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Apple Donated $100-$249 to FreeBSD in 2021 (freebsdfoundation.org)
169 points by rhabarba on April 6, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

Matching your employees donations of time and money is a thing at many companies.

>for every hour an employee gives, or dollar they donate, Apple provides matching funds for both. In 2018, that added up to more than a quarter of a million hours volunteered and more than $125 million donated to organizations around the world.


Seems pretty likely since one of the other $100-249 donations was made by "LinkedIn Matching Gifts Program"

FWIW Apple is one of two Diamond Sponsors of the LLVM Foundation [1]. I'm not sure how much that is, but I'll bet it's a really big pile of money. LLVM foundation has public financials, IIRC, so it might not be hard to guess.

You could debate which open source communities that Apple should be supporting, but at least they're supporting some.

[1] https://foundation.llvm.org/docs/sponsors/

Apple is extremely cheap. I’m betting it’s an extremely small pile in comparison to other sponsors on the list.

Don’t forget they have a CFO running the company. CFOs don’t give anything away.

Cook was COO, not CFO.

I'm surprised at what seem like quite low corporate partnerships https://freebsdfoundation.org/our-donors/donors/?donationTyp... - the biggest partner being facebook with <50k? Given FreeBSD's ubiquity one might expect some company somewhere having more money for them. Well, they're clearly getting by just fine as well, but I am nonetheless surprised!

A lot of companies fund development directly, which one can see in the commit logs: Netflix, NetApp, Dell-EMC Isilon, Mellanox/Nvidia, Rubicon/Netgate, Yandex, iXsystems, etc. Facebook hired the guy who wrote jemalloc, which started in FreeBSD originally.

Doing a search for "Sponsored by" would give plenty of results over the years.

The Foundation helps with other things besides code, like infrastructure (though they hire developers too: emaste@ is doing a bunch of sponsored work given recent commits).

Linus remarked that you can see a pretty regular 9-5 pattern in the kernel commit logs quite a long time ago now

Yep, Apple has hired plenty of FreeBSD developers. Even Jordan K Hubbard worked at Apple!

>Even Jordan K Hubbard worked at Apple!

That was quite some time ago and he is now working in Nvidia. I am sure Apple has plenty of people working on open source for things like LLVM. I am just wondering if they have any on FreeBSD.

Yes, he's worked quite a few places.

I could ask him about nvidia but I'm pretty sure he couldn't actually tell me sadly.

That's just 2021- check back at 2020 and you'll find a couple more.

If anyone's curious, Apple also donated $250–$499 in 2020.

I tried to get a company I work for to contribute to a AWS account switcher plugin but they couldn't be arsed. It's a one-man operation and saves us easily weeks of time per year

Well, FreeBSD seems to be in dire need of some financial support to refurbish some of its process. The last near-miss with WireGuard should have raised a couple eyebrows

I wonder how much Apple has donated in in-kind contributions to FreeBSD in the form of its employees contributing to the upstream as a matter of course of working on Darwin.

Darwin is not a fork as such, its kernel is completely different. Perhaps some userland tool changes were contributed but I kinda doubt it

I"m sure it was matching funds for an employee donation.

It's classy how the foundation both thanked and shamed at the same time. The other donors can feel good that they donated more in proportion than Apple.

Would be pretty easy to donate more "in proportion" than apple, even if they donated a lot more. Their yearly revenue is like a million times more than mine. Mahbe that's not what you meant.

Are these corporation-decided donations, or matching donations for employee donations?

Almost certainly the latter

Can they do both, though?

Corporations are eligible for donations to non-profits, yes, in addition to matching employee contributions. But at less than $250 total donation, I have trouble believing it's anything other than a match.

And with a prepaid debit card one can enter any cardholder name and billing address. I wonder if, perhaps, this is how such a donation was made in Apple's name... with the intention of then talking about it here.

Which reminds me: I think I'll go make some donations in the name of Richard Stallman...

I think it's far more likely that Apple Inc. did actually donate between $100-249 as part of an employee gift-matching program. I'd be willing to bet one of those $100-249 donors works for them.

Please don't.

Donating in Theo De Raadt's name would be much funnier.

You joke, but now I'm curious what RMS thinks about the BSDs?

stallman.org ran on FreeBSD once, but OpenBSD is "not free enough", he said.


Stallman is also totally full of it since anything GPL is not actually free software. The BSD or MIT licenses are superior because you're then free to use the software as you wish, wheras with the GPL you're constrained in how you use it.

Freedom for the users. I am totally disinterested in the freedom of companies.

I as a user can't use GPL'ed software freely.

When was the last time you redistributed modified software as a user? You can benefit from free software without ever writing a line of code.

Not that long ago, its why I primarily use BSD/MIT/etc licensed software.

In what context? I currently struggle imaging a situation.

There is no obligation to upstream anything after all, you just gotta provide the code if someone asks... And why would you care as a user?

And you weren't happy giving out the source code? Even if you weren't charging money for this I'm struggling to be sympathetic

I could see it for things like electronics projects where the firmware gets modified as a form of configuration.

You might want to give out or sell customized devices, adapted to the specific user or deployment. The end user typically only wants the binary, so distributing the source is at best a good-faith-waste-of-time and at worst an opportunity to cause support problems.

The example I'm thinking of is keyboards running QMK firmware-- it's literally customized by editing a bunch of C and recompiling.

If you do this for your own personal consumption you aren't violating the GPL, and if you do this for other people all you have to do is give out the source code when asked.



What is stopping you from using GPL'ed software freely?

The license, I'm not a fan of violating licenses. I get that most people do it anyways, I'd just prefer not to.

What would you possibly do as a user that would run afoul of a a GPL license? It doesn't do anything unless you redistribute it

Its pretty obvious what I'd be doing.

GPL violations happen all the time but they rarely get caught.

> Its pretty obvious what I'd be doing.

It's really not. The GPL requirements, AFAIK, only come up if you're distributing binaries and refusing to give source to people when asked (or, in v3, if you stop people from building and running that code). The only situations I can think of where that would even come up are situations where you're no longer acting as a user. So humor me; what exactly could a user do to violate the GPL?

Not the GP and I agree that as a mere user you’d not easily violate the GPL. But even as a developer it’s less free than you seem to imply: the GPL actually requires more than just distributing the source: you must also license the modified or additional code under the GPL. If you create “derivative works” of GPL licensed software, you are not free to distribute your modified or new code under a more permissive (non-copyleft) license such as the BSD license.

Note that you can find whole textbooks on what constitutes “derivative works”, but in any case it’s much broader than just forking a library. Basically any software that integrates the GPL licensed code (other than integration by way of loosely couples interfaces communicating via other means) is a derivative work.

For example, when your enterprisy application bundles and uses a GPL library to generate PDF’s of some of its data, the enterprisy application as a whole typically becomes a derivative work, which means (11) you must distribute the source of the full application together with any binary distribution of the app and (2) that source must be licensed under GPL.

Yes, I'm well aware of the viral aspect; I was objecting specifically to the claim that a user could be restricted by the GPL.

Or give the ability to choose which PDF generator the program uses. The situation you give is completely reasonable from the perpective of what the GPL was designed to do

I think you might want to read the GPL to get a deeper understanding of how it applies. Its fairly easy to violate the GPL as a user.

We are now 3 comments deep into you claiming that users can violate the GPL, and repeatedly not explaining how they can do so when asked. Is it too much to ask for a specific example of how a user can violate the license on a piece of software using the GPL, rather than repeating the same insinuation without any substantiation?

I'm not sure it is for the vast majority of users? How do you violate the GPL by using git?

What about the license prevents you?

The fact that its not free, like the BSD/MIT/etc licenses.

I'm trying to understand your argument but you're not giving much clarification. I don't understand why you can't use GPL software freely.

The general gripe of such people is that copyleft prevents you from distributing custom changes to other entities without sharing the source. That one catch is "less free" than the utopia where anyone can take code without a stick making them contribute back to foster the ecosystem.

Exactly. GPL is not free software in the real sense of the word.

Both the BSD2 licenses and GPL licenses try to legally prevent the existence of something.

The BSD2 license tries to legally prevent the existence of the source code without the copyright notice preserved.

The GPL license tries to prevent (1) binary code distributed without matching, buildable source code (2) source code or binary code redistributed in combination with GPL-incompatible pieces, (3) ...

BSD argument: the fewer things whose existence a license tries to prevent, the freer it is.

GNU argument: existence of certain things impinges on freedom; if we curtail their existence, we increase freedom.

The only way in which the GNU argument rings true for me is that users of proprietary software unwittingly create a world in which people who would like to avoid proprietary software are effectively coerced into using it. The choice not to use it exists, but at the cost of being economically or socially disadvantaged in some way.

A software choice that doesn't affect anyone else is strictly personal, even if it is uninformed; it is itself an exercise in freedom. E.g. if someone makes a binary-only screensaver program for GNU/Linux that costs $5.99 (and contains no malware or anything of the source) the choice to use it is of no consequence. If someone likes that screensaver, it's their choice and their $5.99, and it doesn't affect anyone else even in the same household or organization.

I'm thinking a prepaid debit card and a donation to the FreeBSD Foundation, OpenBSD, and NetBSD might be able to get him to give his opinion. :-)

Joking aside, I'm pretty sure the GNU Manifesto already contains the polite version of his thoughts on the BSDs though.

To belle delphine

I just checked, no RMS donation.

I just donated, can't wait to have my name over Apple's lol.

Adobe $5-24.

haha, thanks. Didn't expect anything, beside private, that low.

Oath (Yahoo, Verizon, ..) $50-99...

I can understand that. I bet Yahoo is low on budget.

Righteous bucks!

Let's not forget it's coming from a company who gave us a $200 store credit for allowing us the privilege of beta testing their M1 silicon DTK for $500.

Even though people are saying this is a matching contribution scheme, I will say OK, lets go with that.

In 2018 -- 2020, no mention of Apple above 4999, so this is still a case of 'free labor' for Apple. Also IIRC Apple also took some userland from NetBSD, they got nothing from Apple.

So what does that say about Apple ? Microsoft gave above 10,000 last year to FreeBSD.

People already have an expectation companies won't give compensation for BSD licensed code, that the small donation was listed as Apple without context it was a personal donation match is what was shocking.

"Look! We contribute back!"

Why would they even bother donating that little :) even the admin processing and approval process is likely to cost more.

Perhaps it was not in money but some hardware that had to be declared as a donation for tax reasons?

Was this actual cash, or like an iTunes gift card or something?

I think people are missing the point of this post. Yes, it most likely is an employee matching contribution scheme at its source. But this is a literal trillion dollar company giving less than $250 to the operating system that they essentially based their whole software stack on.

Yes, at the end of the day Apple didn't do anything _wrong_ by using their software and making money off of it. It's just a little on the nose to be making a donation that small.

> It's just a little on the nose to be making a donation that small.

No good deed goes unpunished [0].

The irony is that if Apple hadn't given them a dime, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Instead, they did them give them (a little bit of) money and are now being criticised for it!


[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_good_deed_goes_unpunished

Apple has $ 195.57 billion cash reserves [1], are you seriously trying to say that them giving $250 is a good deed?

It's like driving by a homeless person in a stretch limo and giving them $0.10. It's an insult, not a donation.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/27/apple-q1-cash-hoard-heres-ho...

Apple donates $0, we say nothing.

Apple donates $250, out comes the torches and pitchforks.

We only care because money was given. $250 > $0, so on the whole, it is a good deed. In perspective, Apple having hundreds of billions available, does make the donation look like a slap in the face.

People very much complain in years Apple donates 0$.

Good to know! It seems when money is given the crowd is louder, however. But that could just be my perspective.

> Apple donates $0, we say nothing.

"We say nothing" does not imply "we are OK with it".

It might just be that people aren't thinking about this issue 24/7.

If a tree falls in the forest...

>Apple donates $0, we say nothing.

I definitely remember this being discussed on HN previously.

IIRC somebody even said that they were donating by hiring people who worked on BSD.

It's bad in the way that tipping 5 cents is worse than not tipping at all (in countries where tipping is not expected like most of Europe). It's a bit of an insult.

What? No it’s not. The important party here is the receiver of the money, not the giver. If an insanely rich person and a regular person both give a homeless person $250, in both cases that’s still probably a big deal for the homeless person. Could and should the rich person give more? Maybe, but I don’t think that should be the sole focus.

Would your opinion change in any way if it turned out the homeless person donated their kidney to the rich person a couple of years ago? It seems to me that the broader context matters here as well.

When someone donates a kidney, they lose the kidney. FBSD didn't lose anything when Apple adopted their freely available code.

Someone who uses your code is a potential contributor, either as a customer, licensee, or collaborator. It's a tragedy of the commons scenario, and one could argue that a different license or terms might've prevented FreeBSD from losing those contributors.

Eh, still, when someone donates a kidney, someone gets a kidney. You could say FBSD didn't lose anything, but surely Apple did get quite a bit?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but Apple is a company, not a charity. They shouldn't be held high moral standards. In this kidney-rich person scenario, if the homeless person donated(open source) the kidney without hoping for forced payment in any form, who is it to blame the rich person for not handing out money? They gave only a little sure, but they really really don't have the obligation to donate.

It is morally wrong, but morally wrong stuffs are not the reason to got pitchfork on them.

My view is that if they donate a huge lump sum of money, great! If they don't, fine by me too.

It’s not illegal to for rich kidney recipient to be a douche, but I can still call them out on it.

That’s all this is. No one is threatening legal action against Apple. Some of us are just remarking on how douchey they are in regards to open source. Many of us have done so in the past, and yes this small donation is bringing more attention to that.

I whole-heartedly agree on Apple being the douche here. But discussions should be treaded carefully to a constructive theme instead of another flame war. I still hold my opinion but I did see your point.

Edit: Your edit seems to align to my view. Ignore this comment

> This might be an unpopular opinion, but Apple is a company, not a charity. They shouldn't be held high moral standards

Reminds me of Charlie Stross' talk about predicting the future of sociopathic AI's by comparing them to corporations. I think it's a huge issue in modern society that we have these powerful entities treated on a similar footing to people, but that are expected not to have moral standards.

But the recipient of the $250 is not a homeless person, we're talking about the software foundation Apple staked their entire business on.

Universities receive larger endowments from ordinary college graduates with far less money to give.

It’s probably an employee match.

My previous employer matched contributions 1:1 and donated $500 to a local charity that provides kids with hot meals, homework help and a friendly environment out of trouble.

My employer at the time made a few billion dollars a year in profit. What would be an appropriate match? 10x my donation? 500x?

Maybe you should be angry at Apple employees for donating to causes that aren’t FreeBSD? Or maybe it would make sense to take it for what it is — an effort to encourage and support employee giving.

The point is it is not a bad deed.

It is not like Apple was making rounds marketing their contribution. Somebody had to spot this to report it.

Rather than criticize take a look at everybody else who did not give anything.

It's a better deed than giving $0. But it's a damned if you do, nobody would notice if you didn't kind of situation.

> The irony is that if Apple hadn't given them a dime, we wouldn't even be having this conversation

Apple's relationship with open-source software is a criticism that is brought up often. So, yes, we wouldn't be having this specific conversation had Apple not donated, but we've had, and will continue to have, very similar conversations and criticisms without donations.

Fair point. Still I wonder how the discussion went at Apple. "Let's be generous. Give 0.00000000001% of our revenues."

FreeBSD uses Apple's open sourced Clang compiler, which is licensed under a BSD style license.

It seems like the Karma is in balance here.

Is BSD generally actually "their software"—i.e., FreeBSD's software? I'd argue not. FreeBSD is merely one flavor of BSD.

Darwin's entire userland was basically a direct rip from FreeBSD, the networking stack as well. Which is fine, that's perfectly acceptable given the license, but it's generally considered good form to actually donate back to the project when you do that, especially when you're worth what Apple is.

All that is to say: claiming Apple just built on "generic BSD" isn't really fair or accurate.


Their userland is still majorly based on OSFMK, not FreeBSD - to the point where exactly that assumption recently bit me when trying to run program written for open source BSDs that assumed certain 1993-vintage userland stuff existed on every BSD-declaring system.

Darwin/XNU/macOS are not FreeBSD based, nor NetBSD based, nor OpenBSD based, even if in places it can take pieces of their code.

> Darwin/XNU/macOS are not FreeBSD based, nor NetBSD based, nor OpenBSD based, even if in places it can take pieces of their code.

Apple disagrees[1]:

> XNU is a hybrid kernel combining the Mach kernel developed at Carnegie Mellon University with components from FreeBSD

From Apple's kernel docs[2]:

> Darwin is based on proven technology from many sources. A large portion of this technology is derived from FreeBSD, a version of 4.4BSD that offers advanced networking, performance, security, and compatibility features.

XNU has a "personalities" concept, and the BSD personality is mostly just FreeBSD[2]:

> Above the Mach layer, the BSD layer provides “OS personality” APIs and services. The BSD layer is based on the BSD kernel, primarily FreeBSD.

Even the syscall interface is from FreeBSD. Here's a diagram of macOS architecture[3].

[1] https://github.com/apple/darwin-xnu

[2] https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/documentation/Da...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Diagram_of_Mac_OS_X_archi...

XNU borrows heavily from FreeBSD, in the past and in the present. Apple is very much using software whose copyright belongs to FreeBSD and its contributors specifically, so I think it would be appropriate to say that it is theirs.

Correct on all points.

Maybe I'm a little crazy, and maybe such thinking fully disqualifies me for ever being on a board of directors, or being a CEO: I'd love to see every...say, billion dollar + tech company slice off 0.1% of their profits and just spread that money around to the various free software projects that they depend on.

I thought the (current) macOS userland was from NetBSD, not FreeBSD?

No, NetBSD claim that (https://netbsd.org/gallery/products.html#darwin) but if it was ever true that was a long time ago. Apple synced up with the FreeBSD userland some time toward the end of the first decade of the millennium. They hired FreeBSD’s Jordan K Hubbard (jkh@) as their director of Unix engineering at the time.

They hired a bunch of FreeBSD secs around that time didn’t they?

I had read quite some years ago now that Apple made use of NetBSD as a starting point each time they needed to port to a new architecture (you know how they saying goes), but ultimately it's the FreeBSD userland and XNU kernel that remains... albeit very outdated userland these days - maybe that's why they don't donate much, they only have FreeBSD from >12 years ago. It's always a PITA giving bash scripts to mac users.

Still much more than Adobe.

Adobe derives code from BSD? Or has any working relation with BSD at all? Genuinely curious - hadn't heard the two ever mentioned together before.

I'm very curious, too - for some reason they donated $5 for the project.

As mentioned in all of the other comments any major company at < $5,000 is almost certainly a donation matching benefit program (bob donates $50 so bob's employer matches it with a $50 donation as well) or similar not e.g. Adobe/Apple going out of their way to donate to FreeBSD and deciding $5 was the right amount.

The reason Apple is pulled out is they are probably the heaviest user of the code in the world and being in the $100-$249 range means they (effectively) donated $0 not that they were the only company to do so.

Thanks, that makes sense.

What's preventing FreebBSD from modifying their license to say something like "the above license applies to all companies that had less than $150 billion cash on hand in the year 2020, and the following minimum donation requirements apply to other companies"?

They could say something like $2-$5 million minimum. Then sue the crap out of them when they try to get out of it.

Apple has used the code as it was licensed when they used it, and you can't retroactively make the license more strict.

You could license new FreeBSD code more strictly. And then Apple would decide whether it was worth $2-5M to get those new pieces of code.

And you'd alienate the entire BSD crowd because of this strange license term.

I did not suggest it would apply to the old code.

I think the reasonable response would be to acknowledge just how large the cash reserve is compared to what is being asked.

And not the ENTIRE BSD crowd. Because surely one or two of them would see the idea of getting a small amount from these extremely wealthy companies as being acceptable.

Avoiding the appearance (and reality) of obvious bad faith, (even extortionate?), non-open source licensing terms probably.

I'm sure for $2-$5 million per year Apple would rather just hire a few additional developers and never touch new FreeBSD source again than deal with those types of arrangements. As would a large portion of the developers and users - you don't pick BSD licensed projects because you liked restrictive licenses.

None of the individual users would need to worry because they did not have more than $150 billion in cash reserves in 2020.

I said "you don't pick BSD licensed projects because you liked restrictive licenses" not "you don't pick BSD licensed projects because you're excluded from restrictions on the license personally". FreeBSD literally made it's own form of permissive license, it's not in the ideology of those that work on it to make that non-permissive. If it were they'd work on literally any Unix kernel but the one that forged permissive licenses back in the day.

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