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11.24.07

Asus Eee’s GPL Violation, Xandros Replaced by Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, GPL, Hardware, Microsoft, Novell, OLPC, Ubuntu, Windows, Xandros at 2:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent protection expires

It is probably easy to forget that this Web site also calls for a boycott against Xandros, whose deal with Microsoft was as bad as Novell’s. The domain boycottxandros.com is still alive and well. Xandros is a company far smaller than Novell, so there is rarely an opportunity to mention it in context and in line with the news.

”The companies violate the licence by not passing back modifications to the Linux kernel, apparently.“The Asus Eee has been making a lot of media buzz ahead of Christmas and amid the Christmas shopping season. It is one of the most sought-after gifts, according to an article from The Register (published last Thursday). We did not neglect to mention the Eee before, if only due to the fact that it uses Xandros Linux [1, 2, 3]. The Eee, along with Intel which it sports, is also somewhat a foe to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which is a not-for-profit project that was sabotaged mercilessly by Microsoft and Intel. That’s a long story worthy of a separate post, which would not fit the theme of this Web site.

The Eee is designed, built and assembled by Asus, but it runs Xandros (i.e. just Debian with proprietary bits and Windows-esque ‘strap-ons’). That said, it has probably already violated the GPL, which we spoke about yesterday. The latter part means that even if you wanted to replace the Microsoft-taxed Linux with a Free Linux (one whose maker did not sell out), you would not be able to make it work. The companies violate the licence by not passing back modifications to the Linux kernel, apparently.

What you won’t find on that site are sources. ASUS is bound by the GPL to make the sources for the software they’re distributing available, even if they have not modified them. (Check the license if you don’t believe me.) 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. (Perhaps they figured nobody would pull 1.8GB from their slow-as-molasses site and find out.)

I have this confirmed by a second person who tried to reproduce this quick test earlier today. According to this article, this isn’t the first case of violation.

”This whole situation is also akin to installing Linux on an H-P PC which came with Windows preloaded.“The encouraging news is that there is a new project (http://debian-eeepc.alioth.debian.org/) which is intended to have the Asus Eee converted to Debian, but without the missing bits above, there’s little chance of getting all the hardware working properly. But wait! It gets worse.

This whole situation is also akin to installing Linux on an H-P PC which came with Windows preloaded. Microsoft strives to capitalise on the channel in the same way that railroads owners abused the market early in the century (or the last one). History has taught us that companies will try to ensure that they get paid no matter whose product you buy (theirs or their competitors'). In this case, Microsoft uses FUD and even ‘bribes’ companies like Novell ($300,000,000+) to accept some sort of liability that is associated with patents, which they are unwilling to talk about (and probably never counted anyway). They try to make it a precedent and then pass on the liability to other companies such as Xandros. Whether Microsoft gets paid for each Eee laptop which is sold we do not know for sure. If that is not the case, it might change in the future (change for the worse, that is).

If people don’t stand up against this, they are simply allowing the abuse to grow and thrive (unless/until regulators break up the offending party). Again, this is just a case of looking and history and learning from it. Some of us, for one, are unwilling to be a neutral party and refuse to intervene.

The Asus Eee can also run Ubuntu by the way: Ubuntu 7.10 Gibbon swings on the Asus Eee

The Gibbonfest continues. We’ve just had an Asus Eee in to look at – the £220 laptop that everyone who’s seen it is going to buy. It’s one of the hottest things in the office this year: the combination of the insanely low price tag, the perfectly functional specification (512MB RAM, 4GB internal flash SSD, wi-fi, real keyboard, VGA display) and its extreme portability makes it an instant hit.

Also see: Asus Eee PC 4G sub-sub-notebook [as a hackable and hacker-friendly machine]

Linux buffs and geeks will love its sheer hackability. For two hundred quid, it’s a perfect impulse buy for folk who love messing around with operating systems.

Some people claimed to have already installed Mac OS X and Windows on this unit also.

Related old articles about the Xandros deal:

Xandros is only one among 8 companies that have signed a Linux patents deal (or one that alludes to Linux) with Microsoft. Xandros was a second fiddle to Novell.

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2 Comments

  1. man said,

    November 25, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Gravatar

    is red hat enterprise give source code too?
    (just a question)

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 25, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Gravatar

    Yes, there are even clones of RHEL: StartCom, CentOS, Oracle’s Unbreakable, and several more.

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