Buying an open source project

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Saturday, August 18. 2007 in Open Source

In case you haven't heard, SourceFire has "acquired" (their term) the ClamAV Open Source Project. In case you are as puzzled as many people are about what this means, they have provided a nice FAQ to answer some questions... The FAQ states that they bought the "project" (whatever that means) as well as the trademarks associated with the project and whatever copyrights were held by the "five principal members of the ClamAV team." But the big question is what does SourceFire intend to do with it? They certainly can't take ClamAV and put it into a proprietary closed-source project, since they don't own all the copyrights. I'm sure they could take a substantial chunk, but pulling out the stuff they don't own with what they do would be quite an undertaking. So I'm guessng they will be investing in continued development of the ClamAV code and project, which continue to be under GPL. Of course, this is familiar territory for SourceFire, since their start was with Snort, so it will be interesing to see how the licensing of ClamAV might change based on what was done with Snort.

Business Friendly Apache License

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Monday, February 5. 2007 in Open Source

While following the current SOA Flamewar going on, I also found my way to a somewhat recent ServerSide thread regarding Terracotta's licensing, and whether it was "real" Open Source or not. This, of course, degraded to, in many postings, a Apache License vs. (L)GPL license discussion, and which was "better." In my opinion, you pick a license depending on your ultimate goals for the redistribution and usage of the software. In some cases, an AL-type license is the best choice; in others, something (L)GPL-like makes more sense. There is no one license to rule them all. Yet this distinction seems to be lost on too many people, including people who really should know better. The idea that, no matter what, one should *always* choose (L)GPL is crazy (and I use (L)GPL in this example because, almost without exception, that is the exact claim made). I like the AL, and it is my preferred license, simply because of the fewest restrictions it places on the code, the developers and the end-users. If one defines "free" as "having fewest restrictions or limitations" then an Apache-type license is "freer" than others. Look at it from another perspective, and imagine that one's license defines freedom of movement. The AL says that one can go forward and reverse, left and right and diagonal. Basically, the moves of the Queen in chess. Other licenses place restrictions on the software; limitations that affect distributors, developers, or users. They take away some freedom of movement: you can no longer go diagonally, for example. Also, I like the fact that the AL is business friendly; that it encourages the *usage* of the code by commercial entities with almost no strings attached. It's been said that the AL license is the most "business friendly" open source license around, which I would agree with. But others believe just the reverse. And by following the ServerSide thread, I was reminded of (and pointed to) Fluery's "Business Friendliness" blog entry of 2004 which makes that claim. Personally, I don't see how that could possibly be the case. Fluery claims that his example shows that AL is bad, creating forks, and (L)GPL is good because it prevents (or, at least, discourages) them. Well, IMO, the ability to create forks is a foundation of Open Source, but we'll let that slide. What is ironic is that he bashes the AL for allowing what he specifically did for Axis: taking the code and using it as he wished. He also states that he had "no professional interest in giving this code back to our competitors." But since it's under the (L)GPL, isn't it "available" anyway? And certainly wouldn't that be a valid excuse for other commercial entities to not even look at a (L)GPL implementation in the first place? And isn't it just slightly hypocritical to claim the superiority of a license that forces others to do what you specifically decided *not* to do ("give" your code to your competitors)? The AL allowed him to do exactly what he wanted with the code in his particular circumstance: use it as a basis for their implementation and then not provide any patches back to the original community; the (L)GPL would not have. It certainly would not have allowed him to relicense under the AL. If you can go from the AL to the (L)GPL, but not the reverse, I'd say that one has more degrees of freedom, wouldn't you? And recall that this was a *business* decision. Seems you have more options on which decisions are available to you with the AL, dontcha think? And look what happened: a commercial entity grew and prospered and the Open Source community did as well (Axis got better, additional Open Source projects took foot, etc...). What we see with many, many, many AL projects is that the threat of "proprietary" forking does not happen. Those commercial entities give back to the community not because they *have* to, but because they *want* to. The trust and altruism inherent in the AL is reciprocated. Sure, there are times when that doesn't happen. In which case, the hope and intent is that, by using an AL project to base your implementation on, you have no compelling need to waste resources on implementing "features" which defeat open standards. In other words, yes, you fork the code, but not the open standards and protocols that they implement... which sounds like a good deal to me. Good enough, at least.

The Java News

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Tuesday, November 14. 2006 in Open Source

Much is being made of Sun's decision (finally) of open sourcing Java, and I find myself happy and pleased about it, but not super excited by it. I mean, had it been done a few years ago, I don't think there would have been a dry eye in the house, and that people would have been jumping up and down in enthusiasm. But a "real" free Java is hardly new news anymore (note: Harmony is no longer in incubation, we graduated it last month (Oct 2006)). The excitement is over the trend, and in the hopes of even better cooperation within the free Java community. Certainly this opens doors that had previously been tightly closed. Much is also being said about Sun's decision to go with GPLv2, and many people were hoping that other open source communities would be jumping all over Sun for that decision. I think they are disappointed that, for the most part, communities are agreeing that, despite what license they like, the choice of license was Sun's to make, and that GPLv2 is a fine enough license, thank you very much. Yes, a free Java will help Java, the language. But I still believe that the success of Java (the language) is not so much to do with the language design itself (certainly, various scripting languages such as Ruby and Python avoid some of those warts and are, from a language-design PoV, "better") but rather the robustness of the JVM itself, as well as the "universal" availability of it. But I also expect to see other languages get a substantial kickup now that a "free" JVM is available for them to use.

OSCON 2006 Notes

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Monday, July 31. 2006 in Open Source

Well, I'm back from OSCON and the trip itself wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I flew NorthWest out there (and back) and on the outgoing flights there were delays out the wazoo. But I didn't miss my connection and was able to get some reading done, so it wasn't all that bad. What *was* bad is that I missed a dinner meeting with Raven Zachary of The 451 Group, but was able to meet him late that night for drinks at the DoubleTree bar. I spent my time mostly split between the Covalent booth and the ASF booth. It was very nice seeing so many people again. One bad thing about living on the East Coast is that so many people I know live on the other side, so I only get to hang with them not as often as I'd like. I'd never move, but if I did, that would be one big reason to do so. A bunch of us grabbed dinner in downtown Portland and then headed back to the convention center. Of course, we took the wrong line, so we needed to back track and grab the right one. And we're the people you trust to write code. Most likely, we were all still distracted by the young woman playing pool at the restaurant/bar. I also met with Rachel Chalmers (also of the 451 Group) and Steve O'Grady (from RedMonk), for the more traditional analyst meetings. My talk went OK, although I had a bunch more content than time, so I had to breeze past like about 5-6 slides. As for OSCON itself, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended, and the show itself seemed to draw a nice size crowd. It's a darn shame that the wireless connectivity was as bad as it was. Helpful hint: if you want to provide wireless, do it right and contact Cliff Skolnick of Toaster.Net, As expected, I regretted not being able to stay longer. Next year, I'll need to plan some more time out there, and buy an extra ticket so I can take Eileen out with me and spend some time just sightseeing.

OSCON 2006

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Wednesday, July 19. 2006 in Open Source

Next week I'll be suffering from cramped legs and a sore back as I'll be flying cross country to attend and speak at OSCON. Flying is no longer a fun event, at least for me. In fact, it's hardly tolerable anymore, what with the long lines and the packed flights. Plus, as I've mentioned before, my productivity goes *way* down when traveling, which I find just as painful. Still, events as cool as OSCON make it worthwhile, so despite me whining about getting there, I'm really looking forward to attending the conference. I have a short session on Wednesday (4:30pm) regarding LAMP and I'll be manning the ASF booth and the Covalent booth when I can. But I still wish that there were at least *some* good open source related conferences in Baltimore... We really do have a nice Convention Center.

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