FLOSS Project Planets

Best Laid Plans

LinuxPlanet - Thu, 2016-01-07 19:38

Hello all, we meet again. In my last post I said I’d be writing about technology here in the future rather than my ongoing health saga. As the title of this post suggests though, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Here’s some info on the quote. I was recently informed by The Christie that they are postponing my operation with less than a week to go. I was due to be admitted on Jan 13th and now that’s been put back to Feb 10th, with the actual operation to take place on Feb 11th.

It’s only a slip of 4 weeks I know and it’s not the end of the world but it is frustrating when I just want to get this done so I can recover, get back to work and hopefully get on with my life. Every extra week adds up and it can start to feel like time is dragging on but I’ll get there.

So what’s the reason for the delay? An emergency case they need to deal with first apparently. With such a rare and specialised surgical procedure I suppose there was always a danger of delay. In some ways I should be glad that my case isn’t deemed as critically urgent and they feel I can wait 4 more weeks. There must be other patients in a much worse condition. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that.

Only 500 of these operations have been done at The Christie in the 10 years since it was first pioneered, so that illustrates how rare it is. Right now I can’t say I feel fantastic but I’m not in pain and I am managing to do some things to keep busy. I guess it’s a case of hurry up and wait. So I have to be a patient patient.

The Google Pixel C

However, in other (nicer) news I just got a Google Pixel C last week and I’m actually writing this on it right now. It’s the new flagship 10.2 inch Android tablet from Google and the first to be 100% designed by them, right down to the hardware. The Pixel team developed it alongside their fancy but rather expensive Chromebooks. It has Android 6.0.1 installed at the moment and is effectively a Nexus device in all but name. That means it will be first to receive new versions of Android and Android N is due in a few months. I expect it will be largely tailored to this device and I expect good things. I needed a new tablet but I also wanted to get something that could replace most of the functions I’d normally do with the laptop. In the interests of fairness I looked at the Microsoft Surface, Apple iPad Pro and a variety of convertible laptops, including the ASUS transformer series. I decided this was by far the best option right now. It’s something of a personal experiment to see whether a good tablet like this (with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard) can really cut it as a laptop replacement. I am also helped in this project by the work I’ve done on my server beefing up hardware and configuring KVM soI can use a remote desktop. I’ll write up some proper thoughts on all this to share with you very soon. At least I have a little more time to do that now before I head off to the hospital.

Take care out there, Happy New Year and I’ll speak to you again soon,

Dan

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2015

LinuxPlanet - Wed, 2016-01-06 12:46

I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year on behalf of the entire LQ team. 2015 has been another great year for LQ and we have quite a few exciting developments in store for 2016, including a major code update that is now *way* overdue. As has become tradition, here are the browser and OS statistics for the main LQ site for all of 2015 (2014 stats for comparison).

Browsers Chrome 47.37% Firefox 37.81% Internet Explorer 6.86% Safari 4.90% Opera 1.11% Edge 0.42%

For the first time in many years, browser stats have not changed in any meaningful way from the previous year. Chrome is very slightly up, and Firefox and IE are very slightly down (although Edge does make its initial appearance in the chart).

Operating Systems Windows 52.42% Linux 31.45% Macintosh 10.75% Android 3.01% iOS 1.53%

Similar to the browser, OS shares have remained quite stable over the last year as well. 2015 seems to have been a year of stability in both markets, at least for the technical audience that comprises LinuxQuestions.org. Note that Chrome OS has the highest percentage of any OS not to make the chart.
I’d also like to take this time to thank each and every LQ member. You are what make the site great; without you, we simply wouldn’t exist. I’d like to once again thank the LQ mod team, whose continued dedication ensures that things run as smoothly as they do. Don’t forget to vote in the LinuxQuestions.org Members Choice Awards, which recently opened.

–jeremy


Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Checking for data validity in libreoffice spreadsheets

LinuxPlanet - Wed, 2016-01-06 11:39
When entering data into the spread sheet, we might want at times to ensure that the data entered lies with in a specified range or is equal to certain number or value. To ensure this we can use the data validity option in libreoffice spreadsheet.

To enable data validity select the range of cells on which the validity needs to be applied. Then select the option validity option from data -> validity.



This will pop a menu as shown below.



In the criteria tab the "allow" option will help we can chose the what type of numbers are valid. In the data option we can choose the what should be the value of the data i.e should it be greater than or lesser than a number etc, and the text field allows us to enter the maximum number to be allowed in the cells.

Let us say we want to allow "Whole numbers" which are "less than" 100, then the setting will be as shown below.



Now when ever we enter a value equal to greater than 100 in the selected range of cells we will get an error as shown below.



We can add a message next to the cells that have data validity enabled in them by selecting the input tab and entering a message that we wish to display next to the cells as shown below.






Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Sun, Oracle, Android, Google and JDK Copyleft FUD

LinuxPlanet - Wed, 2016-01-06 00:00

I have probably spent more time dealing with the implications and real-world scenarios of copyleft in the embedded device space than anyone. I'm one of a very few people charged with the task of enforcing the GPL for Linux, and it's been well-known for a decade that GPL violations on Linux occur most often in embedded devices such as mobile hand-held computers (aka “phones”) and other such devices.

This experience has left me wondering if I should laugh or cry at the news coverage and pundit FUD that has quickly come forth from Google's decision to move from the Apache-licensed Java implementation to the JDK available from Oracle.

As some smart commenters like Bob Lee have said, there is already at least one essential part of Android, namely Linux itself, licensed as pure GPL. I find it both amusing and maddening that respondents use widespread GPL violation by chip manufacturers as some sort of justification for why Linux is acceptable, but Oracle's JDK is not. Eventually, (slowly but surely) GPL enforcement will adjudicate the widespread problem of poor Linux license compliance — one way or the other. But, that issue is beside the point when we talk of the licenses of code running in userspace. The real issue with that is two-fold.

First, If you think the ecosystem shall collapse because “pure GPL has moved up the Android stack”, and “it will soon virally infect everyone” with copyleft (as you anti-copyleft folks love to say) your fears are just unfounded. Those of us who worked in the early days of reimplementing Java in copyleft communities thought carefully about just this situation. At the time, remember, Sun's Java was completely proprietary, and our goal was to wean developers off Sun's implementation to use a Free Software one. We knew, just as the early GNU developers knew with libc, that a fully copylefted implementation would gain few adopters. So, the earliest copyleft versions of Java were under an extremely weak copyleft called the “GPL plus the Classpath exception”. Personally, I was involved as a volunteer in the early days of the Classpath community; I helped name the project and design the Classpath exception. (At the time, I proposed we call it the “Least GPL” since the Classpath exception carves so many holes in strong copyleft that it's less of a copyleft than even the Lesser GPL and probably the Mozilla Public License, too!)

But, what does the Classpath exception from GNU's implementation have to with Oracle's JDK? Well, Sun, before Oracle's acquisition, sought to collaborate with the Classpath community. Those of us who helped start Classpath were excited to see the original proprietary vendor seek to release their own formerly proprietary code and want to merge some of it with the community that had originally formed to replace their code with a liberated alternative.

Sun thus released much of the JDK under “GPL with Classpath exception”. The reasons were clearly explained (URL linked is an archived version of what once appeared on Sun's website) on their collaboration website for all to see. You see the outcome of that in many files in the now-infamous commit from last week. I strongly suspect Google's lawyers vetted what was merged to made sure that the Android Java SDK fully gets the appropriate advantages of the Classpath exception.

So, how is incorporating Oracle's GPL-plus-Classpath-exception'd JDK different from having an Apache-licensed Java userspace? It's not that much different! Android redistributors already have strong copyleft obligations in kernel space, and, remember that Webkit is LGPL'd; there's also already weak copyleft compliance obligations floating around Android, too. So, if a redistributor is already meeting those, it's not much more work to meet the even weaker requirements now added to the incorporated JDK code. I urge you to ask anyone who says that this change will have any serious impact on licensing obligations and analysis for Android redistributors to please prove their claim with an actual example of a piece of code added in that commit under pure GPL that will combine in some way with Android userspace applications. I admit I haven't dug through the commit to prove the negative, but I'd be surprised if some Google engineers didn't do that work before the commit happened.

You may now ask yourself if there is anything of note here at all. There's certainly less here than most are saying about it. In fact, a Java industry analyst (with more than a decade of experience in the area) told me that he believed the decision was primarily technical. Authors of userspace applications on Android (apparently) seek a newer Java language implementation and given that there was a reasonably licensed Free Software one available, Google made a technical switch to the superior codebase, as it gives API users technically what they want while also reducing maintenance burden. This seems very reasonable. While it's less shocking than what the pundits say, technical reasons probably were the primary impetus.

So, for Android redistributors, are there any actual licensing risks to this change? The answer there is undoubtedly yes, but the situation is quite nuanced, and again, the problem is not as bad as the anti-copyleft crowd says. The Classpath exception grants very wide permissions. Nevertheless, some basic copyleft obligations can remain, albeit in a very weak-copyleft manner. It is possible to violate that weak copyleft, particularly if you don't understand the licensing of all third-party materials combined with the JDK. Still, since you have comply with Linux's license to redistribute Android, complying with the Classpath exception'd stuff will require only a simple afterthought.

Meanwhile, Sun's (now Oracle's) JDK, is likely nearly 100% copyright-held by Oracle. I've written before about the dangers of the consolidation of a copylefted codebase with a single for-profit, commercial entity. I've even pointed out that Oracle specifically is very dangerous in its methods of using copyleft as an aggression.

Copyleft is a tool, not a moral principle. Tools can be used incorrectly with deleterious effect. As an analogy, I'm constantly bending paper clips to press those little buttons on electronic devices, and afterwards, the tool doesn't do what it's intended for (hold papers together); it's bent out of shape and only good for the new, dubious purpose, better served by a different tool. (But, the paper clip was already right there on my desk, you see…)

Similarly, while organizations like Conservancy use copyleft in a principled way to fight for software freedom, others use it in a manipulative, drafter-unintended, way to extract revenue with no intention standing up for users' rights. We already know Oracle likes to use GPL this way, and I really doubt that Oracle will sign a pledge to follow Conservancy's and FSF's principles of GPL enforcement. Thus, we should expect Oracle to aggressively enforce against downstream Android manufacturers who fail to comply with “GPL plus Classpath exception”. Of course, Conservancy's GPL Compliance Project for Linux developers may also enforce, if the violation extends to Linux as well. But, Conservancy will follow those principles and prioritize compliance and community goodwill. Oracle won't. But, saying that means that Oracle has “its hooks” in Android makes no sense. They have as many hooks as any of the other thousands of copyright holders of copylefted material in Android. If anything, this is just another indication that we need more of those copyright holders to agree with the principles, and we should shun codebases where only one for-profit company holds copyright.

Thus, my conclusion about this situation is quite different than the pundits and link-bait news articles. I speculate that Google weighed a technical decision against its own copyleft compliance processes, and determined that Google would succeed in its compliance efforts on Android, and thus won't face compliance problems, and can therefore easily benefit technically from the better code. However, for those many downstream redistributors of Android who fail at license compliance already, the ironic outcome is that you may finally find out how friendly and reasonable Conservancy's Linux GPL enforcement truly is, once you compare it with GPL enforcement from a company like Oracle, who holds avarice, not software freedom, as its primary moral principle.

Finally, the bigger problem in Android with respect to software freedom is that the GPL is widely violated on Linux in Android devices. If this change causes Android redistributors to reevalute their willful ignorance of GPL's requirements, then some good may come of it all, despite Oracle's expected nastiness.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

A Requiem for Ian Murdock

LinuxPlanet - Wed, 2015-12-30 19:00

[ This post was crossposted on Conservancy's website. ]

I first met Ian Murdock gathered around a table at some bar, somewhere, after some conference in the late 1990s. Progeny Linux Systems' founding was soon to be announced, and Ian had invited a group from the Debian BoF along to hear about “something interesting”; the post-BoF meetup was actually a briefing on his plans for Progeny.

Many of the details (such as which conference and where on the planet it was), I've forgotten, but I've never forgotten Ian gathering us around, bending my ear to hear in the loud bar, and getting one of my first insider scoops on something big that was about to happen in Free Software. Ian was truly famous in my world; I felt like I'd won the jackpot of meeting a rock star.

More recently, I gave a keynote at DebConf this year and talked about how long I've used Debian and how much it has meant to me. I've since then talked with many people about how the Debian community is rapidly becoming a unicorn among Free Software projects — one of the last true community-driven, non-commercial projects.

A culture like that needs a huge group to rise to fruition, and there are no specific actions that can ensure creation of a multi-generational project like Debian. But, there are lots of ways to make the wrong decisions early. As near as I can tell, Ian artfully avoided the project-ending mistakes; he made the early decisions right.

Ian cared about Free Software and wanted to make something useful for the community. He teamed up with (for a time in Debian's earliest history) the FSF to help Debian in its non-profit connections and roots. And, when the time came, he did what all great leaders do: he stepped aside and let a democratic structure form. He paved the way for the creation of Debian's strong Constitutional and democratic governance. Debian has had many great leaders in its long history, but Ian was (effectively) the first DPL, and he chose not to be a BDFL.

The Free Software community remains relatively young. Thus, loss of our community members jar us in the manner that uniquely unsettles the young. In other words, anyone we lose now, as we've lost Ian this week, has died too young. It's a cliché to say, but I say anyway that we should remind ourselves to engage with those around us every day, and to welcome new people gladly. When Ian invited me around that table, I was truly nobody: he'd never met me before — indeed no one in the Free Software community knew who I was then. Yet, the mere fact that I stayed late at a conference to attend the Debian BoF was enough for him — enough for him to even invite me to hear the secret plans of his new company. Ian's trust — his welcoming nature — remains for me unforgettable. I hope to watch that nature flourish in our community for the remainder of all our lives.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

I’ve Got A Date

LinuxPlanet - Fri, 2015-12-25 17:31

A Date At Last

Hello all, I have some exciting news. It’s been a long time since I’ve had cause to use this sentence but… I’ve got a date! Sadly in this context I’m only referring to a date for my upcoming surgery. I’ll be going under the knife at The Christie in Manchester on January 14th 2016. Not far away.

If you’ve read my last 2 or 3 posts you’ll know that I’ve had some serious health problems in recent months. After perplexing a good number of medical professionals I was finally diagnosed with a rare condition known as Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, or PMP for short. Sadly not PIMP which would have sounded much cooler. The treatment involves cutting out all the affected areas and cleaning it up with a heated chemotherapy liquid. It’ll be a pretty long surgical procedure and take months to recover from but the prognosis is good. I will have to be scanned yearly to ensure no return of tumours but with a 75% chance of no re-occurrence in 10 years it’s well worth it I’d say. I won’t go on at length I just wanted to share the date for those people who’ve been asking.

I’m looking forward to Christmas and New Year, I can’t wait to get this surgery out of the way and begin down the road to recovery. Get back to work and all the other things I used to do. I went to see Star Wars last night so at least I was able to do that before my op. I’ve also done some techy things lately I’d like to write about, I’ll share those with you soon. I don’t want to spend all my time on medical talk.

I wish you all Christmas and New Year! I’ll report in again soon

Dan

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets
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