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FSF ask Lindows: 'Where's the Source?'

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Bradley Kuhn, vice president of the Free Software Foundation, says the organization is contacting representatives because the company has not included source code with its "sneak preview" releases. Lindows CEO Michael Robertson says his company will comply with the GPL when the product is released to the public.

Kuhn says a Lindows insider tipped the FSF off to the possibility of missing source code. Lindows insiders are those who have registered and paid a $99 fee to receive beta releases of LindowsOS and other non-public information. LindowsOS is a distribution based on the Linux kernel, which is licensed under the GNU General Public License. The GPL states, in part, that the program instructions in their original form as written by the programmer (source code) must be available to users of the program. The GPL also requires that users be allowed to copy, modify and redistribute the program freely, but they must in turn provide the source code.

Robertson does not deny that the source code for LindowsOS isn't included in either of the two beta releases. "It's a work in progress. We're hopeful our first release will happen around the middle of the year. When we release an official version, all the GPL pieces will be properly distributed."

Robertson doesn't appreciate the negative attention focused on the Lindows project, likening it to "eating your young." He says he is surprised that "some in the Linux community are quick to cast aspersions, with no facts." Robertson points to his contributions to the Open Source community as proof that he has its best interests at heart, beginning with his career at MP3.com.

"We battled for the consumer at every step. We battled for open formats. We fought against secure music schemes. And we made contributions to Open Source software, since MP3.com was entirely LAMP based."

And now that he's working on making the Linux desktop a reality, Robertson says his dedication to Open Source continues. "We've joined KDE League at the highest corporate level. We hosted and sponsored Wineconf 2002. We worked with the project leader to identify the top 25 contributors and paid for roundtrip airfare for all of them, from as far away as South Africa and Norway, to San Diego. There was no registration fee. We also sponsored LPBN.org to broadcast the event.

"We've agreed to sponsor the upcoming http://www.lindows.com/debconf2">Debian conference. Our sponsorship included funds to pay for an awards banquet for all attendees, as well as travel support for some. We've made a large investment in an Open Source company; we've also paid about a million dollars to get code produced ... We've paid these funds to companies as well as individuals."

And, he says, support for Linux and the Open Source community will also come by way of ingenious marketing. "If we can get to 5% market share, an ecosystem of healthy Linux companies will emerge which will be around for the long run. Look at the incredible things that would happen. Hardware manufacturers will ship Linux drivers for their peripheral devices, in the box. Computer stores will dedicate sections of their store. Major OEMs would ship computers with Linux. It's a travesty you can't walk into major retailers today and buy a computer running Linux."

And while the code is important, that is not what it will take to get Linux to "20 million desktops." Robertson says to help more people understand Open Source, better marketing and lobbying is needed. "And yes, battling Microsoft and their huge coffers which influence OEMs, retailers, politicians, and the press in ways you only understand if you talk to them personally, which I have.

"Hopefully, Lindows.com will contribute on each of these fronts, but it will take more than one company. It's a shame that virtually every commercial Linux company has abandoned the desktop. Our goal is to build a company that will give consumers a choice for their operating system. At the same time, we're committed to being a good corporate citizen and being a supporter of Open Source for the long run."

Robertson seems dismayed by the FSF's attempt to enforce the GPL. "No wonder there's virtually no healthy Linux companies. The community seems to attack them when the real focus should be elsewhere."

Robertson says that many of the critical pieces of GPL code that have gone into Lindows have been distributed back to the community already. "Where do you think that Codeweavers got their code for Crossover Office?" he asks.

A high level source at Codeweavers confirms that Lindows has indeed contributed an "enormous amount" of code to the Wine project. But while Crossover Office contains code that was created in conjunction with Lindows, it has also been built on code that was around before Lindows existed. According to the Codeweavers source, Lindows returned modifications to the Wine codebase only because it was persuaded by Codeweavers staff to return it. The Codeweavers/Lindowsassociation was terminated in part because Lindows wanted to be able to keep its Wine modifications private.

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