GNU and FSF News for June 2007

Posted 6 Jun 2007 at 23:15 UTC by robogato Share This

Last month we learned GPLv3 might not be compatible with the Apache 2.0 license after all. Better news this month. The incompatibilities have been fixed in the final draft of the GPLv3. Another piece of good news this month is that Novell's pact with Microsoft may backfire on them, resulting in patent protection for the entire free software community. What else is new this month? A major new release of GCC. A new GNOME Roadmap. A new book on GTK+. Most suprising, there's a new release of Emacs.

Microsoft-Novell Plan May Backfire

Everyone is aware that Novell and Microsoft entered into a patent agreement. Many in the free software community believe the Microsoft-Novell deal amounts to a commercial advantage for SUSE Linux users at the expense of everyone's freedom. Novell got a promise that Microsoft wouldn't sue their customers. Microsoft then threatened users of other GNU/Linux distros over alleged patent violations, while distributing SUSE Linux coupons.

While this obviously violates the spirit of free software and the GPL, it was not technically a violation of the GPLv2. The loophole Novell exploited has been fixed in the GPLv3 but the big question was whether or not Novell would be allowed to distribute GPLv3 software. The answer is yes and the reason is allowing Novell and Microsoft to continue distributing GNU software once it is licensed under GPLv3 will cause the patent protection Microsoft intended only for SUSE users to be automatically extended to all users of the software, even those who are not Novell customers.

For this to happen a Microsoft distributed Novell SLES coupon has to be used after at least one program licensed with the GPLv3 is included in the Novell SLES distro. So far Novell says they will include GPLv3 software in SLES. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to realize their mistake. Richard Stallman noted:

"Microsoft is scrambling to dispose of as many Novell SLES coupons as possible prior to the adoption of GPLv3. Unfortunately for Microsoft, those coupons bear no expiration date, and paragraph 6 has no cut-off date. Through its ongoing distribution of coupons, Microsoft will have procured the distribution of GPLv3-covered programs as soon as they are included in Novell SLES distributions, thereby extending patent defenses to all downstream recipients of that software by operation of paragraph 6."
Novell noted in their recent 10-K filing that "Microsoft may cease to distribute SUSE Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients". Microsoft has indicated they don't believe their coupons amount to participating in the distribution of a GNU/Linux distro anyway, so they don't accept that they are subject to any version of the GPL. But it does appear Microsoft and Novell made a mistake by exploiting a loophole in the GPLv2 just at the time the GPLv3 was being drafted.

Richard Stallman further notes:

"Microsoft's lawyers are not stupid, and next time they may manage to avoid those mistakes. GPLv3 therefore says they don't get a “next time”. Releasing a program under GPL version 3 protects it from Microsoft's future attempts to make redistributors collect Microsoft royalties from the program's users."

Emacs Version 22.1

Here's something you don't see every month. GNU Emacs version 22.1 was released on 2 June. This is the first new release in over two years and the first major update since version 21.3 was released in March, 2003. The new version includes GTK+ toolkit support, enhanced mouse support, a new keyboard macro system, improvied Unicode support, drag-and-drop operation on X, a graphic user interface to GDB, Python mode, a mathematical tool called Calc, and other interesting things that you can read more about in the NEWS file.


GCC 4.2.0 has been released. This a major release that includes optimizer improvements, C, C++, Fortran, and Java language support improvements, and hardware-specific improvements. There are also a few improvements to the build system which might trip you up if you follow the practice of symlinking tool directories into the build tree when creating cross tool chains. See the release announcement and Changes document for details.


The GNOME Roadmap has been updated with information about GNOME 2.20, 2.22, and future 2.x releases. GNOME and GTK+ programmers will be pleased to know that APress has released the first new book completely dedicated to GTK+ programming since 2001. The new book is called Foundations of GTK+ Development.

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. GUADEC registration is now open, by the way.

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 in Europe this month, speaking in Toulouse, France; Padua and Rome, Italy; Lausanne, Switzerland. Topics include the usual talks on the goals and philosophy of the Free Software Foundation, the history of copyright, and the GNU Operating System.

GNU General Public License version 3

The fourth and "Last Call" Draft of the GPLv3 was released a few days ago. The biggest change in this draft is a fix to make it compatible with the Apache 2.0 license. Apache compatibility was one of the original goals of the new GPL and, up until a month ago, it appeared to have been achieved. This latest change fixes a new legal incompatiblity that was noticed recently. Other changes include fixes to prevent discriminatory patent deals.

Richard Stallman has written an essay titled, Why Upgrade to GPL Version 3, on the benefits of upgrading existing software. In it he notes that keeping software under the GPLv2 won't create problems. He specifically mentions that it should not cause any problem if the Linux kernel stays with GPLv2 while other free software moves on to GPLv3. The reasons to migrate are primarily to take advantage of the new protections against software patents, tivoization, and DRM. Other good reasons to migrate to the GPLv3 are the Apache license compatibility and the greatly improved internationalization.

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 also looking for a volunteer to take over writing this news summary each month.

again, thanks for the great work!, posted 8 Jun 2007 at 20:09 UTC by atai » (Journeyer)

It is great!

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