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XFree86 4.4: List of Rejecting Distributors Grows 682

Bootsy Collins writes "Yesterday, we discussed Mandrake's decision to revert their release-in-development from XFree86 version 4.4 back to version 4.3 because of issues with the new XFree86 license. To update this, the list of OS distributors opting out of XF86 Version 4.4, and future releases, based on licensing concerns continues to grow. While Fedora seems to be "preparing to support multiple X11 implementations", Red Hat has explicitly stated that they have no plans to ship XFree86 v4.4 under its current license. Also add to the growing list list Debian, Gentoo, and OpenBSD."
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XFree86 4.4: List of Rejecting Distributors Grows

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  • The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <[twistedgreen] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:57AM (#8315055)
    I suppose that the question here is: why? Is the new licence really that bad? Is this reaction warranted?

    However, if this does become a serious dispute, I can see it being a good thing for the desktop. Development will have the branch from the last version of XFree86 4.3 into some new direction which, hopefully, will make for a better X in years to come.
  • freedesktop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:58AM (#8315058)
    Looks like KeithP's freedesktop.org xserver is looking more attractive all the time..
  • Forking hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byolinux ( 535260 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:58AM (#8315062) Journal
    What are the chances someone will take 4.3 and fork it, and carrying on development as free software?

    Hopefully, eventually, XFree would realise how much they borked their userbase, and stop this sillyness.

    I'd like to bet that a good proportion of their userbase comes from Distros, and if the distros drop 4.4, they're going to be hit rather badly.

    I'm no XFree86 expert, but surely any changes committed by developers prior to the license change will be still under the previous license and therefore a good starting block for any forking.
  • NVIDIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pyr0 ( 120990 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:00AM (#8315079)
    This brings up a concern about NVIDIA drivers to me. Say NVIDIA only continues to release new drivers compatible with xfree86 4.4 and up. That's *really* going to put pressure on the linux distributions to include 4.4. I wonder how hard it would be for the recent X forks to maintain NVIDIA driver compatibility?
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:00AM (#8315080) Homepage
    in the morning.

    I mean, come on folks how much does this smack of the one thing everyone in the FSF/OSF movement dreads ? Namely a few developers getting too big for their boots and wanting to turn their free-software into the next Microsoft. Thus missing two key points

    1) They haven't been given a monopoly by IBM

    2) The reason anyone uses it is because it isn't a monopoly given by IBM.

    Somebody somewhere wants to build an empire, and has applied .com maths to their business plan. Namely "If 100,000 people pay us just $1 a year that will pay for everything, and a new car" missing the fact that 100,000 people can bugger off elsewhere.

    Ummm I wonder if IBM or Sun have ever had to write an XServer...
  • Version Changes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by loserbert ( 697119 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:02AM (#8315094) Homepage
    Why the hell did they pick 4.4 to make this change on?

    Don't major changes usually happen on whole numbers? Shouldn't they at least wait until 5.0 to change the license.?
  • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by byolinux ( 535260 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:02AM (#8315096) Journal
    Aren't the NVIDIA drivers non-free anyway?
  • by julie-h ( 530222 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:04AM (#8315115) Homepage
    Use Xouvert or FreeDesktop and it is the end of the story.

    If I remember correct then is Xouvert an early fork of X 4.4.

    FreeDesktop is of course a long term better choice, but I don't think there is a working version yet.
  • Re:Forking hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ubi_NL ( 313657 ) <joris.ideeel@nl> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:05AM (#8315128) Journal
    You can even start from the 4.4 beta as that is the last GPL-ed version. All you then have to do is read the changelog / bug reports (not the code!) to get it into 'true' 4.4
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#8315155)
    Looking at the list of distributions who say they are not going to entertain using Xfree86 with the v1.1 license, it would seem that all of the major distros are represented (except Suse?).

    If that's the case, usage of XFree86 will simply stop at rev 4.3.mumble or go away entirely. I'd be pretty surprised if the XFree guys didn't back down. The alternative is a slow spiral into obscurity.
  • by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:12AM (#8315170) Homepage Journal
    The Linux desktop movement is based in an idea of Freedom. To accept a less than 'free' desktop for the 'free' desktop movement would not make sense.

    (admittidly its not just any form of freedom the GPL is pushing)
  • by cozziewozzie ( 344246 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#8315190)
    The fdo xserver looks truly mouthwatering, but I believe that all the drivers will have to be rewritten to truly take advantage of it. If that is the case, not only will all the great free XFree DRI drivers have to be ported over, but ATI and nVidia would have to be convinced to rewrite their drivers to this new architecture.

    Yeah, let's all start holding our breaths. At the moment, the fdo xserver is completely hardware unaccelerated and until the drivers are written, it will stay that way, negating any of its advantages. I really hope this project succeeds, but things like these make me worry.
  • by MoneyT ( 548795 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:17AM (#8315198) Journal
    They're having a hissy fit over a license that requires you to acknowledge if/when you use xfree86 and that tells you to incluse that acknowledgement in the same place you include other acknowledgements about your software?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#8315206)
    Although this license issue is a pain, we'll see all sorts of people claiming that "XFree86 sucks anyway" and "freedesktop.org's X server will be much better". What problems do people have with XFree86, that transparency and other superficial redundancies are going to solve?

    God forbid we have a windowing system that:

    1) Puts out well-tested, stable releases
    2) Generally sticks to a solid release schedule
    3) Doesn't depend on a zillion other libraries
    4) Will still work happily on 486s

    XFree86 has been a very good project. The freedesktop.org X server, though, will be very difference once the GNOME and KDE folks get involved. The nice, clean config file will be replaced by some arcane XML format. Features will be piled in on a whim, without long-term planning. It'll require libfoo-1.6.1pl3 but not any earlier or later. It'll take twice as long to start up, and need 64MB RAM to work.

    Look at what's happening to GNOME and KDE (overengineering, bloat, chasing Moore's law). Now imagine what'll happen when these same developers start working on an X server. Aaargh.

    Note: this is NOT flamebait; it's a serious issue. XFree86 has been a flagship open source project, and still values elegance, efficiency and sane releases.
  • How exactly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by randomencounter ( 653994 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#8315207)
    is the advertising clause incompatible with the GPL?

    Yes, I know the FSF say it is, but it is a simple assertion that I have been unable to find explicit justification for. The only justification given in their statement is that it is awkward and impractical when in common use, this does not make it incompatible, it just means they don't like it.
    Not the same thing.

    I can see their point about not liking it, and not wanting to use it, I just don't see an explicit incompatibility.

  • by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:20AM (#8315217) Journal
    The new license requires you to place acknowledgement "This product includes software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc (http://www.xfree86.org/) and its contributors", and requires for it to be "in the same place and form as other third-party acknowledgments". Innocent as it sounds, it's actually a helluva loophole for lawyers that could sue your pants off for simply advertising, say, "with full iTunes DRM compatibility" on the cover of a boxed edition of your distro. Unless you really want to write "with full iTunes DRM compatibility and this product includes software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc (http://www.xfree86.org/) and its contributors".
  • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gukin ( 14148 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:23AM (#8315238)
    It is _VERY_ unlikely nVidia will cut off support at 4.4 and above. nVidia makes very nice chipsets but more importantly makes excellent drivers that work with M$, Linux, FreeBSD etc. They are out to make money, they make money by selling products people want AND PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED BY OTHERS; this is where Linux support is important. Linux users are geeks, people ask geeks what kind of HW to get. I enjoy gaming (especially under Linux) so when someone asks me what kind of video card to get, I recommend nVidia. If nVidia told the Linux base to "stuff it", they would lose sales. They've done an excellent job of keeping the drivers for their products up to date, easy to use , fast and stable. I doubt they are going to change.

    Sorry if I sound like a fanboy but video _is_ important and nVidia cards are the best supported and work the best under Linux for just about everything; I will continue to purchase and recommend their products.
  • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IntergalacticWalrus ( 720648 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:24AM (#8315241)
    nVidia's drivers run on any XFree86 version >= 4.1.0, so this is not an issue. The real problem is with ATI, which for some reason seems to be unable to provide drivers that work for more than one version.
  • by hatrisc ( 555862 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:25AM (#8315245) Homepage
    what's the point of giving away your software if no one wants to use it? i could release a script that adds two numbers together and prints it out and release it under some say.. Y license, which happens to be free as in beer and as in freedom. now, does it matter if i give this away or make it free (i.e. freedom) if no one bothers to use it? how does the software evolve without a userbase? if joe sickspack (i hate saying sixpack) can't compile it, and distro-Z doesn't provide packages, and joe GNU won't compile it because it's not a true free license... then how does it become better? why bother?
  • Re:I agree. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:26AM (#8315248)
    And since no one will ever want to buy a new computer with new hardware that requires new drivers we should be set forever. Dumbass troll.
  • Re:The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnnyCannuk ( 19863 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:26AM (#8315253)
    Thanks for that link.

    I've been going through this story and the previous one looking for the exact reason everyone is pissed and the answer was on the XFree86 site.

    After reading that, I would say the licence issue is a tempest in a teapot. The gang at XFree86 seems to be debating and willing to change the wording so the new licence is NOT incompatible with the GPL (as evidenced by some of the solutions in the above mentioned post).

    It seems to me the REAL issue here is a personality conflict between certain members of the XFree86 team (mostly David Dawes) and the rest of the community. So much so that we now have possible forks and alternatives springing up. Well guess what, this is nothing new in the open source world. Remember JBoss? It is well known in Java open source circles that Marc Fluery and a few others in the current JBoss organization are twats and thoroughly disliked by a large number of developers. So much so that a large chunk of the original JBoss team broke away and formed their own company and there are now real viable alternatives to JBoss springing up (Geronimo from Apache). But none of that means the code is bad, or the product is bad or the licence is wrong. Like it or not XFree86 is still the only real alternative to a commerial XServer right now, just as JBoss is the only real alternative to commercial J2EE servers.

    I say, let them work it out like adults. If they can't, when XOuvert or freedesktop are mature enougth to be a real alternative, use one of them and move on.

  • by fsmunoz ( 267297 ) <fsmunoz.member@fsf@org> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:27AM (#8315262) Homepage
    Well, XFree is pretty important, no doubt about that. But, as I see it, there are two different problems here that ultimatly will affect XFree86 more than the distros:

    1) The version that falls under this new license in not very different from the previous one. There are improvements (and to some people they are big, e.g. support for they card) but it's not like it's a totally different codebase, most people with supported cards would probably not even notice the need. This is important because this makes things very easy to fork, and that is an option under consideration (read Theo's mail, for example). Couple that with freedesktop.org xlibs (see RedHat post) and you have the basis of a new X without this licencing problems (read Branden's (Debian) mail about more specific licencing issues).

    2) I keep hearing reactions from X contributors that "XFree86 is not about Linux", basicaly asserting they would be fine or even better withour all this Linux distros bitching about their work. Well, if GNU/Linux and the BSD's drop the new X who exactly is going to use as a standard installed part of the system? Solaris x86 users? XFree86 importance and relevance is directly related to the widespread use of the Free Unices.

    I would like to had that I'm quite happy about the rejection of the new licence being transversal across distributions and OS's; Mandrake, Debian, RedHat, Gentoo, OpenBSD, probably more will come once they reach a decision. This consensus is important because when it's just the FSF and Debian taking a position people dismiss it as "political rubish". Browse the previous discussions on this issue and you'll see people saying that this licence is only wrong for the FSF and Debian and that their will include the new XFree86 because they are pragmatics bla,bla,bla. This widespread agreement in rejecting the new licence shows that this issues *are* important and that in the long run *more* important that having a new graphic card supported.

    I am, of course, very grateful to the XFree84 Project for their work. The fact that this licencing change was made in such an ungraceful mode does not affect that.
  • Re:freedesktop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:27AM (#8315267) Journal
    If the worst comes to the worst, we can always stick around on XF4.3 for however long it takes him to make XServer production-ready code. With Red Hat, Debian, Gentoo and OpenBSD potentially looking for alterative solutions, it seems there might be sufficient clout to persuade nVidia and ATI to write new drivers for the new server, too.

    Here's hoping. This will damage the Linux-on-the-desktop movement, but it's very good fortune that an alternative is nearly ready to step in to the fray.
  • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Perl-Pusher ( 555592 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:31AM (#8315297)
    Your assuming too many ifs. If this isn't worked out in a year. If there isn't a fork that works. If NVIDIA is woried about Xfree86 and not about an actual installed base of linux and BSD's. NVIDIA already supports more than one version of X, no reason to think they won't continue to. Remember they want to sell cards, not Xfree86.
  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:37AM (#8315349)
    "They're having a hissy fit over a license that requires you to acknowledge if/when you use xfree86 and that tells you to incluse that acknowledgement in the same place you include other acknowledgements about your software?"

    Yes. Because if every app required that then the back of the box would be filled with 0.01 point fonts listing every single piece of software that was included in the distribution. It's just silly.

    Also, as has been pointed out, there's probably GPL-ed code in XFree86. Now, I don't really care what people do with the GPL code I've released, _OTHER_ than change the license on me. Anyone who takes my GPL code and tries to release it under a different license -- particularly, like this, a more restrictive license -- would deserve a swift kick in the ass.
  • by stph ( 541287 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:42AM (#8315394) Homepage
    I understand the philosophical disagreement with this new clause in XFree86 4.4, but I don't think it should be confused with the old BSD "advertising" clause. The latter posed a severe financial impact on each and every advertisement a company might want to deploy. This is simply asking for acknowledgement in the consuming product's documentation. It is a pain to keep track of, but no worse what any author and publisher has to deal with when using the works of others. I don't think acknowledgement in the docs in an unfair expectation.

    My two cents.... for all it's worth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:45AM (#8315414)
    Notice the word "only".
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) * <{richardprice} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:46AM (#8315427)
    So its OK for the GPL to impose restrictions, but not for other licenses to?
  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:47AM (#8315439)
    Both the new XFree86 clause and the original BSD clause are simple vanity clauses. Fixating on these as "restrictions" sounds pretty foolish to me. Can it possibly be that the GPL is foolishly crafted to go to war with such simple requirements, which have absolutely no bearing on whether the end product is either free beer or free speech?
  • keithP was right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:49AM (#8315456) Journal
    This shows, that keith Packard and all of the other xfree86 developers that were involved in that minor altercation last year were right.

    This license change can only mean one thing:
    The people in charge of the xfree86 project are totally out of touch with the users AND the developers of the project they purport to run.

    Oh well, now we can smack our foreheads, realize we should just have thrown all our support behind the guys who were voicing this opinion and do it now. Hopefully the new license for the alternative xfree86 version we will all start using will be gpl.

  • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:52AM (#8315480) Homepage
    If things progress as they appear to be going now, XFork86 4.3+ is likely to become a de facto standard (and perhaps "the") by virtue of its inclusion in major Linuces and BSDs. If that happens, I'd expect nVidia (regardless of whether they care about the "freedom" thang) to go where their customers are going, and start writing their drivers for that also/instead.
  • by Snags ( 18929 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:52AM (#8315482) Journal
    I happened to be looking at the README for libjpeg-6b, and its licensing terms include:

    (2) If only executable code is distributed, then the accompanying documentation must state that "this software is based in part on the work of the Independent JPEG Group".

    Why is it that distributors don't worry about libjpeg?

  • Re:The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:57AM (#8315531)
    Nothing against giving credit where credit is due, but the GPL does not allow any additional restrictions. Since combining XFree-new-licensensed software with GPL licensed software would add this requirement, it is a new restriction, and thus YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DISTRIBUTE AT ALL.

    Which is why Mandrake and RedHat don't distribute XFree 4.4. Not because they don't want to give credit, but because they are not allowed to require others to give credit.
  • by OmniVector ( 569062 ) <egapemoh ym ees> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:10AM (#8315679) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but whether you like or not advancement will occur. The simple truth is XFree86 is not capable of the features one should expect from a modern display system. Take one look at Mac OS X's Quartz Extreme in a CompUSA to get a good example as to why XFree86 (NOT X11, that isn't the problem) needs to shape up it's act.

    It's one thing to want to keep compatability with older systems, it's another to outright deny the forward progress of utilizing modern hardware for the greater benefit. X11 is a protocol, and as such it will remain implementation neutral. Let the ludites running 486's keep their XFree86, and let us get on with our lives using a modern X11 implementation with real features like true transparency, vector scaling, and GPU acceleration.
  • by DarkMan ( 32280 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:12AM (#8315694) Journal
    No, because it's perfectly possible to have code under two liscencesin the same program.

    The problem arises when you want to change that liscence. Actually, it's two problems:

    1) The contributors must all agree to the liscence change. If they don't, you have to back out thier code, or not change the liscence. That's the fundemental protection of copyright.

    2) The new liscence is incomplatable with the GPL. Thus, you can't mix GPL code with code under the new XFree86 liscence. You could with the old liscence. This a result of the wording of the two liscences.

    Neither problem existed prior to the liscence change.
  • Re:The Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <rrw@hell.pl> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:20AM (#8315779) Journal
    Only thing that's getting people in a knot is that it is incompatible with the GPL's 6th clause (funny how people actually rate a 3 clause license with the only requirement proper attribution to be more restrictive than the god knows how many clauses GPL, but that's another discussion).

    Simple doesn't have to make it better. And the problem with advertising clauses was discusses over and over, to the effect that some BSD projects changed their licences to avoid it.

    ``More restrictive'' or ``more free'' is stupid criteria if you ask me. Most important, it's not true.

    BSD and GPL licensing have their purpose.

    If you can live with the fact that businesses can use your gratis work without even giving back their contribution, bugfixes etc, that's fine, use BSD licence.

    But if you want your contribution to the society to stay open, with all the enhancements, use GPL.

    That's author's decision, his view of the world. It has nothing to do with more free, or more restrictive. I mean, if it really was about ``more free'', and not some religious debate about a pet project, than all BSD OSes would be published as public domain, wouldn't they?

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:20AM (#8315785)
    So its OK for the GPL to impose restrictions, but not for other licenses to?

    It's OK for any license to impose any restrictions that they want. Certain combinations of restrictions can't be mixed, but that's OK, too. These two licenses can't be mixed because of the interaction of both their restrictions.

    The deal in this case is that this new XFree86 license covers one point release of one work of software, whereas the GPL covers thousands of works produced over the past couple of decades.

    If, in a reverse of the situation, all of today's GPLed software had been actually released under the new XFree license, and the XFree86 project had just invented the GPL for their new 4.4 version, the outcome would be exactly the same: People would be dumping XFree86 4.4 because it was incompatible with the more commonly used license.

  • by nomadlogic ( 91566 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:21AM (#8315796)
    imagine what'll happen when these same developers start working on an X server. Aaargh.
    i guess you don't know who some of the gnome hackers that are working on the X implementation are? some of them are actually good programmers, they even might know something [kalamazoolinux.org] about X. If you do not recognize any of those names, and why they are *very* relevant to X and it's development then i suggest you do some research before claiming that the sky is falling.
  • by MoneyT ( 548795 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:28AM (#8315869) Journal
    No, that wouldn't work. The License file is very clear and very specific. You include the acknowledgement in the end user documentation, or you include it where you include your other acknowledgements IN the software.
  • Vanity clauses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:30AM (#8315887)
    Maybe they could call it GNU/Xfree86 and keep everyone happy? :)

    (There's something sickly ironic about a vanity clause being an issue towards any license dreamed up by Stallman).

    On the practical side, however, you're entirely correct of course. Again with the irony, this being the reason I refuse to start calling the OS I run GNU/Xfree/KDE/Linux.
  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:30AM (#8315889)
    people who had contributed code to 4.4 would simply resubmit it to the fork, on the basis that whoever wrote the original code can resubmit it to anyone they want unless they transferred the copyright to the Xfree project.

    And the moral of the story is: don't assign your copyright to anyone project that doesn't use the GPL. They can't be trusted. To the success of the fork!
  • Re:This sucks... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:34AM (#8315917) Homepage Journal
    Well, you can always download it and compile it yourself.

    Perhaps that's the workaround - include XFree86 4.3, and an installer that automatically downloads XFree86 4.4 if you want it and it compiles it. Sure, the bandwidth demands on ftp.xfree86.org would be astronomical, but...

  • Re:WTF... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bockman ( 104837 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:34AM (#8315921)
    I'm start to think that the existence of the competition is one of the reasons for the licence changing. Maybe they want more visibility.
  • by Inhibit ( 105449 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:41AM (#8315976) Homepage Journal
    It looks like freedesktop.org is going to clean up and re-implement from the second pre-release up at the moment. This will give an alternative to XFree86.org's release of code until a better alternative is mature enough. Continuing on and forking from the last stable snapshot released under the 1.0 license is probably the sanest option.

    Changing to a license that breaks many of the current derivative projects isn't a good idea. Especially in light of the fact that XFree86 is made up of many contributions in addition to the core codebase, many of which were added under the spirit of the original license.
  • by johnnyb ( 4816 ) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:44AM (#8315996) Homepage
    I think the problem is that if a third-party _adds_ documentation, they would also have to add the line. If you combined code from multiple sources, you would have to comb through each source file to find the appropriate references just to write documentation that you ship with the product. With the GPL, you only have to not mess with the existing copyright info to be okay.

    Imagine you are a distributor who writes documnetation that ships as part of their distribution. With this new license, they would have to search out and find every attribution to include in their documentation.
  • by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:46AM (#8316017)
    Believed to be not compatible with the GPL.

    Uh, WHY is it incompatible? I've looked over the license, and it isn't apparent to me which part is causing the heartburn. Can someone familiar with the subject post a layman's version of what changed, and what the new license either requires or permits that is at odds with the GPL?

  • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:46AM (#8316024) Journal
    The simple truth is XFree86 is not capable of the features one should expect from a modern display system. Take one look at Mac OS X's Quartz Extreme in a CompUSA to get a good example as to why XFree86 (NOT X11, that isn't the problem) needs to shape up it's act.

    Really? Specifically what problems do you have with XFree86, or are you just talking about the most common themes in XFree86 desktop environments?

    Let the ludites running 486's keep their XFree86, and let us get on with our lives using a modern X11 implementation with real features like true transparency

    You know, one of the things that people like about Linux is that it doesn't have crazy hardware requirements. Unlike OS X, or, to a lesser extent, Windows.

    Transparency can be nice, but honestly, it adds very little functionality to a desktop environment. Antialiased text was a different story -- it allows a user to be given more data, by using gray levels. Plain old window transparency isn't good for a lot other than eye candy. And that eye candy is largely novelty ("look, I have transparent windows!"), and not necessary a long-term draw. I've tried working with transparent windows, and never been too impressed. Generally, interfaces are fairly modal at the window level -- I'm working with a single widget, and don't need to see what's behind it, and I'd rather devote the pixels composing that widget to making the widget easily recognizable, instead of giving some information about what's behind it. It just makes it harder to see what's being worked on. The reason windows are draggable is so that you can drag them into a configuration where you can see both windows that you're working with for the rare occasions when you need to have multiple windows visible at once.

    There are a few cases for transparency. It's nice for onscreen display type elements -- if someone wants to display song titles from their player, for example, they might be into displaying it transluencly. Frankly, though, the desktop metaphor is not a transparency-oriented one, and I've yet to see good improvements suggested to it that require translucency.

    vector scaling

    XFree86 can do vector graphics via OpenGL.

    and GPU acceleration.

    XFree86 has extensive support for both 2d and 3d acceleration.
  • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:55AM (#8316116) Journal
    I suspect that the politics and feelings involved in XFree86 are a lot more complicated and have been going on for longer than Slashdot's random and recent reporting on the subject.

    For all I know, Dawes could be an awful person, but (from a wholely ignorant outside viewer) it seems that the Slashdot story submitters have a habit of slagging on him a bit much.

    I think that, no matter what, some kind of fork is going to happen. This really sucks, because if Dawes and the other core folks are willing to take all the crap they get (XFree86 and X11 may be two of the most unjustly maligned projects I know of) and can handle such a large package (there are *verY* few projects the size of X11 that constantly run as root, directly access hardware, and must remain stable and responsive)

    I do hope that there isn't any bad blood over it. The Samba team managed to work things out without pain in much the same way the gcc team did. Basically, the folks that felt that the package needed to be stable just sat on their version and maintained it, only slowly improving it. The other folks took a version and ran with it, throwing tons of features in and going absolutely crazy. And in both cases, the projects were eventually re-merged (once the new fork was stable). They became simply long-term unstable branches under different leadership.
  • by Pop69 ( 700500 ) <`billy' `at' `benarty.co.uk'> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:58AM (#8316144) Homepage
    While I can see the point of some of this, surely it isn't up to distro maintainers to decide which licences I can and can't accept for me.

    I thought the whole point of this was to get away from people dictating licence terms and allow free choice by the USERS rather than software suppliers.

    This whole thing probably isn't going to make me stop using XFree86, rather it is going to make it more inconvenient for me to do so as I will have to download it and compile it from source.

    That's MY decision to make, not someone elses.
  • Fix the GPL! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Codijack ( 526817 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:59AM (#8316164) Homepage
    I think it is the GPL that should be fixed. There are several Open Source licenses out there that include some sort of `give credit!` clause (e.g. libjpeg) and the implied GPL incompatibility is silently ignored. Clause 6 of the GPL should be modified in a way that advertising clauses and other credit clauses are allowed.

    BTW: the wording of the new X11 license should probably be fixed/clarified too. There are several what-ifs that are not answered by the license text.


  • by RdsArts ( 667685 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:00PM (#8316169) Homepage Journal
    BSDed code is not in any way subject to being 'broke' by this license. GPL is because it specifically breaks the (IIRC) 3rd clause of the GPL, by added extra encumberment to the distribution of the software. BSD-style license do not have any similar such clause.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:12PM (#8316282)
    If you want xfree 4.4, download it and compile it. It's bizarre to complain that someone else is preventing you from using it. What right do you have to force them to use it? Why does everyone have to act according to your convenience?
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:23PM (#8316392)
    ...is because of issues like this. Idealistic licensing issues.
  • by Karn ( 172441 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:29PM (#8316436)
    The FSF points out that they are incompatible so people who agree with the ideals of the FSF can easily spot licenses which meet their definition of free, and avoid those which do not.

    Therefore it useless to ask if the problem is the GPL, because it is the pro-GPL people who are the ones stating that the other licenses are a problem.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:30PM (#8316447)
    . . .have you read an XF86Config file lately? notice the structure?

    Yes. If it did not have structure it would not work as a config file. It would be random noise. It is not noise. It has structure. It works as a config file.

    If this very post did not have structure you could not read it.

    XML is not for data at all. It is a text markup language, which gives language "meaning" (because, or course, language doesn't have meaning to begin with) which can be parsed by machine and displayed human readable. Such markup languages are verbosely archane (just view a website's source), as opposed to the compressed, coded archanity of a config file. Source for "Hello World" in a WP document can take eight pages of text. I'm sorry, but that's pretty damned archane.

    What the point of parsing a config file would be I haven't the slightest idea.

    color=red conveys no more information to man or machine than color=red in the context of a config file. In your very example formating as a tag is pointless. Including such tags would do little other than quadrupaling the lines of code and adding a layer of parsing. An older machine could be brought to it's knees by Ratpoison.

    XML has its place. If you were writing a novel in which you wanted to be able to edit the text by word meaning, say Hello and change instances, say Hi there, it could, concievably, come in handy.

    Getting down to the core of the matter, XML is legitimately, to the extent to which it is legitimate at all, is only an exchange format. It is not intended for, nor is it suitable for, use in something like a config file or a production database.

    Parent poster understands this. You do not. You do stand with the majority though, which validates parent's fear that if the Gnome crew took over an X windowing system's code it would likely fill up with XML or something similar.

    And in five or ten years we'd just have to rip it all out again as the code base imploded.

    The proper language for a config file is mathmatics with verbose variable names. Mathmatics is a language for structured data. It is actually even more human readable and less archane than XML.

  • Only to idealogues (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:39PM (#8316553)
    The Linux desktop movement is based in an idea of Freedom. To accept a less than 'free' desktop for the 'free' desktop movement would not make sense.

    Only to Linux idealogues. The rest of the computing world doesn't care about the community's "idea of Freedom." They care about results.

    Amusingly, the very creator himsef of the Linux kernel doesn't share you're strict definition of using things that are only "free." I think the most hilarious thing about the community is the fact that while they in-fight over various things, Linus just uses whatever works for him.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:39PM (#8316564)
    One thing I learned in legal practice is it doesn't matter who is right or wrong but what the consequences are and to what degree can you live with them.

    If Linux can live without XFree and Xfree can live without Linux, then fine. If not, the one who will lose the most will change.

    You can dismiss concerns all you like provided you'll live with the consequences. All the pissing contests are a waste of time.

    Professional neogotiators don't try to convince. They simply state the consequences.
  • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:45PM (#8316648)

    Like most people in this thread, you haven't bothered to read (or understand) the "problem clause."

    No, like some people, as well as the folks at Red Hat, Mandrake, Debian, etc., I have read and understood it. Distributing GPL'd source which must be linked against X is an issue. You can assert that it's not an issue all you like; the folks who ARE lawyers (e.g. Moglen, lawyers on debian-legal, etc.) disagree.

    And finally, you think that a comparison between drug laws and software licenses is apt, but can't see a connection between RMS's obnoxious advertising and XFree's obnoxious advertising? Even for slashdot, I'm astounded.

    Oh for heaven's sakes, it was a comparison in logical structure (i.e. that both situations involve something which is quite reasonable but legally hazardous), not a comparison of severity. If you're going to troll, do me a favor and be slightly more transparent about it, so I won't take you seriously and waste time on replying. TIA.

  • Project leadership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:47PM (#8316671) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or does David Dawes sound like an entirely unsuitable person to be entrusted with the leadership of a big project like XFree? I have no idea how l33t a coder he is, and it doesn't really matter. To be a good leader of a project you need to have enormous regard for the stability of the development effort. Cases in point: Linux and GNU. The Linux development effort has changed very little since the early days (the biggest change I can remember was moving to BitKeeper). The license has remained the same; everyone knows what the score is and how to get things done. It works. GNU: everyone knows what license is used for GNU software. For many of the tools the development process seems a bit arcane (maybe I just don't know as much). But everything keeps running nicely. The only occasion I can remember was the gcc/egcs split a few years ago and that wasn't really due to instability in the development effort, rather due to a wish by some people to have a livelier development tree. Eventually all was merged back together and everything went merrily on its way. Again, stability.

    Now consider XFree. Code can be licensed under one of several licenses; the whole kaboodle is also licensed under an additional license. This changes every so often, apparently without much notice or reason given. It's no wonder the distributions have finally had enough - now there are other X implementations approaching readiness I bet quite a few are getting ready to leave the sinking XFree ship. Now all we need is nVidia drivers for od.o...
  • by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <stwhite@@@kcheretic...com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:56PM (#8316806) Homepage Journal
    There's a lot of crying about the Free Software Community 'doing silly stuff like this' when 'linux should be striding forward'... I think these people have missed the current environment.

    The place that Linux is making inroads right now is as an enterprise server platform. The licensing of XFree86 won't significantly affect that progress until Linux becomes a real threat on the desktop. So there is still some real time to sort out the licensing issues.

    When one begins a software revolution based upon political and philosophical standings, how can differences about such things be 'inconsequential' or 'irrelevant'? The differences can and will be sorted out, one way or another, as many others have discovered.

    In the end, like censorship, things like this will be 'interpreted as damage and routed around' by the Free Software Community.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#8316851) Homepage

    As far as Stallman and his minions are concerned, Free means GPL. Any challenge to the GPL, however theoretical or unintentional, brings the zealots buzzing out of their hive of giant hornets, just spoiling for a fight. And they've been spoiling for this fight for years, purely on personality grounds.

    That's the whole story. GPL or go to Hell. Nothing else.

  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#8316952) Homepage
    What would happen if every open source contributor licensed their code such that their name must appear in the source distribution and the documentation? That would be a nightmare to maintain - that could be tens of thousands of names. And if you left one out by mistake you could get sued by them.

    Credit is nice, and many projects have websites with lists of contributors. If you contribute really good quality code I'm sure the core team would give you a letter of recommendation for your next job interview as well. However, this doesn't mean that we need legal documents to enforce all this.
  • by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:25PM (#8317135)
    OSS isn't taken seriously? Maybe someone should tell all these [netcraft.com] poor suckers relying on it.
  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <snarks@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:30PM (#8317218) Homepage Journal
    The XFree86 people that made this decision have no right to expect that their code will be used by anyone. No-one is shafting them by deciding not to use their product, in the same way that no-one is shafting any company by not using their product.

    If Red Hat were shipping XFree86 4.4 without crediting every contributor, then they would be stealing code.
  • Re:Free Software (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:52PM (#8317440)
    Operating system exception clause.

    In the slightly painful wording of the GPL:

    "However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable."

    That's why you can run GPL programs on, and ship them for, proprietary OS's. That clause is also why the commercial UNIX vendors ship most free software separately from their base OS installs. It's why the Linux and BSD vendors can ship the GPL software with the base OS installs. And it's why the Linux and BSD vendors get a world of pain from system component license changes, conflicts and issues.
  • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:12PM (#8317634) Journal
    ...is because of issues like this. Idealistic licensing issues.
    This is why Propriatary Software isn't taken seriously, because of all the idealistic licensing issues (see SCO vs. IBM, MS vs Everybody, etc).

    There is nothing more idealistic about "we want source in exchange for source" than there is about "we want money in exchange for source". Both approacches have problems, both approaches have benefits. The hassles arise when people try to take the source without the payment (the propriatary folks call it "piracy" and everyone nods and agrees that its horrible. Open Source says "licensing violation" and folks like you sneer and lecture about our fruitless idealism). Nice double standard there.

  • Re:The Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:51PM (#8318083) Homepage Journal

    The problem, as you say, appears to be personal. The folks at freedesktop.org have basically told the folks at XFree86 that they are tired of trying to work with them, and so now the XFree86 folks (David Dawes) have changed the license to make it more difficult for the freedesktop.org folks to simply use their source code.

    The worst bit about this is that the XFree86 core haven't really been active developers for some time. In fact, most of their work predates Linux.

    You can't pretend, however, that the licensing issue isn't important. Licensing issues generally turn out to be more important than technical issues. This change might not be *that* problematic, but who is to say that the next change won't be disastrous.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:15PM (#8318363)
    Considering that OpenBSD is listed I DON'T think it's only the GPL which is the problem. Then again it may just be that Theo ran into someone even more stubornheaded then he is =)
  • Big deal? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:53PM (#8318816)
    This is so likely to get modded down, I hardly bother to post it, but here goes.

    I fail to see what the big deal is. The 4.4 licence seems to simply demand credit where credit is due, i.e. an aknowledgement of the work that has gone into the project in the documentation of programs that use part of its code, and a request that distributions and the like that say "you can do x very cool thing", where x is because of XFree86, make some mention of the fact.

    Yes, yes, I know that one can raise all sorts of questions about boundaries and what counts as derived works, though there is an enormous amout of FUD out there about much of that question.

    It seems to me that GPL zelots are trying to dictate the licence of XFree. Well, fine. But I'm beginning to hope that XFree win this one - the new licence is certainly open source. It just makes life a little more awkward for some people. But then the GPL is quite proud of doing just that. If other projects have used XFree code without aknowledgement, well that was just bad manners anyway. And since the FSF is quite happy to tell people "no" when they find the GPL inconvenient and would rather have something under LGPL, I think XFree86 are well within their rights, though I do hope that they will clarify the wording.

  • by antiMStroll ( 664213 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @04:46PM (#8319457)
    I don't really understand this. If code is released under GPL its reuse is subject to the constraints of the GPL. How does this work if the same code is dual licensed in a different project? Couldn't a developer simply grab the 'GPL version' of the code if they don't like the second license, in effect rendering the non-GPL clauses ineffectual?
  • by nihilogos ( 87025 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @06:36PM (#8320665)
    Amusingly, the very creator himsef of the Linux kernel doesn't share you're strict definition of using things that are only "free." I think the most hilarious thing about the community is the fact that while they in-fight over various things, Linus just uses whatever works for him.

    And what works for him is the GPL. Since Linux is his entire life's work he probably cares quite deeply about the licence it's released under. He just doesn't evangelize about it.

    The rest of the computing world is myopic, and the very fact that they don't care means they don't deserve any input into licencing issues for 'free' software. Why did you even bring them into it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @06:47PM (#8320772)
    And none of this would be a problem if all software was public domain. Or if there was no copyright.

    However, just saying what would 'fix' the problem doesn't actually 'fix' anything. It's like saying there would be no crime if there were no people left on Earth. Sure, it's true. But is it going to happen?

    Would you like to add any other totally useless points to the discussion?

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.