GPL Time-bomb an interesting approach to #FOSS licensing

UPDATES Following some feedback I am going to rename my usage of “Time-Bomb” due to potential negative connotation on the words. I am going to call it “Eventually Open”. Also a few other things need mentioning. I am not looking for code submissions back into the source at this time. This was a move to show that there are no back-doors in the code sending source code back to a master server.

About a week ago I released searchcode server under the fair source licence. From day one I had wanted to release it using some form of licence where the code was available but I wanted to lock it somewhat because frankly I do want to make some money out of my time investment. That’s not the whole story however. I did not want to create another “Look but don’t touch” situation forever and I certainly didn’t want searchcode to be constrained by a licence in the event that I die, lose interest or stop updating the code.

The result of this was that I have added what I am going to call a GPL Time-Bomb into into the licencing of searchcode server. Here is how it works. After a specified period of time the current version of searchcode server can be re-licensed under the GPL v3. This is a shifting date such that each new release extends its own time-bomb further into the future. However the older releases time is still fixed. The time-bomb for version 1.2.3 and 1.2.4 takes place on the 27th August 2019 at which point you can take the source using GPL 3.0. Assuming searchcode server 6.1.2 comes out at roughly the same time its time-bomb will be set to the 27th of August 2022 but the 1.2.3 release will be unaffected.

In short I have put a time limit of 3 years to make money out of the product and if I am unable it is turned over to the world to use as they see fit. Even better, assuming searchcode server becomes a successful product I will be forced to continually improve it and upgrade if I want to keep a for sale version without there being an equivalent FOSS version around (which in theory could be maintained by the community). In short everyone wins from this arrangement, and I am not forced to rely on a support model to pay the bills which frankly only works when you have a large sales team.

Here’s hoping this sort of licencing catches on as there are so many products out there that could benefit from it. If they take off the creators have an incentive to maintain and not milk their creation and those that become abandoned even up available for public use which I feel is a really fair way of licencing software.

Agree? Disagree? Email me or hit me up on twitter.

searchcode server under fair source

A very quick blog today. I have released searchcode server under the fair source licence. This means that as of a few days ago you can view the source, change it modify it and run it as you see fit so long as you have less than 5 users.

The source is hosted on github (I may move this to GitLab sometime in the future) and you can view it here.

So what does this mean? Well the community edition still exists (run searchcode with as many users as you want) as do the paid versions with support and all the full features. The real advantage however is that you can now vet the source code to ensure that searchcode server is not secretly sending your most valuable asset to some hidden server somewhere. In addition it means I can now talk about the source openly and will be writing some posts about how I ran into some CPU branching issues which slowed down some code.

Good news all around then. Be sure to check out the source and let me know what you think.

The Worst Individual I Ever Worked With

Taken from a comment I posted on HN in a thread about a Soccer Con Man.

Not actually a programmer. The guy was hired to be a project manager.

After joining things were as expected but after a few weeks we noticed that he was rarely around after lunch and never around after lunch on a Friday.

We would email him at those times deliberately to catch him out and I recall starting to put sticky notes on his laptop “Came to see you a X time”. He would come back and just dump all the notes in the rubbish and claim he never got them. He would often claim to be working from home, despite his laptop being on his desk and usually closed. He would also never responding during those times to email or IM.

A classic seagull manager he would appear when something went wrong, making a lot of noise, writing a lot of emails and then vanishing. He would also be sure to be seen when something was delivered often staying back late on those times.

It got so bad one friend of mine started tracking when he was around and then tracking when one of his relatives died. During his tenure the following incidents occurred,

– Hot water system blew up. 4 times. He had pictures which he would show all the time.

– Uncles, aunts, and various over family members died to the total of 20 individuals.

– Our time tracking him showed him to be in the office less than 15 hours a week on average.

We started to suspect he had a second job and was pulling the same con on them. This was never proved, but we did find someone who had worked with him previously and they reported the same behavior.

The worst thing was it was raised with management at least several dozen times and nothing ever happened. He managed to pull this scam off for 4 years. I could not believe the waste of money this guy was, literally $500,000 burnt on a useless individual.

Types of Testing in Software Engineering

There are many different types of testing which exist in software engineering. They should not be confused with the test levels, unit testing, integration testing, component interface testing, and system testing. However the different test levels may be used by each type as a way of checking for software quality.

The following are all different types of tests in software engineering.

: A/B testing is testing the comparison of two outputs where a single unit has changed. It is commonly used when trying to increase conversion rates for online websites. A real genius in this space is Patrick McKenzie and a few very worthwhile articles to read about it are How Stripe and AB Made me A Small Fortune and AB Testing

: Acceptance tests usually refer to tests performed by the customer. Also known as user acceptance testing or UAT. Smoke tests are considered an acceptance test.

: Accessibility tests are concerned with checking that the software is able to be used by those with vision, hearing or other impediments.

: Alpha testing consists of operational testing by potential users or an independent test team before the software is feature complete. It usually consists of an internal acceptance test before the software is released into beta testing.

: Beta testing follows alpha testing and is form of external user acceptance testing. Beta software is usually feature complete but with unknown bugs.

: Concurrent tests attempt to simulate the software in use under normal activity. The idea is to discover defects that occur in this situation that are unlikely to occur in other more granular tests.

: Conformance testing verifies that software conforms to specified standards. An example would checking a compiler or interpreter to see if it will work as expect against the language standards.

: Checks that software is compatible with other software on a system. Examples would be checking the Windows version, Java runtime version or that other software to be interfaced with have the appropriate API hooks.

: Destructive tests attempt to cause the software to fail. The idea being to check that software continues to work even with given unexpected conditions. Usually done through fuzzy testing and deliberately breaking subsystems such as the disk while the software is under test.

: Development testing is testing done by both the developer and tests during the development of the software. The idea is to prevent bugs during the development process and increase the quality of the software. Methodologies to do so include peer reviews, unit tests, code coverage and others.

: Functional tests generally consist of stories focussed around the users ability to perform actions or use cases checking if functionality works. An example would be “can the user save the document with changes”.

: Ensures that software is installed correctly and works as expected on a new piece of hardware or system. Commonly seen after software has been installed as a post check.

: Internationalisation tests check that localisation for other countries and cultures in the software is correct and inoffensive. Checks can include checking currency conversions, word range checks, font checks, timezone checks and the like.

Non functional
: Non functional tests test the parts of the software that are not covered by functional tests. These include things such as security or scalability which generally determine the quality of the product.

Performance / Load / Stress
: Performance load or stress testing is used to see how a system performance under certain high or low workload conditions. The idea is to see how the system performs under these conditions and can be used to measure scalability and resource usage.

: Regression tests are an extension of sanity checks which aim to ensure that previous defects which had a test written do not re-occur in a given software product.

: Realtime tests are to check systems which have specific timing constraints. For example trading systems or heart monitors. In these case real time tests are used.

Smoke / Sanity
: Smoke testing ensures that the software works for most of the functionality and can be considered a verification or acceptance test. Sanity testing determines if further testing is reasonable having checked a small set of functionality for flaws.

: Security testing concerned with testing that software protects against unauthorised access to confidential data.

: Usability tests are manual tests used to check that the user interface if any is understandable.

Syncing Stash/BitBucket with searchcode server

Recently it came up to perform a slight integration piece between a on premises Stash/BitBucket install and a searchcode server install. Thankfully both have an API and very thankfully there is a nice Python library for talking to Stash/BitBucket.

Below is the code used. It pulls out all of the repositories from every project, checks if it exists in searchcode and if not adds it as a repository to be indexed. You need to install stashy (pip install stashy) and run it whenever you have new repositories. One idea is to set it as a cron task and ensure everything is in sync.

Note that this does not remove repositories that have been indexed, but it would not take much work to achieve it.

import stashy
from hashlib import sha1
from hmac import new as hmac
import urllib2
import json
import urllib

def getstashrepos():
    stash = stashy.connect("https://mystashserver/", "STASH_USERNAME", "STASH_PASSWORD")

    projects = stash.projects.list()
    repos = [stash.projects[x['key']].repos.list() for x in projects]

    stashrepos = []

    for repo in repos:
        stashrepos = stashrepos + [{'name': x['project']['key'] + '-' + x['slug'],
                                    'cloneUrl': x['cloneUrl'],
                                    'browse': x['links']['self'][0]['href']} for x in repo]

    return stashrepos

def addtosearchcode(repo):
    reponame = repo['name']
    repourl = repo['cloneUrl']
    repotype = "git"
    repousername = "STASH_USERNAME"
    repopassword = "STASH_PASSWORD"
    reposource = repo['browse']
    repobranch = "master"

    message = "pub=%s&reponame=%s&repourl=%s&repotype=%s&repousername=%s&repopassword=%s&reposource=%s&repobranch=%s" % (

    sig = hmac(privatekey, message, sha1).hexdigest()

    url = "http://mysearchcodeserver/api/repo/add/?sig=%s&%s" % (urllib.quote_plus(sig), message)

    data = urllib2.urlopen(url)
    data =

    data = json.loads(data)
    print reponame, data['sucessful'], data['message']


message = "pub=%s" % (urllib.quote_plus(publickey))

sig = hmac(privatekey, message, sha1).hexdigest()
url = "http://mysearchcodeserver/api/repo/list/?sig=%s&%s" % (urllib.quote_plus(sig), message)

data = urllib2.urlopen(url)
data =

data = json.loads(data)
existingrepos = [x['name'] for x in data['repoResultList']]

for repo in getstashrepos():
    if repo['name'] not in existingrepos:

Python Fabric: Getting File from Host as String

When using fabric for deployments you will sometimes want check an existing file for the presence of a value before applying an update. A common example I run into is checking if an apt-source has already been added before adding it again. This is a little clunky in fabric, but thankfully you can write a simple helper which takes case of it for you.

def _get_remote(fileloc):
    '''Pulls back a file contents from connection as string'''
    from StringIO import StringIO

    fd = StringIO()
    get(fileloc, fd)
    content = fd.getvalue()
    return content

Usage is fairly simple. Say we want to install the latest version of Varnish Cache on an Ubuntu server. Usage like so works,

if ' trusty varnish-4.0' not in _get_remote('/etc/apt/sources.list.d/varnish-cache.list'):
    sudo('curl | sudo apt-key add -')
    sudo('''sudo sh -c 'echo "deb trusty varnish-4.0" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/varnish-cache.list' ''')
    sudo('apt-get -y update')

At this point you should be able to install the latest version of varnish with a simple apt-get.