Thursday, November 4, 2010

This is Perplexing

I've gotten some interesting commentary on my last posting with regard to the LVC situation. Much of it has devolved into excruciatingly minute examinations of under exactly which circumstances one should be willing to compromise one's Steadfast Principles and precisely how much, purely in order to get more free software into more people's hands.

The perplexing part is that I don't really recall any thin-end-of-the-wedge hand-wringing over the lost-standing and only recently-resolved Sun RPC situation, where people found no day-to-day problem in a GPL violation which affected pretty much every Linux-based system on the planet for years.

I frankly don't get it. (As of a moment ago, VLC is still up on the iTune App Store...)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gun. Foot. Bang.

Once again, the Free Software Foundation trots out its most strained and sketchiest reasoning to justify painting Apple as a villain and trying to keep GPL-licensed software out of the App Store and off iOS devices.

This time, it's taking a much bigger risk: in doing so, it's placing the VLC project into the middle of the conflict, and taking sides—apparently—with one developer against many others.

More here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Better Living Through Stoicism!

My cat went missing yesterday! What does this have to do with ancient Greek philosophy? I've written this blog posting to explain.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

RIP LimeWire. Should We Care?

In stark contrast to the inability of some folks to conduct an actual discussion, I've always gotten along well with Tim (aka "Goblin"), who blogs on free software and related matters over on OpenBytes.

He recently posted on the LimeWire shutdown, and the attempt to punish the RIAA for it by conducting a DDoS attack against their site, something we agree is hugely counterproductive behavior.

My response to one of Tim's comments there turned into a blog posting in its own right, on what the issues are here and how the community should be viewing this.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Week's "Linux on the Desktop" Debate

The subject of whether there's any future (or present, for that matter) in the notion of "Linux on the desktop" as something that "regular end-users" might want to take up has been discussed in a variety of places this past week. I put my two cents in over on my other blog (and this is "GNOME-related", so I don't want any whining).

The situation, as I see it, is that, even if Linux isn't "dead on the desktop", if it were, it would scarcely make a ripple on the awareness of most users of personal computers.

The reasons why things got to this point, and why we can expect the same in the mobile space—more Android and webOS and the like on phones and tablets and such, but scarcely any user-visible "community developed-and-maintained" open source—in the foreseeable future are really pretty basic as I see it.

Most of this is not appreciably different to things I've said at "GNOME Mobile" meetings and on the gnome-marketing list. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you always got.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why Would Someone Try to Bribe Me to Bury This Story?

I've never had anyone attempt to buy me off before, that's a first. Evidently, I turned over a rock related to some tax fraud scandal on freenode which has been covered up for about five years.

Anyone know any details regarding this? Feel free to contact me privately if you prefer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

No, Apple Is Not Trying to Patent LLVM. That's a Lie.

There's been some nonsense being floated around on (as well as less savory locales) the past week, to the effect that "Apple has patented LLVM". It turns out to be based, as near as I can tell, on someone's having done a simple string search through Apple's patents for the string LLVM, finding two instances, assuming the worst, and pouring out their darkest, most ignorant, most ill-informed fears onto the "End Software Patents" site, which Ciaran Riordan runs, without ever actually having read the patents (actually one patent, one application) that had gotten them so upset.

This was more or less the state in which I found the Apple page, a couple of days ago, over there. Ciaran and I have been discussing the matter for the past couple of days, pretty constructively for the most part, while I corrected the page in various ways. It's in a state at this point where we can both tolerate it, at least.

If anyone tries to tell you that "Apple has patented LLVM", it's a load of FUD and nonsense. All the details are over here. I've summarized the five biggest arguments the opponents of this situation—which turns out to involve a single patent application which actually has nothing to do with LLVM per se—have brought forward as to why this particular patent application is so problematical in their view here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Can't Tell Whether I'm "Good" or "Evil" Any More.

My filters picked up this story (in multiple instances) today: Microsoft has agreed to license a portfolio of some 70-odd smart phone-related patents held mutually by my ex-employer ACCESS and Acacia.

I actually worked as ACCESS' patent portfolio strategist on this last year, helping to assemble, organize and relate the patents in question (out of possible hundreds), reporting to the then-General Counsel (who's now indulging himself making fine Belgian chocolate, something he tells me he's enjoying a lot more than lawyering).

So, I guess that makes me an official "patent troll". However, I'm a patent troll that got money out of Microsoft. I suppose Boycott Boy and his pals are liable to burn out a few circuits trying to get their (pin)heads around that!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are You Using the Facebook App on Your Smart Phone?

If so, you really need to take a look at the article I've posted on my other blog. Like now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Survey Update

So far, I've gotten responses from 35 GNOME members, out of 192 respondents, total.

Of those GNOME members
  • 6 (17.6%) are members of the FSF
  • 21 (60%) of these respondents say that they routinely use the term "Linux" when referring to "an operating system based on a Linux kernel, etc."; 8 (22.9%) use "GNU/Linux", and 6 (17.1%) use some other term (including the interesting alternative of "Leftux"in one instance—I guess this respondent will be easy to spot should he-or-she be attending GUADEC)
  • When limited to the two alternatives, 25 (71.4%) chose "Linux" and 10 (28.6%) chose "GNU/Linux".
When given four potential focuses to prioritize for the Board, GNOME members ranked the alternatives as follows:

Most Important
More Important
Less Important
Least Important
Average Score
Overseeing the GNOME 3 road map
Building better bridges to corporate users of GNOME technologies
Providing technical oversight and direction
Educating users about the FSF's views on software freedom

Obviously, the more Foundation members who participate, the more authoritative the survey will be: the current number of respondents represents perhaps 1 in 10 Foundation members. If you haven't participated yet, please take a moment to do so.

Since I'm mainly interested in this issue as it affects the foundation-list and Board activities, I'm not reporting the overall totals at this point, but will do so once I've gotten what seem to be a large enough number of responses to be indicative of something.

Let's please remember that this was raised as an specific issue to prospective Board candidates by Mr. Stallman, a Foundation member, prior to the election. Head-shaking and moans of "Not again!" seem entirely inappropriate, unless our method of dealing with divisive issues is pretending that they simply don't exist....

Friday, June 18, 2010

The "Issue" That Would Not Die: Flog a Dead Horse for Richard

Yes, it's back. On the foundation-list, in spite of a direct request from the moderator that it be dropped. You know it! You love it! It's "GNU"/Linux! (And no, I didn't start it.)

However, this seems like an excellent opportunity to gauge the feelings of the GNOME community around this, and I've accordingly constructed a (in my belief) quite non-leading survey in order to see what people thought.

If anyone feels I'm engaging in "push-polling" here, please let me know, and I'll be happy to make any reasonable changes. I'd like to see this so-called "issue" settled once and for all, if only so that it doesn't get made into a hobbyhorse in future Board elections.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

ALERT: "Like-jacking" Exploits on Facebook

I wanted to alert folks that, if you are on Facebook, there's currently a potential issue where "like" can be "clickjacked". It's a browser-based exploit using an "invisible iFrame", I've posted a couple of things about it on my other blog if you want more details.

Long story short: be very careful what you "like" on Facebook right now.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Some Odd Ideas About How GPL Licensing Works

There's been a lot of discussion of the FSF enforcement action here, on Twitter and and elsewhere. It's been suggested to me that, since the "GPL is a 'distribution license'" and since Apple "distributed" copies of GNUgo, Apple must therefore "comply" with the GPL. I'm afraid this is sheer fantasy. Here's my reasoning:

1. Yes, the GPL is, indeed, a "distribution" license, i.e. certain obligations in the license are "triggered" by the act of "distributing" a "binary".

2. Distributing a binary and failing to meet those obligations, indeed, constitutes an infringement of the author's copyright on the code: the copyright grant in the GPL is contingent on meeting the GPL's obligations.

3. A "distributor" of a GPL-licensed binary thus has two options: meet the obligations, or be in infringement. "Meeting the obligations" and "complying with the GPL" are non-contractual choices that this "distributor" gets to make, of his own free will. He can, alternatively, choose to infringe, again of his own free will.

4. Apple cannot be held to be in infringement, thanks to the "safe harbor" provided by the DMCA, so long as they meet the obligations of that act, as indeed they have done in the past, and presumably continue to do.

5. Ergo, whether the FSF imagines that Apple is a "distributor" of GPL-licensed "binaries" means nothing whatsoever: the DMCA says they can't be held liable for infringement as long as they observe the requirements of the Act. The most that the FSF can legitimately say is that Robota Softwarehouse evidently placed what seems to be an infringing copy of the GNUgo program in Apple's store.

6. The remedy for such an infringement would have been for the FSF to provide Apple with a DMCA infringement notification, to which Applewould have responded by removing the application, presuming that Robota Softwarehouse didn't provide a DMCA counter-notification stating that they believe the FSF is mistaken and that they're willing to settle the matter in court.

7. If Robota did file a counter-notification, the FSF would have no recourse but to sue Robota Softwarehouse if they wished to get the situation redressed. They couldn't sue Apple, even though the program was still up on the App Store, still getting "distributed", still merrily infringing the GPL: the DMCA says they couldn't. And they couldn 't even force Apple to take it down, not without a court order coming out of their winning their case against Robota.

At no point in any of this does the GPL license on the code actually matter in the slightest to Apple.

That's my understanding of things. Does that gibe with other people's?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Further Issues With the GPL and "App Stores": An In-the-Wild Example

Even though the issue of the provision of source code isn't (apparently) an actual issue in the specifics of the FSF's enforcement action against Apple, there are some interesting points which it does raise, and I've been able to find a concrete example of what I'm talking about here.

The "FileHippo" site hosts a variety of "freeware" for download. (I haven't used this site, and can't speak to the safety of their downloads, but it gives a useful example.) I can, for example, download the (GPL-licensed) Handbrake program for Windows from here.

Now, while it includes a copy of the GPL in the COPYING file, etc., the installer does not contain sources for Handbrake. I can get those sources from the developer at, but that's irrelevant: the FSF's interpretation of "distribution", as we've seen, includes anyone through whose hands a binary passes.

Now, if I go to FileHippo, who "distributed" the copy of Handbrake to me and demand the sources, as is my right, they can't help me: they don't have them, and they don't especially want to have them, I'd think. From their point of view, it's the developer's responsibility to make them available, if that's what the developer chooses, or is obligated, to do.

By simply having had a copy of Handbrake uploaded, and making it available to the general public, it would seem that the site is in (completely inadvertent, and probably unbeknownst-to-them) technical violation of the GPL. In fact, one could put such a site (or someone's web site, if they had an ftp client which allowed uploading) in technical violation, it seems, by placing a GPL-licensed binary there but not the corresponding sources and waiting for someone to download it.

Sites like circumvent this issue by not hosting the downloads themselves, but by directing the user to the developer's site.

Here's an interesting question to ask: the Apple iTunes App Store and the Android Market don't really require or support the uploading of source code as part of placing a program for sale in their respective stores. They don't support the downloading of source associated with an application which someone purchases.

So, if someone demands sources from them for a GPL-licensed program, having received a binary through the store, what are they to do? They can't provide what they don't have, and I'm sure they're not looking to become a repository for GNU code on the FSF's behalf because some third-party decided to use the GNU code in their own app.

Again, whether the source code is or isn't available from the developer makes no difference. In the FSF's view, since the store is where you got the binary from, the store is where you must be able to get the corresponding sources from.

It seems the app stores are left with two choices: change their procedures entirely around to support a very small number of (probably unprofitable) applications in the way the FSF insists, or simply disallow GPL-licensed applications from the stores entirely.

I predict they'll do the latter.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Open Letter to Brett Smith

I've sent the following email to Brett Smith, the FSF's Licensing Compliance Engineer, with some questions I have about the recent FSF enforcement action against the Apple iTunes App Store

Dear Brett:

I've been analyzing the recent enforcement action by the FSF against the Apple iTunes Store, and wondering about the implications for other "app stores" which I seem to be finding in the reasoning you describe in your blog postings.

1) You specifically call out point (i) of Apple's App Store Usage Rules, which specify that you must accept the prevailing third-party license (in the case of GNUgo, the GPL) as well as the App Store's own Terms of Use.

Is it simply the requirement to accept terms above and beyond those in the GPL which, in and of itself, constitutes a violation? Would the required pre-acceptance of _any_ terms or conditions constitute a violation?

2) In examining the Terms of Service for Google's Android Market, I find some interesting issues in there. §2.4 specifies that

"From time to time, Google may discover a Product on the Market that violates the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement or other legal agreements, laws, regulations or policies. You agree that in such an instance Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your Device at its sole discretion."

As we have seen today, Google removed some dozen or more trademark-infringing "Tetris" applications from their Android Market, and also from the phones of the users who purchased such applications. This is completely in accordance with the terms of service one is obligated to accept as a pre-condition of obtaining application from the Android Market.

I believe that—in spite of the language in §4.2, which specifies that, in the case of a "conflict" with a third-party license, the third-party license terms would take precedence—Google would be obliged to forcibly and unilaterally remove even GPL-licensed applications under a variety of circumstances.

A hypothetical example:

I write an Android application which is an MP3 and MP4 player. For whatever reason, rather than using the codecs built into Android, I use "free" (unlicensed) MP3 and MP4 codecs, which happen to be GPL-licensed. I place the app in the Android store, under a GPL license.

You are a US citizen, and get a copy from the Android store. The legitimate holders of the MP3 and MP4 patents sue me, and advise Google that they're doing so, as the app clearly infringes their patents.

I do not believe that §4.2 of the Google Android Market agreement is possibly going to trump §2.4, in a case like this.

In other words, the fact that the program is licensed under the GPL would not, I believe, keep Google from yanking it off your Android phone, and the phone of anyone else who had obtained a copy. I doubt Google is going to be willing to foot the damages associated with being a party to a clear case of willful patent infringement to maintain the freedom of the General Public License. This would constitute a pretty clear insistence that users abrogate their right to "Freedom Zero", and it's difficult for me to understand how such a situation would not constitute a violation of the GPL.

Do you agree with this analysis, and with the conclusion that the Android Market is equally in violation to the extent that it hosts GPL-licensed applications?

3) Very similar problematical language to that found in Apple's and Google's various Terms of Service can also be found in the terms and conditions associated with the Microsoft "Windows Marketplace for Mobile". On the assumption that my general reasoning here is correct, is it reasonable to expect that the FSF will next be conducting enforcement actions against Google and Microsoft?

4) Why did the FSF not apparently undertake a similar enforcement action against the developer of GNUgo, Robota Softwarehouse, who marketed the program for some time, evidently, while having only a comment on their site claiming that source would be available "next week"?

Thanks very much for any help you can provide in answering these questions.


David "Lefty"Schlesinger

UPDATE: I had gotten a report that Tetris apps were removed from Android phones as well as from the market before I wrote this, and have since received a conflicting report in the comments. In any case, I stand by my reasoning around the hypothetical example: that case would certainly be one in which Google would find itself obliged to unilaterally remove a GPL-licensed app from a third-party user's phone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Criminal Harassment by "Freedom Lovers"

It's one thing for the denizens of "freedom" to harass me by attempting to intimidate my by interfering with my employment, but we're over the line into new territory now. Having failed to achieve their ends by attacking me directly, Michael Rudra Nath (aka Jason Christopher Hughes) and Brandon Lozza are now fostering the cause of "freedom" by harassing and attempting to interfere with the employment of completely uninvolved members of my family.

This has become a matter of criminal harassment, and is now being handled by the appropriate authorities here in California.

[Links were broken, are fixed...]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Are You?

I'm going to FOSDEM, the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Browser Discipline

I love tabbed browsing, but I found that I usually wound up, after a number of hours, with a bazillion tabs, lots of duplicates, and I'd occasionally "lose" a tab I was trying to do something with after having opened up another tab to go hunt down some piece of information that I needed to do whatever in the first tab.

Firefox and Chrome can both get weird when you open up too many tabs in too many windows, occasionally disastrously so. I commented on this, on someone suggested that it "sounded like a workflow problem", and on consideration, I decided that was probably so.

I finally solved the problem by instituting a browser discipline: I have six browser windows, no more, no less, except perhaps for a few minutes at a time:
  • Personal Stuff: my Gmail, the sites I use to study Japanese, etc.
  • Work Stuff: like it says
  • Programming, Web design and site admin: I throw this stuff all in one place. It ranges from control and admin panels for various sites to my web analytics stuff
  • Blogs and blogging: Blogs I write and ones I read
  • Social media: Twitter,, YouTube, Facebook (which used to be on my "Personal Stuff" page, there's a reason for that which may become clearer in time), and articles and postings related to social media...
  • Interesting Stuff: any miscellaneous things I turn up and want to remember to look at, but can't easily categorize otherwise. Google News, TechMeme, and some other similar sites are usually on here, as is miscellaneous reference stuff...
The number of tabs I have in these windows varies, from a minimum of six, usually, to twenty or more, depending on what's going on.

This has made life a lot easier, and saved a bunch of wasted time and frustration. I don't know whether anyone else rins into stuff like this, but if you do, give it a shot, and let me know how it works out for you...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shane Fagan Corrects Misapprehensions About GNOME 3

Shane Fagan has a good post on "debunking GNOME 3 myths", which unfortunately is syndicated to Planet Ubuntu, but not Planet GNOME. You should read it if you have an interest in the plans for GNOME 3.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A New Survey!

I'm conducting a new survey, this time on attitudes around FLOSS and proprietary software. I expect people who felt the previous survey to be less than entirely even-handed will find this one somewhat more to their liking. Please pass around the link to the survey below as widely as you can: we got over 1500 respondents to the last survey, which was terrific!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Free as in "Free of any factual value whatsoever"

Once again, my management has received a lovely letter from a "freedom-lover", making a variety of exciting claims, such as the following:
Your employee David N. Schlesinger has in public admitted to publishing stolen pornographic photographs. This behavior of his looks very bad indeed for both ACCESS, Inc. and the Gnome Advisory Board which ACCESS pays $10,000 per year to keep Schlesinger sitting on.

Fun stuff. I've also had fraudulent DMCA claims and ICANN notifications from the very same "freedom-lover" to deal with this morning. It's terrific the way that folks who like to tell you how they're are all about "freedom" find means to justify their apparent ends.

In more immediately relevant news, the suggestions that using the VirtualServer directives in Apache's httpd.conf was a better way to go turned out to be true. It also turns out that avahi won't do DNS on a subdomain without heroic measures.

Also, the "First ELSE" phone, which is based on the ACCESS Linux Platform, and incorporates an extremely cool UI based on clutter and other GNOME goodness, is getting a lot of positive notice based on its appearance at CES. Congratulations to the Moblin team for a good showing at CES as well!

(Also, Blogger is a idiot. If you add an "<" in WYSIWYG mode, it thinks you're entering a tag. And then is adds a "/VirtualServer" closing "tag". If you type "&lt;" in HTML mode, it does the same! You have to type "&lt;" in WYSIWYG mode for it to work. Grumble, grumble.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

mod_rewrite Problem Apparently Solved!

Thanks to a pointer from Niko Sams, I seem to have gotten my configuration issues with Apache and mod_rewrite sorted out. What finally worked in the .htaccess file was the following:

RewriteCond %{http_host} ^(.*)\.karasu\.local
RewriteCond %{request_uri} !^/+(karasu\.local)/?
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://karasu.local/%1/$1 [L]

Thanks So, now "http://karasu.local" serves me /var/www/index.html and "http://live.karasu.local" serves me /var/www/live/index.html. Cool.

Okay, off to try to debug storytlr's Twitter notifications!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Any .htaccess/mod_rewrite Pros Out There?

I'm playing around with setting up a storytlr test server (Linux Mint "Helena", effectively Jaunty, with the usual LAMP stuff and avahi for ZEROCONF mDNS service) for debugging purposes here—posting notifications to Twitter is broken, broken, broken—and I wanted to put the installation in a sub-domain mapped to a sub-directory, e.g. http://live.karasu.local --> /var/www/live/. I'm running into issues trying to get mod_rewrite to do its magic.

You'd think there would be good examples of the right combination of RewriteCond's and RewriteRule's to accomplish this, and there may well be, but I'm mostly turning up more evidence that I'm not the only one who's had a lot of trouble with this, as well as a few things that seem, at first glance, plausible, but which fail disastrously in practice.

Anyone got a good canned solution for this? storytlr gets very unhappy if it doesn't believe it's in a top-level directory, and I'll just install it there if I don't come up with a better solution, but it's aggravating me that an (apparently) simple problem is so difficult to solve.

Oh, the following is for He-Knows-Who, He-Knows-Why:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Here's a Nice Christmas Present...

eschnou and alrdw in Belgium, the folks at, which was "not a startup, just a fun project" who had been offering their interesting social media aggregator as a service, decided to fold up their tents at the end of 2009, and as a sort of parting gift, released their codebase under the Apache license, as they had planned to from the outset.

storytlr, written in Javascript and PHP, was inspired by Loïc Lemeur's call for a "centralized me", and allows the aggregation and streaming of content from Delicious, Digg, Disqus, Flickr, Google Reader,,, Picasa, Qik, Joe Random RSS Feed, Seesmic, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, TwitPic, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube favorites.

Entries can be "mashed up" into stories, as well, and it seems easily customizable in a variety of directions.

Installation is pretty straightforward, although it does not seem at all to want to live anywhere other than a root directory: I need to fiddle around with the rewrite rules to get it to live in a synthetic subdomain. You'll need PHP5, plus mcrypt and curl. Handy tip: set "debug" to 1 in the config.ini file when you start it up, or you'll likely be looking at a blank page and scratching your head for a little while.

The initial drop of the sources is at, and it's well worth taking a look at if you're interested in this sort of thing...