GNU and FSF News for September 2007

Posted 6 Sep 2007 at 23:15 UTC by robogato Share This

Lots of news this month! The FSF foundation joined other groups in making a political statement about proprietary software. We've got a report and new photos of the Defective by Design protest of the BBC. GPLv3 adoption continues. GNU Grub was spotted in a Marvel comic book. A new and improved alpha version of Gnash is out. RMS makes a whirlwind tour of California. Read all about it in this month's edition along with updates on major GNU packages like GNOME and gcc. There's even some news on the Hurd this month.

Free Software Free Society

"When you turn on your computer, you're making a political statement. If, like most people, your computer boots Microsoft Windows, the statement you're making is that transnational corporations should control access to the most powerful public media that ever existed." -- New Internationalist Magazine
Several organizations have joined forces to call for the adoption of free software and the rejection of Microsoft Vista and other proprietary software. Opposition to DRM and the "disposable computer mentality" were also expressed. Groups participating include the Free Software Foundation, The Green Party, People and Planet, Friends of the Earth International, and NewInternationalist. A statement was posted at that can be read and signed by anyone else who wants to show their support. The Free Software Foundation issued a press release describing the event in more detail.

Protest Against BBC/Microsoft Deal

The Free Software Foundation issued a press release with a description and photos of the recent Defective by Design protest against the BBC. The BBC has made an exclusive deal with Microsoft that would have made all BBC online content available only to Microsoft Windows users who download a DRM-encumbered software package called iPlayer. More photos of the protest can be found on flickr.

Time for the 2007 Free Software Award Nominations

It's that time again! Each year RMS presents the Award for the Advancement of Free Software to a person who has contributed to progress in the development of free software. Previous winners include Theodore Ts'o, Andrew Tridgell, Theo de Raadt, Alan Cox, Miguel de Icaza, Larry Lessig, Brian Paul, Guido van Rossum, and Larry Wall.

Nominations are also being accepted for the Award for Project of Social Benefit. This award "recognizes a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task." Previous winners include Wikipedia and Sahana.

You have until Wednesday, 31 October 2007 to submit your nominations by following the instructions found in the press release.

FSF Europe

The August issue of the FSF Europe newsletter is out. Topics include Mythbusting MS-OOXML; First Swedish Fellowship meeting held in Gothenburg; Free Software on Exit festival 2007, Novi Sad, Serbia; Freedom in the hills: the Bergtagung; GNU GPL licence confirmed once again in a court of law; Submit Free Software projects to the Trophées du Libre; Ongoing work of spreading GNU GPLv3 understanding; and Tell a friend about the Fellowship, share this newsletter.

GPL Version 3 Progress

Migration to the GPLv3 continues at a steady pace. Palamida's GPLv3 Information site showed 534 total GPLv3 packages as of August, up from 300 in July.

Microsoft and the Free Software Foundation continue to disagree about about the GPLv3. In the latest round, the Free Software Foundation clarified why Microsoft could not exempt itself from the requirements of the GPLv3. To summarize:

Microsoft cannot by any act of anticipatory repudiation divest itself of its obligation to respect others' copyrights. If Microsoft distributes our works licensed under GPLv3, or pays others to distribute them on its behalf, it is bound to do so under the terms of that license. It may not do so under any other terms; it cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPLv3.

The FSF has published a blog entry in response to a whitepaper that appeared on the web recently suggesting that hypervisors could circumvent GPLv3's anti-tivoization clause. It's pointed out that no "circumvention" is needed because the GPLv3 doesn't require that users have permission to modify all software on the device, only code covered by the GPLv3. So there are several ways a device using GPLv3 code could be tivoized and virtualization is one of them. The anti-tivoization terms in the GPLv3 simply aren't as broad as the hype in the press has suggested.

Gnash 0.8.1 released A new alpha release of Gnash, the GNU Flash player is out. This release adds a new garbage collector that reduces runtime memory requirements, a more robust parser, improved key event handling, build support for KDE as well as GNOME, and other improvements. The Gnash plugin should work with Firefox or any other Mozilla browser. The desktop player now works on GNOME and KDE. For all the details on this new version, see the release annoucement.

GNU Grub Appears in Marvel Comic

Robert Millan spotted the GNU bootloader, GNU Grub, in issue #4 of the Marvel comic book, Mighty Avengers. Grub appears on a computer display inside a missle facility in Lithuania. Apparently Grub's large red ACCESS DENIED banner only appears when someone is stealing your launch codes.

GNU Hurd

Thomas Schwinge has set up a new and improved Hurd Wiki. This contains all sorts of useful information and hopefully even more will be added over time. Development of the Hurd has a long and complicated history. Hopefully this can be explained in the wiki in a way that will help new programmers know how things got where they are and where things need to go in the future. This month on the hurd-devel list there there was discussion about switching from CVS to SVN. Other possibilities such as git, Monotone, darcs, and arch were also discussed. No decision was reached. Discussion on the l4-hurd list centered on the merits of various types of memory address space management systems on a multi-server microkernel. A group in India has donated an installer for the Hurd.

Discussion on the gnu-system-discuss list, was mostly about the lack of any clear plan for either the Hurd or the GNU OS as a whole. Many posters complained that they wanted to work on something but it was unclear which version of the Hurd to work on, the gnumach Hurd, the L4 Hurd, Hurd-NG (aka NG-Hurd), the Coyotos microkernel, or something else. Several thought contributing any work was futile until there was a clear chain of command and a roadmap that explained the goals and a plan to achieve them. Others wondered why the Linux kernel couldn't be used since it's available and free already. RMS was a frequent poster as were several of the Herd developers. I got so engrossed in the discussion, I even posted my own proposal. Let's hope the discussion is an indicator of increased interest and new activity in the Hurd project.


No new GCC releases yet but 4.3.0 is under development. The GCC 4.3 series will include a lot of new features and optimizer improvements. This release will include the MPFR library that will provide various math optimizations and improvements. There will also be a new forward propagation pass on RTL that will result in improved compile-time and better code generation. Lots of other good stuff is coming but there's still a lot of work to do according to the latest status report. If you're interested in this sort of thing, they could use your help.


No major GNOME news this month but several interesting minor developments. Wouter Bolsterlee has released a new version of the GNOME Speciment font viewer. Claudio Saavedra has uploaded some more GUADEC 2007 photos. The Google Summer of Code blog posted an entry about the GNOME's accomplishments, linking to some other summaries of the 2007 GNOME SoC results.

FSF High Priority Free Software Projects

The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of what they believe are the highest priority projects at any given time. If you're looking for something fun to work on or just want to make the world a better place, this is a good place to start.

"There is a vital need to draw the free software community's attention to the ongoing development work on these particular projects. These projects are important because computer users are continually being seduced into using non-free software, because there is no adequate free replacement. Please support these projects."

Where's RMS This Month?

RMS will be speaking at several locations in California in the coming days. He'll speak on September 10 at Stanford about the purpose of the GNU Public License and why version 3 does the job better. Then, on September 11 at the Dolce Hayes Mansion, about the FSF and the GNU GPL. Later the same day, he will speak at San Jose State University about the goals and philosophy of the Free Software Foundation. The next day, September 12, he'll speak at Berkeley on copyright and the community. Then, on September 13 he'll be at the University of San Francisco talking about the free software movement. After California, you may spot RMS in Italy where, on September 24 at the University of Pavia, he'll be talking about the free software movement and the GNU operating system. Details of his apearances can always be found on the FSF list of upcoming RMS speeches.

This monthly news summary about the Free Software Foundation and GNU project was distilled down from FSF press releases, blogs, email lists, and website news pages. The idea is to provide a concise summary of FSF/GNU news from the past month for those who don't have the time or interest to find and read all the original news sources within that community. I'm also looking for a volunteer to take over writing this news summary each month.

Again, thank you for this excellent work!, posted 7 Sep 2007 at 22:03 UTC by atai » (Journeyer)

This is now a very high quality summary of the GNU activities.

very good, but ..., posted 11 Sep 2007 at 01:21 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

... I'm surprised that it isn't on Nothing on that website seems to do as good a job of updating the world on FSF doings.

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