The promising OpenMediaVault failed its debut as free software project

Volker Theile is well known for his work on FreeNAS. But at one point, he decided to give up on it and to restart from scratch but this time based on Debian (instead of FreeBSD). OpenMediaVault is the name of this new Debian based product.

Here’s how he defines the project:

OpenMediaVault is the next generation network attached storage (NAS) solution based on Debian Linux. It contains services like SSH, (S)FTP, SMB/CIFS, DAAP media server, RSync, BitTorrent client and many more. Thanks to the modular design of the framework it can be enhanced via plugins.

OpenMediaVault is primarily designed to be used in home environments or small home offices, but is not limited to those scenarios. It is a simple and easy to use out-of-the-box solution that will allow everyone to install and administrate a Network Attached Storage without deeper knowledge.

Even though all the work was private, he managed to attract an important following, and I must say that I was looking forward to this project. He regularly blogged on his progress, sharing some good-looking video of the resulting product (example here).

The first public release (Version 0.2, codenamed Ix) happened on October 17th. I have yet to try it but I took a look on the website. As a Debian developer, I was keen on seeing the source code and how the project was managed.

The GPLv3 license is presented as an important feature and I was expecting a well-managed open source project. The fact that it was a private one-man project up to now did not bother me, we’re quite used to the “scratch your itch” kind of start for free software projects.

Enough to say is that I have been very disappointed. First you come across a contributor agreement, it’s frowned upon by many free software developers. But why not, maybe he bought the argument of Mark Shuttleworth and wants to give it a try.

But then I looked at the subversion repository, it’s obvious that it’s just a dumping ground of files that are managed somewhere else in another repository. A bit like Android which is not developed in the open but released as a whole from time to time.

But the worst was yet to be found on the licensing page:

Beside being freely available for personal end-users, System Builders and System Integrators, in general Installers, require a commercial license for OpenMediaVault.

Besides the fact that I’m still not sure what this means, I would like to know how he reconciles this requirement with the terms of the GPLv3.

It’s a shame that a so promising project ends up being a disaster from a free software perspective.

Have you tried OpenMediaVault already? If yes, I’d be glad to read your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

  1. This is the first time I hear about OpenMediaVault but this is too bad indeed. I wonder which part of it would be closed like that.

  2. Seems to be really silly (as well as a possible GPL violation). An email to info@openmediavault.com as suggested on his licence page bounced. – I suspect it’s a typo for info@openmediavault.org. Be interesting to see what his response is.

  3. Confusing isn’t it.

  4. It seems like “Uhm, I used GPL code so I should be careful when licensing” fighting with “I’m not sure about sharing the development of my masterpiece” inside the author.

    A bit of a mess, actually.

  5. Like you, I’ve been monitoring the project from it’s early days and was hardly waiting for the release.
    Like you, my disapointment was total reading the licensing/agreement insanities which, from my point of view are violating the GPL.
    I’ll keep on looking at OMV in the hope to see a real source code repository appear and legal issues fade away. In the mean time, OMV doesn’t even deserve the time and resources for a test.
    /me sad

  6. I’ve changed the license to GPLv3 completely now. Hopefully now everyone is happy :-)

    • Thanks, Volker.

    • Hi,

      Thank you very much Volker, this is a _very_ good news and I’m sure the community will appreciate.
      I still hope you will, at some point, give public access to the main repository to attract developpers (there’s so much to do on a Debian based storage appliance !!!) and so that the projects finally meets all the needed caracteristics of a Real Good FLOSS Project.

      Keep on the good work

      • The sources are available at scm.openmediavault.org.

        • Is it possible for Raphaël to check the Volker’s sources and then amend the original post if warranted? The original post asserts that OMV is a disaster from a free software perspective. You have to read through the comments that Volker updated the license and has source available. It would be nice to know whether Raphaël still thinks it is a disaster or whether it is more promising now.

  7. I’ve tried openmediavault and i love it. Finally a NAS solution from debain base. I was avoiding freeNas for its BSD based and i can settle for openmediavault. Good work Volker!

  8. Being a complete nob at anything Linux and have failed miserably in the past to get get various distro’s working the way they should or even to work at all, I have to say Openmediavault was a breeze – it’s now been running very happily & stable on my server for over a month. The software was a doodle to install, setup and maintain even for a complete novice like me and I’m sure it will appeal to many others who have problems with other Linux distro’s.
    Ok at the moment I miss one or two aspects of the “bought” off the shelf servers namely DNLA – I’m sure it’s there somewhere but can’t get it to broadcast a compliant DNLA over the network, Itunes/ DAAP works a treat in Itunes (not by any means my favorite piece of software or anything else from apple), not tried on an android system as yet.
    To my mind this is a great piece of work from Volker and look forward to further improvements as more packages are made available.

    • Hi Les,

      Nice to hear your box has been running nicely. I’ve installed OMV in a VM to “play” with it and indeed the install couldn’t be easier ! UI is nice and Volker seem to have done a great job for the plugin management system considering the number of plugins already available and the pace at which new ones appear.
      For your DLNA need, the miniDLNA plugin could do what you need, see here http://sourceforge.net/apps/phpbb/openmediavault/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=321.

      Hope it helps
      Bests

      • Hi Je,
        Many thanks for your response I’ve actually been looking at miniDLNA and Serviio,, & toying with the idea of attempting it :-) it’s one of those things, in the past when I’ve tried to add some of the packages to a Linux distro, come totally unstuck for one reason or another – and the thoughts of OMV is running well – don’t mess with it come to mind – there’s 9Tb of data at stake….. it’s all backed up but that’s still hrs of re-install.
        Recently I’ve also been looking at the various VM’s out there now – mainly to run backup images – where the original puter has long since deceased to the extract data etc,. but as your post installing OMV in a VM then playing with that first is probably the way to go – leave the server alone until I get the image running the way I would like.

  9. Hi,

    Just a quick post to let you know that I installed the miniDLNA plugin this morning without any (serious) trouble from the plugin manager. The plugin only didn’t see my shares until I created (and deleted) a dummy one, kind of shares list refresh problem… so it’s now serving my “Media” share on my LAN (already available through SMB & FTP), well at least upnp-inspector sees it !

    Bests

    • Hi, Being a complete nob at this, just can’t add the package to the server – & can’t find any clear step by step instructions. However I’ve not broke the server yet :-) always a good thing – & being such a small install the whole thing runs off a 2Gb USB stick plugged into an internal socket on the MB – very handy – as made a copy before playing – if it does “break” max 5 min to swap sticks and back up & running again.

      • Just to clarify – OMV installation runs from the USB stick – storage drives are completely separate & hopefully will remain untouched by any problems / incorrect meddling with the omv install.

        • Done it !!!!!

          as usual it was the simplest thing that I was missing – in the end one click solved all problems.

  10. I was looking to something like that to use for my personnal NAS / Server, but this only does the NAS part (like freenas I’ve been using). I’d love to have this as a package in Debian, as it would allow me to add other specific programs (web pages, mail server…). Until there, there is no point for me to use it instead of Freenas or a classic debian (or did I misunderstood something? I’m not especially an IT pro :).

    • hi,

      @Ithilus: I think you already have what you’re looking for ! Just install OpenMediaVault, login, and enjoy APT powers. OMV is nothing less than Debian and nothing forbids you to install the packages you want. Just be aware that this is an unsupported setup.

      Bests

      • Thanks for the reply! I think I see your point: it is based on debian, so it should work.
        An unsupported setup still sounds a bit scary to me, so I guess it is time I learn how to use Debian. Plus I will have to learn to install and configure my applications. Great fun in perspective :).
        I will follow OMV evolution nonenthless just in case it comes later as a web gui.

  11. Daniel S. Haischt says:

    Hi,

    the real issue if it comes to license policies is that OMV is based on FreeNAS code to a certain degree where the original copyright holdsers were removed from the source code files and afterwards the source code files were re-licensed as GPL V3. FreeNAS on the other hand is based on pfSense to a certain degree and of course even more on m0n0wall. Any traces to these projects were removed from the OMV code base and now it’s the sole property of one single person.

    The complete m0n0wall/pfSense/FreeNAS/OMV conglomerate got very intermingled with each other to a degree where at least in FreeNAS+OMV it isn’t possible to determine where the intellectual property really originates from. OMV would have been a chance to get the intellectually property issue right this time cause it was a start from scratch project but I guess as long as you don’t completely replace people as well instead of code and operating systems only, one wouldn’t be able to overcome the issue of interlectual property contamination.

    Cheers
    Daniel

    • OMV does not contain ANY (0%) code from FreeNAS. I did implement everything from beginning. Nevertheless, the most code from FreeNAS has been done by myself at the end. Show me any piece of code you think it is from FreeNAS. Please do not shout out lies if you talk about something you did not know.

      • I’m sorry about my last sentence, i did misunderstand your comment. Finally i can say that during my time of developing FreeNAS you can count the contributions with 2 hands. There were some bigger comments to the ZFS feature, but everything else to the core system was done by myself. One techniques used in OMV is using xmlstarlet to create the config files has been introduced to FreeNAS by myself. Thus there should be no intelectual property issue. You also have to know that at the end of my time in FreeNAS you did not recognise the code again because i have changed nearly everything. So if there should be some more ideas transfered to OMV you can be sure they are born in my mist.

      • Daniel S. Haischt says:

        Volker,

        first of all your response to my valid questions and you may even call them concerns, is totally inapropriate and by no means acceptable. Calling me in that regards a person that lies in a public place is simply a defamation. You are well advised to reconsider calling me a lier especially in a public place! If this continues I am tempted to consider legal actions!

        With that said here comes the proof:

        1) I created a FreeNAS package for pfSense back in 2006 [1]. As you may figure from the source file it DOES contain the original copyright statement of the FreeNAS author where it DOES NOT contain the function array_search_ex().
        2) If you go to the latest version [2] of the aforementioned file you may figure that it now contains the function array_search_ex(). Because I was the sole author working on the FreeNAS port it is most likely that I am the author of this function.
        3) If you go to the file functions.inc of OMV [3] you may figure that it is containing the same function including the same function signature and the same code comment as the one found in [2].
        4) Because both file names are the same (except the freenas prefix which I used), many other file names are having equal names to those found in FreeNAS and especially because the function comment, signature and contents is the same an assertion can be made that this file does originate from FreeNAS and now became part of the OMV source code repository.
        5) Because the copied file is now licensed under a GPL V3 license and the copyright now belongs to Volker Theile an assertion can be made that my original statement above and my supplementary statements below are all evaluation to true.
        6) Proof is given and holds true!

        Again I suggest to reconsider what you said so far cause it would be the best action to take in this situation. This was only one file which I instantly spotted and it is most likely that more findings could be found in this regard. My main concern or even complaint in this regards is, that authors of smaller open source projects are not well edjucated if it comes to license policies and avoiding license/ copyright infringements. This could be easily fixed if the author is willing to cooperate. From your response to my post I am tempted to assert that you are not willing to cooperate but instead you on your own take the easy way out which is attacking the person who expressed reasonable questions and related concerns.

        This reminds me about a past discussion we had together where I implemented re-branding support into pfSense and some days later it appeared in FreeNAS too without calling out that the idea and code originates from pfSense and copyright ownership markers were removed at this point in time too. I guess that habit is imanent in your very own personality which is fingerpointing, defamation without taking responsibility for your own actions.

        PS: I will post you the whole thread by mail including the references to [1], [2] and [3] by mail to and for your own reference.
        PPS: Everybody else interested in the references I called out above is encouraged to drop me a note at . I will provide both the references and a local copy uppon request.
        PPPS: The reason for not providing references upfront is that this blog seems to put posts in moderated state as soon as they contains URLs and I want this subject to be as transparent from the beginning without any delays.

        Cheers
        Daniel

        • Daniel,

          i was saying sorry soon after pressing the reply button after realizing that i was too stupid saying that. Sorry again.

          1) You’re right, i did a copyright breach here, but i’m sure that this is not done intended.
          2) What shall i do now, i have to say that i do not have any deeper knowledge about such issues. As you may see in the var/www/openmediavault/images/license.txt i am trying to respect copyrights. But as a little hobby developer i did not gave any deeper knowledge to GPL and such issues. Maybe you can help me here to make everything correct. As i see you are german, this will reduce language problems.
          3) See 1.
          4) Equal names does not introduce that they are taking over from FN
          6) You are right

          Volker

          • Daniel S. Haischt says:

            Volker,

            I accept your apologize in this matter!

            I suggest to put at least the copyright owner statements back in place where you are certain that you are using FreeNAS/pfSense/m0n0wall material. An alternative would be to get some kind of code grant from the original authors. But I am a legal layman too in this regards, thus my suggestions can’t be considered complete nor legally binding. I am as well not in a position to tell whether the GPL V3 is generally incompliant with BSD licensed code that has copyright ownership per author. A quick search on Stack Overflow indicates that this might be the case.

            I once tried to fork m0n0wall at the ASF and it didn’t work out cause the original author did not want transfer copyright ownership over to the ASF. I suspect you may face similar issues if you would go down that road.

            Additionally I noticed that the OMV UI is providing a license page but it only contains the OMV license. At the ASF we are at least providing a notices file per release that is containing each license for each software component that is used by a particular release. You may consider doing the same (i.e. trying to assemble such a notices file that could be downloaded through the OMV UI).

            There are code scan tool in support of scanning a given source code base for potential intelectual property issues (Apache RAT is one of them). You may consider scanning each subsequent OMV release candidate using such a tool prior to releasing it to the public.

            What you may as well consider is to put an acknowledgement statement somewhere on the OMV UI that indicates that OMV may be inspired by m0n0wall/pfSense/FreeNAS.

            I hope that helps!

            PS: If you need further advice I suggest having a beer. If I recap right we are both living in the Stuttgart area… at least I do.

            Cheers
            Daniel

          • I think i had to remove the code because this seems to be the easiest way. I will also check the complete code for copyright issues again.

            >At the ASF we are at least providing a notices file per release that is containing each
            >license for each software component that is used by a particular release.

            You mean that i have to include the BSD, Apache, Mozilla, … licenses?

            >PS: If you need further advice I suggest having a beer. If I recap right we are both living in
            >the Stuttgart area… at least I do.
            Sounds good, you’ve my phone number already.

            Volker
            Oben bleiben :-)

          • Code has been removed due the fact that all code contributions to the project need a OCA (contributor agreement) to avoid such troubles. Please see http://openmediavault.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/openmediavault?view=revision&revision=106

            Volker

  12. Daniel S. Haischt says:

    Additionally there is the legal concept of residuals which you will retain in your memory even if moving from one project to another based on the experience you gained and the code you contributed to past projects. So the question might be asked whether such residuals originating from an BSD-licensed project which has individual copyright owners per source code file would prevent one to do a almost equal GPL-licensed project because he would be tempted to reproduce the copyrighted material in one way or another because of the aforementioned residuals? The answer could be no, it doesn’t prevent one to start a new project in an almost equal domain if each copyright holder agreed to transfer his copyrights.

    Cheers
    Daniel

    • You are right here that ideas retain in memory, but OMV is now using techniques that are not used in FreeNAS, e.g. WebGUI based on AJAX/Javascript using ExtJS, RPC subsystem instead of plain HTML/PHP mixed WebGUI code. Finally let me say that i did not use any code from FreeNAS nor i did remove any copyright line (this statement is making me really really angry). Every code in OMV is done by myself, maybe sometimes based on knowlegde and experiences done during my time in FreeNAS, but then you can be sure this code was done by myself too. But if you deny reusing knowlegde in a open source software than i should delete all code because it also contains knowledge and experiences i did in my job/employer.

      • Daniel S. Haischt says:

        Again I am echoing what I have said before. I think the issue we face here can be generalized to a degree where it could be said that many smaller open source projects may face the very same legal license policy, copyright and intelectual property issues. Probably the reason for that is, that most open source project owners and leaders are legal layman in the first place.

        On the other hand bigger open source foundations such as the ASF or the Eclipse Foundation are offering legal assistance to reduce the probability of such legal issues.

        I guess for what I would like to vouch for is (a) legal education on a volunteer basis for open source project leaders and (b) for open source project leaders wo not only take risks but responsibility for their own actions. I guess the latter could be questioned by looking how this thread develops after I raised my questions and concerns.

        Cheers
        Daniel

        • You are right, as already posted im a novice about GPL and how to fullfill its requrements.

          >On the other hand bigger open source foundations such as the ASF or the Eclipse Foundation are offering legal assistance to reduce the probability of such legal issues.
          Sounds great, but i think there are some language borders and problems then. We are here at a point where it is necessary to fully understand everything due we are talking about copyright and laws. Is there any institution that i can contact in germany?
          As you may see in my previous post i am willing to clean all open questions, i do not want to get any troubles. This does not bring me and OMV forward.

  13. Daniel S. Haischt says:

    Concerning the OpenMediaVault Contributor Agreement it really has to be asked whether it’s legally binding. Espacially is it inline with German IP law? The form calls out that it has to be governed and executed by German jurisprudence. Additionally on the OMV website it reads that copyright ownership will be transfered to “The OpenMediaVault Project” but the form reads like it will be transfered to a single individual which is “Volker Theile”. A quick google concerning the PDF form unveils, that it is equal to the “Rich Hickey Contributor Agreement” [1], the “Instructure Contributor Agreement” [2], the “Path64 Contributor Agreement” [3] and so on. What’s different in the original agreements is the fact that they are all governed by US law and the legal entity to which copyright will be transfered is either a profit or not-for-profit organization. Finally it could be questiond whether an agreement for individuals is enough or whether an agreement for contributions made by companies would be required too. Nuf said!

    [1]: http://clojure.org/file/view/ca.pdf
    [2]: https://github.com/instructure/canvas-lms/wiki/ica.pdf
    [3]: http://www.path64.org/path64-contributor-agreement.html

    Cheers
    Daniel

    • I’m currently working on this to clarify all open issues and to harmonize the CA with german law.

    • Daniel,

      as you have noticed from my e-mail dated 15.01.2012 i’m already in contact with the person you have suggested. Please give me some time to clarify this issues, this can not be done in 5 minutes.

  14. Volker,

    I truly think Daniel is just angry that he is not good enough to come up with a product like OMV on his own and he is just trying to spoil your good work.

    License issues are tried within the country of infraction Mr. Haischt. Arguing residuals is just plain stupid and will not hold up in any court. Imagine all the lawsuits that would ensue if this were a true legal strategy? Apple, google, etc would have half the world sued by now as all of these huge companies rely on the inspiration and “residual memory” of their employees which can leave and begin their own projects at any time. Example: John Resig and JQUERY.

    Mr. Haischt probably wrote one line of code (that by now is not only deprecated, but quite useless and replaced by better methodologies) and now wants to act as if this one line of code drives the whole project. Stupid from any point of view. The whole open source community was started to SHARE our ideas and COLLABORATE amongst ourselves. Mr. Haischt you are completely missing the point and I think YOU and Raphaël Hertzogowe Volker an apology for being pushy and spiteful.

    I have tried OMV, FreeNAS, openfiler, and the offerings from turnkeylinux. OMV is the best by far and it runs in my production environment at many companies I have given consulting to.

    -MrLoopz

  15. Joey Hall says:

    Nerd Fight…..
    Cool Man……..

    I Concur Charles….

    Volker Is The Man……

    The Other Guy Is Simply Jealous……

    Keep Up The Good Work Volker…..

    By The Way. When You 2 Meet For That Drink….,
    Film That Fight & Put It On Youtube…..
    That Would Just Be Some Funny Stuff…..

  16. Daniel S. Haischt says:

    Hi,

    well everybody is jealous… each day… sometimes multiple times during a single day… sometimes it’s even a mix of feelings and you can’t distinguish whether you envy someone or something from the remainder of a complex of mixed feelings. So what? That’s how humans behave!

    In this case reducing the complete discussion to the root cause of just being jealous about someone else’s work is an over simplification. I suspect I made my points very clear which is that in smaller open source projects which are not part of a more or less controlled or regulated environment such as the Apache Software Foundation or the Eclipse Foundation, people are not used to legal issues such as those pointed out before or in the worst case they are completely ignorant about such constraints.

    Freedom in free software doesn’t equal to anarchism where everything is allowed. The contrary is the case. Freedom not only mandates freedom to somebody but it as well comes along with the duty to behave in a responsible and reasonable way while relying on such freedom.

    And that’s exectly what I criticized – free software doesn’t mean that you are allowed to take away someone else’s intelectual property and have it distributed as your own and this is what happened here and additionally in the past in the context of FreeNAS and probably even pfSense cause they owe some foundations from the very same source which is m0n0wall. Additionally free software doesn’t mean that you could mix different licensed code per se no matter what the license terms are. Instead some open source licenses are compliant with each other and some not.

    So what’s really missing in this context is instead of having a platform such as sourceforge where everybody could dump his own code belonging to a particular project there should as well be a free to use platform that provides intelectual property and legal education to open source project owners. I guess the talent to code on the one hand and the talent to understand the broader context in which your own project you are coding is embedded into are both equally important. And here in this very example the broader context was understanding legal restrictions to be able to adhere to them accordingly.

    Cheers
    Daniel S. Haischt