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Chris Dibona On Free Software and Google 107

dkd903 wrote in with an interview with Chris Dibona in Der Standard. Within, he declares Android as "... the dream come true. It's your Linux desktop, it's the ultimate success story of Linux that I've been working on personally since 1995." There's lots of other good stuff on Google's internal use of GNU/Linux: "If you'd look at laptops it's maybe 70 percent Mac OS X and most of the rest is Linux, we are a huge customer of Apple. Engineering Desktops are overwhelmingly running on Linux. We have our own Ubuntu derivative called 'Goobuntu' internally for that, integrating with our network — we run all our the home directories from a file server — and with some extra tools already built-in for developers."
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Chris Dibona On Free Software and Google

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  • Ummm...what? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @01:51PM (#36737142)

    Yes, it's Linux and yet can't run almost any Linux apps. Also, what good is it that you guys use Linux and Goobuntu internally when you horde most of your changes? Sounds like a company who leverages FOSS yet only sends back a few breadcrumbs to placate the masses.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @01:59PM (#36737324)

    It's a great success story for Google, I suppose. But Linux has already had massive, if quiet, successes. And it's not a huge success story for end users, who are left with devices whose drivers rot outside the kernel mainline, dependent on closed source binary blobs for hardware support that never get rebuilt as systems move on.

    It's also not a huge success for GNU/Linux (or Free Software) in general, due to the almost total break from it that Google has spearheaded. Instead of a platform that exists regardless of one corporation, you have one whose existence is defined by that corporation. Difficult to fork, hard to steer in ways other than what they want and, until further notice, closed source.

    Better can be done.

  • Re:Ummm...what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @02:06PM (#36737482)

    Yes, it's Linux and yet can't run almost any Linux apps.

    Yes, because, if it did, it would fail. Linux has been tried and tried and tried and has never worked for consumers. The last thing FOSS/Linux advocates need is yet another iteration of Gnome/Xorg. Not to mention the fact that with a minimal amount of work, a real techie can run Linux apps on Android. I have an Ubuntu chroot on both my Xoom and my OG Droid with any Linux application just an apt-get away. It's great for command line favorites like vim, elinks, sshfs, rtorrent, etc. And since the applications are compiled for ARM, and are running on the bare metal just with a different root directory, they run at full speed. With my set-up and a few judicious bind mounts, Ubuntu is a 95 percent integrated peer with the rest of the system.

    I could run graphical applications like Firefox, OpenOffice, gedit, etc. with the VNC viewer and I do from time to time when I'm bored but when I do, I see why Android is not just another Linux distro. Desktop apps don't work on a touchscreen device. Period. That's why MS has been a dismal failure in tablets for a decade and the iPad has just steamrolled them. So, why would Goog want to repeat that mistake?

    Also, what good is it that you guys use Linux and Goobuntu internally when you horde most of your changes?

    If they don't ship the code, they don't have to ship the changes. Read the GPL. Now, for the open licensed code they do ship, if you read the article, you will see they have released something like 20+ million lines of source. That is not hording changes.

    Sounds like a company who leverages FOSS yet only sends back a few breadcrumbs to placate the masses.

    Sounds like you don't have a clue what you are talking about.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <{jmorris} {at} {}> on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @02:22PM (#36737796)

    > Calling Android a linux desktop is also a stretch.

    Calling it Linux is technically correct in that it does use the Linux kernel down under layers of Google and Java cruft. But it is only used as a place for the OEMs to hang device drivers because they already were familiar with it from their other ARM embedded projects. In the more familiar usage of the word 'Linux' to mean a distribution of familiar UNIXish tools from GNU,, Moz Corp, GNOME/KDE, etc. Android is totally alien and about as closed of a walled garden as OS X or iOS. Yes most of it is technically released under an FSF approved license but there is zero community involvement in what Google tosses over the wall from time to time. And because they keep a couple of key bits closed they can dictate terms to OEMs (almost) exactly like it was a totally closed source environment.

    And yes there is the issue that Android is not and probably never will be ready for the desktop. It is a phone OS growing to the tablet space. Kinda hard to envision it scaling to multiple large displays.

    So yea, DiBona takes Google's shilling so he has to promote their stuff. But we are free to laugh and call him a silly person for expecting us to believe this line of BS.

  • Re:Success! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @02:25PM (#36737848)

    While Android is more open than the alternatives, it's doesn't really (and can't really) ever fulfill the goals of an open and free computing environment that Linux as a Free Software PC/Workstation Desktop Operating System can.

    First of all, *can't really ever* is a really long time so it isn't really rational to say that as you do not know what the future holds. My next question is, what is stopping Android from developing into a fully fledged desktop operating system? It obviously runs a desktop class kernel, it supports native development, it supports USB host, external input and output. I realize that Android isn't a complete desktop solution as is but, what can you do with a current desktop system that is out of the question for Android given a little bit of work?

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beorytis ( 1014777 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @02:44PM (#36738174)

    Calling Android a linux desktop is also a stretch.

    He didn't call it a linux desktop; he called it "the linux desktop dream come true". I thought he meant: "Though the hope of an open-source OS widely adopted by non-technical mainstream users didn't happen with Linux for desktop PCs, it did with Android.

  • Re:Ummm...what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @02:56PM (#36738388) Homepage Journal

    O.K., Chris. You prolly don't remember the chat we had at LinuxWorld 2000. You used to be an advocate and supporter in the community. It's too bad you've been captured by the corporate machine of Google. You know this is what they are, right? Despite the image they present as just a big, happy dev-lab with a $450 stock price.

    The DREAM that I think we shared for 20 years was of open, free systems, freely available and modifiable. NOT that of a corporation building a successful, billion-dollar division on the promise of such a system. This is SUBVERSION - not SUCCESS.

    DiBona FAIL - Google FAIL.

    Give me Posix or give me nothing at all. It is demostrably true that the apps that proliferate on the Android platform form a festering cess-pit of useless apps, or borderline trojan-ware.

    Now, when do we get to hear Doc Searls cheerlead for Facebook?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:02PM (#36738506)

    It is interesting to see the massive success of GNU/Linux. It isn't as apparent where it is being used to most typical GNU/Linux users or consumers although it is being used all over the place. I think part of this is it isn't advertised like Microsoft or Apple products or counted very well. The marketing just doesn't exist to the extent it does for products from those companies.

    I manage a really tiny company in comparison to Google, Microsoft, or Apple that deals in free software. We only put out products which are free software compatible (hardware/peripherals/etc must not be dependent on non-free software/binary blobs/windows drivers/etc to work) and we've sold to many of the companies you would expect to see using desktop GNU/Linux. Google is amongst them. We sell to allot of smaller companies, home users, hospital (operating possibly several hundred facilities), etc.

    Desktop GNU/Linux is out there. Home users are not an insignificant proportion of our current business although the potential to hit more larger installations bases exists. We get inquires for 20k plus of stuff and I've seen this for years. As far back as 2005 I saw this. Before starting a company I knew one thing. The GNU/Linux desktop existed and nobody was (and even now) is supporting it. We have a monopoly on the market.

    We see about 50% of end-users being supportable right now, and are in fact supporting about 50% of our user base on a desktop GNU/Linux platform. We're looking at about 80% being supportable in the near future (coming months). That is not 50% on a free software platform. Non-free components like Adobe Flash are still required for this user base to be successful on GNU/Linux. We are looking at and supporting GNASH and one free software distribution. Support for certain things needs to be improved before we will seriously see people moving to a fully free platform. We're not that far off the mark though. All our hardware is already supported on one fully free distribution.

    The thing people forget is if you are even thinking about these issues you are a power user. If you are a power user you have the wrong impression about the percentage of users who can be supported. You see too many issues that are non-existent with the right support and hardware. And really this is largely what matters as most users do little else other than pictures (well supported), web browsing (well supported), and email (well supported). Some do a little word processing (once again well supported).

    You need digital cameras, printers, wifi adapters, laptops, desktops, and little else. A USB audio player helps too. We have these things in our catalogue.

  • Re:Ummm...what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:05PM (#36738550)

    To proclaim to be such a friend of open source yet not open source most of your proprietary changes to internal forks of FOSS projects makes their statements ring especially hollow.

    Almost every single piece of software that actually makes them money is either proprietary or if it's open source it's usually under a BSD license so that they can avoid copyleft. Either that or please enlighten me to see where the source code to their search engine algorithms are, or where I can download the source code for AdWords and Adsense, Google Earth, Picasa and the list goes on.

    You entitlement minded little snit. It's people like you that give real FOSS advocates a bad name and give rise to pejoratives like "freetard". You do not have any right to code internally used by anyone else no matter who they are or how much you think you deserve to be given their hard work on a platter. If they release a binary, they release the source. That's how it works. If you don't like it, take it up with Linux Torvalds and RMS.

  • by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2011 @03:34PM (#36739024)


    If you want to start a new project this kicks of our timeclock where my office, patents and trademarks all have three days to approve it or to say why they can't. If they don' act the project gets automatically approved and you can do the release. Usually we finish all the paper work and all the bureaucracy before the developers are done with the process of engineering for release.

    For larger projects - like Android and Chrome - we engage with them years ahead of time. We were talking with the Android guys probably three years before the G1 came out, helping them with their license compliance, selection and strategy.

    So you know DAMN good and well Google poured over phone patents, like Microsoft's, and deemed it safe... and had already engaged the lawyers "years ahead of time".

    With this knowledge, shouldn't Google rise up and be power flaming MS over suing Motorola and others who use Android? You know every effort was made to avoid a losing legal situation. Having your ducks in a row years ahead of time should scare even a large corporation like MS who probably reacted at even the smallest chance of winning.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun