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Asus Corrects Eee PC Source Code Issue 157

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the learning-from-mistakes dept.
ozmanjusri writes "Asus has corrected the availability of source code for its Eee PC, and reaffirmed its commitment to meeting the requirements of open source licenses, including the GPL. They also announced the upcoming release of a new SDK to assist the Open Source community development on the Eee PC."
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Asus Corrects Eee PC Source Code Issue

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  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:03PM (#21508009)
    EEE? Triple E PC? What's with the name (i.e. what does it signify)?
  • by RandoX (828285) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:03PM (#21508017)
    "The code released by Asus brings the company into compliance with its obligations under the GPL and should satisfy most of the critics."

    And those critics that aren't satisfied by that will all be regulars here at /.
  • I see this quite a lot... companies admitting their guilt, and then releasing "cleaned up" source code that complies with the license(s) in question.

    The problem is that "cleaned-up" source code creates a different set of binaries, for which source code must also be released.

    They need to release the SAME source code that was used to create the binaries which they've already released and distributed, not just "cleaned-up" code, which generates different binaries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)
      you didn't actually read the article did you? no where does it say anything implying that the source code was "cleaned up" in this case to avoid complying with the GPL. Secondly, had they done so as you point out the binaries would not be the same, surely someone would have noticed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by norminator (784674)
      For a product that hasn't been out that long, I would think that as long as it matches the binaries they send out from this point on would suffice. I mean, maybe someone could go after them for what was previously released, but why bother?
    • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:38PM (#21508427) Homepage

      They need to release the SAME source code that was used to create the binaries which they've already released and distributed, not just "cleaned-up" code, which generates different binaries.
      No, they don't. First of all, unless someone sues they won't need to do anything at all and even if someone did, they'd never be forced to release code but they might have to pay damages. Nor would releasing source free them from those damages. Legally it has no weight in one direction or the other. It's an olive branch, a token of good faith, a "settlement offer" - if I release this, are we cool? To which you can of course say "Not good enough" if you're legally entitled to sue. And quite frankly, unless they removed 99% of the secret source I think most would be happy with "umm we're not usre about the exact source version, but here's the complete source for our latest build with all enhancements and bug fixes we've done since". Anything else is a witchhunt in best RIAA-style.
    • I see this quite a lot... companies admitting their guilt, and then releasing "cleaned up" source code that complies with the license(s) in question.

      And without long drawn out court cases. In this case, unless proven otherwise, ASUS have not done anything terrible. They didn't release the code initially, but they did when asked. End of story. Its possible some over zealous person in the legal department decided that they might give away ASUS secrets, or it could be a simple oversight. Who knows. Linux working with more standard business models with the usual NDAs and complicated licenses for every little thing are new territory. Just as Dell had a few

  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:04PM (#21508037) Homepage
    1. Release geek-oriented product nobody's ever heard of
    2. Make it very obvious it's based on GNU/Linux
    3. "Accidentally" screw up the GPL code release
    4. Wait for Slashdot Story
    5. Fix GPL code release
    6. Trigger Slashdot follow-up story
    5. Free advertising sells lots of product
    6. Profit!
    • by slyn (1111419) <ozzietheowl@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:51PM (#21508633)
      123456....56

      wjat?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dancindan84 (1056246)

      1. Release geek-oriented product nobody's ever heard of
      2. Make it very obvious it's based on GNU/Linux
      3. "Accidentally" screw up the GPL code release
      4. Wait for Slashdot Story
      5. Fix GPL code release
      6. Trigger Slashdot follow-up story
      5. Free advertising sells lots of product
      3. ????
      6. Profit!
      Fixed
    • by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot@nOSpAm.mmoss.org> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:54PM (#21511989)
      1. Release geek-oriented product nobody's ever heard of

      I don't think that geeks are Asus' target market on this one. From what I've seen, their goal was to produce an sub-laptop with the best possible ratio of out-of-the-box capabilities to cost. What resulted is, IMHO, somewhere between the capabilities of a smart-phone (minus the cell phone, of course) and a note-book. I think they expect to be able to sell this to populations that might not otherwise be able to afford a computer (think OLPC, but less philanthropic), or who might not currently have their own computer (think of schools outfitting every classroom with a set, for example, or parents buying one for their school-aged child).

      2. Make it very obvious it's based on GNU/Linux

      I think this was mainly for cost reasons. The OS itself is free (not counting anything Asus might have paid Xandros for development work), and massive amounts of software are freely available. I suspect that license costs, hardware requirements, and cost/headache-factor of distributing a similar suite of applications for Windows would have driven up the price.

      3. "Accidentally" screw up the GPL code release
      4. Wait for Slashdot Story
      5. Fix GPL code release
      6. Trigger Slashdot follow-up story
      5. Free advertising sells lots of product
      6. Profit!


      Or, more likely IMHO,

      4. Fail to release the code on time to some combination of overwhelming bureaucracy, over-optimistic marketing deadlines, and overworked engineers.
      5. Release the code shortly after consumers point out your omission.
      6. Good will!
      • by Pentagram (40862)
        I don't think that geeks are Asus' target market on this one. I can't say what Asus's plans were for the Eee, but it certainly seems to be appealing to the geeks. Who wouldn't like an ultra-portable, well featured, micro-laptop running Linux? (Typing this from my Eee.)
  • Is it me, or is it funny how Asus gets free publicity for screwing up.
    • Everybody may come to her/his own conclusions. But for me it is clear now, what to expect from them.
    • by SoapDish (971052)
      Note that the *good* free publicity is for fixing the screw-up.
    • Re:Free publicity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by _KiTA_ (241027) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @04:53PM (#21509609) Homepage
      Is it me, or is it funny how Asus gets free publicity for screwing up.

      No, they get free publicity for doing the right thing, which, unfortunately, is uncommon amongst the business world.
      • by mollymoo (202721)
        Which corrupt hellhole do you live in? I think you'll find the overwhelming majority of first-world companies stay within the law, and they don't ever get applauded for it. Compliance with the law is the norm, not the exception.
  • Impatient, Are We? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tenshigure (1105825) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:10PM (#21508115)
    The EeePC has only been available publicly for a few weeks now. It was purely speculation that they were willingly holding back the code for asus_acpi and the other crap, and now they've corrected that mistake. Those 'critics' need to calm down sometimes, not every large corporation out there is trying to destroy the 'sanctity of GPL' at every opportunity.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Those 'critics' need to calm down sometimes, not every large corporation out there is trying to destroy the 'sanctity of GPL' at every opportunity.

      Neither are they trying to comply with it, unless someone points out their mistake.

      I mean, we're talking about source code that is already written. They have a disc marked "master source code for product rev 1" somewhere, it takes pretty much zilch extra effort to have that included with the product. Just duplicate it and throw it in. The fact they had to make a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by orclevegam (940336)

        The fact they had to make a different "cleaned up" version just confirms my suspicions as to why they didn't release it to begin with; the actual source code has programming hacks and embarrassing comments in it, like some previous examples of closed-source code that has been forced in to public view by the courts.

        [citation needed]

        Seriously though, what are you basing this off of? I read TFA and I can't find any reference in that, or in the articles it links to that say ASUS released "cleaned up" versions of the code. Even the guy who originally discovered this and blogged about it, says he thinks it wasn't ASUS being malicious, just negligent and forgetting to publish the code.

      • Last minute changes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Full Disclosure.....I haven't received my eee yet, I ordered it last Wednesday and it is due to arrive this week. I can't logon here at my client; my nick is alanbcohen

        As I understand it, Asus used a new chip to meet the cost targets and had to make some last minute code changes to get working systems out the door. No 'cleanup' of proprietary source, no trying to hide stuff. Over at the eeeuser forum, they are already reporting successful recompiles of the source and use in a different distro install on
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by xenocide2 (231786)
          I think it speaks more to the skills of asus to market the concept to people. Nobody accuses openMoko of failing to disclose the source, because they did so from the start! Even if you wanted to hide your engineering from the world, the source code is part of the selling point to the eee. A more skilled Asus would have it available on day one, if not before, and be proudly trumpeting it.
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        Neither are they trying to comply with it, unless someone points out their mistake.

        And you believe this is what Asus did, based on what? The fact that they are a large corporation?

        They may have the code written, but its not as easy as you suggest to distribute it (those cds cost money). They don't even need to include it at all; just make it available to someone who asks for it.

        Back on topic, why do you simply believe this not to be a mistake? How many other products used GPL code prior to this one? If
      • by mollymoo (202721)

        Neither are they trying to comply with it, unless someone points out their mistake.

        Exactly. Asus wouldn't dream of shipping a PC with Windows pre-installed without having licensing agreements in place with Microsoft. I not entirely sure if it's fear or respect that makes the difference but I suspect it's fear. If we are to stop this kind of thing happening in future we need to make companies as scared of violating the copyright of FOSS as they are of violating the copyright of proprietary software. To in

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Obfuscant (592200)
          If we are to stop this kind of thing happening in future we need to make companies as scared of violating the copyright of FOSS as they are of violating the copyright of proprietary software.

          That certainly would stop it from happening in the future. It would also drive companies right into the arms of Microsoft.

          Which is easier for a corporate computer manufacturer PHB?

          1. Pay a licensing fee once to one company for all the software on a a system, and distribute nothing extra.
          2. Pay someone to develop code f
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:25PM (#21508275)
      They need to get a grip and get a clue. Unfortunately something attracts impossibilists to Gnu/Linux. It's the same self destructive urge that stops organizations like the Green Party going anywhere - they want impossibly perfect behaviour from their supporters and proponents. There is something weird in the psychology that seems endlessly to find fault with the things it claims to support, but it is remarkably common. I'd like to think that all the original attacks on Asus were actually astroturfing Microsoft PR flaks, but unfortunately years of experience lead me to the knowledge that Linux and FOSS needs to be protected from some of its friends as well as its enemies.

      Memo to these guys: you may not like having to live in your parents' basement, but you will find that a little tolerance of other people (and suppressing the hair trigger attack reaction) goes a long way when trying to lose your virginity.

      • by imr (106517)
        I find your statement as ridiculous and intolerant as the ones you describe. And you get from it the same "insightfull" moderation points they got in the previous news.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cbiffle (211614)
        For context, here's how this looks from outside Slashdot.

        Me: "It looks like ASUS may have violated the GPL in the eee software distribution. I suspect it was a mistake. I've contacted them and publicly stated that I don't intend to sue or anything." (This is the 'hair trigger attack reaction' I guess.)
        Blog community: "Lame!"
        ASUS: "Oh, hey, you're right, here are some source tarballs."
        Me: "Thanks! Go ASUS!"
        "Kupfernigk" on Slashdot: "OMG MOUTH-FROTHING AD-HOMINEM ATTACKS"

        One of us is involved in civil dia
        • The problem is that OSS proponents didn't even seem to give ASUS enough time that I could tell in the linked blogs. Instead, they quickly post to the internet, and the blogs and angry OSS proponents get all frothy when actual reasonable people could have gone to ASUS first, made their case and actually give them time. If ASUS turns them down or takes far too long, then that's the time to spread the information. As it is, the (I assume few) loudest OSS advocates just sound angry, irrational and willing to
    • inflammatory stories with little merit generate a lot more page views than correct ones.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      They didn't even make that mistake. The author of the earlier article didn't even contact them to try to get the code. The GPL doesn't say the code has to be printed on a pile of t-shirts included with the product, on a tape, on a CDROM, a web link or anything like that - just that it has to be provided if you ask. Sometimes you have to ask.
    • by cbiffle (211614) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:51AM (#21515127)
      Hi. I'm the software engineer who initially brought all this to the community's attention. I assume I'm the scare-quoted critic you're referring to.

      I am not a GPL zealot (in point of fact I'm a BSD guy), and I have never used the term "sanctity of the GPL," except possibly in jest.

      I haven't seen anyone suggest that they were willfully withholding sources; in my original analysis I said that I suspected it was a mistake on their part. It's possible you read a sensationalized second-hand source (like iTwire), but all I noted was that they had shipped modified GPL binaries without source. As you say, the eee's been available for weeks now, which is weeks longer than the GPL permits you to distribute binaries without source.

      Had you read the initial analysis or the followups where I tested and verified ASUS's source releases, you would know this.

      Honestly, seems like anything can make 5/Insightful these days.
  • Now that the source code is available, is it irrational to expect that one or a group of folks will in the very near future, provide code in ISO format that I can use to install on my "ordinary" PC? Hope so. So, for those who can, go to work. A slashdotter is watching this space.
    • by HiThere (15173)
      That's nice, and I hope it happens, but for me...

      For me the benefit of Asus releasing the code is that the next edition of Debian, Ubuntu, etc. will install cleanly if I buy one of their machines.

      I'm not realistically likely to buy one of their machines soon. I'm not in the market, I'm just continually evaluating what's out there so that when I AM ready I'll have my ducks in a line. I had pretty much decided not to consider ASUS, because closed drivers mean I can't rely on installing the version of Linux
    • is it irrational to expect that one or a group of folks will in the very near future, provide code in ISO format that I can use to install on my "ordinary" PC?

      Yes, it is irrational.

      The code related to the GPL violation was specific to the Eee PC hardware and would not work on an ordinary PC.

      If want your normal PC to run the same distro, you already can. The Eee PC runs Xandros [xandros.com], which you can download and install anytime.

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:17PM (#21508203)
    I work for a company that provides Open Source solutions. We are actively involved in several FOSS projects, and support the concept any way we can. That said, with the rapid advances of the base projects, and our changes to those projects, it is very easy to let publishing the source slip down the priority list. I have forgotten several times, and this has been on projects I develop for! (I fix it as soon as I realize...) I would bet many omissions can be attributed to overwork, and not malice.
    • It's actually not that difficult to make publishing the default. What version control system are you using? Most will allow public (read-only) access, either with their tool or via some web interface.
      • If you don't want to publish the latest unreleased version, you can use svnsync to create a public version with everything up to the latest release and just change the version it syncs with when you push out a new release.
      • It's actually not that difficult to make publishing the default. What version control system are you using? Most will allow public (read-only) access, either with their tool or via some web interface.

        gedit... :) Essentially we do some slight modifications to existing projects, generally by hand, but occasionally by script. There is no svn, so scripts may be modified for a version rev with no backup taken. It is not major development here... The major work we do is contributed to the project first and
        • There is no svn, so scripts may be modified for a version rev with no backup taken. It is not major development here...

          I would strongly recommend that at least the scripts, if not the entire project, be covered by some version control. I'd recommend bzr, specifically.

          (And you might consider the scripts themselves to be source for the project, in some way...)

          The main reason I recommend this is it's so easy to do. I do this for all my personal projects that I intend to keep -- basically anything beyond jus

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfort (1132)
      According to section 3b of the GPL v2:

      b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

      The part about a written offer might be a minor quibble, but you should be in the cl

      • From the link in the original slashdot article, I thought it was stated that they did provide the offer. The problem was that they provided the original rather than the modified source code in their 1.8 MB zip.
  • That Extra Mile (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tundra_man (719419) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:24PM (#21508265)
    I have noted in the last few days the release of the various bits of source code and am happy to see Asus ensure that they are in compliance. Now I would love for them to go the extra mile and release the code changes to MadWifi to support the wireless. I know this is released under a BSD style license and they are not obligated but one of the biggest weaknesses of the Eee right now for me is the inability of their wpa_supplicant to offer enterprise encryption support. Something that is hard to change without the MadWifi source or switching to use NDISWrapper. The Eee is the best gadget but I want my wireless @ work.

    NOTE: I have asked Asus about enterprise encryption support and they have said it may be coming. I have also asked about the madwifi source but received no definitive answer yet.

    • NOTE: I have asked Asus about enterprise encryption support and they have said it may be coming.
      And the check's in the mail! ;D
    • In TFA (from the Asus website), they give you an email to Asus support. Tell them you (and many other Eee owners) would be much happier with the Eee if we had the madwifi drivers so we could use the Eee with whatever distro we wanted.

      Or you could go the OSS zealot route and tell them that if they don't release the source, you will send your Eee to Blendtec and ensure that no one you know will buy one. Of course, I'd go with the first route.
    • Thats one reason I never liked the BSD license.
    • by swillden (191260)

      Now I would love for them to go the extra mile and release the code changes to MadWifi to support the wireless. I know this is released under a BSD style license and they are not obligated

      That's not "the extra mile", it's what they're required to do. They're distributing the madwifi module linked to the GPL'd Linux kernel, that means they're distributing it under the terms of the GPL. Because the driver is BSD-licensed, it is permitted to distribute it under the terms of the GPL, but the GPL requirements must be fulfilled.

      If Asus hasn't released this code, they're not done complying with the GPL yet.

    • Have you gave xsupplicant a try? It's a command-line based tool, at present, with a GUI forthcoming. I use it on my Nokia tablet to get LEAP and PEAP support for use at my university. Check it out: http://open1x.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

      If you need some help getting it set up, feel free to drop me an email.
  • by kbahey (102895) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:31PM (#21510115) Homepage
    Some of the posters see conspiracies every where (marketing strategy, ...etc.).

    A simpler explanation is that in a large corporation, you have communication "issues" causing delays and lags. The technical folk may have finished their part of the project, but the web presence or product management folk has not gotten to publishing the source yet.

    This is the classic left hand does know what the right hand does ...

    Let us not assume bad intentions where no hard evidence exists.
  • Any news on whether or not they're going to start honoring the warranties on the eeePC?

    A bit of background on this: Apparently it's not just breaking those "void warranty" stickers on the memory door that voids the warranty, but doing anything at all to the box. Several users have reported Asus refusing to honor the warranty on completely unopened and unchanged eeePCs.

    • by kenh (9056)
      WTF - citations on this? Can this possibly be anything but a few isolated cases? I wonder if these were grey-market Eees looking for warranty repairs in the wrong market...
  • You can go to ASUS site and see that they have very little support for their products for open source. I have a relatively new model of a motherboard with wireless built in but I can't use it because ASUS decided I was not worth writing open source drivers for it.

    So, then they create a project and base it on Linux, violate the GPL, and then claim they are well intentioned and support Open Source. This just isn't true and has not been. Their efforts to support Open Source has always been spotty and they'v
    • by wwahammy (765566)
      What's funny is that I just installed a new ASUS motherboard (no wireless though here) a few hours ago and was impressed when the driver CD included Linux drivers. I was pretty impressed by that. I don't use Linux but I always appreciate when companies choose to support the open source community.

      Combining that with their free product recycling program and I think I may have found my new motherboard vendor of choice.
  • by Eskarel (565631) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:10AM (#21514897)
    The GPL requires distributors to provide source code upon request. Asus released some source code which was apparently out of date, someone requested the updated source code and Asus released it.

    They have no obligation to host the source code, nor to provide it for download, they merely have to provide it upon request, and they did. End of story.

    • by cbiffle (211614)
      If I had mod points, they would be yours. I've gotten attacked so much in this thread that it's nice to see someone who gets it.

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