Drew DeVault's Blog

It's not okay to pretend your software is open source

Unfortunately, I find myself writing about the Commons Clause again. For those not in the know, the Commons Clause is an addendum designed to be added to free software licenses. The restrictions it imposes (you cannot sell the software) makes the resulting franken-license nonfree. I’m not going to link to the project which brought this subject back into the discussion - they don’t deserve the referral - but the continued proliferation of software using the Commons Clause gives me reason to speak out against it some more.

How does virtual memory work?

Virtual memory is an essential part of your computer, and has been for several decades. In my earlier article on pointers, I compared memory to a giant array of octets (bytes), and explained some of the abstractions we make on top of that. In actual fact, memory is more complicated than a flat array of bytes, and in this article I’ll explain how.

Sway 1.0-beta.1 release highlights

1,173 days ago, I wrote sway’s initial commit, and 8,269 commits followed1, written by hundreds of contributors. What started as a side project became the most fully featured and stable Wayland desktop available, and drove the development of what has become the dominant solution for building Wayland compositors - wlroots, now the basis of 10 Wayland compositors.

  1. 5,044 sway commits and 3,225 wlroots commits at the time of writing. 

Go 1.11 got me to stop ignoring Go

I took a few looks at Go over the years, starting who knows when. My first serious attempt to sit down and learn some damn Go was in 2014, when I set a new personal best at almost 200 lines of code before I got sick of it. I kept returning to Go because I could see how much potential it had, but every time I was turned off for the same reason: GOPATH.

Don't sign a CLA

A large minority of open-source projects come with a CLA, or Contributor License Agreement, and require you to sign one before they’ll merge your patch. These agreements typically ask you to go above and beyond the rights you afford the project by contributing under the license the software is distributed with. And you should never sign one.

Sway & wlroots at XDC 2018

Just got my first full night of sleep after the return flight from Spain after attending XDC 2018. It was a lot of fun! I attended along with four other major wlroots contributors. Joining me were Simon Ser (emersion) (a volunteer) and Scott Anderson (ascent12) of Collabora, who work on both wlroots and sway. ongy works on wlroots, hsroots, and waymonad, and joined us on behalf of IGEL. Finally, we were joined by Guido Günther (agx) of Purism, who works with us on wlroots and on the Librem 5. This was my first time meeting most of them face-to-face!

Getting started with qemu

I often get asked questions about using my software, particularly sway, on hypervisors like VirtualBox and VMWare, as well as for general advice on which hypervisor to choose. My answer is always the same: qemu. There’s no excuse to use anything other than qemu, in my books. But I can admit that it might be a bit obtuse to understand at first. qemu’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it has so many options that it’s hard to know which ones you need just to get started.

Conservative web development

Today I turned off my ad blocker, enabled JavaScript, opened my network monitor, and clicked the first link on Hacker News - a New York Times article. It started by downloading a megabyte of data as it rendered the page over the course of eight full seconds. The page opens with an advertisement 281 pixels tall, placed before even the title of the article. As I scrolled down, more and more requests were made, downloading a total of 2.8 MB of data with 748 HTTP requests. An article was weaved between a grand total of 1419 vertical pixels of ad space, greater than the vertical resolution of my display. Another 153-pixel ad is shown at the bottom, after the article. Four of the ads were identical.

How to make a self-hosted video livestream

I have seen some articles in the past which explain how to build the ecosystem around your video streaming, such as live chat and forums, but which leave the actual video streaming to Twitch.tv. I made a note the last time I saw one of these articles to write one of my own explaining the video bit. As is often the case with video, we’ll be using the excellent ffmpeg tool for this. If it’s A/V-related, ffmpeg can probably do it.

The Commons Clause will destroy open source

An alarmist title, I know, but it’s true. If the Commons clause were to be adopted by all open source projects, they would cease to be open source1, and therefore the Commons clause is trying to destroy open source. When this first appeared I spoke out about it in discussion threads around the net, but didn’t think anyone would take it seriously. Well, yesterday, some parts of Redis became proprietary software.

  1. Under both the OSI and FSF definitions. The Commons Clause removes freedom 0 of the four essential freedoms