[sclug] Cheap'n'nasty Tesco Linux machines

Alex Butcher lug at assursys.co.uk
Wed Apr 9 11:15:32 UTC 2008

On Wed, 9 Apr 2008, Tom Carbert-Allen wrote:

> I meant trademark, reading US patent office made me type patent by mistake, 
> my bad

Okidoke; I figured that might have been the case.

> I am all up for simplifying groups of licence agreements under a common term 
> so I don't have to read everyone, but just "open source" is not the right 
> term for a trademark, that is a description. Maybe "OSI approved licence" is 
> what the rubber stamp should say.

The thing is, 'open source' *wasn't* a term for 'software with the
modifiable and redistributable source available' until ESR and the folks
behind it decided upon it! There was Free Software (from the FSF and
sympathisers), Freeware (i.e. binaries with no implicit rights to source
code), Shareware and Public Domain, but that was about it. PD isn't even
really a category, but it's the term used to describe anything that
apparently doesn't have any terms imposed upon it by its authors.

> As a side note, I do wonder why people on this LUG always jump into action 
> when debating legal and licence issues but don't want to enter my competition 
> about how powerful and diverse linux is?

In my case:

a) because I'm not in Berkshire these days.

b) because I already (shamefully, I know) have more powerful machines
sitting idle already...

c) ...because I'm trying to do more with less electricity, these days.

d) because after thirteen years using Linux and associated FOSS, and a
further five years using PD and some GPLed software on my Amiga, it feels
like I've done it all already, and there's no novelty to it any more; it
just works! :-)

> The reason I like the free software movement is because I DON'T have to
> talk about legal nonsense all the time, I can just get on with doing cool
> things with cheap boxen.

No argument there; this too is one of the reasons I like FOSS, compared with
all the hideous per-seat/per-user/per-function licensing of proprietary
software and the associated activation/validation overhead. When I was
supporting some expensive 'enterprise' software, I estimate about 30-60% of
our tech support effort went on making sure people were correctly licensed
and had correctly validated that they were so that the software wouldn't
just shut down within the next 30 days. That's a pretty sad state of

OTOH, though, it doesn't mean that you can just ignore legal issues. Doing
so is an invitation to get (justifiably) spanked by the rights owner if they
take offense to what you're doing with their software. Not paying attention
to what commonly-accepted legal terms mean increases the chances that one
will make a mistake sooner or later. Software that doesn't meet the OSI
definition of Open Source, but is called 'Open Source' by its owners is a
trap for the unwary.

Attempting to ignore the legal issues in modern computing is as dangerous as
trying to ignore Politics, Economics or Physics.


Best Regards,
Alex Butcher, Bristol UK.                           PGP/GnuPG ID:0x5010dbff

"[T]he whole point about the reason why I think it is important we go for
identity cards and an identity database today is that identity fraud and
abuse is a major, major problem. Now the civil liberties aspect of it, look
it is a view, I don't personally think it matters very much."
  - Tony Blair, 6 June 2006 <http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page9566.asp>

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