Apple obligingly allows you to browse and download the open source software they use in OS X. Since they have listings for each version of OS X, I decided to take a look at how much software they were using that was only available under the GNU public license. The results are illuminating:
10.5: 47 GPL-licensed packages.
10.6: 44 GPL-licensed packages.
10.7: 29 GPL-licensed packages.
This clearly supports the idea that Apple is aggressively trying to remove all GPL-licensed software from OS X. While the removal of Samba and GCC got some attention, the numbers show that there’s a more general purging going on.
The 29 remaining GPL-licensed packages aren’t too healthy either. Lion apparently ships with bash 3.2. That’s from 2006. The current version is 4.2.10. Why no upgrade? Because Apple’s shipping the last version of bash that was under the GPL version 2.
The message is pretty obvious: Apple won’t ship anything that’s licensed under GPL v3 on OS X. Now, why is that?
There are two big changes in GPL v3. The first is that it explicitly prohibits patent lawsuits against people for actually using the GPL-licensed software you ship. The second is that it carefully prevents TiVoization, locking down hardware so that people can’t actually run the software they want.
So, which of those things are they planning for OS X, eh?
I’m also intrigued to see how far they are prepared to go with this. They already annoyed and inconvenienced a lot of people with the Samba and GCC removal. Having wooed so many developers to the Mac in the last decade, are they really prepared to throw away all that goodwill by shipping obsolete tools and making it a pain in the ass to upgrade them?
SixApart have finally released MovableType as open source software under the GPL. I may take a look at it, as it has a working plugin called Privacy that provides for locked postings people have to authenticate to read–something WordPress doesn’t seem able to do at the moment.
MT supports pretty much everything else I need that WordPress has, including categories, tags, OpenID, Atom, and search. Intriguingly, it also allows multiple users with separate sites via a single MT installation. I’m almost tempted to set up a service for anyone I know who wants to leave LJ-land…
There has been a lot of GPLv3 discussion on tech sites. Perhaps predictably, a lot of it has missed the point or miscategorized the changes.
If you read the history of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Public License, you discover that it all came about because Richard Stallman found himself having to use broken software that he wasn’t allowed to fix. The entire purpose of the GPL is to ensure that everyone who uses a piece of GPL-licensed software can change that software, use the changed version, and distribute it to other people.
The GPLv3 changes are not some radical new direction, there’s no bait-and-switch going on. The problem is simply that a number of organizations have found ways to use GPL-licensed software, but still break the spirit of the license by preventing users from being able to change the software, use the changed version, and distribute it.