[Linux-aus] Dell and the GPL

Adam Nielsen a.nielsen at shikadi.net
Wed Dec 1 18:43:05 EST 2010

Hi everyone,

I'm new to Linux Australia, having just had this organisation pointed 
out to me, so I hope this question is appropriate for this group of people.

At my workplace, we have just purchased a new Dell server.  It includes 
an "iDRAC 6" which is a tiny embedded system running Linux, used for 
accessing the system remotely (e.g. to power cycle it, access the 
console, etc.)

As the device runs Linux - perhaps even GNU/Linux with all the other 
included software - I would like to take advantage of the GPL and modify 
some of the GPLv3-licensed software on the device.

While Dell have released the source code for the device firmware[1], 
unfortunately that's all it is - source.  There is no way to compile a 
firmware image or otherwise get modified code transferred onto the device.

This means having access to the source is effectively useless - what 
good is being able to change the code if I can't then compile and run my 
changed version?  Very clever tactic on Dell's part to appear compliant 
with the license but prevent people from modifying their devices.

It is my understanding that the GPL (particularly v3) covers this 
situation and that Dell should be releasing a full build environment so 
a custom firmware can be built.  I have tried contacting Dell about this 
with limited success, and unofficially I have been told that unless it 
will boost sales figures they're not interested.

Unfortunately I am not sure what to do next.  I have approached the Free 
Software Foundation but they are overloaded with cases so they are 
unable to help.

Is there anything that can be done, or is it really possible for 
companies to just ignore the requirements of the GPL if they don't like 

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!


[1] http://opensource.dell.com (works in IE only, although I am told 
this is being worked on)

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