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Censorship Software Your Rights Online

SQL-Ledger Relicensed, Community Gagged 194

Posted by kdawson
from the i-can't-heear-you dept.
Ashley Gittins writes "Users of the popular accounting package SQL-Ledger were being kept in the dark about a recent license change. Two weeks ago a new version of the software was released but along with it came the silent change of license from GPLv2 to the 'SQL-Ledger Open Source License' — presumably in an effort to prevent future forks like LedgerSMB. As it turns out, the author was making deliberate attempts to prevent the community from finding out about the license change. No posts to the SQL-Ledger mailing lists asking about the license change were getting past moderation and direct questions to the author were going unanswered. Just recently the license was switched back to GPLv2. This behavior is not a first for this particular project, and is part of the reason for the original LedgerSMB fork. Does a project maintainer have an ethical obligation to notify his or her community of a license change? What about a legal obligation?"
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SQL-Ledger Relicensed, Community Gagged

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  • by Ant P. (974313) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @01:47PM (#18743065) Homepage
    Both the links to their "public support forum" and wiki bring up a HTTP password prompt.
  • Simader (Score:4, Informative)

    by hpavc (129350) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @02:01PM (#18743181)
    Simader is a putz and always has been. That project is the worst of programming with Perl ever -- its a contraption. Its developed like any 'job security' program would be, using a rube goldberg approach when ever possible. Any attempt to integrate with that project with anything has always met with his poison. Much rather put my efforts into something like http://frontaccounting.com/ [frontaccounting.com] rather than SQLL. Even though I am a perl zealot.

    Finally the death of his project.
  • by cheros (223479) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @02:02PM (#18743189)
    No, that wasn't emotional, that was a fact. Gagging in this case refers to posts querying the change or motive (or even mentioning the very fact) of the change were moderated out so the userbase was kept unaware.

    I think the bottomline appears to be that the guy Open Sourced something and didn't quite understood the consequences. And it's easy to stack mistake on mistake once you're on the wrong foot..

    Having followed both mailing lists I must say that the LedgerSMB one is very lively indeed - and has more people visible in development. That doesn't mean I don't feel sorry for the original author, but I think he may need a bit of a spokesperson between him and the rest of the world..

  • by ThinkComp (514335) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @02:12PM (#18743257)
    I have been writing accounting software of my own lately (http://www.thinkcomputer.com) that also does taxes, and licensing has come up in the past week for me, as well. I used the PDFlib 6 library with PHP, which I paid over $1,400 for, to create PDF files so that my software could prepare tax returns, and all was working fine until my server crashed in March. I was forced to upgrade to new hardware, which I did, in the form of two Sun Fire X2200 servers running Linux. Installing PDFlib on my new setup didn't work, because even though my server had two processors, and I had a license for two processors, PDFlib detected four logical processors (each AMD CPU is dual-core). This was irritating on its own, but the fact that the newer version of PDFlib, version 7, uses a *different* system-based license (and of course they didn't tell anyone) that makes the number of logical processors irrelevant, means that the PDFlib acknowledge the flawed nature of their original license. When I asked them for assistance, since I needed to get my software up and running again, their response was that I should pay them $2,700 more in license fees for version 6 (more than the cost of the server) or $1,194 for a single-system upgrade to the new licensing scheme of version 7 (more than the cost of the original single-CPU license for version 6). To me, it sounded like extortion, but since the company is in Germany they can get away with it easier I suppose.

    Needless to say, I'm never using PDFlib again, and I'm re-writing all of my code to use FPDF (http://www.fpdf.org), which is free, and works just as well. It's even easier to write code for. Stay away from PDFlib!
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @02:52PM (#18743523) Homepage Journal
    the summary changed between when the story was first up in the 'mysterious future' and when it went live. which is how it is supposed to work - but could also explain the confusion.
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Sunday April 15, 2007 @03:05PM (#18743609)
    good point. I wasn't aware that it had changed during that time. That would explain why he didn't notice the change, as he had read the summary while it was still in the firehose.
  • TLUG (Score:4, Informative)

    by hey (83763) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @04:24PM (#18744175) Journal
    This was the topic at the recent Toronto Linux User Group meeting.
    http://tlug.ss.org/wiki/Meetings:2007-04 [ss.org]
    The talk was by a Ledger SMB core developer.
    I bought what he said... Ledger SMB is now on Source Forge, reacts to security issues,
    accepts patches, is converting to a saner architecture, uses CURRENCY instead of FLOAT for money.
    Seems like its a winner.
  • Update and reply (Score:5, Informative)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @04:56PM (#18744435) Homepage Journal
    I am a core member of the LedgerSMB development team. The author of this post ran it by me as a courtesy before submitting it.

    In the time since this was submitted, Mr Simader has seen the light and reverted to the GPL, albeit very unhappily. Such is life.

    I don't actually begrudge Mr Simader the right to choose whatever copyright license he wants to have for his work. That is his moral right, and I have no problem with it. However, I was very unhappy with the fact that a lot of contributors' code, including all the translations, were still licensed under the GPL and since his new license was not compatable with it, I felt that he was causing problems for everyone including our project which is why I began contacting contributors privately about the whole thing.

    Also, in the event of a license change away from a specific and well-understood OSI-approved license, I think that the developer also needs to give users a heads-up before they install the new version. This is, however, as far as I see the ethical obligations. And even these were not followed.

    Finally, on the LedgerSMB project we are committed to rewriting the entire application, not just in order to prevent further conflict with Mr Simader but also in order to create a better program and one which can be more easily maintained. But we would be remiss if we didn't recognize that our success is in fact partly based on his.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @04:58PM (#18744445)
    There are actually rather a lot of free and open source accounting packages around.

            * Front Accounting
            * Ledger SMB
            * WebERP
            * OpenAccounting
            * TurboCash
                        o Windows
            * GnuCash
            * Personal
                        o HomeBank
                        o jGnash
                        o GFP
                        o Grisbi
            * CK-Ledger
            * Compiere
            * Lazy8
            * Quasar
                        o Linux Canada
            * phpCOIN
            * opentaps
            * Bambooinvoice
            * GnuAccounting
            * phpOrganisation
            * OpenBravo

    They are in various states of repair and different markets from the personal to the one man band to the multinational.
     
  • Re:Simader (Score:3, Informative)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Sunday April 15, 2007 @05:10PM (#18744539) Homepage Journal
    First, I would not run *any* accounting db on MySQL 4.x... Google "MySQL Gotchas" for good reasons why. So Frontaccounting is pretty much out.... (I am not sure I would trust MySQL 5.x either but that is another matter).

    Second, Simader's Perl is pretty much as you describe (\%$form?), and his db design isn't any better. We have spent six months doing what mostly amounts to security patches and now we are ready to re-engineer in place. By 2.0, LedgerSMB will have no code left from SQL-Ledger.
  • by agittins (1085543) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#18744565) Homepage
    Yeah, the summary is heavy on the language, but the fact is that several community members tried to bring up on the mailing list the fact that the license was changed, but their posts were censored. I would say that meets your definition of Gagged. To date there have still been no posts allowed through to the list regarding the license change. The point now is mostly moot however, as the license has changed back to GPL so the remainder of the community will probably continue on never knowing what has transpired.
  • We are starting to address the architecture. Hopefully in a year, we will be architecturally opposite where we began.

    Our new architecture rocks and makes for *easy* integration.
  • by fourchannel (946359) on Sunday April 15, 2007 @06:02PM (#18744949) Homepage
    I bet they would, since should they give their code to the project leader under GPL, and then the project leader takes their code under GPL, and changes the license to X, he's in direct violation of the GPL. It would be ok if the entire project's code base were written solely by the project leader. In the likely event that it wasn't, the project leader doesn't own the copyright to the submitted code, and for him to use it in anything other than the GPL license given to him would be committing copyright infringement, which is illegal.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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