How Google Uses and Contributes to Open Source

Here is a good Open Source story – “How Google Uses and Contributes to Open Source“, which goes into some detail and history of how Google is working with Open Source community.

I’ve seen this before:

“There are companies and people who just take the software and say, “I didn’t have to pay for it. I can do anything I want. The license file is a big blob of text. I’m not going to read that,” Merlin said.

And I’ve this (quite a few times actually):

Back in its early days, around 1998, Google was a small company. It was using open source just like any other small company. While Google was abiding by licences, they were not giving back much due to several reasons. “Some of it was just run fast and make sure that we have money next month to pay everyone’s salary,” said Merlin.

Having been involved in open sourcing companies’ projects new and old, this is what I firmly believe now is the best strategy:

Go open source from the beginning

Google changed that by writing a lot of things from the ground up as open source or to be open source ready. That was a good lesson that they learned, and that’s a problem many companies face when they want to open source their stuff but can’t because the code was not designed to be open source from the beginning.

This, I think, is an interesting approach too (if  you are too small of a company to have research papers and algorithms, consider blog posts, tips and tweaks, case studies, and the like):

Even if Google can’t open source certain code, they found a way to bring that work to the public. “We wrote papers talking about the magic algorithm that we used. We can’t give you the code for the reason I just explained, but we’re giving you the way they work so you can rewrite them,” said Merlin. Google has published hundreds of such papers and people are using it to create projects based on those ideas.

This bit on Android is mind blowing:

Now virtually all of Google’s open source code is on GitHub, except for Android. “The Android distribution is so big and it gets released in big chunks. So, when it gets released, everyone wants to sync that,” Merlin said. “It’s so huge that if we put it on GitHub, it would completely kill GitHub. We use our own mirrors for that, to help out.”

A word of caution for the companies using Open Source software:

Companies have to be extremely careful when using open source. Different projects use different licenses, and you need to be in compliance with them.

[…]

Things become complicated when you have projects that you ship. In the case of open source, you need to list the projects that you use and their licenses. In the case of BSD and MIT, you need to list the name and the copyright of the person you got that project from.

You’ll probably need a set of tools to deal with issues like this.  For PHP-based projects, composer is indispensable.  You can run “composer licenses” command and instantly get information about the project’s license, as well as licenses for each and every dependency in use (thanks to this blog post).

There is a good section on Contributor License Agreements (CLAs).  I am slightly familiar with the subject (I signed a few myself), but my experience is limited, especially from the company perspective.  I found this part useful, for that distant time when I’ll need to set it up:

Google uses the Apache foundation ICLA, without modifying it or putting anything special in it. CLAs ensure that companies like Google “can re-license your code under a different open source (license) if we need to. Sometimes we need to merge with other projects and that’s what the CLA allows us to do,” said Merlin.

These are just bits and pieces which I found interesting.  I wish more companies shared their practices and experiences – in particular those larger businesses, with years of history and a wide variety of challenges.

FormSwift – create and sign legal documents for free

FormSwift

More and more paper work is moving into the digital domain, including legal documents.  I’ve previously linked to Docracy – a service that provides a collection of legal documents, as well as tools to negotiate and sign them.  Today I was made aware of another service – FormSwift. Some might find it to be more comprehensive, up-to-date and user friendly than the alternatives.

Have a look at the FormSwift’s collection of the free legal forms, which cover such categories as business, family, financial, life planning, real estate and other.  Their tools are pretty sweet too, with support for Word and PDF files, and an online editor for PDF – not something you see every day.

Google vs. Oracle : API vs. implementation

Slashdot is running the story about the Google vs. Oracle court case.  I thought this bit was rather brilliant:

Schwartz’s second attempt at the breakfast menu analogy went much better, as he explained that although two different restaurants could have hamburgers on the menu, the actual hamburgers themselves were different — the terms on the menu were an API, and the hamburgers were implementations.”

Cyprus Tax, Facts & Figures 2016

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published their annual Cyprus tax, facts and figures brochure for the year 2016. It is a handy document to send to friends abroad who are interested in moving to Cyprus or starting a business here.

One thing that I found ironic in this document was the example they used for personal taxation (page 7-8 in the English PDF).  The example is for someone with a monthly salary of 5,885 EUR and additional income from rent, etc – a total income of 75,620 EUR per annum.  Looking at the average salary in European Union, Cyprus shows 1,833 EUR per month in 2014 and 1,574 EUR per month in 2015.

I hope PwC predicts a huge spike in average salaries in 2016.  That would be nice …

Non-Electronic Document Management System

ITAR-TASS: MOSCOW, RUSSIA. SEPTEMBER 30, 2014. Russia's State Courier Service officials deliver documents for draft federal budgets for 2015, 2016, and 2017 which are to be delivered in the State Duma. (Photo ITAR-TASS/ Sergei Fadeichev) Россия. Москва. 30 сентября. Сотрудники Государственной фельдъегерской службы России во время доставки документов проекта закона "О федеральном бюджете на 2015 год и на плановый период 2016 и 2017 годов" в Государственную Думу РФ. Фото ИТАР-ТАСС/ Сергей Фадеичев
ITAR-TASS: MOSCOW, RUSSIA. SEPTEMBER 30, 2014. Russia’s State Courier Service officials deliver documents for draft federal budgets for 2015, 2016, and 2017 which are to be delivered in the State Duma. (Photo ITAR-TASS/ Sergei Fadeichev)
Россия. Москва. 30 сентября. Сотрудники Государственной фельдъегерской службы России во время доставки документов проекта закона “О федеральном бюджете на 2015 год и на плановый период 2016 и 2017 годов” в Государственную Думу РФ. Фото ИТАР-ТАСС/ Сергей Фадеичев

With all the hype around Electronic (or Digital) Document Management Systems, I thought I’d share this photo, from this article (in Russian).  Nanotechnology…

 

This website uses cookies

I’m running Google AdSense on this website to help me get a few cents for the hosting bill (it’s literally cents, not millions of dollars, like some of you apparently think).  Google now in compliance with EU Cookie Law requires publishers to have the cookie warning.

Please ensure that you comply with this policy as soon as possible, and not later than 30th September 2015.

If your site or app does not have a compliant consent mechanism, you should implement one now. To make this process easier for you, we have compiled some helpful resources at cookiechoices.org.

Usually, I don’t care about these things, or avoid them all together.  But since we are facing similar issues at work, I decided to run with it and see how it works and if it has any affect at all.

Gladly, I didn’t have to do any work at all.  The good folks have already implemented the Cookie Law Info plugin for WordPress, so that’s what I have now.  You have the choice to either accept the cookies, or leave the site.  I’m not going to fish out each cookie one by one and explain what it does.  Nobody cares. And if you do, you are probably here by mistake anyway.

On software liability laws

I came across this interesting opinion on software liability.  Just to keep them here for the context, the suggested software liability rules include the following:

  1. Consult criminal code to see if any intentionally caused damage is already covered.
  2. If you deliver software with complete and buildable source code and a license that allows disabling any functionality or code by the licensee, then your liability is limited to a refund.
  3. In any other case, you are liable for whatever damage your software causes when used normally.

Which sounds reasonable from the position of “let’s sort the security issues”.  Even though I’m not a big believer in legal system when it comes to technology issues.  But then, there is this:

The software houses would yell bloody murder if any legislator were to introduce a bill proposing these stipulations

with which I personally disagree.  I think software houses that do quality work wouldn’t mind at all.  The people who would mind are the clients of software houses.  Quality always comes at a cost.  And raising quality of software immediately means rising the cost of software.  And the majority of clients (in my experience) don’t care about quality to the point where they would pay for it.  And there are plenty of examples in other industries – food, automobile, furniture, clothes, etc.

Basically, this all just reiterates my points of security and privacy are mythical and/or dead.  Mostly, because most people don’t care enough.

Paphos court orders Facebook to remove offensive comments

facebook

Cyprus News reports that :

The Paphos District Court has issued an injunction against social media giant Facebook, ordering the company to remove a number of offensive comments posted on a local business profile, aimed at a local man.

The comments, posted on February 4, accuse the man of criminal activities. The original post was still on Facebook on Wednesday morning.  It has over 1,000 shares.

Charalambos Savvides of the Ch. P. Savvides & Associates LLC law firm, which handled the case, told the Cyprus Mail that Facebook was not only required to remove the comments but also take steps to ensure that future related comments were taken down immediately.

In-Cyprus has a few more details:

The case concerns comments on Facebook made against a bar owner from Paphos who became the target of a hate campaign which attracted thousands of users who shared and liked the page. The man in question was, according to those who had got the ball rolling on popular social media site, committing various crimes around the town and especially against competing bars.

He was also accused of being a police informant that was getting special protection in the town despite his ‘known illegal activities’.

The man has denied all the allegations against him.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has caused a lot of grief over the years.  AutoBlog reports that now car manufacturers are trying to use it to stop people from repairing and tuning their cars:

Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

The dispute arises from a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that no one thought could apply to vehicles when it was signed into law in 1998. But now, in an era where cars are rolling computing platforms, the U.S. Copyright Office is examining whether provisions of the law that protect intellectual property should prohibit people from modifying and tuning their cars.

Ridiculous, is the word that describes this best, I think.