Amazon Kindle powered by Linux, FSF not impressed

From the ‘free as in freedom‘ files:

As my colleague Michelle Menga is reporting, Amazon is now making new source code available for its Amazon Kindle. Basically what it represents is, Amazon’s responsibility to make the GPL licenced source code that is used in the Kindle available to others.

That’s part of the GPL license and Amazon is doing its part.

Digging into the code that Amazon is now making available, provides some really interesting insight into the underlying structure of the Kindle.

For one, Kindle (at least the DX) is using a modified Linux 2.6.22 kernel. This is a kernel that originally was released by Linus Torvalds in 2007. Is it a surprise that the Kindle is Linux powered? (not really).

Where there is LInux there are always some key Linux tools. In the Kindle’s case that’s the GCC 4.1.2 release for code compilation. In GCC terms that’s now an older release (originally out in 2006), so I would hope that Amazon moves to the newer GCC 4.4 over time as it could yield some performance gains for them.

Amazon is also using BusyBox (how can you not if you’re running embedded?), so it’s a good thing they’ve released that code – BusyBox has been active in recent years by way of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) in making sure that vendors that use their code actually comply with the GPL.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that those that back the GPL are entirely thrilled with Amazon. In fact the Free Software Foundation (FSF), actually refers to the Kindle (somewhat less than politely) as the ‘Swindle’.

“It’s good that Amazon is complying with the licenses and not behaving
illegally, but this is hardly something praiseworthy,” John Sullivan operations manager at the FSF blogged. “Amazon benefited
from the freedoms passed on to them by other free software authors, and
that benefit comes with an obligation to convey that same freedom to
their users — to share alike.”

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