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Re: Flight Computers



>Normally Phil is pretty level headed but it sounds like he has fallen
>victim to the FSF's FUD about non-GPL.

Rather than respond directly to this, I'll simply point out that the
debate between advocates of the GPL and BSD-style licenses has been
going on for a long time, so we're unlikely to resolve it here. Both
licenses qualify as "open source", so there are substantially fewer
difference between them than with proprietary software, such as
VxWorks. See

http://www.opensource.org/

to read more about the various kinds of open source licenses and how
they compare. There are many besides the GPL and BSD licenses.

>Exactly the kind of modifications Phil described to VxWork's PPP. Under
>GPL Phil's employer/customer could not ship his modified PPP in a
>value-added application without giving away the sources and use rights
>to Phil's work. GPL hamstrings the very work which distinguishes
>quality, supported, worth paying for products.

Except that I probably wouldn't have had to do anything at all to the
PPP module in Linux had it been used, because somebody had already
fixed the problems I was trying to solve in the VxWorks version.

Interestingly enough, the PPP module in VxWorks I had to rewrite came
from a very old version of BSD UNIX.

>Under GPL one is assured of the availability of source code. But one is
>explicitly not assured of the quality of such code. A big problem is if
>the GPL code is not of sufficient quality one is stuck having to fix it.

Before the widespread use of the GPL, I might have agreed with this
statement because it just *seems* so obviously true.

But software engineering is often counterintuitive, and actual
experience with the GPL tends to show the exact opposite of what you
claim.  GNU software with any following at all tends to be of much
higher quality than the commercial equivalents precisely because of
the GPL requirement that modifications and bug fixes be fed back into
the project for others to use and build on.

As I said a few days ago, my kernel hacking skills are now getting
quite rusty because there's so little need for me to hack the Linux
kernel.  On the rare occasion I do run into a problem, I'll invariably
find that somebody has already beaten me to fixing it in a newer
version.

>Possibly the largest "reward" to corporate BSD contributors such as
>Apple is that their fixes and enhancements will not suffer bit-rot if
>committed to the public codebase.

This is quite right. But without a requirement that bug fixes and
enhancements be fed back to you, your incentive to release code so
that others can debug and maintain your code for you is greatly
lessened.

>Without paying customers its hard to afford the cost of renting
>electrons from the power company so our toys play.

Nothing prevents the author of software placed under the GPL from also
licensing that same software for money to customers unwilling to abide
by the GPL. I've done that myself.

Phil



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