Open source news for September 27 to October 2, 2015

Zulip chat from Dropbox, Linux Foundation report, FCC rules, and more news

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In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at Dropbox's open source chat tool Zulip, the FCC comments on open source routers, Linux Foundation's report that open source code is worth billions, and more.

Open source news for September 27 to October 2, 2015

Dropbox's Zulip chat app

Back in March 2014 online storage service Dropbox acquired online chat tool Zulip, before it was even available to the public. In the 18 months since the acquisition things have been quiet on the Zulip front, then at the end of September, Dropbox released the code for its Zulip chat app under an Apache license.

The move came about as part of Dropbox's Hack Week. According to the official blog post, the folks at Dropbox "reassembled the original team from Zulip (a group chat application optimized for software development teams that was acquired by Dropbox in 2014) to tackle open sourcing Zulip on an ambitious timeline."

You can fork Zulip's code on GitHub and check out Zulip's developer documentation.

Linux Foundations report: open source code worth $5 billion

According to a new report from the Linux Foundation, $5 billion is "the estimated value of development costs saved by the code embedded in its Collaborative Projects". The Foundation calculated the amount based on the number of lines of code in the Collaborative Projects (115,013,302) and the amount of time needed to recreate that code (the work of 1,373 developers 30 years).

According to Information Week, the report is "an effort to establish the relevancy and economic importance of collaboration." But, as an article at ReadWrite points out, that few people are "thinking a millisecond about how much it would have cost to replicate the open-source software they're using. Instead they're just choosing the best software for a particular job. That software, increasingly, is open source."

You can download the full report at the Linux Foundation's website.

FCC denies ban on open source firmware

One news story that exploded across the Internet recently was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. issuing guidance to router makers that seemed to prohibit open source firmware in those devices. The FCC has denied there's a ban but, according to Ars Technica, "there are restrictions that in some cases could cause a manufacturer to decide to prevent the installation of third-party firmware".

Writing for Wired, Kyle Wiens points out that "The real worry is that major chip manufacturers will respond by saying 'the easiest thing for us to do is lock down all the middleware rather than worry about where to draw the line.'"

It might not be all gloom and doom. Christopher writes "the FCC rules don't explicitly prevent users from modifying router firmware or require device manufacturers to make such modifications impossible." He adds that a way around this is to fully open source the code for pre-installed firmware.

Is Germany constitutionally obliged to use vendor-neutral IT standards?

In German lawyer Felix Greve's PhD thesis, he argues "the constitution stipulates that market barriers such as proprietary specifications must be prevented." Greve's doctoral thesis argues that "the use of open standards is a prerequisite and socially prudent" when it comes to eGovernment services. Relying on proprietary applications and formats can hinder the exchange of information and interoperability. Greve concludes that "market barriers such as proprietary specifications must be prevented."

Greve's argument might also apply to other countries in the European Union. However, his conclusions aren't legally binding. If German lawmakers take his argument seriously, it could further level the playing field for open source in Germany.

In other news

A big thanks, as always, to the Opensource.com moderators and staff for their help this week.

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About the author

That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
Scott Nesbitt - I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts. You can find me at these fine establishments on the web: The Plain Text Project, Open Source Musings, The...