RISC OS 5 GPL breach accusationsBy Chris Williams. Published: 7th Feb 2003, 23:47:16 | Permalink | Printable
Linux kernel PCI and I/O code used, ARM Linux developer claims [Updated 8 Feb 2003]It's not just RISC OS that runs on ARM powered hardware, there's also the port of Linux funnily enough called ARM Linux. Linux, if you haven't heard of this beast, is a free open source UNIX operating system clone developed solely by enthusiasts across the world. Don't panic! This isn't a rant on linux advocacy, we wouldn't do that to you.
Anyone can get the source to it and do whatever they like to it, provided you follow the GPL - the licence the Linux operating system is distributed under. The GPL is fairly complex but simply put, it ensures that software remains free (as in freedom, not necessarily the price). If you modify GPLed software or use GPL sources in other software and then release said software, these changes fall under the GPL too and thereby becomes free. RISC OS on the other hand is very different with respect to the GPL as it's completely closed source and the source code is closely guarded.
Now, to hear of allegations that RISC OS 5 (the 32 bit variant of RISC OS that Castle deploy in their XScale powered Iyonix machines), contains GPLed code is somewhat bewildering. What are the implications of embedding GPLed Linux kernel code in a proprietry system such as RISC OS? It looks like we're about to find out.
Russell King, developer of ARM Linux, has today disclosed his belief that RISC OS 5 features GPLed Linux kernel code. Oh my. After one or two postings to the ARM Linux mailing list, Russell has decided to go public.
"It would appear that Castle Technology Limited, UK, have taken some of the Linux kernel 2.5 code", Russell claimed on the Linux Kernel mailing list, "and incorporated it into their own product, 'RISC OS', which is distributed in binary ROM form built into machines they sell. This code is linked with other proprietary code."
This is pretty illuminating stuff (if it turns out to be proven true mind you, Castle have yet to issue any kind of statement), especially now that Slashdot have thrown the story onto their front page. How many hundreds of thousands of readers do they get? Oh, oh my. For what it's worth, the Linux code Russell claims Castle are using is the source code to the PCI subsystem and I/O resource allocation code.
Naturally, we'll assess the fall out shortly once we're in a position to comment more fully. Thanks to the couple of readers who kindly tipped us off.
Justin Fletcher has informed us that his evidence and further technical material on the Linux PCI code allegedly appearing in RISC OS 5 is now available from his website. The archive steps through his detective work and includes code examples.
Russell publically makes his claim
Slashdot hits out
RISC OS 5
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