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Licensing Re: Lead-up message 'Welcome to GRUB!' ...

From: Isaac Dupree
Subject: Licensing Re: Lead-up message 'Welcome to GRUB!' ...
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 2010 17:31:43 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100120 Shredder/3.0.1

On 02/21/10 15:38, address@hidden wrote:
On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 4:00 AM, Robo L<address@hidden>  wrote:

Hi all,

Firstly I would like to thank everyone for the reply and Your time.

I would like to clarify the issue.
First I need to hide the very first Welcom message because I need to hide
GRUB for other users of MS Windows on my PC. I need it only for myself.

I'm not entirely certain, but:

(1) I think GRUB is licensed under GPLv3 or higher only


(2) GPLv3 covers what were considered to be loopholes in GPLv2
(firmware enforced signature, software-as-a-service)

well, GPLv3 is not identical to GPLv2, but I don't think the differences are important to this issue.

(3) Your use of GRUB (copying it into the boot record) requires you to
provide your users with notice of their GPL rights to your version of

No, I think it probably does not. Firstly, because Robo L may not be "conveying" the program (see definition in GPLv3), and if not, cannot possibly be violating GPLv3.

Secondly, even if installing it to the hard disk of a computer that is shared between you and other people (or other corporations) is "conveying", GPLv3 Section 5 says, "d) If the work has interactive user interfaces, each must display Appropriate Legal Notices; however, if the Program has interactive interfaces that do not display Appropriate Legal Notices, your work need not make them do so."

I didn't check whether mainstream GRUB interaction displays Appropriate Legal Notices. ("Welcome to GRUB!" is most certainly NOT an Appropriate Legal Notice.) If it doesn't, you're free. If it does, I think you still do not need to display Appropriate Legal Notices until "interactive user interfaces" have been activated; say, by typing in the secret code that activates them. In section 0. Definitions, "An interactive user interface displays “Appropriate Legal Notices” to the extent that it includes a convenient and prominently visible feature that [says it's GPLed, etc.]. If the interface presents a list of user commands or options, such as a menu, a prominent item in the list meets this criterion." I don't see "interactive user interfaces" defined anywhere in the GPL or mentioned in GPL-FAQ, so I am hardly sure whether a secret password-entry system that only interacts by secretly reading a password (and then brings up the "real" interactive interface) would count as an interactive interface in its own right that must tell the user about itself even when they don't know the password... The Affero-GPL is written with further language about interaction, but as I guess that the normal GPL wouldn't make a GPL'd SSH server program have to break the SSH protocol in order to fulfill Legal Notices, there must be some limits on what is considered "interaction"...

I doubt the GPL was written with surreptitious installation of software on other people's computers in mind... well, maybe it was

So one can hardly say that "another user on my PC not venture a guess
that there is a GRUB" if you are required to tell them that GRUB is
there and offer them the source code.

Richard: redirection is not good idea for me, becouse II need classical
console. I wrote a module with hidden password (secret process - no response
on console - silent) If match then redirect to boot linux. The nature of the
process is that another user on my PC not venture a guess that there is a
GRUB and secound linux OS!

Security through obscurity is never a good idea and especially not
when you have to give away the source code.

You have to give the source code when requested, or distribute it on-disk along with the binary... neither of which compromise security here. It's not a secret algorithm; it's a secret that GRUB is there at all. (GPLv3 section 5.d , if obeyed strictly, might break this secret -- but that is all).

Depending what Robo L's threat model is, this "no messages until secret code entered" may be sufficient security. Suppose it's to prevent other people from giving Robo a hard time about using Linux (they'd never suspect it in the first place! Or, they wouldn't mind terribly much if they found out.). Or suppose it's part of spying on these people (and getting caught means Robo runs away but has succeeded in doing some spying in the meantime).

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