[conspire] SUSE again (was: Linux program to remove mail from server?)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Apr 27 17:06:23 PDT 2005

Quoting Edmund J. Biow (ejb1 at isp.com):

> Guess I won't be trying to fix my borked 9.1 install by intalling 9.3 
> over the top of it.  (9.1 only intermittantly recognizes my onboard 
> nvidia eth0 after using YAST to upgrade the kernel; maybe I could fix 
> it, but its hard to research the situation and download files without my 
> access to a wire.)

For the benefit of those who _are_ interested in SUSE:  I have recently
acquired a 5-CD set of SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional Edition, the flagship
edition in its latest release.  It will be available at CABAL meetings
for installation of the basic distribution and all but a few of the
constituent packages.  The CD set will _not_ be available for

Long-time members of conspire@ will recall the licensing discussion
concerning SUSE 9.1 Pro.  Well, not a lot's changed -- except that
Novell has placed a LICENSE.TXT file in Disk 1's root directory that has
further confused the issue, mostly because of people on the Net 
quoting from it _selectively_.

I got dragged into a donnybrook on that matter on the ILUG list.  Since
that mailing list's pipermail archive seems horked, here's my two main
postings to that thread -- as of my getting the 5-CD set in hand.
(Aside: Anyone know an easy way to unpack _SUSE_ RPMs, as opposed to
normal Red Hattish ones, on another distro?)

 From rick Tue Apr 26 23:22:28 2005
 Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 23:22:28 -0700
 To: ilug at linux.ie
 Subject: SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional Edition licensing survey results
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040907i

I now have the 5-CD set of SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional Edition for
examination, and an reporting my findings here.  If anyone wants more
details, please ask.

Disk 1 includes a number of licensing-relevant files in its root
directory.  Here are the English-language ones (as they're duplicated
with German-language ones).


Predictably, COPYING is the text of GPLv2.

COPYRIGHT is, in part, Novell's brief GPL-compliance document, pointing
out that a number of packages' source code is available, and stating
where to get it.  It also includes the following warning:

    Not all programs on the CDs are free software.  Some of them 
    are shareware, restricted to noncommercial use, or may have 
    other restrictive conditions. 
    The package information mentions the respective license and authors.
    We cannot, however, ensure the correctness of this information.  In
    cases of doubt, refer to the original copyright information of the
    respective programs. 

LICENSE.TXT asserts formation of a contract betwen any recipient and
Novell, Inc., concerning "Software", which is defined as "the software
product identified in the title of this Agreement, media (if any), and
accompanying documentation".  The "title" is "SUSE LINUX PROFESSIONAL

The text cited here a few days ago follows that:

    You may make and use unlimited copies of the Software for 
    Your distribution and use within Your Organization.  You 
    may make and distribute unlimited copies of the Software 
    outside Your organization provided that: 1) You receive
    no consideration; and, 2) you do not bundle or combine 
    the Software with another offering (e.g., software, hardware, 
    or service).

However, the next paragraph severely limits that grant -- and I note
with some annoyance that Rory _didn't frelling bother_ to mention this:

    The Software is a modular operating system.  Most of the components
    are open source packages, developed independently, and accompanied
    by separate license terms.  Your license rights with respect to
    individual components accompanied by separate license terms are
    defined by those terms; nothing in this Agreement (including, for
    example, the "Other License Terms and Restrictions," below) shall
    restrict, limit, or otherwise affect any rights or obligations You
    may have, or conditions to which You may be subject, under such
    license terms.


    The Software may be bundled with other software programs ("Bundled
    Programs"). Your license rights with respect to Bundled Programs
    accompanied by separate license terms are defined by those terms;
    nothing in this Agreement shall restrict, limit, or otherwise affect
    any rights or obligations You may have, or conditions to which You
    may be subject, under such license terms.


    Non-Novell Products. The Software may include or be bundled with
    hardware or other software programs licensed or sold by a licensor
    other than Novell.

Interestingly, even the generous-sounding Novell rights grant cited
above is non-transferrable!

    Transfer. This Agreement may not be transferred or assigned without
    the prior written approval of Novell.

So, you're allowed to "make and distribute unlimited copies of the
Software outside Your organization", but then those recipients don't 
enjoy the same rights?  Weird.

Interestingly, Novell restricts benchmarking!

    Benchmark Testing.  This benchmark testing restriction applies to
    You if You are a software vendor or if You are performing testing on
    the Software at the direction of or on behalf of a software vendor.
    You may not, without Novell's prior written consent not to be
    unreasonably withheld, publish or disclose to any third party the
    results of any benchmark test of the Software.

Anyhow, so much for Rory and others' claim that Novell had granted
blanket permission for non-commercial copying.  No, they simply didn't,
but you folks didn't bother to FRELLING WELL READ THE VERY NEXT
PARAGRAPH, to find out.


You can probably predict what's next:  Disk 2 contained these:

-r--r--r--   1 root root  5381580 Apr 26 14:55 RealPlayer-10.0.3-5.i586.rpm
-r--r--r--   1 root root 37699961 Apr 26 14:55 acroread-7.0.0-4.i586.rpm

Disk 5 contained these:

-r--r--r--   1 root root  6562235 Apr 26 15:03 moneyplex-5.0-193.i586.rpm
-r--r--r--   1 root root  4825544 Apr 26 15:03 opera-7.54-19.i586.rpm

kenny:/tmp# alien --to-tgz acroread-7.0.0-4.i586.rpm 
Error: header not recognized
acroread-7.0.0.tgz generated

(Much fooling around with RPM-unpacking tools later:)

I'll be darned:  It seems that SUSE's RPMv3 format is now decidedly
incompatible with other people's RPM tools.  Short of my compiling
SUSE's tool from tarball, my scrutiny of those packages' individual
licence statements will have to wait until after I've installed 9.3 on a
test box.  But I'll give long odds that all four still not only omit the
right of redistribution, but are crystal clear about it NOT being
granted at all.

 Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 09:46:24 -0700
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: ilug at linux.ie
 Subject: Re: SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional Edition licensing survey results 
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040907i

Quoting Niall Walsh (linux at esatclear.ie):


> I suspect it is in deference to the delicate nature of anyone reading.   
> I suspect RELL should be closer to ACK, just a different vowel!  I can't 
> imagine that anyone would learn such a word for the first time on this 
> mailing list though ...

It's an invented swear word from the s-f series "Farscape".

> So anyone with Suse 9.3 installed care to put us out of our misery?   
> Extract these rpms and see what the licenses have to say!

I'll have time to do this in a day or two.

> Presumably the option is still wide open to just remove these few rpms 
> (rewriting the equivalent of Package files perhaps) to create a 
> semi-redistributable Suse (semi as the non-transferable licence suggests 
> it may be only redistributable to the original puchaser)?

Yes, I'm sure of it.  (Please note, as I've mentioned before, that
there may be other packages beyond those four that are under
non-redistributable licensing terms.  Those are just the four I spotted,
a few years back, that seemed most likely to be problematic.  I also
initially believed that the OpenPBS batch-processing package shared that
problem, but turned out to be mistaken.)

Other SUSE editions have always existed that consisted solely of
packages that were either outright open source or proprietary with the
right of redistribution, notably Ftp Edition.  Professional Edition,
however, has the advantage of being neatly packaged in CD (and now DVD)
images, and so has always been seen as the most-desirable edition.  (Ftp
Edition has almost as many packages, but must be network-installed.)

This very likely has been an intentional effect, on the part of SUSE
Linux AG / Novell, Inc.:  They encourage distribution of the
more-limited CD images (such as the Personal-CD Edition, and network
installs of Ftp Edition, knowing that such will whet the appetite for
Professional Edition -- which makes them money.

The numerous generous statements from SUSE employees over the years,
to the effect that they don't mind if you copy Professional Edition,
clearly indicate that they'd _like_ you to have that right -- and their
generosity does them credit.  I've merely pointed out that third-party
rights, alas, create conflict with copyright matters.

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