Tuesday, 23 January 2007

shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

As my regular readers know, I am actually only a part-time poker player. I have a day job in the Open Source and Free Software field.

Anyway, I just noticed that Sunday night, my worlds collided again, as they do on occasion. Robert Boyd announced that the Pokerspot source code has been released.

Those who weren't around for the extreme early days of online poker (when all we had was PlanetPoker, where I refused to play; I didn't start playing myself until Pokerroom came along and made a client that ran on GNU/Linux). Back in those days, Robert Boyd, along with his brother (the now ESPN.famous Dutch Boyd) called PokerSpot. Their site failed due to payment processors going bankrupt, leading to cashflow problems, panic, and a scenario akin to a bank collapse.

There's more history than that, and some people claim Robert and Dutch stole money. What really happened is their business failed, like so many others, and they couldn't pay their creditors, which included in part the “bankroll investors” in their site. This doesn't upset me much, and wouldn't even if I'd lost money myself, because there are serious risks in putting your money into anything (including your mattress — after all, the currency could always suffer mass-inflation now that the gold standard only exists in history books). Of the risky places to put your money, poker sites have always been one of the most dangerous.

That aside, I'm glad that Robert did the right thing with the source code, even if it is only marginally useful. Companies that fail should always do this with their software. Otherwise, it sits and bit-rots on hard drives in warehouses. I'd like to see someone use the software to study the code base to look for errors and mistakes that could have caused games to be run incorrectly. It would be a useful service to the industry and of historical interest in considering the questions of how likely it was that software problems caused any incorrect game play in the early days of online poker.

However, we have another hoop to jump through before that can happen. Those of you that know something about Open Source and Free Software will notice that Robert did not actually DTRT here, because he failed to put a proper license notice on the software indicating what license it is under. I've written to Robert and explained this to him and encouraged him to put the GPL on it. Update: Robert decided to license the software under a GPL-compatible license (a modified BSD) and has updated the SVN repository with the licensing information.

(My clueful readers will note that since the server code clearly includes Poker Source, that it would be a GPL violation for Robert to release the rest of the server software under a GPL-incompatible license. You'd of course be right, but it's much better if we get clarity from Robert on the front end on his own accord. Ok, everyone, now you know how boring my day job is and why I don't keep a journal about it. :)

I should, since I'm talking about Open Source and Free Software online poker, put in a strong plug, as always, for my great friends over at Mekensleep who are the authors of Pok3d. I haven't played their site yet because it's a 3D only client and I don't have a machine to run it on (I use only laptops and extremely old server hardware in my personal life), although they're working on a mundane 2D client like we're used to on other sites. Of course, I can't buy in now either because I live in the USA. But, I encourage my non-USA readers with 3D-capable hardware to give it a go!

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