Friday Aug 21, 2009

☞ Monkey Business

Tuesday Aug 04, 2009

☞ Approaches to Open Source

Monday Sep 01, 2008

Happy Birthday To GNU

Stephen Fry

Today marks the start of celebrations for the 25th anniversary of GNU. It took a long time to get a working operating system, and a new paradigm to get it adopted, but the tenacious idealism of RMS has bourne fruit.

Like Barton, I am especially delighted that the Java platform has gone from being a case study in closedness to being the chosen technology for hosting the birthday video by polymathic British actor Stephen Fry.

Tuesday Feb 26, 2008

MySQL Joins Sun Today

As you have no doubt noticed by now, the Sun acquisition of MySQL completed today and MySQL is now a part of Sun Microsystems - Jonathan has a welcome letter. I actually knew Mårten Mikos, and David Axmark already from our shared activities campaigning against the European patent directive a while back, but over the last two months I have been reacquainted with them as well as meeting a huge number of MySQL staff. They are a great company with a strong engineering and community culture and I think they will be a great fit in Sun.

There's still a whole lot more work to do though. One important task is to introduce everyone at MySQL - staff, community and customers - to everyone at Sun, and a key part of that is the World Tour that's getting started - Kaj Arnö has more. You can also hear Barton George from the Sun Open Source group interviewing Mårten and Zack Urlocker.

Thursday Aug 09, 2007

OpenJDK has a JCK License


After many weeks of soul-searching, I'm delighted to say that the OpenJDK community has v1 of a license for use of the Java SE 6 JCK. I was going to blog all about it but I see Tom has given pointers to everything with hard facts, Rich has gone for the philosophy and context behind the thing and Dalibor has spoken wise words that I think I completely agree with.

So just some footnotes.
First, I think the license is a huge achievement. It gives OpenJDK and the communities around it very easy access to the JCK, far easier than I feared would be possible. We got rid of five whole pages of terms in the discussion process.
Second, despite this, I regret that it wasn't possible to meet all my own goals for it. In particular I would have liked the confidentiality terms to go too, and there are a few people who I know are disappointed by some things - sorry, let's keep working on it. Nonetheless, it hit all the goals I set for it in March.
Third I'd encourage people to engage positively and point out what's stopping them progressing - and then progress when we fix it!

Tuesday Aug 07, 2007

More Open Chips

Purple On Green

As a member of the Interim Governing Board of the OpenSPARC community, I got a note a few days ago from the Sun Microelectronics team telling me some great news. The new low-energy, high-performance chip they have designed, codenamed Niagara 2, is now available as the UltraSPARC T2. But much more importantly, they're releasing all the source code for it under the GPL v2 and asking OpenSPARC to look after it.

OpenSPARC has been quite a surprise to me. The Board met last week to explore the shape of the community governance and we have a pretty coherent draft prepared. Even during the formative stages, though, we've seen amazing effects caused by OpenSPARC, including the tremendous work of David Miller and the Linux crew, leading to commercial support Ubuntu on SPARC by the good folks at Canonical. It was evident from the "Open Source Hardware" panel at OSCON that this area is still an adventure, but "The World's First Free 64-bit CMT Microprocessors" are inspiring innovation and change beyond anything Sun could have achieved alone.

The new chip is still great for tasks like web serving, but now has higher throughput and much, much better floating-point capabilities. Even more interesting is the fact that the openness is paying off. We'd already seen projects in China and the UK to create OpenSPARC derivitives for the embedded market; today, Jonathan writes about a new OEM. What next? A laptop?

Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

GPLv3 Third Draft

Quince flowers

The third draft of the GPLv3 came out this morning. There's a lot of text there, and obviously I've not had time to read it all yet (especially the long explanatory document). I took a quick look at the 'redline' over breakfast and there are some welcome enhancements, such as the explicit explanation about software-as-a-service:

To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies, excluding sublicensing. Mere inter- action with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.

The language concerning DRM has also changed substantially and now sits in section 6 and relates to the use of the code in "User Products", which could really change the implications of that mechanism:

A “User Product” is either (1) a “consumer product”, which means any tangible personal property which is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, or (2) anything designed or sold for incorporation into a dwelling.

There's been a substantial rework to the stuff about exceptions in section 7. In its previous form, this section provided a basis for various different license to be mixed, but the new version seems to provide less opportunity for that. I wish we could work out mechanisms to allow the various FOSS communities to mix their work more easily.

I'm also not clear on the implications of the new language added to section 11 to affect patents, which is intended to close the loophole Microsoft and Novell used to get round the GPLv2. I need to read it several times before coming to a conclusion.

Over and above the actual license terms, there's a big change to the time-line. I'd been expecting the final draft; this is now an extra interim draft, and we'll not see the final version until the summer. And there are several signs that we'll see more frequent updates to the license - there are indications that the DRM stuff might be extended to different kinds of devices, for example. All very interesting, I know there will be a lot of discussion about this inside Sun over the next few weeks.

Thursday Nov 30, 2006

Will Sun Use GPLv3?

Some people have been throwing rocks at the GPLv3 process from outside, and others have been accusing Sun of joining the rock throwers by opting for GPL v2 for the Java platform. Here's why I disagree with both.[Read More]

Monday Nov 20, 2006

Simple Is Better

Leaf-fall at City Hall

In a fine article yesterday whose title I have appropriated for this posting, Frank Hayes exactly captures the thoughts I was thinking as we were going through the license selection discussion for the Java platform inside Sun. I don't agree with his comments on obsolescence, but when it comes to licensing:

Anyone knowing that history would have expected Sun to open-source Java on Sun’s own terms ... Amazingly, Sun didn’t do any of that. The Java open-source license is identical to the Linux license. No specialized terms. No strings. Nothing new. Sun actually did keep it simple.

Licensing simplicity was one of the goals of the Open Source Initiative. By having licenses pre-approved as "freedom promoting" by a group of experts, the plan was to save developers from having to make decisions about which licenses were OK and which were a problem. I regard it as a huge irony that this approach was so successful that the number of approved licenses has proliferated to the point where one needs legal advice to choose between them. So one of the very first things we did when I became Sun's Chief Open Source Officer in 2005 was to start the process of simplifying Sun's approach to licensing by retiring an old open source license, SISSL, which I assume no responsible company will now choose to use.

Following the OSI's lead, the time has come to further simplify, and I'm pleased to be able to announce that Sun has contacted OSI again and informed them that another license Sun created - the Sun Public License, or SPL - is no longer required by Sun and requested that they consider it "retired". We migrated the last large codebase from it last spring - NetBeans - and it's now a historical artefact.

It was a good thing in its day, but it was one of many licenses created from the Mozilla license out of necessity and now we have CDDL it's not needed - that license has provided the whole community with a long-term alternative to "vanity" licenses. I'd encourage the (many) other creators of Mozilla-derived licenses to take the same step. We owe it to our colleagues in the open source community to keep things simple.

Friday Nov 17, 2006

Ogg Videos

Just about to head home at the end of an extraordinary week, but before I leave I'd like to highlight (as Mark has done) the great collaboration between Tom Marble and Dalibor Topic to get all the videos of the event on Monday converted to the open and Free Ogg format. You'll find them at the Free and Open Source Java page along with a Creative Commons license. As some of you might guess, this involved new experiences and thinking for quite a number of folk at Sun and I would like to that all of them for their flexibility. Let's hope that in future we can maybe offer Ogg streaming as an alternative for our webcasts!

Sunday Nov 12, 2006

Free At Last

Get the Source

Yes, it's true. The thing I joined Sun to see happen in 2000 is actually announced today. The whole Java platform - SE, ME, EE - will be Free software under the GPL, with the process starting today and continuing for the next six months. We're using GPL v2 plus the Classpath exception for most of it - more in the FAQ.

Making this happen has been a hugely consuming task, both for my (wonderful and hard-working) team, for the actual Java platform teams at Sun today and for many, many people around the world in the Free software community. The contributions of those before us is also huge - this has, after all, been on ongoing topic for many years. As the saying goes, it takes a village. Thank-you, everyone.

Much more to come.


Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.


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