Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why fact check exists

In a very timely co-incidence, one of the blogs I analyzed earlier today was cited on the gnome-foundation list, as Richard Stallman had been led to believe that GNOME was now dependent on Mono. You can follow that thread to see what the developers' responses were, suffice to say the basic fact of the matter is that Mono is not required to run GNOME.

A later post in that mail thread I think spells out why a blog like this is required:

On Nov 29, 2007 1:33 PM, Luis Villa  wrote:
> On Nov 29, 2007 5:59 AM, Jeff Waugh wrote:
> >
> >
> > > I think you're way too harsh on people who actually concluded things like:
> >
> > Sorry, but the negativity of that site greatly outweighs the positive. It
> > takes more than a little sucking up to earn back my respect after the crap
> > they've been spewing.
> I'll second this. The fact:fiction ratio of boycottnovell is just
> incredibly, incredibly bad.

RMS message read "If part of it is not accurate, I hope someone will
explain." Do you care to sort out what is fact and what is fiction?

It is, of course, impossible to present a view of what goes on in the world in an un-biased fashion. We can't do that here. We can attempt to address some of the stories we notice seem to be out-of-sync with reality, though, and present a few facts which the reader might be unaware of. It's more essential than ever to read any material online with a critical eye.

ASUS' GPL resolution on EeePC

Story here, but also in other places.

The story I'm referring to isn't the worst, but I think there is a basic error here: the GPL doesn't say ASUS have to put the source code to their system online.

ASUS are distributing their EeePC with GPL'd software pre-loaded. I'm pretty sure - but haven't had it confirmed - that they are not shipping it with the source code on CDs. If you don't ship the source with the software, the GPL is very clear: you need to make an offer to give the source, or relay the offer you have.

If someone requested the source from ASUS, and they didn't make it available, that would be inconsistent with the GPL, and therefore would likely be a violation of copyright. However, that doesn't seem to be what happened: someone requested it from ASUS, and ASUS made it available.

Was ASUS ever in "violation of the GPL"? Not making the source available to begin with is not inconsistent with the license, and I don't see any evidence that ASUS refused to supply source.

The "Groklaw" blog made this comment about the state of affairs:

PJ: Actually, no. My understanding is that they need to get permission from the authors of the code to be able to redistribute that code again under the GPLv2. It's not automatic. Perhaps they have done so. If not, they would, I believe, remain out of compliance.
This comment comes from the "News Picks", which sadly don't seem to have permalinks so I cannot cite it directly.

PJ is right in that if ASUS were out of compliance, they could not automatically rectify the situation with GPLv2: GPLv3 allows that, but not v2. The implicit assumption is that there were not in compliance, and that doesn't seem to be supported by the facts at the moment.

Novell's "latest discrimination"

Story here.

This posting at "Boycott Novell" makes a two main claims we'll deal with here:
  1. Novell is "forking" OOo,
  2. that the fork is advantageous on Windows.
The "fork" is the repository at This has been covered a number of times before by many people. Here are some facts about go-oo which aren't usually mentioned:
  • this "fork" is actually used by many in the community, such as Debian, Mandriva, Gentoo. In fact, there's an extremely useful page which can show you exactly who takes which patches. For example, Debian take the calc-solver work Kohei did, if you examine the DebianBase rule.
  • if we look at which patches are Win32Only, there is only one: accept-underscores-in-hostnames.diff
  • if you look at that patch, all it does is make the "_" acceptable in a URI.
Rather than serving Novell alone, it seems go-oo serves the needs of a wide variety of Linux distributions by providing the build tools, patches and extra features which many people need. It does help building on Windows, but it is unclear where any advantage might lie: sadly, the original posting only makes claims, and doesn't back those up with references which we can analyze deeper.

About the open source fact-check

This blog has a single purpose: to analyze blog postings about open source, and to do some basic fact-checking where necessary. This has become more important because there is an increasing number of blogs which have a bias and political view-point they are trying to promote, and that are not being counter-balanced.

What can you expect to read here? Well, we'll be dissecting some of the more salacious "news" you will see in various places, and actually look at the facts behind it - do a bit of research, see what the situation really is.

What you won't find here are promotions of any particular software or project: it's up to you to choose what open source you want to use. We won't promote or denigrate any particular company. We won't make personal attacks on people, although we may indirectly be commenting on their journalistic skills: if it seems they've done a bad job writing about something, that's unavoidable.

There is no one particular blog we are concentrating on, although by their nature some of them will come up more often because they have a track record of poor writing and research.