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Gaia resurrection //at 20:35 //by abe

from the popular-request-for-addiction dept.

On Thursday, 24th of November 2006 evening (about one and a half week ago) we got an anonymous Symlink submission about gaia 0.1.0, a simple, but free (GPL‘ed) client for Google Earth, solely based on reverse engineering. Liked the idea of a really free client for such a popular service, so I posted it as Symlink article (German) quite shortly after noticing the submisson.

Since it’s under GPL and uses only libraries already being in Debian (OpenGL, SCons, cURL, SDL, libjpeg, libpng, libgps and Doxygen), I really would like to see it in Debian. But since I have never programmed with most of them, I did not try to compile gaia but instead took the easy way for myself and filed an RFP bug for it in Debian.

The next day in office, Gürkan, a coworker of mine and currently in NM, told me that he tries to package gaia for Debian and that it doesn’t compile on Sarge. So I gave him access to my Sid chroot and asked him if he has read about the RFP at debian-devel or debian-wnpp. To my surprise he answered that he didn’t read about it on Debian lists at all but on Symlink and therefore didn’t knew about the RFP at all.

So I pointed him to the RFP just to notice, that it wasn’t an RFP anymore but already an ITP. Strangely I didn’t get any mail notice about this change although the retitling happend only shortly after the initial RFP… Of couse, Gürkan wasn’t very happy about this, since he planned to maintain gaia himself, but at least he provided his working proof of concept package for Sid to Jordà Polo who intends to maintain an official Debian package of gaia. We then also met Jordà on the #debian-games channel in OFTC. He told us, that he’ll check some more licensing issues before uploading a package of gaia.

Well, since I had a working gaia package installed in my Sid chroot, you can probably imagine what I did half the evening? Right: Surfing around the earth with gaia and visiting my favourite places on earth. While virtually visiting places here and there, I listened to Venty’s first podcasts and seem to have downloaded 444 MB of Google Earth images (at least according to du -sh ~/.gaia). Goddamned addiction! ;-)

During the night from Friday to Saturday, I got a mail that the RFP/ITP has been closed and that Jordà was right with his suspiciousness: Google has sent a cease and desist letter to the gaia developers and they removed the downloads from their site. (So how was that Google motto? “Don’t be evil”? Well, good joke! Yet again the monopolist clearly shows that it doesn’t really mean what it says.) Since the gaia developers were allowed to post the mail from Google on their website, you can read parts of it there. I really wonder what was written in the left out parts of the mails. Job offers? ;-)

But it’s interesting to see that until one week ago gaia 0.1.0 already made it into the FreeBSD ports as well as into the ArchLinux User Repository. Both noticed, too, that gaia version 0.1.0 has been withdrawn by the authors.

Today in the morning Gürkan noticed that there’s a new version (0.1.1) of gaia at SourceForge using free NASA WorldWind / OnEarth imagery. Although the imagery is far away from the detailedness of the Google Earth imagery, this has one big advantage: There wasn’t really a X port for the windows-only client from NASA until now. (No real wonder, since they use proprietary and operating specific libraries such as .NET and DirectX…) And now we have gaia, a free client for free imagery on free operating systems. That made my day!

I hope that this will revive the packaging of gaia, at least Gürkan has already built a new proof of concept package of 0.1.1 for Sid. (Today in the afternoon, they released 0.1.2.) And if everything goes fine and Dunc-Bank manages to delay Etch until gaia has been 10 days in Unstable without bugs, we’ll have it even in Etch. ;-)


Re: Gaia resurrection

Posted by: Stoffe
Time: Tue, 05 Dec 2006 20:21

The don't be evil part has already been thoroughly beaten to death all over the internet the last days, the short story is that Google aren't allowed to let others access the images, and were very polite about it at that. If you want to blame someone, blame the owners of those images or possibly some law or other. Feel free to dislike Google for actual reasons if you must.


Re: Gaia resurrection

Posted by: Felix
Time: Wed, 06 Dec 2006 09:28


I told you from the outset that the issue with gaia is a licensing question, not a question of bad will -- the agreements under which Google licenses the satellite pictures and aerial photography do not allow for redistribution outside of Google's services. The letter from Michael Jones makes this clear. Unless Google manages to secure full licensing rights to the pictures, they have a contractual obligation to prevent unlicensed uses of the data. Regardless of what your personal opinion of current copyright laws may be, this is a simple legal fact.

Furthermore, "cease and desist letter" does not mean what you think it means. Michael Jones' letter does not qualify as a cease and desist letter -- and if it was, it would be a very, very bad one. You may, for example, note the conspicuous absense of any legal threats against the authors of gaia in this letter. The words "cease" and "desist" don't even appear in the letter. Sorry, but Google has better lawyers than that.

So please stop spreading this kind of negative propaganda.


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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) at ETH Zurich.

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