Richi Jennings

Apple drinks from the CUPS (and giant Iraqi badgers)

July 12, 2007 11:59 PM EDT
Already it's Friday's IT Blogwatch: in which Apple buys out CUPS and its creator. Not to mention giant, man-eating badgers in Iraq (it's all the fault of those darn Brits)...

Michael R. Sweet sugars it up
In February of 2007, Apple Inc. acquired ownership the CUPS source code and hired me ... the creator of CUPS. CUPS will still be released under the existing GPL2/LGPL2 licensing terms, and I will continue to develop and support CUPS at Apple.
Answers to questions about the change of ownership can be found on the [FAQ]. [read more]
Erica Sadun decodes:
Big UNIX news this morning. Apple has bought out CUPS, the common UNIX printing system. The name may not sound familiar, but it's part of every Mac OS X installation. CUPS implements a cross-platform printing system based on the Internet Printing Protocol and is, according to its web page, the defacto standard printing system for Linux. Until now, CUPS has been distributed by Easy Software Products under the GNU general public license. Although the purchase was announced today, it seems the actual deal went down this past February. In addition to acquiring the CUPS source code ownership, Apple has also hired Michael R. Sweet, its creator. CUPS will retain its GNU GPL2/LGPL2 licensing terms and Sweet intends to continue maintaining and supporting the product. [read more]
Patrick Havens muses:
This is interesting, and a smart idea for Apple. By taking a system that is compatible with an extremely large number of systems and making it part of MacOSX, Apple has made OSX out of the box more compatible with printers then Windows.
With it you can print to just about any printer you can imagine… no need to “install drivers” in most cases.  Plus since OSX is actually BSD Unix based, it isn’t much work to have it working with OSX. I think the main reason Apple bought it was that this way he can be paid to focus on some Apple products, and making it work really well under OSX. [read more]
Oi! Dan Moren! I do the lousy puns:
Apple’s CUPS runneth over ... though you might not even know of its existence, if you’ve ever printed something out you’ve probably benefited from it ... Theories in the community range from the suspicious (Apple bought it up so it could somehow make it proprietary) to the more trusting (Apple wants more direct control in the implementation of features). Either way, it seems like Apple is intent on doing some more work with printing. [read more]
Dave Markowitz isn't exactly a fan:
It's worked well on OS X in my experience. When I've used CUPS on Linux my experience hasn't been so good. Depending upon the printer, it either works or it doesn't, or it may work for awhile then not work, for no apparent reason. I'm hoping that Apple's purchase will improve CUPS's utility. [read more]
Todd Fraser growls:
Apple did a hostile takeover of CUPS. In general apple paid for the primary developer to give up his rights to the code and sell it to Apple Computer. As he was the primary developer he had rights to license his code it in multiple ways as he saw fit. So with Apple buying it allows them to RMS Proof the GPL Code to insure that CUPS can have a license that works with Apple. So right now apple decided to keep it GPL2/LGPL2 but if they like they could take out the bits from the other programmers if they don't agree and make their own version under a different license if it Apple likes to. Where without the purchase the Application may have been swapped to GPL3 which may not be compatible with Apple's Business. So apple bought the rights from the Primary Developers so they own rights to the large parts of the code. It too companies a long time to even consider GPL code with the threat of GPL3 companies are back tracking and going more priority. [read more]
But AKAImBatman disagrees:
Actually, the primary developer does not have that right. The reason why CUPS has that right is because they required that the copyright to code modifications be transferred to Easy Software Products before the modification will be accepted into the main branch. [read more]
And Jimicus feel prescient:
A few days ago, I said that the only way to successfully fork a large, complex project (which you may well wish to do if you don't like a license change) is to hire a developer who's important to it.

Sounds like this is exactly what Apple's done. GPLv3 has a few clauses in there that Apple probably don't much like (eg. the patents bit) and they probably don't much fancy reinventing the printing wheel - the risk of CUPS going GPLv3 versus the cost of just buying ESP outright is probably well worth it. [read more]
Buffer overflow:
Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch
And finally... Giant badgers terrorize Iraqi port city
Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at