Subject: Re: OpenSources "opensourced"
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 21 May 1999 01:11:47 -0400

   From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
   Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 08:49:58 +0900 (JST)

   >>>>> "Brian" == Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com> writes:

       Brian> You can't download all of Cygnus' software from Cygnus for
       Brian> gratis.  To get a copy from Cygnus you have to buy it.  Nor
       Brian> can you download it from any of their customers that I'm
       Brian> aware of.

   ...

   As for ECOS (? the embedded systems stuff), that's a different
   ballgame, but as far as I know the software itself is available for
   download (Brian, you've been called on the claim that it isn't before;
   did you follow up?)  It's the support (and here it's real support, not
   mere handholding) that you can't get for free.

The eCos sources are indeed available for download from
    http://sourceware.cygnus.com/ecos/
There is no need for confusion on this point.

   Note that since it's embedded, it's not really reasonable to think
   that the profits come from "software" entirely, but from bundling with
   hardware.  Then the whole "open source" issue is quite moot.  RMS's
   strongly held opinion and plausible arguments not withstanding, it is
   plausible that embedded systems should be considered widget
   components, quasi-hardware, to which the benefits of libre software do
   not accrue.  And therefore people who deal in it (according to this
   line of thinking) should not be excoriated for not going all the way
   to GPL in publically licensing it.

One issue with the GPL in embedded systems is whether you can update
the software running in the system.  If there is no reasonable way to
update the software, then the GPL is problematic, since you must
provide ``the preferred form of the work for making modifications to
it.''  That doesn't make much sense for something like a pager and
makes even less sense for something like a microwave oven.

I doubt there is any way to update the version of Ghostscript included
in a printer.

   Or they might be encumbering the program itself in some way
   (shareware, nagware, crippleware, vaporware, cookies, bugware, ...).
   Then it's NOT libre.  But I don't think this is what Cygnus does.
   Modulo a few month's delay, and some frosting in GNUtools etc ---
   important yes, but I am not yet convinced it's crucial; I really need
   a reliable report on what Cygnus sells for money and what you can
   download somewhere, and how they REALLY differ.

My understanding is that the most recent version of GNUPro does
include a proprietary component: the visual interface to the debugger.
I'm not actually sure about this myself.

The rest of GNUPro (which as I recall is composed of gcc/egcs, gdb,
binutils, a BSD licensed C library, diff, patch, and make) is
certainly libre in the sense that customers are free to distribute it
themselves.  Despite the implication I saw in Brian's message, I have
never known Cygnus to discourage customers from doing this, although I
have also never known Cygnus to encourage it (except in specific cases
like distributing the Cygnus compilers with microprocessor demo
boards).

Cygnus does not make the GNUPro sources available for download.  The
Cygnus sources are mostly available for download elsewhere, including
via the Cygnus hosted egcs, gdb, and binutils pages on the sourceware
web site.  There are minor Cygnus patches which are not available on
those pages because they are only of interest to specific customers
and would not be accepted by the GNU maintainers, and as you say there
are major Cygnus patches which Cygnus releases to customers first.

Cygnus is not a perfect company, but it is not an evil company either.
Cygnus does the majority of development on the GNU software tools.
Cygnus hosts the public egcs, gdb, and binutils web sites.  Cygnus is
scarcely above criticism, but attacking it on FSB as an evil company
is akin to the conflict between the Judean People's Front and the
People's Front of Judea.

   Unfortunately the a priori most reliable voices (ex-Cygnus employees
   like Ian) don't speak with Brian's boisterous confidence.

I fear I am constitutionally unable to speak with Brian's boisterous
confidence.  I also can't claim perfect reliability, although I can
assert that I am not knowingly telling an untruth.

Ian