Below is a quick rundown of a conversation I had with a Sony employee years ago regarding their "questionable" use of an OSS project, "POSE" the PalmOS© Emulator in their Windows-only binary downloads.


Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2001 09:52:54 -0800 (PST)
From: David A. Desrosiers
Subject: Money can buy "perceived immunity"

Once again, here I am on a plane flying back from NYC to SFO.

I enjoyed my time at Linuxworld, and I wanted to thank all of those who made it possible. It was a great show. Unfortunately, I didn't get to walk around the showfloor until late Friday night, long after most of the fun had passed. Maybe next year though. I hope everyone that was there had fun. If you see anyone that was there, personally thank them for doing an outstanding job.

My airline story this episode begins with a Hungarian couple next to me taking up a *FULL TWO* overhead bins, and taking other's luggage out, so they can have adjoining compartments. Why do people insist on bringing 4-5 bags onboard, when they know that they'll never end up using 4-5 bags worth of stuff in the 5 hours it takes to get from NYC to SFO.

One word. Arg.

So as I'm sitting here working and playing with my Palm, people tend to whip theirs out and play with it, as if to say "Hey, I'm one of you, look, I have a palm too..!"

No, you're not one of me. You could never be one of me.

So the husband of this group begins by getting a FatalReset on his palm. I heard it (screeching backlight sound), and before I ever turned to look, I said "FatalReset, eh?" and slowly turned to watch him unscrewing his stylus to reset it from the back. He replied that he was writing some Palm software and freed some chunks that he didn't allocate yet.

Uhm... no.

So in talking to him further, I mentioned what I do to support the Free Software community, specifically around handhelds and disparate data devices, and how I use the various Palm units I have. He laughed when I mentioned the number of units I have, when I opened my bag, and pulled out 4 separate Palm units, and the iPAQ I brought to the show. Convinced.


He had a Sony Clie unit, which is basically an OEM'd Palm reference unit with a scrollwheel on the side, a slightly better backlight (much like an Indiglo watch), and the additional memory expansion slot for the Sony MemoryStick add-on cards (I have one of these also, if anyone wants to come see what it looks like at my desk sometime).

I mentioned that I started supporting the Sony in both pilot-link as well as in Plucker (urls in header of this message) and was nearly complete hacking away at some code to put in the kernel to support it over usb (much like the visor usb module in the recent kernels), and that I had to stop because they're violating the GPL.

(screeching tires, did he just say VIOLATING THE GPL?)



Sony has taken it upon themselves to take the Open Source version of the Palm OS Emulator (POSE or POSER to those "in the field", a project I also actively contribute to the development of, now hosted by Palm, Inc. and also located in my cvs server externally) and created a version of the Palm OS Emulator which models their hardware, complete with scrollwheel support, photos in the Address Book, and the support for the MemoryStick expansion slot.

All sounds good, except that they only provide a pre-compiled Windows executable of this emulator (no Unix version, no source, and a whopping 3-meg download of this standalone executable), and do not provide any sources to it at all. They also blatently say on their site that this is based fully on the POSE sources for 30a4 (which is a clearly documented GPL'd version).

Additionally, on their site, in order to download this version of the emulator, you have to sign into their developer program. Not so bad. But at the download page, you have no choice but to click on an EULA to get to the emulator download. This EULA clearly states that the emulator and all sources are 100% property of Sony Electronics, Inc. and that distribution without their consent is in direct violation of this license.

Excuse me? I don't think I was asked if someone could sub-license this GPL'd project, and call it their own. I'm also positive that the other contributors on this project were also not asked if they would allow the license to be subclassed into a proprietary license.


So back to our Hungarian friend. I mentioned all of this to him, and that I was about 80% done with a kernel module which would be used to support the Clie over USB on linux machines, and that I had to stop because I couldn't voluntarily agree to help a company out with supporting the linux and unix community while they were blatently ignoring the license that they themselves agreed upon when they begun their fork of the POSE code.

To which my Hungarian Sony employee flight-mate implied:

"We don't really care about that. Go ahead, sue us and see how far you get..."

Many years of study with ancient Tibetan masters were used to restrain myself from jumping out of my seat and into his, knee first.

So, once again.. the community extends a hand, and offers to help advance the use of this technology, only to be usurped by corporate dollars in the end.

This was reported awhile back to the FSF (about 4 weeks ago), and the Palm employee responsible for maintaining the emulator code was also made aware of this. No word from either yet.

After some more moments of shmoozing around, he showed me some broken Palm app he was writing, and couldn't get a list to display properly (using CodeWarrior under Windows, of course, rife with incomplete documentation), and I showed him the merits of properly coding C, and using the proper LstDrawList() function. After banging his head on his desk for a week on it, I gave him the answer in about 60 seconds.

Tag, you're it.

He decided to let me in on the secrets of Sony using Linux full-time on their "Internet Appliance PS2" machine. They have a cluster of them in their research group with 16 in series, doing *REAL TIME* "matrix-style" video editing, called the GSCube.

I also ended up showing him how to sync his Windows2000 laptop over IR to his Palm, so he could test his shiny new Palm app I helped him fix. He kept repeating "Normally I do this under linux all the time, but I'm forced to use Windows at work". My confidence in this wanes.

A day in the life...

"Running Windows prohibits me from being productive, therefore I must run linux." -setuid



To those tearing me up for this account of my plane ride back from Linuxworld, be aware that this was not an account of a GPL violation. It was an account of my travels on a plane, which *INCLUDED* talking to a Sony employee, to whom I brought up their possible violation of the GPL, and he gave me his comments, which I took as a flippant attitude.

Yes, until very recently, they were not providing sources to POSE, but I just checked again today, and now they apparently are, but only to an older version of their hardware.

Interesting switch on their part, but this is still a GPL violation. This has been an open issue with them for several months now, at least since early January. They were in possible violation of the GPL until May 1, 2001. I stand by my statements.

(Referencing URL)

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