GPLv3 – the goodies

Ok, enough posts over the net on GPLv3. Now my 5 cents on the content issues. I have three of them:

1. Digital restrictions management. First of all, I sincerely hope that the term chosen by Stallman gets more widespread acceptance. It’s not about rights but restrictions, since DRM typically extends “rights” out of copyright’s scope. That GPL is incompatible with DRM should be clear thus by definition: GPL covers copyright and will never expand any further. The notion that GPLv3 code does not constitute an “effective technological measure” is a nice direct reference to the critical language in EU copyright directive: if it would be “effective”, then all the DRM restrictions in that directive would apply. Now, the directive is circumvented.

2. Patent licensing. The default approach taken is very good. There are other licenses, which try to prevent the starting of patent lawsuits. Stallman seems to assume that suits may have other purposes than attacking free software. The approach should make the big patent holders feel safer with their portfolios without underminig free software in any way.

3. Copyleft provision. It is now clearer and, most importantly, the coverage is not extended. There were fears that they would try to extend copyleft to network (or public) use on the Internet (client-server model). Again, big companies should feel safe that the client-server model continues to be an accepted free software business model.

All in all, the content of the current draft is great and I do support it. My major reservations concern the language used.

GPL Menace

Like everyone else, I received my copy of the first discussion draft of GPL v3 some hours ago. Jesus, I must say. It is too early to go into the details but just look at these numbers:

GPLv2 has 2965 words and is generally considered to include ambiguous language. GPLv3 (this draft) has 4569 words meaning over 50% increase in length. To compare, Microsoft Community License has just 561 words and that license is in my humble opinion the clearest copyleft license ever.

While the draft tries to clear old ambiguities, it also succeeds in introducing new unclear concepts and language (in the middle of few odd typos). For example, “propagate” seems to replace “use” but a quick reading makes me feel like it means something more. Further, the old license used rather consistently term “Program” but this one adds “covered work” in the mix. Then there is a new concept called “subunit” – in addition to the old “components” and “parts”. Why must they use so many terms? And – unfortunately reminding me of the Artistic license – in the section titled “compatibility” the draft gives 5 new additional options anyone can add for a “compatible” license distributed within a GPL package… (clear? – not. legal risks? – yes)

I didn’t go into the basic language yet, which seems to favor the use of exceptions and negations…. take this passage as an example: “DRM is fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the GPL, which is to protect users’ freedom; therefore, the GPL ensures that the software it covers will neither be subject to, nor subject other works to, digital restrictions from which escape is forbidden.” – The beginning of that sentence looks understandable but what the hell are they meaning with the rest. What is DRM that allows “escape” to begin with (since that seems to be ok)?

In short, the draft looks like a GPLv2 mixed with GPL-FAQ. It tries to give something to everyone without being clear, short and consistent. It’s not the good old statement written by Stallman. This one is a messy open source hack in need of serious revisions – starting from the language.

Sony just hit consumer hostility

Ok, my 5 cents to the ongoing Sony bashing. It is found that their “rootkit” crap not only fucks your system up but also infringes copyright. Unless the developers have been bought out, which I suspect is impossible, someone should advice the class-action-sharks in the US law firms to add statutory copyright infringement claims in their cases. Of course Sony can surrender the sources and thus fix any possible “irreparable harm” but I don’t think they can avoid basic infringement payments since they have already profited from a product based on the copyright of others. Meanwhile, the only viable option seems to be this russian retailer if you need quality music files without DRM-insults.

The business of espresso machines

Ok, one more gadget post. I finally bought myself an espresso machine for 99 euros. I chose the cheapest one at Stockmann’s shelves among around 20 options. They call it “semi-automatic”. Median price seems to be over 500 euros and I guess there were more than 10 full-automatic machines priced at over 1000 euros to choose from. The most expensive was well over two grands.

They sold to the previous customer a 1850 euro model with arguments such as “see, it has two motors and the water circles inside ‘like this’ [grazy waving of hands]… so this one I’d buy for myself”…. Oh yes, the buyer was a middle-aged male. However, my guiding principle was that you don’t want a full-automatic if you want to drink the coffee yourself and you want to place the machine on your regular-size kitchen table.

I’m quite happy with my machine. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of home-made espressos but my machine passes any test. Maybe technology has simply progressed. With Paulig’s basic espresso I can end-up with 100% coffee shop quality.

Next thing to do is to find more exotic beans. In Helsinki, I guess Kaffecentralen is worth trying.

Communicator and Nokia’s software problems

I didn’t buy PSP but instead satisfied my instant gadget hunger with Nokia Communicator 9500. I’ve had the system for some 24hrs now.

1. Remote email works
2. Calendar sync works as well
3. Keyboard is nice

Cons: the system software sucks big time. Every aspect of it. This is my first communicator but I had tested some earlier models and knew that Symbian is a slow Java-sucker. However, I was really surprised to learn that the Symbian/Java cancer affects the basic phone functionality as well. There is substantial lag with basically any key stroke! Usability suffers.

As I noted, both email and calendar sync now work. These are the most important add-ons (so far) this phone brings to me. However, they are far from perfect. Nokia’s email software is so crappy it doesn’t seem to understand mail box (IMAP) folders. And then there is the basic problem that retrieving email is incredibly slow even when I’m connected through Wifi. In this regard, there is practically no progress from the times when I used Palm VII in the United States. That was in 2000! It seems to take one 10-30 sec “slice” only to check if I have new email. Downloading any new messages takes another slice or two. Naturally those “slices” can double or triple when the connection is through the basic phone network (GPRS). Maybe I can fix this problem somewhat by locating and installing a better email client. At least I need extra security software (communicator has no SSH support) to send some mail.

Sync works, yes, but it is buggy and took 4 hours to install. It was like configuring a PC some 15 years ago. I have a Mac and officially neither Nokia nor Apple provide any help for guys like me. I had to locate, download, install and learn to use a hack. It’s 2005 god damn it! And I’m talking about big companies and their “premium” products… I had to first fool the communicator to eat some extra non-standard software and then edit a script in a secret folder on my Mac. Grazy. Now it kind of works – I only need to press a few extra keys at every sync because the communicator isn’t comfortable with my hack. Still, this is much better than with my old SonyEricsson, which synced out-of-the-box but always messed up times and dates. At least Nokia does the functionality correct.

All in all, I’ve confirmed a fact I sort of knew before. Nokia’s software development is fucked up. Symbian sucks, usability sucks, compatibility sucks. Worse, many of these problems are terminal and cannot be fixed. I can see dead-ends everywhere: Symbian is not intended for real computers where phones are transforming into and obviously Nokia can’t head the development of basic system software intended for real computers. Thus, I’d argue Nokia’s move towards “outsourced” Linux and open source software development is a necessity, not deliberate strategy.