Cluster Poll Results (tangent into OS choices) (fwd)

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Mon Nov 3 18:44:18 EST 2003

Andrew sent me this but forgot to add the list address, so I'm
forwarding it on to the list for him...:-)

I'll probably send my reply to this later.


Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2003 19:48:52 +0000
From: Andrew M.A. Cater <amacater at>
To: Robert G. Brown <rgb at>
Subject: Re: Cluster Poll Results (tangent into OS choices)

On Sat, Nov 01, 2003 at 10:40:24AM -0500, Robert G. Brown wrote:
> On Fri, 31 Oct 2003, Joel Jaeggli wrote:
> > > Who says you have to pay 1024*$792 ? Why not only 1 license ? AFAIK you are may use that binary image as you like inside your cluster since it is covered by GPL, but you can't 
> > > claim support from RH for more than one of the systems.
> > 
> > read the liscsense agreement for you redhat enterprise disks...
RH can request that they be allowed to audit your cluster, IIRC.

I think the idea is that RH Enterprise [Server/Advanced 
Server/Workstation] is trademarked, copywrited and contains some non-GPL
portions.  RH can therefore insist that you install only one copy per 
single machine as per your licence - you can't just copy the binaries 
and put the one copy on to your other 1023 nodes.  But you do get (up 
to) five years support. [You can't buy RHE without support, IIRC].

If you add non-GPL software to an otherwise GPL'd distribution, you can 
charge for it: you can also restrict the use of the whole distribution 
thus created as I understand it because it contains your proprietary 
code.  If you modify GPL'd software in order to create your proprietary
added value, however, then that modified software must in turn be 
available under the GPL.

FWIW, SUSE operate the same way: you can't buy SUSE .iso's unless you 
buy the box and you are not licensed to make copies thereof.
[SUSE do, however, make it possible to install the whole distribution 
via ftp from their site].

> Note the phrase "free software".  Note also the various inheritance
> clauses.  I'm not a lawyer; I don't know how this would ultimately
> untangle in a court if someone chose to just ignore RH's license
> agreement and install things as they wished, but I'm sure we'll
> eventually find out...;-)
I trained as an (English) lawyer - but didn't pursue that to practice.
It would depend on the jurisdiction.  

Another potentially good reason to go with Debian - which doesn't restrict 
use, modification, distribution or field of endeavour.  I won't mention other 
purported Linux distributions which now require you to sign a non-GPL 
licence before you can download GPL licenced updates but that too is an 
interesting case. :)


[Potentially OT PS: Yum appears to be a re-invention of apt 
functionality with some improvements. 
You've hit the same dependencies problems that may already have 
been solved by apt three years ago.  The _real_ trick is to sort 
dependency issues properly at a distribution wide level.  My problems
with RH have always been that the RH doesn't include enough packages and
those packages that are not packaged directly by RH can be of variable 
quality -hence digging the package out from the 'Net somewhere and DLL 
hell. (It also doesn't help that there are five or six vendors out there 
with "different" .rpms of the same thing for SUSE/Mandrake/RH7.x/8.0/9.0
because RPM has been interpreted/implemented in a variable way). Debian 
isn't perfect - a spell spent on reading the mailing list archives would 
_easily_ prove this :) - but, perversely, having 8710 packages in the 
"stable" tree and about 14000 in unstable has meant that the main 
distribution often contains exactly the package you were looking for 
ready to drop in. 

[It's also quite useful, for example, to re-use legacy lab hardware and run 
your new cluster on Opterons but display the pretty output graphs on your 
Suns and do post-processing of the data on your old Alphas. I couldn't do 
that with the same versions of the software on all three architectures on 
any other current GNU/Linux distribution :) ]

For those who haven't used Debian and wonder what all the fuss is about:

apt-cache show foo will give you all the details of foo

apt-get install foo will install foo and all its dependencies in one 

And by using the following command line 

apt-get update ; apt-get dist-upgrade

your entire machine will be brought up to date.

[Where apt-get update updates your package list and apt-get dist-upgrade 
resolves the interdependencies and fetches the necessary packages.] ]

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