Friday, September 10, 2010

Biometric Hardware with Linux and GPL violations

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Recently at work we installed  a biometric access control system. I was not in charge of this buy, but I tried the Windows software that is responsible for data handling and connects to biometric terminals.

Today, we were doing a few more work in our office, and drilling a hole to basement, the worker made bullseye on power cable for biometrics terminals.

So I had the chance to watch one of the biometrics terminal boot. What was my surprise when I see on the small LCD a Penguin and the word LINUX.

Well this product is made by ZK-USA, and consulting their site there is some reference to Linux OS.

I didn't had access to the documentation in box but I can't see anything on their website related to GPL. I'm no specialist at GPL, but I will go deep on this tomorrow, related to the papers that came with the hardware to see if they are violating GPL or not.

On the other side at home I bought a wireless multimedia reader, and with the Manual came the GPL and a address to ask for source code if interested. I have to name that company, because I should, it's the French Dane-Elec. Cheers for them, great product and great attitude.

On a world with more and more embedded system I believe all of us should look deeply to what we are buying, if some of us defend FOSS, so let's do it.

Linux GPL don't ask for much money, is just 0$=0€, why a company that profit a lot from free raw material violate GPL?

At the following sites you can find Lists of companies who violate GPL, and the only reason i see is greed.

ffmpeg Hall of Shame

GPL Violations

Would you buy stolen goods? It's very easy to verify this before buying, just go for this websites.... And please, participate....


  1. I have bought thumb drives from Dane-Elec in the past. I like that they had the penguin on the package. I will be sure to buy from them more now.

  2. Maybe it's just a computer booting Linux with a non-free app? That's NOT a violation. (??)

  3. umm...yes it is. They need to provide source for the open souce portion and a copy of the GPL. Else they ARE in violation!

  4. Um no its not, you can run closed source apps in an open source environment. The trick is in the linking, do it wrong and your in violation. nvidia-drivers are a classic case, they arent in violation and they are closed.

  5. No, no, FOSS is about rights not about money. Making money from GPL software is not just acceptable it's encouraged.

    If you or anyone you know _can_ make money from the software I've written. Please do! You're obviously trying something I've not thought of.

    As for violation, you're probably right that they need to respect the gpl and release sources for everything they use.

  6. They don't have to provide the source code of the proprietary software that they are running on top of Linux, this isn't the violation.

    The violation here is if they don't mention that they are using software under the GPL (the Linux system over which their proprietary software is running) and the source code of said software, or a link to a place where it can be downloaded.

    Again, this is only for the Linux system that they are using, not for their own software running on top of it.

    Now, if they modified Linux, or any of the libraries, then this is another story, but chances are, they are just running their software over Linux.

  7. Have you contacted the company to request a
    copy of the GPL'd portion of the source for your product yet?
    Maybe they just need a polite reminder.

  8. I've done this many times and believe the rules are as follows:

    1. Build a "system" using GPL-parts (LGPL-parts) and proprietary parts.

    2. Provide copies or instructions to the relevant license documents.

    3. Provide copies or instructions to the source code for the GPL and LGPL parts.

    4. Do whatever you wish about license for the proprietary parts.

    5. NO, you cannot build your proprietary parts using GPL or LGPL parts using a static link. You can use a dynamic link from proprietary parts to GPL or LGPL parts.

    6. Keep your sources secret.


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