12.18.06

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Bad, Bad Proprietary Binary Blobs

Posted in Fork, FSF, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Microsoft, Novell at 9:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As soon as you think that Microsoft cannot harm the GPL through Novell, you then discover this [rel="nofollow"]:

Apparently, as of January 2008, non-GPL Linux kernel modules will no longer be allowed…

Well, as a person who not only works for Microsoft, but does so enthusiastically, I just want to say “thank you.” Thank you for creating a policy that will make it less likely that makers of video cards will pay any attention to Linux. Yes, “the community” will beaver away to make these drivers themselves based on published chip specifications, but now you’ve ruled out the people who actually MAKE the chips from writing these things unless they agree to donate all their hard work for use by the community and competitors alike. Even Eric Raymond was against a policy that forbade proprietary drivers (yes, I realize he is not part of the “free software” movement, as “open source” != “free software”).

Clearly enough, there’s a conflict of interests here. The GPLv3 is intended to leave Novell out in the cold, despite their optimism. At the same time, the Linux kernel is unlikely to embrace GPLv3. Pamela Jones from Groklaw has responded to the misinformed post, a relevant fragment of which is quoted above:

I think you can see from this cynical blog entry that Microsoft is behind the push to make sure GNU/Linux is contaminated by proprietary blobs. Why and what the plan is I don’t know. But if Microsoft’s John Carroll really believed that refusing proprietary modules was going to be bad for Linux, would he stay silent and let it happen? Or would he write about how foolish it is? You decide. I know I have. And the Novell deal helps me to think it through as to what Microsoft’s motive might be. By the way, note the LWN News Picks, that shows the end of the conversation, with the decision that there would be no such deadline to ban non GPL linked modules, in spite of what Carroll inaccurately reported. Sheesh.

The full exchange of opinions between the kernel hackers can be found on Gname.

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