Accident Forgiveness Comes to GPLv2

Years ago, while the GPLv3 was still being drafted, I got a chance to attend a presentation by Richard Stallman. He did his whole routine as St IGNUcius, and then at the end said he would be answering questions in a separate room off to the side. While the more causal nerds shuffled out of the presentation room, I went along with a small group of free software aficionados that followed our patron saint into the inner sanctum.

When my turn came to address the free software maestro, I asked what advantages the GPLv3 would have to a lowly hacker like myself? I was familiar with the clause about “Tivoization“, the idea that any device running GPLv3 code from the manufacturer should allow the user to be able to install their own software on it, but this didn’t seem like the kind of thing most individuals would ever need to worry about. Was there something in the new version of the GPL that would make it worth adopting in personal or hobby projects?

Yes, he really dresses up like this.

Interestingly, a few years after this a GPLv2 program of mine was picked up by a manufacturer and included in one of their products (never underestimate yourself, folks). So the Tivoization clause was actually something that did apply to me in the end, but that’s not the point of this story.

Mr. Stallman responded that he believed the biggest improvement GPLv3 made over v2 for the hobbyist programmer was the idea of “forgiveness” in terms of licensing compliance. Rather than take a hard line approach like the existing version of the GPL, the new version would have grace periods for license compliance. In this way, legitimate mistakes or misunderstandings of the requirements of the GPL could be resolved more easily.

So when I read the recent announcement from Red Hat that said they would be honoring the grace period for GPLv2 projects, I was immediately interested. Will the rest of the community follow Red Hat’s lead? Will this change anyone’s mind when deciding between the GPL v2 and v3? Is this even a good idea? Join me below as I walk through these questions.

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Harrowing Story of Installing Libreboot on ThinkPad

As an Apple user, I’ve become somewhat disillusioned over the past few years. Maybe it’s the spirit of Steve Jobs slowly vanishing from the company, or that Apple seems to care more about keeping up with expensive trends lately rather than setting them, or the nagging notion Apple doesn’t have my best interests as a user in mind.

Whatever it is, I was passively on the hunt for a new laptop with the pipe dream that one day I could junk my Apple for something even better. One that could run a *nix operating system of some sort, be made with quality hardware, and not concern me over privacy issues. I didn’t think that those qualities existed in a laptop at all, and that my 2012 MacBook Pro was the “lesser of evils” that I might as well keep using. But then, we published a ThinkPad think piece that had two words in it that led me on a weeks-long journey to the brand-new, eight-year-old laptop I’m currently working from. Those two words: “install libreboot”.

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Parallax shows love for open source: GCC + Propeller

Parallax has done something that is unthinkable for most microcontroller manufacturing companies. They’ve decided to throw their support behind an open source toolchain based on GCC. That’s right, instead of fighting to get your code compiling on a platform whose example code uses crippleware, you can actually download, compile, and start using this toolchain without code size restrictions or other unfavorable limitations.

Why does this matter? One example that comes to mind is ChibiOS and the STM32F0-Discovery board. We’ve been playing around with that board recently and found out that the Atollic 8k code-size limitation prevents you from debugging ChibiOS. So you either pony up the registration fee, or go though at least a little pain (a lot depending on your skill level) to move to an open source solution. Here that’s not going to happen because you start with a GCC option from the word ‘Go’.

So join us in a round of applause for good decisions. Bravo Parallax! This Beta test targets the P8X32A Propeller chip but we hope it’s so popular that the rest of the line gets its own support.

[Thanks Devlin via Adafruit]

Freedom Toaster dispenses FOSS… for free

The Seneca College Linux Club figured out a fantastic way to help promote Linux to a wider audience. They took some surplus hardware and made an Open Source software vending machine. That is and isn’t a play on words. The project itself is an open source project, and the goal is to dispense other open source software in the form of CDs and DVDs.

Their build page shares all of the details. They acquired an older server cabinet which was on the way out from the IT department. It’s more than large enough to fit a person inside, which is overkill but it makes it much less likely that someone will try to walk off with the thing. Inside you’ll find a computer, two monitors (one is a touch screen for consumer use, the other is just an extra hidden inside for maintenance.

You must bring your own blank CD-R or DVD-R (but the burning is free). You can see the DVD shelf at waist-level on the fully painted kiosk above. The only thing we think is missing here is a USB port for brewing up a bootable USB stick.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala

ubuntu-karmic-koala-splash

Today is the official release of the latest version of Ubuntu, the most popular Linux-based operating system. Someone mentioned that there had been a new release of the Windows OS recently and if you’re thinking of going with that one, we feel you should a least give Ubuntu a try. Now in its 11th official release and codenamed Karmic Koala, this version of Ubuntu continues the traditional six month development cycle by succeeding Jaunty Jackalope which was released in April of this year.

We’ve been running the beta release of Ubuntu Netbook Remix for several weeks now. It cut boot time down to between 5-10 seconds and WiFi is already connected by the time the Desktop loads. Speed isn’t the only new feature, graphics have been redesigned, there is a new app store that serves as a front end for the extensive free software repositories, and the newest kernel and software versions are included.

We’ve been using this open source operating system since its third release, Breezy Badger. We love it for the quality, convenience, and the fact that we can get our fingers into the code and hack around a bit.