Weekly Engineering News 34/2008

Wolfgang Spraul wolfgang at openmoko.com
Tue Aug 26 21:13:08 CEST 2008

Hi everybody,
sorry about the delay, last week's news is from me is more legal news  
than engineering news, but anyway, Openmoko is all about open  
engineering so sometimes the legal work is necessary to give us and  
our community the environment we need...

--- Tuesday
Internal meeting to confirm again that Openmoko prefers the GPL and  
LGPL version 3 over older versions. We don't really force our full- 
time, part-time or volunteer contributors to use any license, for  
example raster prefers the BSD license for Enlightenment. But still,  
the official preference at Openmoko is GPL and LGPL, and specifically  
in version 3. We will be more careful to uptick the GPL/LGPL version  
numbers when writing new source codes.
I'm not sure whether this has been talked about before, but the  
'official' idea behind licenses at Openmoko is like this:

*) Libraries cannot be GPL.
The idea is that libraries are what you use to build your house, your  
private space that you can control in any way you like. Our preference  
is LGPL, BSD/MIT less so, but still acceptable. GPL is not acceptable.
*) Everything but libraries should be GPL.
The idea is that this is the shared public good, democracy. LGPL and  
even less so BSD/MIT would be acceptable, but not be loved. We think  
that those licenses defend the rights of developers, but not the  
rights of the end user.

No need to start any flame wars over this, we do not enforce those  
rules. We are not entirely happy with Trolltech's GPL dual-licensing  
for example, but still use their stuff. Same with raster who prefers  
BSD over LGPL. Anyway the above represents the 'official' preferences.

--- Wednesday
Airoha (www.airoha.com) visited us in our office to talk about their  
Wi-Fi RF chips. We are planning lots of cool features with Wi-Fi,  
VoIP, Mesh, etc. But for many of these things, we need access to the  
firmware in the Wi-Fi chips. We started thinking how we can do our own  
Wi-Fi baseband chip one day :-)

Big legal discussion. Openmoko signed exactly 50 NDAs so far since  
starting the company 1 year ago. We looked at the 10 most important of  
those NDAs, mostly with semiconductor companies, table attached below.
So we looked a all sorts of ideas how to play by the rules but still  
be as open as possible. Have a tech support hotline to answer specific  
questions by looking it up in the documentation. Hire employees on a  
1$/month basis. Start a documentation project on our wiki. Lower the  
barriers of entering into an NDA with Openmoko (web form) to at least  
get access to some NDA documentation - the ones not restricted to full- 
time employees.
No silver bullet yet, we will keep looking. Ideas are welcome :-)
Bottom line we continue as before: Big preference for chips that have  
fully open documentation. Grudgingly accept NDAs if there is no other  
way, then make sure there is a well documented GPL driver at least...

--- Friday
We decided to take another serious look at doing a design around the  
Samsung 6410 SoC, after having postponed work on it a few months ago.  
Planning another attempt at asking Samsung Korea to open up  
documentation :-)

So much for last week, let's not forget that lots of people were busy  
fixing bugs all over the place too...
Best Regards,
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