Plasma Mobile Images by Kubuntu

Yesterday we revealed the project we’ve been working on for the last few months, Plasma Mobile and images of it on Kubuntu.

KDE has been trying for years to get Plasma working on different form factors with mixed success, so when I first started on this I was pretty intimidated.  But we looked around for how to build this and it turns out there is software for it just lying around on the internet ready to be put together.  Incredible.

It got very stressful when we couldn’t get anything showing on the screen for a few weeks but the incredible Martin G got Wayland working with it in KWin, so now KDE has not just the first open mobile project but also one of the first systems running with Wayland.

And with Shashlik in the pipeline we are due to be able to run Android applications on it too giving us one of the largest application ecosystems out there.

The question is will there be traction from the community?  You can join us in the normal Plasma ways, #plasma on Freenode and plasma-devel mailing list and #kubuntu-devel to chat about making images for other devices.  I’m very excited to see what will happen in the next year.

Plasma Mobile announcement.

Video

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Ubuntu Policy Complies With GPL But Fails To Address Other Important Software Freedom Issues

Today Canonical published an update to their IP Policy by adding in a “trump clause” paragraph saying that “where any other licence grants rights, this policy does not modify or reduce those rights under those licences”.

I’ve been going on about this IP Policy (which is Canonical’s but confusingly appears on the Ubuntu website) and how it was incompatible with the Ubuntu policy for years.  I’ve been given a lot of grief for querying it having been called a fucking idiot, aggressiveswearer of oaths and disingenuous, dishonest, untrustworthy and unappreciative.  It really shows Ubuntu at its worst, and is really amazing that such insults should come from the body which should be there to prevent them. And I’ve heard from numerous other people who have left the project over the years because of similar treatment.  So it’s nice to see both the FSF and the SFC put out statements today saying there were indeed problems, but sad to see they say there still are.

Canonical, Ltd.’s original policy required that redistributors needed to recompile the source code to create [their] own binaries” says SFC, and “the FSF, after receiving numerous complaints from the free software community, brought serious problems with the policy to Canonical’s attention“.  Adding the trump clause makes any danger of outright violation go away. 

But as they both say there’s still dangers of it being non free by restricting non-GPL code and using patents and trademarks.  The good news is that doesn’t happen, the Ubuntu policy forbids it and there’s a team of crack archive admins to make sure everything in the archive can be freely shared, copied and modified.  But the worry still exists for people who trust corporate sayings over community policy.  It’s why the SFC still says “Therefore, Conservancy encourages Canonical, Ltd. to make the many changes and improvements to their policy recommended during the FSF-led negotiations with them” and the FSF say “we hope they will further revise the policy so that users, to the greatest extent possible, know their rights in advance rather than having to inquire about them or negotiate them“.  Well we can but hope but if it took two years and a lot of insults to get a simple clarifying paragraph added and stuff like this happen “After a few months working on this matter, Conservancy discovered that the FSF was also working on the issue” (did nobody think to tell them?), I don’t see much progress happening in future.

Meanwhile the Ubuntu Developer Membership Board wonders why nobody wants to become a developer any more and refuses to put two and two together.  I hope Ubuntu can re-find it’s community focus again, but from today’s announcement all I can take from it is that the issues I spoke about were real concerns, even if no more than that, and they haven’t gone away.

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Compilation Copyright Irrelevant for Kubuntu

Joel Leclerc’s recent post The importance of freedom in software reminds us that the reason we contribute to projects like Ubuntu is that they it is made for sharing. Use it, modify it, improve it, share it. Anywhere, any time and with any number of people all over the world. No licence required.  Take that away and you take away the reason for people to contribute.

Recent comments by a CC member that our ability to modify, improve and share it might be restricted by compilation copyright are a dangerous threat to our community.  It’s the sort of thing the Community Council should be there do take a stand against, but alas no.

Compilation Copyright?

Compilation copyright is an idea exclusive to the US (or North America anyway).  It restricts collections of items which otherwise have unrelated copyright restrictions.  A classic example is a book collection of poetry where the poems are all out of copyright but the selection and ordering of poems is new and has copyright owned by whoever did it.

It’s completely irrelevant outside the US where most of the world is located but we like to look after everyone so what’s the situation for people in the US?

Kubuntu images are made from lists of packages in seed files which get made into meta packages.  You could indeed argue that this meta package is subject to compilation copyright, I couldn’t find any case law on it so I suspect it’s entirely undefined.  The good news is the meta package has always been GPL 2 licenced so voila, no copyright restrictions beyond the norms of free software.

The seed respoitory has curiously lacked a licence until I added the GPL the other day.  It has a number of copyright holders primarily me (from before and after I worked for Canonical) and Canonical (from when I did).  Anything on Launchpad has to be free software so we could say the same applies here but more reliably the seed isn’t what’s distributed on the images, the meta package is.

And of course it’s easy to replicate, the list of packages is just those that come from KDE for the most part so you can argue any compilation copyright is KDE’s, which in the case of Plasma is me again as release dude.  And I pick GPL.

And in case anyone is getting confused, this has nothing to do with GCC style compilers, running some code through a compiler makes no difference whatsoever to what copyrights apply to it and nobody has ever seriously said anything different unless they’re trying to muddy the waters.  I recently had Mark Shuttleworth say that of course you could copy individual binaries from Ubuntu.

But but… you’re not a lawyer

It’s too complex for you…you’re too small and too wee and you need those weapons of mass destruction to prevent terrorism… was the self-deprecating argument the unionist politicians came up with for voting no to Scottish independence.  It worked too, for now, amazing.

Similarly I’m amazed at how otherwise very intelligent free software geeks look down on their ability to understand copyright and other laws.  If we took this attitude to coding I’d never have started contributing to KDE and I’d never learn what real coding is like.  If you want to know about an area of law it’s the same as coding, you read some textbooks, read some acts of parliament, read some EU directives, read some case law and come up with a decision.  It’s exactly what judges do when they make a decision, no different.

Based on the above I have maintained the KDE licence policy and reviewed thousands of packages into the Ubuntu archives. So I feel equally competent to make the obvious declaration that compilation copyright has no relevant to Kubuntu because we freely licence the meta package.  Remember geeks you are strong and free, don’t let anyone talk you down with unspecified scaremongering like “things get even more complicated” if they can’t say what makes it complicated then you can safely ignore it.

 

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