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ServerWatch: Enterprise Unix Roundup: What's in a License? XFree's Instructive Flap

Feb 21, 2004, 05:30 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael Hall)

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"When we're not rounding up enterprise Unix news, we watch TV. Lately, we've come to admire the great TV enabler: TiVo.

"Aside from its obvious virtues, TiVo is something of a design win for embedded Linux, and that's why we found a copy of the GNU Public License (GPL) printed in the back of our TiVo manual. The GPL requires enterprises distributing software under its jurisdiction (such as the Linux kernel), let users know they're entitled to see the changes made to the source code. In this case, you could write TiVo Inc. and ask for a CD of the source code used for some of the software that runs its machines. The company would be obligated to hook you up. This may seem a rather pointless requirement for something as non-fiddly as a TiVo (we're not even sure how or why we made it that far in the manual), but it's part of the world of open source/free software licenses.

"We've looked into the question of these licenses before, and we're all for them. They work. People like to pick at whether there's a business model to be built around selling software under these licenses, but that's not a technical question; it's inside baseball for the day traders. We think the fact IBM, HP, Sun, Dell, and others sell Linux boxes is proof enough that free software works despite its license..."

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