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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 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!
  • 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 wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:16PM (#21508177) Journal
    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.
  • 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 orclevegam (940336) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:29PM (#21508335) Journal

    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.

  • Wow. I have mod points, but there is no "-1 where the hell did that come from" option. I do not disagree with your first sentence, but the remainder of your post is completely and utterly wrong, at least in how it pertains to Asus and this discussion.

    "A company may not be even in a position to release the source code as it may be owned by a third party." Fair enough, but this article is about a company distributing a GNU/Linux system with a modified kernel module that is GPL'd. There is no third party involved and even if there were, there is no way that Asus could both legally distribute their version of GNU/Linux in binary format (installed on the device) and simultaneously *not* release the modified source code; regardless of said third party's standing on distribution of the code. This is GPL 101 type stuff. Check it out. [gnu.org]

    "Releasing newly written code with equivalent functionality or even rewriting GPL code and keeping the product closed source is considered enough to cure a license violation." That is so wrong I don't even know where to begin. How about you come up with some citations for that asinine bit of trash? I feel dumber for having read that.
  • by norminator (784674) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:36PM (#21508403)
    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.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:38PM (#21508441)
    That's not what it was designed to be. Picture a sales force or service technicians armed with these. Calendar, Google maps, IM, Open Office and Skype in less than a Kg. This is the unit that's going to put linux in a LOT of peoples hands. And who knows? Once they get used to Linux on the road, they might want it at home and the office.
  • 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 Hatta (162192) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @04:54PM (#21509635) Journal
    The point is, the GPL is not about extracting damages from people. It's not even about forcing people to give us their code. It's about ensuring code that is free remains free. If companies see GPL software as a legal trap where a simple mistake could leave them liable for thousand of dollars in fines, they're just going to avoid it completely. Which would kind of negate the entire purpose of sharing free software. Remember, the GPL is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • 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.
  • by Haeleth (414428) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @05:36PM (#21510211) Journal

    "Releasing newly written code with equivalent functionality or even rewriting GPL code and keeping the product closed source is considered enough to cure a license violation." That is so wrong I don't even know where to begin. How about you come up with some citations for that asinine bit of trash? I feel dumber for having read that.
    Insulting people does not make you sound more authoritative. If you can't be polite, perhaps you should refrain from posting at all.

    As it happens he is slightly incorrect, but his basic point -- that it is possible to resolve a GPL violation without releasing code -- is valid.

    The situation is that a GPL violation is like any other copyright violation. It can be resolved in two ways: either the violator can obtain a license from the copyright holder, or the violator must cease and desist the violation and pay damages. In the case of GPL violations, what typically happens is that the copyright holder says "comply with the GPL and you will have a license to use this code", so the violator complies with the GPL and everyone's happy. But it is entirely plausible that a violation could be resolved by the violator withdrawing the product or rewriting code to remove the infringing sections. The only slight flaw in the GP's statement is that this in itself would not necessarily be the end of the story, because the copyright holders could still demand monetary damages to compensate them for the violation.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:01PM (#21511279)
    And yet courts have been known to impose no or minimal penalties for patent infringement (if accidental and quickly corrected), trademark infringement (ditto), theft (if getting essential food and medicine in a disaster zone) and assault (if the defendant had reasons to believe that the victim posed an immediate physical threat). Why are you so sure that an accidental, small in scope and promptly corrected copyright violation will not be handled in a similar manner?
  • by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot@mmo[ ]org ['ss.' in gap]> 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 Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:29PM (#21512337)
    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 for specific hardware bits that needs to be version controlled so nobody ever gets sent the wrong code for their version of the hardware, and keep CDs on hand just in case someone asks for the software. Meanwhile, stay on top of all the copyright issues in all the jurisdictions where the product is sold and modify the distribution accordingly. (mp3 and gif, anyone?)
    Option 1 is a lot simpler. If your target audience has no idea what Linux is, or even how to pronounce it, you can count on zero sales based on OS. You get Microsoft to discount the licenses because these are starter systems and every system sold today is a Microsoft user for the rest of his life. Your costs are about the same either way, and if you wind up a target for a copyright lawsuit over some tiny bit of code that you left in the distribution, the latter could cost a lot more.
  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:53PM (#21512579) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:That Extra Mile (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:21PM (#21513719) Homepage Journal

    Kernel modules have definitely been a contentious issue vis-a-vis the GPL

    Yes, but I don't think I've ever seen someone try to argue that a kernel module linked directly to and distributed with the kernel isn't a derived work. The questionable cases have been, for example, the NVidia and ATI drivers. The argument in those cases is that the binary-only component is not a derived work of the Linux kernel, doesn't dynamically link directly to the kernel, doesn't use any Linux headers to be built and may even be usable without the kernel. The source-distributed shim that connects the binary-only component to the kernel is clearly a derived work, and those shims are GPL'd.

    Even that case, however, hasn't survived a test in court. None of the Linux copyright holders have pressed the issue. If one of them did, it's not clear what would happen.

    Although MadWifi is dual license, in this case linking to the kernel provides the GPL infection to force the decision.

    I agree, thought I wouldn't use the word "infection", because it's not accurate. It's not that being linked to the kernel forces the madwifi code to be distributed under the GPL's terms, it's that unless the madwifi code is distributed that way, the Linux kernel code can't be distributed. If anything, the "infection" goes the other direction. The presence of the madwifi code distributed without source "infects" the rest of the kernel it's connected to and cause the GPL to be inapplicable to it in this case. Without the GPL's permission, of course, Asus has no legal right to distribute the kernel code, even though they can distribute the madwifi code without source or an offer of source (in compliance with the BSD license).

    Well again they have not yet replied to me as of yet so let's hope they also come to this conclusion and release this code.

    Absolutely. I suspect they will, and probably without much -- if any -- fuss. That's the best outcome for everyone.

  • by cbiffle (211614) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @03:01AM (#21515171)
    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 dialog, the other is making angry Slashdot posts -- I'm not certain the latter is in any position to give lectures about losing one's virginity. :-)

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