Samuel Tardieu @

Android/Linux: a desperate attempt at creating buzz


In a misinformed article about Android libc and the Linux kernel, Florian Mueller seems to attempt to create buzz about an alleged Linux kernel copyright infrigement. Even if Linux kernel copyright holders decided to complain (which is not the case as far as I know), the article is full of mistakes and approximations.

In view of all of that, I think the only viable option will be for Google to recognize its error with Bionic and to replace it as soon as possible with glibc (GNU C library). That library is licensed under the LGPL (“Lesser GPL”), which has the effect that applications can access the Linux kernel without necessarily being subjected to copyleft if certain criteria are fulfilled.

The GPLv2 licence used in the Linux kernel does not allow to reuse parts of the covered software and distribute it under the LGPL license.

Using glibc is the industry-standard approach, and it is the approach used by those in the open source world who are trying to “play by the rules.”

Come on, many embedded Linux systems use the more compact µClibc. Aren’t they playing by the rules?

In fact, Google’s decision to forego glibc is one of the reasons Android is considered a Linux fork rather than a true Linux implementation.

Wrong. Several distributions use other C libraries, including the eglibc which is a fork of the glibc. Is Debian a Linux fork because it is now using eglibc instead of glibc? Certainly not!

Android is sometimes considered a Linux fork because some of the features it needs related to the device wakeup when a call arrives for example have disturbed quite a lot of device drivers code, and the Linux mainstream maintainers do not feel comfortable in including those changes in the default kernel.

Florian Mueller, while trying to make some noise, completely dismisses the fact that Google wrote its own libc (based on a preexisting one using a BSD license) to get better performances. Accessing kernel structures directly instead of trying to build a set of insulation layers allows them to use the Linux kernel more efficiently. As stated on the GNU project web site, The GNU C library is primarily designed to be a portable and high performance C library. It follows all relevant standards (ISO C 99, POSIX.1c, POSIX.1j, POSIX.1d, Unix98, Single Unix Specification). This is just not needed in a restricted capability device where you do not necessarily need to implement or even comply with all the existing standards.

Even if copyright holders chose to complain, the solution proposed by Florian Mueller is completely misguided, unrealistic and useless. Even if I somewhat did it by writing this post, please do not feed the troll.

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