Licensing Your Open Source Code

I received an email from a developer the other day, who had forked the repository for my “IIS Express Here” shell extension on GitHub. He had noticed there was no license information available in the project, so asked if I could either add a license, or give him written permission to adapt my code and share it to others (as is the spirit of GitHub and OSS).

To be honest, this wasn’t something I’d thought about before, and was a bit of an oversight on my part. I’d not really considered the need to add explicit licenses to my repositories. After all, the code is out there anyway – it’s open to use on GitHub, and I’ve often shared it on this blog… if someone wanted to copy the code, they could, right?

Unfortunately, this creates a grey-area, which some are naturally uncomfortable with. Can I use this code in something else? Can I modify it at all? Do I have to pay royalties if I do?

But licensing is hard, isn’t it? All the different types, with different caveats, liabilities, and legal mumbo-jumbo… well, yes, it can be hard. The good folks at GitHub have a solution: is attempting to demystify open source licenses so you can pick the right one for your project. More than this, when you create a new repository on GitHub, the site will ask if you want to add a template license during the initialisation process:


Coming back to the developer who emailed me – I mailed him back to let him know that IIS Express Here is now licensed under the MIT license. This fits best with how I see the code and projects I share on this blog (unless noted otherwise) – free for anyone else to use, but with no warranty, so if something goes wrong then I’m not liable and it’s not my responsibility to fix it. This license has also been added to Pseudonym. I haven’t got around to updating all of my repos with licenses, as I’m evaluating each one in turn, based on my goals and even whether the project is going to archived.

Interesting Links 2013-09-12

Does Anyone Write Pseudo-Code Any More?

Back in the mists of time, when I was in University 1, one of the very first principles we were taught was writing pseudo-code.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, pseudo-code is the practice of writing simple, “half code” down, (usually) on paper as a guide to help you work through a problem before even touching an IDE. The goal is to be as high-level as possible, and mostly language independent. It was a combination of plain english and the most basic of code – mostly simple conditionals, loops, etc. Occasionally you would write a function reference if you absolutely needed to. Something below is similar to how I remember being taught pseudo-code, but other examples can be found on the relevant Wikipedia page

I remember pseudo-code being incredibly useful at the time; problems became much simpler to think through, even as a complete novice programmer 2. I wrote pseudo-code for every new problem I had to code a solution to. Somewhere along the line though, I fell out of the habit. I would start in the IDE with a vague idea, then proceed to hack and refine (refactor) as I went along. Chipping away at a problem seems to give a greater sense of forward-momentum, so maybe that is why?

Occasionally I will still bust out the pencil and paper if I am really stuck, or thinking about the problem away from the computer, but these times are rare nowadays. It got me thinking that I don’t recall seeing anyone write pseudo-code in my entire professional career. Is it something we just learn at university and do not carry on into “the real world” as we become more experienced? Is it even taught any more?

Do you still write pseudo-code? Did you ever?

  1. Back when Turbo Pascal was being taught, and Java was yet to enter the curriculum. 
  2. I started my degree in computing with no prior academic experience with computers.  The little “programming” skills I had were writing simple “GOTO” loops on my Commodore 64, many years prior.