Update: Microsoft Security, Bluefish Wireless, pilot-link and Relocating

Wednesday, February 6th, 2002 at 12:00 am | 617 views | trackback url

Update: Microsoft Security

raph, I share the exact opposite view that you do, and I think that this could definately be a bad thing. I posted a quick comment on it a few days ago under that same Slashdot story you referenced in your recent diary entry.

Open Directory Project

softkid, your Open Directory Project seems mighty similar to the DMOZ Open Directory Project. Why not just join them as an editor. They have quite a big jump on you already. I have one of my own for Palm-related content (ala AvantGo), but the code driving it is not complete yet.

More GPL Violations

A company based in San Francisco called Bluefish, has taken Plucker source code in full, and used it to create a product they sell (quite expensively). This isn’t bad, but “their” application states clearly in the About box, that it is “Free Software” and covered under the GPL (as does the About box found in Plucker).

They have removed all attributions and references to the original authors of the source code they are using, and replaced them with their own, which is very misleading. They have also taken custom artwork without permission, and used it on their application.

Here’s a quick screenshot comparison Bluefish versus Plucker:

I called the CEO, James Fisher at the San Francisco office and politely made a verbal request for the source code to the application they provide in binary-only format on the Mercury
News website

He politely told me no.

I then said asked if he was aware that the application that they based their product on was covered under the GPL, and by not providing sources which created that binary that was already made available for download, he was in violation of the GPL, as detailed in Section 6, 7, and 10 (along with others) of the GNU General Public License, a license which Plucker is clearly covered under.

The GPL FAQ also has two related questions on it:

(one) “I want to distribute an extended version of a GPL-covered program in binary form. Is it enough to distribute the source for the original version?”

(two) “I want to distribute binaries, but distributing complete source is inconvenient. How about if I give users the diffs from the current FSF version along with the binaries, and suggest they get the base source from the FSF?”

He then said that he was not in violation, and suggested that I should “..go re-read the GPL, because we are not violating it..“.

I asked for his email address, so I could quote him the relevant sections of the GPL he was violating. I also mentioned that I was going to put a call into the FSF to get their clarification on the issue.

Then he begins to tell me that he “might” release the sources, but that they were busy “debugging” them right now, and might release them when they was done. (The key word used there was “might”, not “will”)

Sorry, no. If you release a binary which was based on GPL sources, you are required to release the full sourcecode, scripts, and other tools which created that binary (which were covered under the GPL), at the same time, not months or years later. Section 3 of the GPL is very clear on this.

His assertion that they were “debugging” the application is invalid, as “debugged” sources will produce a different binary (whose source must also be made available upon request).

If you can put the binary up for download, you can put the source code up for download as well (though this is not required, it can be mailed or linked elsewhere). The stipulation though is that you can not impose more restrictions on the code, obtaining it, or its use, than you received when you agreed to the license by using it (Section 6. of the GPL).

I have written a draft letter (currently un-sent at the time of this diary entry) which I will be sending to James Fisher as well as copying in the relevant FSF parties. I have taken pains to make sure that this letter appears non-threatening, and that the proper “legal” language was used throughout. I welcome any comments on it before I send it (and after sending it, it might disappear from that URL)


Someone recently brought up that they also have a name and logo which is suspisciously similar to the Bluefish HTML Editor. I took a quick comparison screenshot to show the similarities. Flip one fish horizontally and they are nearly identical. Who has the trademark first on this one?

I’m only concerned about the clear violation of the GPL stated above though, but this graphical logo similarity is interesting.

Is it just me, or is this happening more and more lately. Companies seem to treat Open Source and Free Software as some sort of “bake sale” of free code thew can just take and use however they wish, without abiding by the license, giving proper credit and attribution, or adhering to the terms of the code they’ve been using.

“Oh this code we downloaded to make our commercial product had some sort of GPL thing at the top of every file. We don’t use that GPL thing, so we just removed that stuff and the names of those guys who wrote it. It’s our code now.”

pilot-link Needs Testers!

We’re about to release the first preview release of pilot-link which includes some very neat new features — USB support and a very detailed DEBUG and logging facility (thanks to jpr). I’ve also cleaned up the sources in general, making them more readable, compressing the cruft, and converted it all over to Automake and fully using getopt().

There’s still some lingering issues with Win32 and OS/2 support, and requests for testers and porters have been made, but there has been no response yet.

Moving Eastward

The move back east is going slowly, much slower than I want. I do not want to have to pay another $2,000/USD for rent in February, especially while unemployed. I have Palmsource in San Jose to attend in a few weeks ($1,200/USD registration fee), and the cross-country relocation. Ick.

So much to do…

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6th, 2002 @ 00:00

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