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Author Topic: Stallman on Android  (Read 1811 times)

Paul Keith

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Stallman on Android
« on: September 20, 2011, 01:17:09 PM »
tux-chrome.jpg

vs.

Richard-Stallman.jpg

Full article: http://www.guardian....ee-software-stallman

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Linux aside, the software of Android versions 1 and 2 was mostly developed by Google; Google released it under the Apache 2.0 license, which is a lax free software license without copyleft.

The version of Linux included in Android is not entirely free software, since it contains non-free "binary blobs" (just like Torvalds' version of Linux), some of which are really used in some Android devices. Android platforms use other non-free firmware, too, and non-free libraries. Aside from those, the source code of Android versions 1 and 2, as released by Google, is free software – but this code is insufficient to run the device. Some of the applications that generally come with Android are non-free, too.

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"Android contains Linux, but it isn't Linux". If we avoid starting from the confusion, the situation is simple: Android contains Linux, but not GNU; thus, Android and GNU/Linux are mostly different.

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Google said it withheld the 3.0 source code because it was buggy, and that people should wait for the next release. That may be good advice for people who simply want to run the Android system, but the users should be the ones to decide this.

tl;dr: He's right but I doubt even FOSS supporters would care.

In many ways, this may start a trend where Open Source supporters become more and more hypocritical. Stallman does go to his usual extremes but I think his point is slowly being lost as companies start converting more people into ideology funded developers. Sort of like modding communities only this time, certain groups have wisened up on how to convert the communities into something that feeds the platform rather than an isolated game where sequels especially game engine changes forces disparity between each modder/developer's loyalty.

P.S. I'm not really a developer or even a modder so the terms I'm using above could definitely be wrong.

Edvard

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2011, 01:48:25 AM »
I'm no die-hard FOSS'er (one of the first things I install are mp3 libs... whatevs) but I can see and appreciate RMS's point.
I seriously doubt he's blind to the fact that some things just aren't going to work without GLOBs, it's just that he'd rather they be replaced with free code.
Good luck with that.
He's also created a legal precedence; the GPL is defendable in court, and those (like Google, and just about every distro you can name) who want to mix-and-match do so at some level of legal risk.

In other words, I agree with you; he's right, but not too many people care when "it just works" is on the line.

On another note, it seems fishy that Google wouldn't release Android 3.0 code because it was "buggy".
1- Show me ANY linux distro or FOSS (hell, throw proprietary in there too) that isn't "buggy".
2- I thought that was what FOSS was all about; open code so the community can help you fix it.
If Google was dedicated to the ideology at all, they would have followed through.
Apparently, they don't want the help...  :-\

Paul Keith

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2011, 03:58:06 AM »
Quote
On another note, it seems fishy that Google wouldn't release Android 3.0 code because it was "buggy".

That's kind of what RMS is alluding to in this one.

I'm far from a die hard FOSS user either and I've never agreed with Stallman when his extreme views applies to things that still aren't mature enough especially for casual users to follow his philosophy. I also dislike it when he never attacks the philosophical stance of such FOSSers against Opera because it's closed source and then turns around and supports Firefox.

In this case though, what I read from RMS is that he's not just talking about whether Android is free software or not. He's showing how the attempts of OS is being hijacked without trying to sound sensationalist and he's running down the process as to how Google has been improving upon the Mozilla model. Unfortunately the theme is too similar to his previous rants and people are so loyal to Google already that it's going to fall on deaf ears. That's understandable though. FOSS-ers not getting his point though? I fear that says more about the flimsiness of the open source philosophy post-fad.

40hz

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2011, 05:01:28 AM »
The phrase "Open Source" has been hijacked almost as completely as has the term "Green" when referring to eco-friendly or "Natural" when referring to food products.

For most people in the software industry that are considering implementing an "open" initiative, "open" means little more than "getting free debugging and coding from the public." As Stallman so aptly noted:

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The non-release of two versions' source code raises concern that Google might intend to turn Android proprietary permanently; that the release of some Android versions as free software may have been a temporary ploy to get community assistance in improving a proprietary software product. Let us hope does not happen.

Let us hope it does not happen?


Good grief! Can we all stop kidding ourselves about Google?

I'm generally not a fan of Forbes or its columnists. But Bob Evans did an editorial piece that sums up why it doesn't make sense to continue seeing Google as anything other than what it is: a mega-corporation

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Google Needs To Drop Its "Do No Evil" Thing

Google’s a marvelous company whose astonishing success sometimes makes it hard to fathom that it is only 13 years old. But like all precocious teenagers, Google is finding that the process of growing up isn’t just about getting bigger—it’s about getting smarter.

And one smart thing Google should do right now is formally and permanently drop its “Do No Evil” mantra.

Because behavior that’s cute in a little kid can, in a grown-up, be cloying at best and disingenuous or even dishonest at worst.

I’m not about to trot out a laundry list of all the trouble or near-trouble that Google has gotten itself into in the past five or so years, but we’ve all seen more than a little evidence over that time that Google’s interpretation of what is meant by privacy often clashes severely with that of mere mortals.

To Google’s credit, it has retrenched quickly from its invasive forays, done the mea culpa thing, and promised to sin no more. But I have to ask:

Before the fact, where was the “Do No Evil” thing? Why didn’t their slogan protect them from their baser instincts? How could a company that says it lives by the creed of “Do No Evil” have, in fact, committed a range of acts that, if not overtly evil, were surely not deemed to be good?

Important note: The phrase Google originally used was "You can make money without doing evil." Google has since retooled the wordage to read: "Don't be evil."

Which is an important difference for Google's hive brain.  :-\

Google's own Matt Cutts has a vaguely apologist post on G+ which attempts to address the very real (to his mind) difference between "Do no" and "Don't be."

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I think "Do no evil" is an impossible standard: reasonable people can disagree on which choices are evil, and for different reasons. I prefer "Don't be evil" because it leaves room for honest disagreements, but still encourages Google to strive to make the world better.

"Leaves room...?"  "Encourages Google to strive...?"  Wow! That's great Matt. That's giving yourself enough wiggle room that you could have the entire world over for a lambada party.

Hmm...Maybe instead of "Don't Be Evil" they could just say...nothing?

Official silence may not be as catchy as a pithy phrase. But people are much more willing to tolerate aloofness (or greed) than they are to condone hypocrisy.

Hopefully Google will eventually realize that.  8)


« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 05:56:09 AM by 40hz »

TheQwerty

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2011, 07:37:36 AM »
Quote
Google said it withheld the 3.0 source code because it was buggy…
This is not true.

Google told Engadget:
Quote from: http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/24/google-keeping-honeycomb-source-code-on-ice-says-its-not-ready/
Android 3.0, Honeycomb, was designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes and improves on Android favorites such as widgets, multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization. While we're excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones. Until then, we've decided not to release Honeycomb to open source. We're committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it's ready.

And in a separate blog post explaining Google's role in Android development Andy Rubin said:
Quote from: http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-think-im-having-gene-amdahl-moment.html
Finally, we continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready. As I write this the Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones. As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types.
(All emphasis is my own.)

I understand the tech blogs not being able to read between the lines here (lord knows how easy they think it is to develop software), but I'm disappointed that after all this time the view from software developers hasn't gotten out or at least that Google hasn't explained it better.

The official repository, at least before Kernel.org was hacked, always contained the released source for Android and could be built for phones.  Picking up on the emphasis yet? - Android must run on phones.

Froyo (2.2) was intended only for phones and after its release Google created two internal branches:
Gingerbread (2.3) continued to be improvements for phones, and as such was released per usual.
Honeycomb (3.*) contained the changes to officially extend Android to tablets.


Google probably broke the build or compatibility/regression tests for phones in Honeycomb and if they were to commit these changes the official repository would no longer work for phones.

I get the feeling that they intended to merge Gingerbread into Honeycomb and release it, but due to whatever delays, Honeycomb won't be officially released now. Instead Ice Cream Sandwich (?.?) will merge Honeycomb, Gingerbread, and likely the Google TV branch into a single base.


Now we can focus on the real frustration with Google's "open" model for Android: they are essentially the only developers and they do their work in private. This would be a non-issue if all their branches were public, however, I feel there are valid reasons they aren't:
1. Google keeps a competitive edge without revealing their current & future plans.
2. Google can develop quicker without the many pull requests from the community (take it or leave it but at some point coordinating community efforts becomes more difficult than doing it yourself).
3. It removes a lot of speculation that they'd otherwise need to respond to.
4. It prevents companies from releasing products utilizing pre-production code, which is extremely important when many of these companies have shown an inability to release timely/any updates.

Which leaves the problem of making deals with companies allowing them to release products using code that won't be committed to public for months. Not sure how I feel about this since I'm not familiar with how difficult it would be to get similar access by a smaller company.



TL;DR: My opinion is that Google decided to withhold Honeycomb rather than commit code to the repository which wouldn't work on phones. 

The real frustration with their "open" model is their use of private branches but their possible reasoning seems valid.


Sorry for the long post, just getting tired of what I see as a logical decision continually being described as malice.

daddydave

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2011, 12:19:44 PM »
[deleted  Posted a link here, thinking about whether it is really relevant]
If bad things happen to other people, it's karma. If bad things happen to me, it's kismat!

Edvard

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Re: Stallman on Android
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2011, 12:22:15 PM »
Hmm... that makes a little more sense (thanks, TQ), and shame on me for taking someone else's word for what was actually going on.
This is still in line with the discussion, however.

Google doing private development before release certainly works for them, but it's just not in line with the classic philosophy behind Open Source; at least according to Stallman, Torvalds, Raymond, et al.
"Release Early, Release Often", all that sort of jazz.

RMS appears to be of the opinion that "Closed Door" development isn't the Open Source 'way', when in fact, Google is under no obligation to release anything, source or otherwise, until they release a final product.
Then, to be in compliance with the GPL, they have to make the (GPL'd) source code available, which is exactly what's happening.

Make of that what you will, I guess.
Free OS or not, I still can't afford an Android phone...  *shrug*