The Fedora hackers have a small problem
the current Fedora Core 4 distribution, as it sits in rawhide, is
about 300MB too big to fit onto four CDs. For various reasons, the project
is not interested
in adding a fifth disk at
this time. So that means that
something has to come out and, presumably, be relegated to the "extras"
repository. The project has taken the somewhat unusual step of coming out
and asking its users: what would you remove?
The leading candidate, at the moment, would appear to be Java support,
especially Eclipse. The Java packages are huge; getting rid of them would
solve the space problems easily. They are also relatively easy to remove
because they were not shipped in prior versions of Fedora. The
distribution's users, one assumes, will complain less about losing something
they didn't have in the first place.
People are complaining, however. Many developers feel that, if Linux is to
have a hope of long-term success in large enterprises, it has to offer
top-quality Java support. But, if the distributors do not support free
Java implementations now, work on free Java stands a good chance of dying
from neglect. Few people want to see a future where Linux is, at best, a
platform for proprietary Java implementations. To avoid that future, the
distributors should support free Java now.
Other possibilities raised include:
- Getting rid of the games. Certainly games are not at the top
of the list for many commercial environments, but games do serve as a
gentle introduction to Linux for many people.
- Dropping either emacs or xemacs (but not both).
- Dropping exim and postfix. Except, of course, many people think that
the distribution should drop sendmail instead.
- Removing abiword and gnumeric, since, in theory, OpenOffice.org
provides the same functions.
- Removing KDE. Or removing GNOME. Neither of those look feasible, but
it's possible that XFce will go.
- Move epiphany to extras. Or firefox.
- Go to GCC4, which will cut some redundancy. It appears that this
change might just happen for FC4.
Various other ideas have gone around as well, but none of them are pleasing
to everybody. It appears that the Fedora
Project, which has to come up with an answer to this question in the near
future, is almost certain to upset somebody, at least in the short term.
For future Fedora Core releases, there are plans to make the installer
smarter so that it can transparently grab packages from multiple
repositories. With a bit more infrastructure work, perhaps Fedora could
take a cue from Ubuntu, and drop back to a single installation CD. In the
end, it really should not be necessary to download every possible package
(in ISO form) just to get a base system installed. For now, however, the
project seems stuck with the need to remove packages that some of its users
Update: a list of removed packages
has been posted. Victims include abiword, balsa, exim, gnumeric, koffice,
octave, sylpheed, xemacs, and xfce. The Java packages appear to have
survived. Second update: it seems
that Fedora Core 4 will also be a five-CD distribution; that's how
they kept the Java packages.
Comments (61 posted)
Your editor returned to the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo last week for
the first time in five years. LinuxWorld has been an important conference
since it began; there may be no better place to see what is going on on the
business side of Linux. But the development-oriented conferences are much
more fun. Still, LinuxWorld proved to be an interesting experience.
Attendance at the Boston LinuxWorld was on the order of 7,000 people. The
east-coast version of the event is clearly quite a bit smaller than the San
Francisco edition, but that is still a significant crowd. Attendees were
heard to say that the show felt smaller than last year's event in New
York. The organizers seem happy with the turnout, however, and plan to
move to a larger conference center (still in Boston) next year.
There were some 140 exhibitors on the busy trade show floor. Of these, 24
were in the .Org area. By a conservative count, close to one third of the
exhibitors were pushing some sort of proprietary software for Linux; backup
software, configuration management, and databases all seem to be highly
active areas. Security too, as could be seen by all of the attendees who
were willing to accept - and wear - "virus free" stickers from one of the
more in-your-face booths.
The design of the conference center caused the exhibit floor to be divided
into two rooms. The conference organizers made use of that division to
great effect: they separated the two communities in attendance at
LinuxWorld. The larger room was dedicated to commerce; that's where all
the large booths from the usual suspects (Red Hat, Novell, IBM, Sun, etc.)
were to be found. The displays were flashy, the speakers charismatic, and
"solutions" were flying by at high speed. But the community which creates
the software that makes all this possible was nowhere in evidence. In
early LinuxWorld conferences, it was common to find developers hanging out
in their employers' booths. In 2005, those developers have found somewhere
else to be.
The interesting thing is that a fair number of developers could, indeed, be
found at LinuxWorld. They tended to prefer the other room, however, where
the ".Org pavilion" was located. That side of the hall was far less
flashy, but much more fun. The people who create Linux do still wander by
LinuxWorld; you just have to know where to find them.
The early LinuxWorld conferences included a reasonable program of talks
along with the exhibit floor. At the first LinuxWorld, your editor complained that talks by Jon
'maddog' Hall, Larry Wall, Jeremy Allison, and Miguel de Icaza had all been
scheduled simultaneously. There are few such problems in 2005. Though the
conference did offer some interesting speakers (among others: Jeremy
Allison, Matt Domsch, Chris Wright, Jay Beale, and, inevitably, maddog),
the conference program was fit into a mere three slots per day. The talks
are clearly not the main attraction at LinuxWorld.
Your editor got a chance to try out booth duty, giving a talk from the
O'Reilly booth. For the morbidly curious, O'Reilly's Greg Corrin has
posted a picture of the
The only talk your editor attended was, interestingly, not on the
conference program. Bruce Perens gave his "state of open source" talk,
instead, in a press conference format - complete with free food. The core
of the talk was concerned with software patents - in Europe, and in the
U.S. The community has, says Bruce, no defense against patent suits, and
free software developers cannot count on assistance from large corporations
when an infringement suit comes around. He was apparently recruited to be
an expert witness for "the defining Linux patent infringement case," only
to be dropped when the (anonymous) party realized that Bruce would not
testify in a patent holder's favor. According to Bruce, the solution to
the software patent problem can only lie in "clean-up" legislation at the
Bruce also touched on Sun's situation (from which the company has "no good
exit"), the SCO suit (interesting things may come from the turmoil at
Canopy), and the need to emphasize the "free" part of free software. A
focus on freedom will help the community to occupy a moral high ground
which will help when trying to obtain friendly legislation. Bruce has
speaking notes for those who are interested.
One notable absence this time around was any mention of BSD. The BSD
branch of Unix was well represented at early LinuxWorld shows; the booth
staff tended to stand out in the crowd of Linux folks. BSD remains an
important part of the free software world, but its distance from Linux
appears, sometimes, to be growing.
LinuxWorld reflects the commercial side of Linux; that side is an important
part of the greater Linux ecosystem. This conference is also where new
users tend to start. So it is an important event. It's important that the
community be there; we can help guide users toward the heart of the free
Comments (7 posted)
The number of open source licenses in use today would be a good example of
"too much of a good thing." Taken individually, each open source license
represents the freedom to use, modify and redistribute code. However, many
of the licenses are incompatible, and present a hurdle for open source
projects that may want to incorporate code from other projects.
At LinuxWorld last week the Open
Source Initiative (OSI) board made it known that they are looking at
ways to reduce the number of open source licenses in use. We invited Russ
Nelson, president of OSI to respond to questions about reducing the number
of open source licenses in use.
LWN: What's so bad about license proliferation?
- A company reasonably should take a good look at the license before they
modify a piece of open source software, even for internal use. "A good
look" means a legal analysis. Every new open source license makes it that
much more expensive. Some companies want to do this even if they only *use*
open source software (but no open source license restricts use in any way).
- What happens when you want to combine software from two different
packages, but they're licensed under software with conflicting terms?
LWN: Realistically, what can be done about the problem? How can OSI "trim"
the number of licenses, or influence companies and developers that use
one-off licenses or less popular licenses that are incompatible with the
"main" open source licenses such as the GPL or BSD license?
Say "no" more often. But it's not enough for us to say "no". We have to
have community support for saying "no", so that the community won't use
software that isn't OSI Certified.
LWN: OSI has approved quite a few licenses - how many of those licenses are
one-offs or used by a handful of projects?
The vast majority. Before we can address license proliferation, we need to
understand the problem better. How many companies think they need to study
a license before they can use open source? How many before they make
internal modifications? How many before they publish modifications? We
need to understand how many licenses are actually being used, and how
widely. Lots of study needed before we take action.
LWN: Is there any consideration being given to changing the Open Source
Definition - for example, to disallow licenses that are specifically
tailored not to be compatible with the GPL?
We would have to discern intent to do that. But yes, we've changed the OSD
in the past; we may do it again.
LWN: It's been well-publicized that version 3 of the GPL is in the works.
(Well, has been for some time, but much noise has been made about it being
ready this year.) What needs to be in version 3?
Depends on what your goal is. If you went into a code tree to refactor it,
there's always changes you would make. If you want to add features, you
would make different changes. I expect that some community members would
like the GPL to be a contract rather than a copyright license. I expect
that others would like to see copyright provisions address "public
performance"; that is, web services.
LWN: In one story, Sam Greenblatt was quoted as saying "there should be
three licenses: the GPL, a commercial version of the GPL and...the BSD."
What would a "commercial version of the GPL" look like?
CDDL. Or more properly, the MPL, since it already has traction in the
community (clearly, since Sun wrote the CDDL based on the MPL). A lot of
licenses are derived from the MPL. If we can figure out why they derived
the MPL rather than using it, we can fix the problem in the MPL that caused
them to do that.
LWN: Thanks, Russ.
Comments (5 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
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