Smart Crash Reports and the GPL - Plex Blog

Smart Crash Reports and the GPL

| 31 Jul 2008 | by 31 Comments

OK, before this gets out of hand, a quick word. To paraphrase Michael Jackson: I’m a coder not a lawyer. I appreciate d4rk’s bring the matter to our attention (although next time, if you want to avoid getting into name-calling, just drop us an email).

The background: Smart Crash Reports, as mdpdb pointed out, doesn’t require linking against anything. We were linking against optional object files for the purposes of installing the reporter, as a convenience to our users. Kind of amusing, right, all the hubbub that results from an innocent effort to improve software quality? But I get it, slippery slope and all.

My amateur reading of the license would seem to imply that the XBMC team could simply issue a quick statement saying “We authorize the Plex team to call two function calls in Smart Crash Reports” and everyone would be happy and in compliance.

However, that’s not needed. Enrique came up with a patch an hour or so after we heard about the issue, to be included in the next RC, which will be out as soon as I get a chance.

I’m sorry for the mistake. Trolls, back under the bridge. Peace out.


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31 Comments so far

  1. muzo July 31st, 2008 11:52 pm

    fantastic picture. what is he? a month old?

  2. elan July 31st, 2008 11:55 pm

    @muzo: About six weeks, right after we got him. We always thought he looked like one pissed off puppy.

  3. slobu August 1st, 2008 2:34 am

    Don’t currently use Plex due to currently using Tiger and non-working Python scripts.. but I do think it’s awesome Plex exists! When my XBox finally dies I have something to turn to.

    I do find it confusing though.. my searches seem to point to XBMX and Plex as being GPL. Why then the drama?

    I thought the point of GPL was to make sure code is freely available despite corporate greed or personal vanity.

    Anyway, continue the good work!

  4. phunkysai August 1st, 2008 4:11 am

    I can’t say I understood a word you just said, but if the smart crash report thingie still works, then I’m happy!

  5. John August 1st, 2008 4:28 am

    Elan — Props to stating facts and moving on. Plex is definitely headed in the right direction, despite the ‘GPL snags’.

    Keep the solid releases coming! :)


  6. mmr August 1st, 2008 6:43 am



  7. d4rk August 1st, 2008 12:01 pm

    Thanks Elan and yes, it does help to read the license you are developing under and using. I (and I’m sure hundreds of other developers) appreciate you taking the time to actually glance through it, amateurishly or otherwise. Hopefully this will avoid similar “innocent” mistakes.

    Regarding authorization from the XBMC team, I think you might have had some trouble getting a “quick statement” from 30 odd developers, saying it’s ok for you that you violate their license because you want to collect some crash reports (a good idea no doubt, but for which there are GPL alternatives anyway).

    It definitely is amusing, like you say, that a GPL developer isn’t aware that linking against proprietary closed sourced libraries is one of the most obvious GPL violations. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to pass the bar to know that. Maybe that’s why you don’t find any GPL programs using Leadtools or the Torque engine.

  8. Rickler August 1st, 2008 12:50 pm

    Elan, play by the rules if only to keep the pedants happy, but most importantly be happy, develop when you want to and dont be pushed.

    Remember ‘Fast cars respond to urgent calls’

  9. Events by Evonne August 1st, 2008 2:37 pm

    Hey, how come the domain is still =)

  10. elan August 1st, 2008 2:42 pm

    @evonne: Nice to see you around these parts, fellow Maui resident and killer wedding planner! I just need to set aside some time to migrate the blog over to our new domain.

    @Rickler: Thanks, mate, appreciate the post.

  11. Tufty August 1st, 2008 4:46 pm

    @d4rk: I sincerely hope I am misreading your previous comments. While I admire your previous work, are you really acting like a jobsworth or is it just wry humour?
    XBMC had been going nowhere for years until Elan dedicated a lot of his personal time and effort and raised awareness amongst many who had never heard of XBMC before.
    While some may snipe they could be ruining it for 1000′s of others. Just because he’s progressing at a rate of knows that others can’t keep up with, breaking some rules, it’s quite petty for some to try and humiliate him on his own comments site with immature comments, some people need to get a life.. no-one has died and many of us don’t understand why so few take this so seriously, try and ruin it and can’t get along. Elan deserve some credit for countless hours Elan deserves some credit for all the work he’s put in rather than cheap snipes, How has he been rewarded?

  12. Tufty August 1st, 2008 5:01 pm

    @Elan: You naughty boy! The XBMC GPL police will confiscate Mac Mini, depricate your internet connections, take credit for your work and impound your dog…. if you’re not careful. Judge GPL will see to it! lol

    Keep innovating. Fortune favours the brave. You created a wife friendly device, keep the improvments coming and don’t let the overly pedantic uber-ego jobsworths who hold themselves in overly high regard get you down. =)

  13. davilla August 1st, 2008 5:51 pm

    @Tufty: You are showing your ignorance about the software developer world of GPL licensed software. Neither Plex nor XBMC would be anything that they are without the inclusion of hundreds of thousands of lines of code from other GPL licensed software projects. Case in point is ffmpeg. And you better believe that the GPL police can and will go after anyone who violates the GPL license. If one violator is ignored then that calls into question the very same GPL license of much larger GPL projects such as the Linux kernel, Busybox and ffmpeg. So Plex has a choice, abide by GPL rules, all of them or lose access to about 95 percent of the code base that it uses and that includes more than just XBMC forked code.

    @Elan: Need to get your build process of ffmpeg included so it can be built from scratch. The ffmpeg authors are real sticklers about this. XBMC has it now on all platforms including the now leopard and tiger compatible OSX binary. If you think XBMC dev are Trolls, they are mice compared to ffmpeg devs. GPL is serious business to them.

  14. Ranglin August 1st, 2008 6:04 pm

    Why is is that some people seem to feel the need to pick and prod in this blog all the time?

    I’m inclined to agree with Tufty here and say that there is a lot of GOOD work being done, why do people have to focus on the negative so much?

    Elan is obviously happy to follow the spirit of the GPL, so if you think in practise he’s violated some small condition, wouldn’t it be better for you to send him an e-mail? It seems that all the jealous-haters would rather find the smallest thing to complain about and then try and knock the Plex team down a few notches! W

    Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the good work that’s being done porting this software to a platform like the Mac Mini, rather than trying your hardest to make the dev team feel bad?

    Just a thought.

  15. AlTheKiller August 1st, 2008 6:16 pm

    @Tufty: Funny, a quick look at the XBMC linuxport changelog would show that it was created over 8mo before any OSX code was committed. Grant it I know for a fact Elan was working on it for at least 4-6 wks before he was granted SVN access, I think it’s a bit ignorant on your part to say, “XBMC had been going nowhere for years until Elan dedicated a lot of his personal time and…” Vulknar and Yuvalt did a majority of the porting (DX -> SDL, Win32 -> UNIX) long before, all Elan had to do was take care of the BSD/OSX-isms (I’m not saying that was trivial task by any means).
    As for the GPL stuff, back in the day I was in the same seat as you, I didn’t care about any license so long as I got my XBMC. Did I deserve it? No! OSS is by developers for developers, but they were kind enough to let whoever wanted, use it, no questions asked. All they have to do is follow a simple license. Now that I’m a developer and contributing to something I love, I understand why it is so important. Doing work for free, and giving it away under a license, trusting that anyone who wants to use my work will follow the same license and I can then use their work feels great. But it sucks (and is rather unfair) when someone takes your work, improves it in a great way, but doesn’t leave you with a means to take advantage and improve it even further. Now when you work at the speeds Elan and Co. do (I still have no damn clue how they work that fast, maybe the 3 less platforms to worry about :P), you’re bound to make mistakes. That’s fine. Fix them! Learn from them! Spinning words and calling names isn’t going to get anyone anywhere, and sure as hell isn’t going to win any votes towards “a quick statement of approval.”

  16. elan August 1st, 2008 6:44 pm


    “But it sucks (and is rather unfair) when someone takes your work, improves it in a great way, but doesn’t leave you with a means to take advantage and improve it even further.” Agreed, and when I start doing that, please feel free to whine about it.

    “Spinning words and calling names isn’t going to get anyone anywhere” Agreed, please pass the word on to your teammate who has been on here doing just that.

    @davilla: The source to the ffmpeg we use is at We are in complete compliance with the GPL.

    To all the haters: You may not like that we forked. You may not like that we are building an awesome community based on being nice to our users, providing quality support, and following standard software engineering practices. You may not like our new name. You may not like dogs, and particularly brown dogs might really annoy you. Maybe a brown dog bit your father or raped your kid brother. Please, do us all a favor, and go about your own lives, do what makes you happy, and ignore this project if it angers you so much.

    Until this point I’ve always allowed free discourse on this blog, even when people were rather abusive and rude. However, I’m strongly considering moderating comments on the blog, and only allowing ones that make me look funny or ridiculously attractive. Or maybe I’ll just edit comments I don’t like to make the poster look like they have really bad grammar or spelling. You’ve been warned.

  17. gusax August 1st, 2008 7:33 pm

    I don’t really get what the license violation was but it seems to me that this was an honest mistake. And everybody makes mistakes. If elan o co fixes theirs after beeing (nicely) alerted to it, then what’s the problem?

    @elan: I at least would be sad if you began editing “bad” comments, as I find the humor/sarcasm in your responses to such comments most amusing :-)

  18. davilla August 1st, 2008 7:53 pm

    I’ll play this game. Actually by posting the existence of a git tree for your ffmpeg-fork, NOW you are in GPL compliance regarding ffmpeg.

    I’m not being abusive and rude, my post was fact and information to your users who seem to be miss-informed about what GPL means . GPL compliance IS a serious issue and entities much larger than your project have found out the hard way that one does not ignore the GPL license.

  19. AlTheKiller August 1st, 2008 8:39 pm

    @elan: My entire comment was directed at Tufty for his blatant ignorance about GPL and the fact that it IS important to follow. I wasn’t “whining” about anything I was trying to prove this point by example. And I agree, crap like GPL violations needs to be taken care of behind the scenes. The users clearly have no idea where we come from and are unwilling to educate themselves on the facts before spouting off, only raising tensions.
    On another note, I don’t appreciate being tossed into this “hater” group just because I’m an XBMC team member. None of my comments were abrasive or meant to instigate. Mind you I wasn’t even a team member until a week or so before the fork. I saw valid points from both sides and also that conflicting attitudes, goals and means to reach those goals were not going to work out and that a fork would be best for both parties. Sure I don’t agree with your every method and action made as a team member, at least you did the work you did to the best of your ability. I won’t go into post-fork happenings, but I don’t remember expressing any ill will thus far and I’d appreciate the same in return.

  20. Ranglin August 1st, 2008 8:45 pm

    @AltheKiller: Go and look up the word “bureaucracy” in your dictionary of choice.. If the amount of posts I read on both this blog and about policy-this and GPL-that and committee-the-other are any indication, it seems that the XBMC team is full of it!

    As a matter of fact, judging by the amount of time XBMC Project team members seem to spend commenting on this blog about GPL violations and such, it’s a wonder any coding actually gets down at all!

  21. Ranglin August 1st, 2008 8:48 pm

    AltheKiller said “(I still have no damn clue how they work that fast, maybe the 3 less platforms to worry about :P)”

    Note: my above comment was addressed to this comment by AltheKiller, not his subsequent post.

    (Also, “done”, not “down”, obviously! :) )

  22. elan August 1st, 2008 10:14 pm

    @AlTheKiller: Sorry I lumped you in with the haters. Let us continue on in peace and with mutual respect.

  23. elan August 2nd, 2008 12:02 am

    @Ranglin, gusax, Tufty, John, phunkysai, Rickler and everyone else who has expressed their support, with good humor: Thanks a million, you guys make it all worthwhile. Seriously.

  24. swangy August 2nd, 2008 2:39 am

    @d4rk: passive agressive comments aside (“innocent” and “amateurishly”), i think if you’re developing OSS it’s understood that the spirit of the GPL is to give away your code to the greater community to allow others to build on your work.

    Your expectations of tight compliance to GPL license may be one thing, but your actions and irreverance to elan on his own forums seem to reflect a bruised ego because someone’s taken your work and built upon it to develop a high profile project.. understandable – we’ve all been there. All you guys are very talented, but i doubt the WSJ is going to do an article on how you can manipulate some pixels a little bit faster, or whatever it is you do.

    But if you’re looking for recognition and glory though, maybe a good first step is not to badger someone who’s shown talent and more importantly an affable attitude towards his counterparts. Which is much more than i can say for you.

    @elan: i’ve seen many talented people give up on less, please dont be discouraged because of a few bad apples. your little project is the only thing keeping me sane after working 100+hrs a week – the only down time i have, my gf and i spend in front of a Plex(tm) :)

    Sam Wang, MD

  25. Evin / Georg August 2nd, 2008 5:20 am

    Thanks für your fantastic work, Elan.

    Next week my iMac should finally arrive and I’m really looking forward to use Plex. =D Thank you, and everyone who is involved in this godlike project.

    Don’t get frustrated by any trolls; I hope my small donation will help you somehow.

    Greeting from vienna!

  26. Kiwi_in_KC August 2nd, 2008 10:38 am

    Elan; great work on this project. I cannot code and would offer to assist with any GPL understanding but I am a neophyte in that area also. I wanted to express my appreciation for the work you are doing and I am hopeful of getting my Mac Mini into my entertainment center soon so I can enjoy the ease that electronic media access brings.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  27. dd August 2nd, 2008 3:08 pm


  28. elan August 2nd, 2008 3:13 pm

    @dd: Uh uh, no name-calling, please. Think civilized, like some place you might go and have tea and crumpets with your grandmother.

  29. elan August 2nd, 2008 3:52 pm

    @Kiwi_in_KC: Thanks, I appreciate it! New Zealand rocks.

    @swangy: Your post really made my night, Sam. Thanks ever so much.

  30. barr August 9th, 2008 12:18 pm

    I have much respect for the work you do since this is exactly what OSS projects rarely ever get to do: making a program user-friendly (or even barely usable for most).

    Yeah, this is absolutely not fun: there’s not much cache line or cpu cycle counting involved. Yet, it will make or break your application. Nobody cares about an application nobody uses or can use.

    GPL is the one place that absolutely needs people like you. So it is even more funny to see how you had no other choices but to fork because you were just making it usable for normal people (which somehow must be against the original project plans ;))…

    XBMC UI is beyond broken on anything but the XBOX. Plex is showing great promises there so please keep up the excellent work.

    Again, thank you.

  31. watzen August 10th, 2008 4:36 am

    @barr so far the UI is the same as XBMC’s

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