[sane-devel] SANE2, what do we want ?

Johannes Meixner jsmeix at suse.de
Wed Apr 2 09:00:05 UTC 2008


On Apr 2 15:49 Olaf Meeuwissen wrote (shortened):
> ... the epkowa backend does not require the non-free extensions.

As far as I understand the license stuff, this is the crucial
condition whether or not some piece of software can be under GPL
even if it "uses" some non-free additional module.

The epkowa backend is useful for many scanners without
the non-free extensions.
Therefore is does not necessarily "link" with non-free stuff.
Therefore it is a stand-alone-usable free software.
Therefore it can be under GPL.

This license issue is another item why drivers (backends)
and applications (frontends) should be better isolated
from each other.

Currently frontends link with libsane which links with libdriver
which may link with libdrivermodule which is only clean GPL
if all parts are under the same GPL version.

But as soon as there are differnt licenses (from incompatible
free software licenses up to proprietary software licenses)
the mess starts.

If the frontend would not link with libsane but talk to saned
via whatever protocol and if saned would not link with libdriver
but talk to the driver via whatever protocol, every part could
be under whatever license.

Of course such a loose coupling is perfect for any kind
of non-free drivers and non-free frontends ;-)

But another big advantage of such a loose coupling is
that broken drivers (aka. "non-free drivers" ;-)
cannot hurt the rest of the scanning system (saned + frontend)
provided the "whatever protocol" implementation is fail-safe: 

A few days ago I had accidentally messed up my SANE drivers
with one broken driver which did a segfault.
Because of the current linking, "scanimage -L" segfaults too
regardless that I have several other scanners and drivers
which could work well.

> On a strictly personal note: I'd very much like to see those non-free
> extensions to the epkowa backend become a thing of the past.

Isn't the reason for non-free extensions often third-party
licenses which make it impossible for the manufacturer
to make a free driver even if he likes to do?

For example printers which need a JBIG data compression to send
printing data to the printer (so called ZJStream printers):

JBIG data compression has patent issues which makes it
impossible to make a free driver for ZJStream printers
which is the reason why even HPLIP must use additional
proprietary modules for certain printers, see for example
in particular

Of course very many users out there in the real world
blindly buy ZJStream printers because they are cheap
(i.e. get many dots per inch for less money ;-)
and I guess it is the same for Epson scanners which
require a non-free module which adds another layer
to the whole problem:

Should we repel such users ("you get what you paid for")
and accept that Linux doesn't become very popular
or should we swallow the bitter pill for the sake of
making Linux more popular?

My strictly personal opinion is:
I accept optional additional non-free modules for free software
(i.e. the non-free modules for the epkowa and hpaio drivers
or for example the Adobe Reader plugin for free browsers)
but I do not accept non-free software (i.e. which is useless
without non-free stuff).

Kind Regards
Johannes Meixner
SUSE LINUX Products GmbH, Maxfeldstrasse 5, 90409 Nuernberg, Germany
AG Nuernberg, HRB 16746, GF: Markus Rex

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