-on-Windows with the introduction of ARC five years ago as a way of getting apps onto Chrome OS. Extending that to Chrome browsers on Windows would have been very interesting. Microsoft adding it to Windows 11 has the potential for much better OS integration than Google might have been able to pull off.
However, there is a dark cloud with all of this: the primary source of Android apps for Windows 11 users appears to be the Amazon AppStore for Android.
Windows has always existed to be a stage for the world’s innovation. It’s been the backbone of global businesses and where scrappy startups became household names. The web was born and grew up on Windows. It’s the place where many of us wrote our first email, played our first PC game and wrote our first line of code. Windows is the place people go to create, to connect, to learn and to achieve – a platform over a billion people today rely on.
One of the main reasons some people tend to avoid updating their PCs is that “it makes it slower”. Especially with Windows 10’s Software as a Service approach, where it gets the so-called “feature updates” twice a year. But is it actually true?
Today we’re gonna find out how much Windows 10’s performance has changed over time, by benchmarking 10 elements of the OS experience:
Win32 app opening
UWP app opening
GDI stress test
Windows Defender Quick Scan
But first, a little disclaimer: although I tried the best I could to compare the performance metrics as objectively as possible, there might have been some slip-ups in the measurements. For the purposes of this experiment I used Hyper-V as the hypervisor of choice, with 4GB of RAM, 4 cores and a 32GB fixed disk for each build.
Each version was clean installed.
So, without further ado, let’s go!
A recent kerfuffle around an open source software creator asking for their package not to be included in a larger project has turned into a kind of rabbit-duck illusion for the open source community. What does it mean when the creator of a software package uses their social power - but not their legal power - to try and influence user behavior? Are they violating the spirit of open source? Or simply making requests that acknowledge open source realities?
Our movement rarely talks about freedom with much philosophical nuance. In this talk, I try to put some flesh on the bones of freedom by giving an introduction to Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum’s capability approach, and applying it to software. The capability approach (sometimes called the human development approach) is a framework for thinking about human freedom that, since its development in the early 90s, has been applied across a broad range of philosophical, economic, and policy problems. Focused on what options a person has to reach their goals, it is well-suited for understanding where we succeed - and fail! - at actually freeing people.
Even though we’re in the web browser business, we know you don’t go online to look at Firefox, it’s more that you look through Firefox to get to everything on the open web. In today’s major release, Firefox sports a fresh new design that gets you where you’re going online, fast and distraction-free. And since we’re all about privacy, we’re also expanding integrated privacy protections in Firefox, so you feel safe and free to be yourself online thanks to fewer eyes following you across the web.
Elk is an Audio Operating System developed from the ground up to deliver real time audio performances in embedded systems and remote networks.
In this post I’m gonna be making all kinds of fun of Urbit. And all that after spending just a few hours poking around it.
Originally, I wanted to write in the layout of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I’m not entirely sure how that would pan out.1
Before I begin, I’ll somewhat oversimplify and explain Urbit to those of you not in the know.
And before I do that, here’s a PSA: there’s a tl;dr at the end. So you don’t need to read all this drivel. You’re welcome.
KolibriOS is a tiny yet incredibly powerful and fast operating system. This power requires only a few megabyte disk space and 8MB of RAM to run. Kolibri features a rich set of applications that include word processor, image viewer, graphical editor, web browser and well over 30 exciting games. Full FAT12/16/32 support is implemented, as well as read-only support for NTFS, ISO9660 and Ext2/3/4. Drivers are written for popular sound, network and graphics cards.
Have you ever dreamed of a system that boots in less than few seconds from power-on to working GUI? Applications that start instantly, immediately after clicking an icon, without annoying hourglass pointers? This speed is achieved since the core parts of KolibriOS (kernel and drivers) are written entirely in FASM assembly language! Try Kolibri and compare it with such heavyweights as Windows and Linux.
A new Firefox is coming your way on June 1 with a fresh look designed for today’s modern life online. We pored over the browser’s user interface pixel by pixel, measured the value users were getting from our massive library of features, and ultimately streamlined the Firefox experience to be clean, inviting and easier to use on every device.
If you want to give anyone permission to use your code for any purpose, use the MIT License instead of the Eclipse Public License (EPL). The EPL has restrictions that make sense for Clojure Core but not for most libraries.
If your library is licensed EPL and someone wants to use your code in a GPL or MIT codebase, they must first contact you and get your permission to use your code because the EPL is not GPL- or MIT-compatible.
If your library is licensed EPL and you want to relicense your project in the future, you must request a copyright transfer from all external contributors or request their explicit permission to relicense the code they provided you.
The MIT License does not have either of these constraints.