Open Source

ASUS Eee PC accused of violating GPL

Some members of the Linux community have complained that the Eee PC sub-notebook from ASUS may have violated the spirit of the GPL (General Public License).

Some members of the Linux community have complained that the Eee PC sub-notebook from ASUS may have violated the spirit of the GPL (General Public License).

The point of contention is that the Eee PC has not included the required source code with the installed Xandros Linux distribution.

According to blogger Cliff Biffle:

ASUS has posted a 1.8GB ZIP file on their website that they claim is the sources, but it's not -- it contains a few .debs (not even the versions that ship on the machine) and some kernel headers. (Perhaps they figured nobody would pull 1.8GB from their slow-as-molasses site and find out.)

He adds:

... this is not the first time that ASUS has stolen from the community in this way. They were caught in 2004 stealing code from iptables/netfilter.

However, there are indications that Eee PC fans probably don't care. What about you, do you care?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

26 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

The unmodified sources can be gotten from Xandros: http://www.xandros.com/support/source_code.html The modified sources can be gotten from ASUS: ftp://ftp.asus.com/pub/ASUS/EeePC/ They do not make the full Xandros source base available, but they do make the sources available for the [b]modified[/b] code, as is required by the GNU-GPL. V3 of the GNU-GPL doesn't have the addendum where just supplying the modified sources is not an acceptable level of sources. I think they made a mistake in the way they did it, in public relations terms, but they have not actually violated the GNU-GPL The actual modified sources are for specific device drivers. to bad they screwed the pooch on that and require ndiswrapper instad of actually making a GNU-Linux driver.

John Musbach
John Musbach

...then yes the GPL has been violated, hopefully ASUS will release the source code so as to avoid any further bad PR. - John Musbach

CaptCoz
CaptCoz

I recently purchased my eeePC, and I am one of the people that do expect to get access to the source code used to build this machine. I love what they've done with the machine, and I think it will be looked back upon as a pivotal moment in the breakthrough/acceptance of linux by consumers and not hard-core techies. Having said that, there are a few tweaks I would like to apply to tune this device for use by certain groups (like non-profits, etc)... and I would rather use their code as a baseline than to build something from scratch on my own. Once done, I would be happy to send that tuned distro back to the community (and Asus) to post on their site to allow others to take advantage of the outcome. Isn't that the spirit (and law) of Open Source?

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

put it on the "hard drive". Would a separate CD containing the source code meet the requirements?

nighthawk808
nighthawk808

openSUSE, for example, doesn't install the sources by default, but they're available by simply checking the box next to them in YaST. Since they're pretty big (openSUSE's kernel 2.6.22.12-0.1 is 243MB alone in source form), and they're only needed by geeks like me who actually look at kernel code for fun or the (quite) small percentage of users who need the sources to build a custom module, it's a waste of HDD space for the 90%+ of users who will never use it. Ditto for the other x,000 packages. What's the fuss about the sources being available as .deb packages? If you can't figure out how to type "apt-get install foo-source", then you've got bigger problems with Linux than not being able to read the sources.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't want the source code for all my rpm on the machine. I don't even want the default install of binary packages on my machine. I isntall only the packages I want (plus dependencies). I do want to know that the source is available when I need it (ie. when I used to build rpm from src.rpm in the days of Red Hat's dependency hell) but to have that much of my machine used up by default. The kernel soruce is 34'ish megs or more but the binary kernel is well under 10'ish megs. Three times the space consumption for a simple OS install is complete madness. Was there ever a distribution outside of Gentoo that dropped the source on you by default? That'd have me switching distros within the same hour after initial install.

Jaqui
Jaqui

rpm -ivh package.srpm The simplest way for Asus to settle the issue, release open source drivers for the hardware, and just use a default Xandros Desktop. then it's Xandros who has to make the sources available. [ which they do ]

Jaqui
Jaqui

Did Asus include a copy of the os on cd/dvd for re-install if needed? If yes to above: is it a customised version of Xandros, or is it just they used Xandros as Dell did Ubuntu?

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

for you to do this. From what I've seen there are some nice additions they've added to the Desktop Environment (KDE I think). Perhaps I missed something in one of the posts but...has anyone asked for the source code? It sounds as if they would only be in violation if they refused the request. Make it available doesn't necessarily mean available for download or include with the PC at time of purchase. Or does it? Anyhow as long as they make it available I look forward to it finding it's way to the OSS community. So yes I very much care.

Tig2
Tig2

Jaqui's posts above. The source is available from ASUS. And that maintains the requirement of the GPL that the source be available. Good to see a Linux in the mainstream!

Tig2
Tig2

Yep, I get it. I can't believe that ASUS will violate the GPL. All they have to do is make it available and they're covered.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Something is available from ASUS. The original post questions whether it's complete source or just bits and pieces. "Bits" - get it?

ogre614
ogre614

Yes I care, In the long run it will give Linux a bad rap. If the Eee pc crashes the fix will not be at hand. What's the outcome? The pc is good, but Linux sucks because it is too geeky. Open sourse is the future, BSA and all who sign up with them should and will be boycotted.

lastchip
lastchip

Not that it would be any use to me, but the way I see it; many thousands of developers worldwide have contributed (possibly) millions of hours jointly in providing this wonderful system. IF it is true, why should a commercial company just take all those resources without complying with the spirit of the licence? Almost every day, we hear Microsoft screaming about piracy. Is this not the same?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Personally, I don't care. I wouldn't know what to do with the code, and I suspect most Linux users don't either. Professionally, if the license says the code must be included with the distro, then it appears eeePC is in violation. However, I don't know the exact wording of the license. Does it say the code must be 'included' or 'available'? If 'available', then making it the complete code for the Linux version in the distro should be enough. Based on what's posted here, the complete code wasn't included by eeePC, so they're still in violation. Speaking personally again, I would prefer to see the license worded so that including teh code was not required, and making the code available by download was acceptable. Why waste download time and drive space pulling something I don't want and can't personally use? Isn't choice one of the basic tenets of the open source movement?

Jaqui
Jaqui

Asus must [b]make available[/b] the sources for the software. The [b]SPECIFIC[/b] versions used. From the GNU-GPL directly: "For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received.[b] You must make sure that they, too, receive [i]or can get[/i] the source code. [/b]And you must show them these terms so they know their rights." here is the page it is from: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html edit to add: 6. Conveying Non-Source Forms. You may convey a covered work in object code form under the terms of sections 4 and 5, provided that you also convey the machine-readable Corresponding Source under the terms of this License, in one of these ways: * a) Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product (including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by the Corresponding Source fixed on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange. * b) Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product (including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by a written offer, valid for at least three years and valid for as long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product model, to give anyone who possesses the object code either (1) a copy of the Corresponding Source for all the software in the product that is covered by this License, on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange, for a price no more than your reasonable cost of physically performing this conveying of source, or (2) access to copy the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge. * c) Convey individual copies of the object code with a copy of the written offer to provide the Corresponding Source. This alternative is allowed only occasionally and noncommercially, and only if you received the object code with such an offer, in accord with subsection 6b. * d) Convey the object code by offering access from a designated place (gratis or for a charge), and offer equivalent access to the Corresponding Source in the same way through the same place at no further charge. You need not require recipients to copy the Corresponding Source along with the object code. If the place to copy the object code is a network server, the Corresponding Source may be on a different server (operated by you or a third party) that supports equivalent copying facilities, provided you maintain clear directions next to the object code saying where to find the Corresponding Source. Regardless of what server hosts the Corresponding Source, you remain obligated to ensure that it is available for as long as needed to satisfy these requirements. * e) Convey the object code using peer-to-peer transmission, provided you inform other peers where the object code and Corresponding Source of the work are being offered to the general public at no charge under subsection 6d. all of which boils down to you have to make a copy of the license, and sources available if you distribute any software covered by the GNU-GPL

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I heard the /. crowd tore the topic apart trying to decide who was going to boycott Asus more than anyone else. I didn't bother to go look though. osnews also had the article linked and there, like here, rational thought seems to have arried to the discussion early. In both cases, someone (Jaqui in this case) took the time to point out that the GPL says that source must be *made available* on request. Now to step back and start my timer to see how long it takes the less rational to chime in.

Jaqui
Jaqui

answered the question Palmetto asked abut making source available. The original blog entry, the TR blog entry both assumed that the sourced should be on the install media [ disk ], which is not required. Palmetto wasn't sure about it, so I pointed him to the relevant sections and the "intended" meaning of them.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I think Jacqui quickly cut to the heart of the issue.

Jaqui
Jaqui

The Free Software Foundation, GNU.org and other interested groups all put out an addendum to version 2 of the GNU-GPL stating that "upstream sources" repositories change to rapidly to be acceptable as making the sources available, each group distributing software covered by the GNU-GPL must make the versions of the sources used in their distribution available to anyone that wants it. This was because a few distros did not make sources available, since they are "available from upstream repositories" [ meaning: why should we put the kernel sources out when they can be gotten directly from the kernel group?

paulmah
paulmah

However, there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care. What about you, do you care?

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is an essential part of todays software world. If it is not enforced, many more companies will "steal" software and re-sell it in their own projects, without even a nod to the OSS community, let alone giving anything back. Protection of the GPL should be no less enforced then any other software license agreement.

WPee
WPee

With all the other JUNK software forced on us users by manfactures it is made even MORE DIFFICULT by manfactures not giving FULL CREDIT to those that have made their own existance more bearable.

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