Microsoft & exFAT: One Step on a Long Journey
byon August 30, 2019
In 2013, Conservancy helped resolve a GPL violation by Samsung which arose primarily due to complications around Microsoft's patent holdings related to the exFAT filesystem. At the time, Microsoft was known for demanding patent fees from Linux users and redistributors.
Late last year, Microsoft joined Open Invention Network. As we wrote at the time, this action had limited impact, as key patents like exFAT were not implemented in any packages that were part of OIN's “Linux System Definition”. We asked Microsoft at the time to upstream the exFAT code under GPLv2-or-later to confirm its intention to end patent aggression.
This week, in response to recent follow-up requests from upstream Linux developers, Microsoft announced that they would sign off on inclusion of exFAT in upstream Linux. This is the first step toward real patent peace related to exFAT.
This process for exFAT will only complete once all of the following happen: the exFAT patch appears in an official Linux release, that official Linux release becomes part of OIN's Linux System Definition (this generally happens automatically, as future versions of Linux are included by default), and Microsoft distributes a copy of Linux themselves that contains this technology. This last step is critical, as the OIN patent license is not as comprehensive as a full patent license from Microsoft. Any participating company can withdraw at any time from OIN1 (and there have been several withdrawals in the past, including Oracle, Facebook, HP and Symantec). After a transition period, the safety of OIN's non-aggression pact weakens. In contrast, when a company distributes software under the GPL, there is an irrevocable implicit patent license with the distribution, and GPLv2§7 further assures patent licensing safety.
Eventually, Microsoft will likely distribute a version of Linux containing exFAT to its Azure users and in its Windows Subsystem for Linux. However, until that occurs, the issue is not really resolved. An expedient solution is as we previously requested: that Microsoft bring definitive patent safety to free and open source software by publicly granting a permanent patent license for all patents Microsoft holds that read on Linux. Additionally, we invite Microsoft to keep pace with its peers such as Google and Red Hat, who years ago made very public patent promises to FOSS users. While the actions taken thus far are intermediary steps, I applaud Microsoft's journey from being a company that long attacked FOSS to becoming a contributor.
Conservancy News Round-up July
byon August 7, 2019
Plenty of code and free software discussion! This month we again have news from interns who are writing free software, plus lots of upcoming events with staff and several more put on by our member projects.
Our Director of Community Operations, Deb Nicholson went to DebConf last month to connect with supporters and folks from member projects.
Deb also gave a talk on Free Software/Utopia.
Upcoming talks from staff
Our Executive Director, Karen Sandler, will be keynoting Abstractions on August 21-23 in Pittsburgh, PA.
Deb will keynote GUADEC at the end of the month in Thessaloniki, Greece. She’ll be talking about free software and utopia. While there, she’ll be holding a local Supporters meet-up later on Monday night at Elefantas at 6pm and sticking around for the open days to SpinachCon with GNOME projects on Tuesday.
Our Distinguished Technologist, Bradley M. Kuhn, is keynoting the 8th edition of Kernel Recipes in Paris on September 26 & 27. Conservancy is this year’s featured non-profit beneficiary. Registration opened this week.
Karen is also keynoting State of the Map in Heidelberg on Saturday, Septemebr 21st.
Outreachy: Interns are past the halfway point
Shraddhaag’s internship is with Fedora Happiness packets which includes working with a lot of new tech.
Nikki Sharpley is working on testing at Mozilla.
Priscillah has learned that tests and documentation take lots of time to do well, through her work on mUzima.
Carolina Jiménez Gómez wonders What’s after Outreachy?
GSoC students working on Conservancy projects this summer
jwgarber describes flashing a chip with Coreboot.
Four different Godot projects have news on their work this summer.
Member Projects: Summer Work and Fall Plans
Clojurists Together is funding four projects over the next three months.
GodotCon and a Godot Sprint are planned in October. Come meet the Godot community in Poland this fall!
The North Bay Python CFP closes very soon, on August 9th!
What Reproducible Builds got up to in July.
Tickets are available now for SeleniumConf in London this October.
Teaching Open Source held a sprint to develop FOSS courses.
Conservancy News Round-up June
byon June 28, 2019
Summer in the northern hemisphere means lots and lots of busy time with interns and quite a few FOSS events. We've got plenty of blog posts for your edifying summer reading and plenty of opportunities to catch up with Conservancy folks in person.
New FAIFcast episode: Bradley and Karen enjoy and discuss Molly De Blanc's keynote at the first annual CopyleftConf, entitled The Margins of Software Freedom, followed by an exclusive interview with Molly! This show was released on May 31st, 2019.
OSCON in Portland next month
We've got our pub night, two talks by staff and two days of expo floor. We hope to see you there!
Monday, July 15thJoin us from 7pm -10pm at McMenamin's Broadway Pub! The address is 1504 NE Broadway St, and it's about a 20 minute walk (or an 11 minute bus ride) from the Oregon Convention Center. Deb and Bradley will be there to meet with Supporters and to talk about software freedom! There is nothing we'd like more than to spend an evening talking about the future of free software and its toughest problems with supporters and friends. Light snacks will be provided.
Expo Hall Hours
- Wednesday, July 17: 10:15am – 5:45pm / 5:45pm – 7:00pm (Sponsor Reception)
- Thursday, July 18: 10:15am – 4:15pm
Volunteers are essential to the success of a booth at a large event like OSCON. Let us know if you can help out by committing to a few hours of booth time. We'd really appreciate it!
Wednesday, July 17Deb Nicholson, "FOSS governance: The good, the bad, and the ugly" at 2:35pm–3:15pm
Thursday, July 18Bradley Kuhn, "If open source isn't sustainable, maybe software freedom is?" at 1:45pm–2:25pm
More upcoming talks from staff
Bradley Kuhn, our Distinguished Technologist will be at the Ninth Annual RacketCon in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 13 & 14, where he will give a talk titled, "Conservancy and Racket: What We Can Do Together!"
The 20th Debian Conference will be held in Curitiba, Brazil, from July 21st to 28th, 2019. Our Director of Community Operations, Deb Nicholson is giving two talks there and will be around for formal and informal discussions.
Deb is also speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Developer Conference on August 1st.
Our Executive Director, Karen Sandler, will be a featured speaker at Abstractions on August 21-23, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA
Bradley is keynoting the 8th edition of Kernel Recipes in Paris on September 26 & 27. Conservancy is this year's featured non-profit beneficiary. Registration opened this week.
Outreachy: Blogs from this year's amazing interns
- The Mercurial Commands That Saved My Workflow By Danielle Leblanc-Cyr
- Outreachy : Understanding my project and contributing to Mozilla by Nupur Baghel
- Let’s talk mUzima by Priscillah
- Outreachy Week 5: What is debci? by Candy Tsai
- Outreachy Internship: Improve suricata-update by Vagisha Gupta
- Jaegertracing in Ceph 101 and my struggles till now by deepika
GSoC students are also working on Conservancy projects this summer
- Ghidra firmware utilities, week 5 by Asami (at Coreboot)
- Google Summer of Code ’19 With phpMyAdmin by Apoorv Khare
Even more code!
- Backdrop 1.13 Released
- BusyBox 1.31.0 (unstable)
- Security fix: phpMyAdmin 4.9.0 is released
- Samba 4.10.5 Available for Download
- Twisted 19.2.1 Released
- Wine 4.11 Released
Our Member Projects Have Been Busy
- Reproducible Builds in May 2019
- WebRTC support, progress report #3, includes tutorials, demos and a peek at future work.
- Homebrew shared some nice pictures from their first-ever maintainers meeting!
How We Worked on Eliminating Bias in Our Hiring Process: A Small Organization's Story
byon June 20, 2019
We recently hired our newest employee at Conservancy, a Technical Bookkeeper. Adding one more employee to our small staff is a significant change for our organization and we wanted to conduct both an efficient and as unbiased as possible hiring process. This can be a challenge for small organizations and there must be agreement around this goal as well as a willingness to stick to a slightly more formal process. Everyone here at Conservancy was committed to crafting a process designed to remove as much bias as possible from the equation, so here's what we did.
Posting the Job
This is the posting that we shared with our networks. We specifically never implied that we expected applicants of any particular age or gender. We weren't looking for any particular type of educational history, so there's no mention of schooling here. In fact, we proactively stated that we were open to applicants from all different backgrounds. Since it's an unusual role, we were willing to train applicants who had a non-complete mix of the skills the job would use and we said so. Finally, we strongly encouraged folks from under-represented groups to apply -- not as a short-hand CYA, "EOE!" but in a specific way that we hope conveyed our belief that diversity is critical for our organization and our mission. We were so happy to be overwhelmed by strong applications from over thirty people who are passionate about software freedom.
First off, we asked all of the applicants the same questions, which we fully formulated in advance. It's important that you don't compare apples to oranges and keep the interview about the skills and qualities needed for the role you are currently interviewing for. For this first stage, no one on staff screened anyone they already knew well. We made an effort to stay on topic so we wouldn't be tempted to bias for "chattiness" or "culture fit." We also did not look at candidates on social media, in order to keep appearance, race and age from informing our first impression.
After the screen, we let all candidates know one way or the other whether we would be advancing their candidacy. Timely communication and a reasonably quick-paced process was part of our overall goal. While we didn't move as fast as we would have liked over the whole process due to our small size and large workload, we made sure to notify our candidates as soon as we knew whether they were advancing or not. A slow process increases the chance that your best applicants will have taken another job by the time you get back to them and there's absolutely no need to string people along that you don't intend to hire. The screen reduced the field to 12 candidates we were really excited to move forward with.
Since this opening was for a technical role, we needed to know about people's technical skills. We wanted to make sure we understood where our candidates were technically, without making assumptions about the experiences on their resumes. To do this, we organized a do-at-home exercise with a time constraint. There was no whiteboard and no audience while the work was being done by each applicant on their own machine. We told applicants they could look things up, because that is what people do when they are on the job. (They know there's a tool or library that could help them, but they don't quite remember the name of it or what the exact argument is that will help in a particular situation.) We allowed applicants to choose a time slot over a two week period to take the test, so they could schedule the exercise around current work or care-giving responsibilities.
Bias is unconscious. While we try to be good, unbiased people, Conservancy staff has all been subtly and not so subtly exposed to racist, sexist and ageist ideas and defaults throughout our lives. The staff members who sent the technical exercise to the applicants gave each person a two letter code name. We wanted the other two staff members who rated each applicant's answers to be able to do so without any information about age, gender, race or national origin interfering with their assessments. This process allowed us to identify our four top candidates, based entirely on their anonymous work product.
For the final candidates, we wanted to schedule a longer interview. Again, we asked all of the final applicants the same questions. We tried not to let the conversation drift into personal anecdotes or irrelevant topics. We also worked to make sure the applicants had an accurate picture of the day to day tasks they would be doing and asked questions about how they would handle that work and the obstacles that are likely to come up during a typical work week in that role. We contacted the candidates' references and also asked all of them the same set of questions. We interviewed some amazing people for the role. The final interviews set up a very tough decision for us and the process strengthened our shared desire to continue expanding Conservancy's staff.
At the end of the day, we were only hiring for one opening and so we chose the best person for our current role. In the future, we might have multiple or complimentary openings that we'd have to jostle, but not today. We're very happy with the result -- welcome aboard Rosanne!