GNU and FSF News for May 2007

Posted 6 May 2007 at 21:57 UTC by robogato Share This

In this month's exciting episode of GNU and FSF News, we learn that Eben Moglen has resigned from the FSF, the FSFE starts a list of Free Software legal experts in Europe, Vista has it in for GCC, GNOME will soon fit in the palm of your hand, RMS visits Sweden, and the GPLv3 still can't get along with the Apache 2.0 license. Read on to find out the details of these and other recent stories in the free software community.

The big news this month is that Eben Moglen is stepping down from the Free Software Foundation upon the completion of the GPLv3. Moglen has been on the FSF's board of directors since 2000. He was recently named to eWeek's "Top 100 Most Influential People in IT" list. The good news is that he's leaving to devote more time to the Software Freedom Law Center. Moglen sums it up this way:

More than anything else, however, this is a moment to focus on the new. SFLC is a wonderful place to work, for me and I hope for all my colleagues. Great things are happening that haven’t had enough attention, because everyone has been watching GPLv3. The really innovative work is being done by the other lawyers here. They are refining organizational structures, innovating strategies for setting up “project conservancies”–a new type of shared container for multiple free software projects –which gives those projects administrative and legal advantages with minimal overhead. They are counseling young projects making astonishing new free software that’s going to be rocking business’s world three or four years from now. We’re taking risk out of projects everybody is using or is going to want to use. Helping my colleagues do that work, supporting their growth as they support their clients, is the right thing for me to do right now.

The Free Software Foundation Europe announced the launch of a list of recommended Free Software lawyers. They named the first two lawyers on the list last month, "Dr. Till Jaeger and Carlo Piana as knowledgeable and reliable Free Software legal experts in Germany and Italy respectively." More to come. This is part of the FSFE's Freedom Task Force (FTF) project.


Remarkably, no news to report from the GCC team this month! However, there is a growing buzz in the blogosphere concerning MS Windows Vista, which apparently restricts GNU GCC executables to 32MB. It's not clear if this is by design or just a bug. Thomas R. Nicely reports:

Executable images created for the DOS/Wintel environment, using the GNU GCC compilers and language standards (but not linking to the Win32 API), are subject to failure (or performance degradation) when executed in Microsoft Windows Vista, because Vista arbitrarily restricts the memory space for the GCC executable to 32 MB (33,554,432 bytes). Attempts to allocate more memory than this using the malloc(...) function (or related functions, such as calloc(...)) will fail. This limitation applies whether the application is executed with the Run command, within a Command Prompt box (DOS box), or with the Start command. This limitation does not appear in Windows XP, Windows 98SE, or standalone DOS; the exact same executable, running under Windows XP SP2 or Win98SE, is capable of allocating several hundred megabytes of physical memory (if present on the machine). The limitation appears to apply to any compiler and linker not employing Microsoft's proprietary Win32 API.


The GNOME Foundation announced the creation of the GNOME Mobile & Embedded Initiative (GMAE). The goal is to bring the free GNOME interface to a wide range of embedded and handheld devices. They'll be working to make GNOME and GTK+ easier to use on mobile devices. They'll also work on creating development tools targeting embedded platforms.

Organizations in on the fun include ACCESS, Canonical, Debian, Igalia, Imendio, Intel, Nokia, OLPC, OpenedHand and Red Hat. Additional contributions are expected from CodeThink, Collabora, FIC, Fluendo, Kernel Concepts, Movial, Nomovok, Openismus, Vernier, Waugh Partners and Wolfson Microelectronics. Most of these companies offered soundbytes on the event

The initial GNOME mobile platform will look something like this:

GUADEC 2007 Update

The 8th annual GNOME Users and Developers European Conference (GUADEC) is coming up 15-21st July 2007 in Birmingham, England. The latest new on the conference can be found on the GUADEC News page.

FSF High Priority Free Software Projects

The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of what they believe are the highest priority projects at any given time. If you're looking for something fun to work on or just want to make the world a better place, this is a good place to start.

"There is a vital need to draw the free software community's attention to the ongoing development work on these particular projects. These projects are important because computer users are continually being seduced into using non-free software, because there is no adequate free replacement. Please support these projects."

Where's RMS This Month?

Richard Stallman will be making several appearances this month including in Madrid, Spain on May 11 for LibreMeeting 2007. Later you can find him at Goeteborg University in Sweden on May 16, where he will speak about the goals and philosophy of the Free Software movement. He'll also visit Linkoeping University in Sweden on May 19 to speak about copyright and suggest changes to the Pirate Party program.

GNU General Public License version 3

While the third draft of the new and improved GNU GPL was well received by almost everyone, there was one disappointment. Compatibility between the GPLv3 and Apache 2.0 licenses is no longer likely to be achieved. The early work at compatibility had focused on the patent termination clauses of the Apache license which are now compatible with those in the GPLv3. However, lawyers overlooked another provision in the Apache license which has turned out to be a show stopper.

The Apache 2.0 license requires downstream distributors to indemnify upstream licensors under certain conditions. The trouble is, nobody can figure out exactly what the purpose or effect of this would be. One legal theory is that, because this section of the Apache license appears to be legally meaningless, it should just be ignored. But other lawyers don't think it's likely that the Apache lawyers intentionally put meaningless wording into the license and so, believe it must be taken at face value. Unfortunatley this means use of the Apache licensed code in a GPL program would give rise to the dreaded "impermissible further restrictions" on GPL rights. (this is particularly bad news for GPL licensed Apache modules, like mod_virgule, which will have to continue to add Apache exceptions to the license terms.) More detail on this problem can be found in section 4.4 of the GPL3 DD3 rationale document (PDF format). Given how much work the FSF has put into making the GPL compatible, perhaps the Apache folks will be willing to take a look at fixing this part of the Apache license so we can still get full compatibility.

On the upside, nearly everyone continues to be pleased with the 3rd and final draft of the GPLv3. Even Linus Torvalds had reasonably non-bad things to say about it. Eben Moglen notes, "The release of Discussion Draft 3 has been greeted as warmly as I dared hope: all the recorded outrage has been emitted by Microsoft or its surrogates, which is at it should be."

This monthly news summary about the Free Software Foundation and GNU project was distilled down from FSF press releases, blogs, email lists, and website news pages. The idea is to provide a concise summary of FSF/GNU news from the past month for those who don't have the time or interest to find and read all the original news sources within that community. I'm currently looking for a volunteer to take over writing of this news summary each month. Please contact me if you'd be interested in the job.

again, thanks for another great news report on GNU!, posted 7 May 2007 at 17:45 UTC by atai » (Journeyer)

Much appreciated!

32Mb restriction, posted 7 May 2007 at 18:09 UTC by bi » (Master)

From the description, it seems that the limitation only applies to programs which function via a "DOS extender" -- this is (I think) an older way to write protected-mode applications, so perhaps M$ intends to phase it out.

A possible "fix" might be to create some glue that simulates DOS extender calls with Win32 API calls, but someone who's not me will have to do that. :)

Re: 32Mb restriction, posted 7 May 2007 at 18:33 UTC by bi » (Master)

(Hmm, looks like someone reported that DOSBox 0.70 is doing precisely this. w00t.)

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