Mailinglist Archive: opensuse (2831 mails)

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Re: [opensuse] The state of openSUSE
  • From: Andreas Hanke <andreas.hanke@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 23:06:16 +0200
  • Message-id: <44BFF048.3070902@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Thomas Hertweck schrieb:
> But, you know, it somehow looks like a
> fight between the open source community and (maybe) the Linux
> distributors on the one hand and the hardware/software driver
> manufacturers on the other hand. And the loser is the end user, as
> usual.

Yes, it is possible and valid to interpret the situation this way, and
demanding the best available hardware support is a valid wishlist item
from a user's point of view. Especially if there are other distros
available with better winmodem support.

But it's not as simple as that. There are not only users, those who are
driving Linux forward are the active contributors, and as contributors,
they are also copyright holders. The copyright license under which the
Linux kernel is distributed is the GPL.

After thinking about it a little bit, I tend to agree with the removal
of these modules. Shipping them _is_ a legal risk. What happens if a
Linux copyright holder sued Novell, claiming that shipping these modules
is a GPL violation? Having to defend yourself against such an accuse
would be an *extremely* embarrassing thing for a Linux distributor, even
if the claim would be decided to be invalid in court.

> I don't think it was a good idea to drop the shipment of
> proprietary modules at a moment's notice (from SUSE XX.X to XX.Y)
> *without* an adequate replacement that makes the transition as smooth as
> possible for the end user. First getting a solution in place and *then*
> making the move would have been much better from my point of view.

Well, actually there is sort of a transition: An infrastructure for
packaging these modules independently of the kernel and even
independently of the product. It is very sad that the manufacturer of
the drivers needed for ThinkPad modems doesn't seem to make use of it so

It works technically (today's kernel update went very smoothly here on
my systems) and IMHO it's politically the right solution: Hardware
vendors should carry the legal risks themselves by distributing the
modules themselves, exclusively.

Providing an infrastructure that makes the procedure as transparent to
end users as possible is OK, carrying legal risks that the vendors of
such drivers should carry themselves because it is *their* inability to
comply with the Linux copyright license, called GPL, is not. It would be
plain unfair.

> Sometimes I really have problems explaining something like this to a
> user that is new to Linux and only wants an easy installation of his
> chosen Linux distribution (whatever it is)...

Explain it after the system is up and running, without winmodem support.
I'm not aware of any "vital" piece of hardware that can only be made to
work with proprietary modules. A winmodem is not vital.

And yes, it _is_ currently really difficult to explain, but it will be
much easier to explain once the first distributor of these modules has
been sued. And I'm glad that it won't be Novell.

Andreas Hanke

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