June 4, 2002

FSF: LindowsOS moving toward GPL compliance

- by Tina Gasperson -
Michael Robertson, the CEO of Lindows.com, today announced another preview
release of LindowsOS, the Linux distribution designed to be able to run Windows
applications. It's called LindowsOS SPX, and his company is touting it as the first
"Broadband OS" designed to take advantage of broadband technology. All we
want to know is, what about the GPL?

Robertson's emphasis on marketing strategies hasn't been sitting well with some
Linux people, and the latest push to call Lindows the first operating system to
fully utilize broadband tech is sure to further irritate them. Others, however,
are delighted with Lindows. "I am a very happy Linux User," wrote an anonymous
poster at NewsForge. "I have found the best distros in my humble opinion to be
Red Hat 7.3 and Mandrake 8.2. However, lately I stumbled over Lindows. All I
can say is WOW!!!!!! The installation was easier than at the time Corel
Linux, It has all the power as the usual distros expect for it being able to
run most windows apps. So far I
have just installed M$ Office 2000, M$ Internet Explorer, Quickbooks 2001,
Act 2000. I am trying for Dreamweaver and Photoshop next. If these install and
work as well
as the others I will be a happy man. I am looking forward to Lindows future
offerings and excited to become a M$ free office."

One complaint the Linux community has had with Lindows is its seeming ignorance
of the terms of the GNU General Public License, which forbid things like End User License Agreements
(EULA), and require software distributors to release their modifications to
GPLed code. Remember, this is a Linux distribution, and Linux (or GNU/Linux
if you're with the FSF) is still Free Software. Back in April, the Free Software
Foundation was tailing Lindows, asking "where's the source?" after a Lindows
Insider tipped the FSF off to the fact that the source code was nowhere to be found on the
install CD or on the Lindows Web site (although several readers pointed to links on the
Lindows site that led to the source code for several KDE products that were
included with the distribution).

"We are in the midst of negotiations" with LindowsOS, says Brad Kuhn, v.p. of
the FSF. "Our general counsel, Eben Moglen promised [Robertson] a rewrite of the
EULA," the original
of which
is sure to raise the hackles of anyone who's a fan of the GPL. But
Moglen has been on vacation for the past several weeks and didn't deliver a new
EULA in time for the SPX release. "My hope is that they haven't released
unilaterally," Kuhn says.

"They were moving toward compliance based on our recommendations. [Robertson is]
willing to move," he says. We located a compliant-looking source file tree at http://net2.com/lindows/source/pool/debian/, but the individual files need to be examined before coming
to any conclusions.

"We're still upset that it had to happen this way," Kuhn says, "but we don't
hold grudges. If there's a problem with the EULA still, we'll get it fixed.
Normally these violations don't happen so publicly. We try to work behind the