January 21, 2016
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remix-mini-with-monitorJide came under fire this week when it was revealed that the company hadn’t released any of the source code for its Android based operating system, Remix OS. Jide Remix OS takes Android and makes it look more like a traditional desktop environment, complete with multiple windows and gaming capabilities. It is built on the source code from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which includes components like the Linux kernel, which is released under the GPL.

The status of Jide’s GPL compliance came under scrutiny when The Linux Homefront Project (TLHP) published a post about the lack of source for the Remix OS USB Tool which is based on Unetbootin, an open source utility that allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Linux distributions without burning a CD. Unetbootin is licensed under the GPL, a “copy-left” open source license which allows you to copy, distribute and modify the software as long as publish the source code of your changes under the GPL.

The answer is no. You are not a partner of Jide. Remix OS isn’t open source.

Remix OS is based AOSP via the Android-x86 Project, which itself is licensed under Apache Public License 2.0. The Apache license say that you “must cause any modified files to carry prominent notices stating that You changed the files” while retaining “all copyright, patent, trademark, and attribution notices from the source.” In other words you need to acknowledge where you got the source code from. As I mentioned above Android also uses the Linux kernel which is released under the GPL, which means that Jide is obligated to release the kernel source code used in Remix OS. According to TLHP, some peoples sent source code requests to Jide support and were told “the answer is no. You are not a partner of Jide. Remix OS isn’t open source.”

At Jide, we take all open source licensing protocols very seriously and aim to abide by all established conventions.

Obviously this ruffled some feathers and when the folks over at XDA contacted Jide about its open source license compliance they discovered that Jide “were working hard to meet compliance.” Now Jide has released some of the source code which it is legally required to release. It said in a statement, “at Jide, we take all open source licensing protocols very seriously and aim to abide by all established conventions.”

As well as mentioning “established conventions,” Jide goes on to talk about “licensing standards.” Both of these phrases imply to me that Jide hasn’t yet understood that releasing the source (where required) is a legal requirement and just a convention.

Anyway, Jide has now acknowledged that the Remix OS Flash Tool is built on the open source UNetbootin project and to ensure that it is compliant with the GPL, Jide has pushed out the source code. The code is on github here: https://github.com/jide-opensource/remixos-usb-tool. As for Android, Jide states that “Remix OS for PC is built based on the Android-x86 project with their full consent. We have clearly acknowledged and credited the project on our website – http://www.jide.com/en/remixos-for-pc.”

Apparently Jide didn't know that Android uses Linux and that Linux is licensed under the GPL.

However this is were things get a little incredulous, Jide claims that “based on the information listed on the Android-x86 website, it was our understanding that Android-x86 was an open source project based only on the Apache License. However, we have since discovered that some of the files from the project are under GPL license.” Shock! Horror! Apparently Jide didn’t know that Android uses Linux and that Linux is licensed under the GPL. This is hard to believe since the company is working deep inside the Android source to add all those desktop features and yet it didn’t know that Linux was released under the GPL.

It also looks like Jide has been modifying the Linux kernel (which is perfectly acceptable) and that it will now release the source code, “in addition, any other changes to open source code, such as those that are kernel-based, will be released to the public community as quickly as possible. To ensure that there is no uncertainty, we will also have a disclaimer included in our next release package that states details of our compliance.”

So, what do you think, was this a simple mistake made because the team was so busy making something new, or did Jide deliberately try to benefit from all the hard work of thousands of open source contributors and ignore its obligations to release the code?

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems.He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.
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