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LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 20, 2013
Pencil, Pencil, and Pencil
Dividing the Linux desktop
LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 13, 2013
A report from pgCon 2013
One: There are (at least) three of them.
The BSDs, or rather their coders, spent a lot of time on one-upmanship, internal divisiveness, and whatnot. That effort could have been spent on improving one single code base.
Two: Linux is just a kernel. The BSDs are a whole distribution.
Linux kernel people concentrate on the kernel and let others worry about userland. BSD people do it all by themselves, so their efforts are spread more thinly.
No wonder that they fell behind.
NB: There may be a third reason. Licensing. But I don't want this discussion to turn into yet another GPL-vs.-BSD flame fest.
Crowding out OpenBSD
Posted Nov 14, 2012 4:24 UTC (Wed) by felixfix (subscriber, #242)
I have a hard time visualizing any of the BSDs being happy at all the changes made in the Linux universe. I rather think they'd turn up their noses and reject the impurities.
I have no personal experience with developers in any camp. But the squabbles from the various BSDs all seemed far more petty and even snobbish, so again, they seem to have what they wanted, and if they don't want it now, maybe it's not too late to be more open to each other. The first step would seem to be unifying the BSD variants, but I don't imagine that's a particularly easy job, either politically or code-wise.
Or maybe the BSD folks are happy in their small camps. It's their code, their choice.
Posted Nov 14, 2012 8:30 UTC (Wed) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
OK, I'll do it.
BSD licenses are just too generous. BSD-licensed projects give all their code away to all other projects (GPL and not) while not being able to take code from anywhere. Where can this go?
While this will _obviously never happen_, if one BSD project were to switch their license to GPL then they could start cherry-picking all the pieces they need from Linux, "upgrade" them to their supposedly superior technical standards and save themselves from obsolescence. The whole public would benefit.
Posted Nov 14, 2012 10:10 UTC (Wed) by Lennie (subscriber, #49641)
It's probably easier for Linux developers to take code from BSD.
And even that doesn't happen as often as you'd expect.
I wouldn't be surprised if in the Linux kernel there are more "shared development" drivers with FreeBSD (a driver that has a BSD-license or dual license and development on on the same code happend by Linux developers in the Linux kernel and FreeBSD developers on FreeBSD) than BSD-code that was copied.
Posted Nov 14, 2012 10:17 UTC (Wed) by ortalo (subscriber, #4654)
At the beginning of the eighties, it was opposite (the BSD trial not withstanding). BSD4.4 was surviving via Sun and BSD Inc. thanks to paid development (allowed by the BSDL); while Linux was entirely relying on free or students time.
Posted Nov 14, 2012 13:32 UTC (Wed) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
Companies obviously prefer BSD... until the competing GPL project(s) become so successful they can't avoid it any more.
Every time a company exerts its short term BSD right not to contribute back they indirectly help the GPL competition if any. And since companies' "vision" never sees further than a couple of years...
Posted Nov 14, 2012 16:52 UTC (Wed) by rgmoore (subscriber, #75)
I'm not sure that companies do prefer BSD licensing. BSD licensing is great if your goal is to make something popular to gain networking effects (e.g. media codecs) or if you're a big player and want to be able to build proprietary systems off the code base. But the GPL seems to be better for the case where you have lots of companies involved, none of which is big enough to dominate the market. The enforced share and share alike provisions of the GPL give companies the reassurance that they aren't going to be taken advantage of by a competitor who uses their contributions while keeping their own improvements proprietary.
Posted Dec 5, 2012 8:23 UTC (Wed) by hummassa (subscriber, #307)
Posted Nov 16, 2012 15:07 UTC (Fri) by smurf (subscriber, #17840)
Unless you're Google. Cf. the largish parts of Linux infrastructure that were rewrittten to be without GPL in Android.
Posted Nov 14, 2012 15:41 UTC (Wed) by ortalo (subscriber, #4654)
Posted Nov 14, 2012 20:50 UTC (Wed) by Richard_J_Neill (subscriber, #23093)
Posted Nov 14, 2012 21:03 UTC (Wed) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 1:16 UTC (Wed) by trasz (guest, #45786)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 3:56 UTC (Wed) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 10:14 UTC (Wed) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 10:44 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (subscriber, #51848)
Yes, but what they give is very frequently not useful. I'd argue that a culture of contribution to a common core is much more important than the legal requirement, overall. Also GPL is often sidestepped so that the actual useful stuff isn't shared anyway, even when it probably should be (c.f. kernel modules).
Posted Dec 5, 2012 10:54 UTC (Wed) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 12:38 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (subscriber, #51848)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 11:27 UTC (Wed) by trasz (guest, #45786)
And the complaint is because commercial vendors _do_ give back to BSD projects, either the code, or money, as donations or salaries. GPL projects reusing BSD code very rarely contribute anything back.
Posted Dec 5, 2012 16:11 UTC (Wed) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Dec 5, 2012 22:45 UTC (Wed) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
Sure some do. Most of them? [reference needed]
> GPL projects reusing BSD code very rarely contribute anything back.
... to the original, BSD-licensed project.
GPL projects "merely" contribute back to *any* person or company not allergic to the GPL, for free. Not as generous as the BSD license but much more generous than no contribution at all.
Posted Dec 6, 2012 1:13 UTC (Thu) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198)
That seems a little crazy. IIUC any patches to BSD licensed code in a GPL project can be distributed under the BSD license back to the BSD project by the original patch author. The author can always license code to different parties under any license they wish. What's stopping people from contributing code back to BSD projects?
Posted Dec 6, 2012 1:51 UTC (Thu) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
In addition, many GPL people believe that it's a much better license than BSD, and so they _really_ want their work under the GPL.
If either of these are the case, then the patches don't get contributed back under BSD
Posted Dec 6, 2012 2:39 UTC (Thu) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198)
I realize that, it seems like a poor reason. Maybe git needs an "export as bsd" option for ones own code 8-)
Posted Nov 15, 2012 22:52 UTC (Thu) by cmccabe (guest, #60281)
Posted Nov 16, 2012 5:13 UTC (Fri) by marcH (subscriber, #57642)
gcc's technical and governance problems have been extensively discussed here - of course the license is far from the only factor. But i still think it can make a difference in a close competition.
Posted Nov 17, 2012 22:11 UTC (Sat) by cmccabe (guest, #60281)
During Linux's formative years, the BSDs were hamstrung by a serious of lawsuits. Afterwards, they splintered into many different groups. Neither of these two things had anything to do with GPL vs. BSD. We could easily have had 5 small Linuses rather than one big one. The GPL doesn't prevent forks in the slightest.
The GPL is also less risky in the kernel. If your company writes some userspace code, there is zero chance that it will be considered a derived work of the kernel. (Linux even has a special preface to the GPL clarifying this.) With userspace code, things are a lot less clear. This is one of the reasons why Google banned GPL in userspace on Android. The Oracle vs. Google ruling that APIs are not copyrightable helps a little bit here; however, there are still a lot of ambiguities. What does the LGPL even mean when used in a programming language that doesn't have a linker? etc.
Personally, I mostly work on Apache 2.0 code at work these days. For my own projects I usually use Apache 2.0 or 2-clause BSD. The advantage of the latter is that it is usable in GPLed or other-licenced projects as well.
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