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Version 2.0 of Troll Tech's Qt library will be released as open source. You can read their announcement for more information, including quotes from Eric Raymond, Linus Torvalds, and others endorsing the new license. What this means, in theory, is that the divisive desktop wars can end. KDE can be welcomed back into the free software fold, and we can all get on with making Linux better.

Real life, of course, is a bit more complicated, and there are a couple of issues here that merit some thought. One is that not everybody is happy with Troll's new license (see the "letters to the editor" section this week for an example). The license (the "QPL") looks something like the Mozilla license, but different. They allow the distribution of modified sources, but only in the form of a pristine source set accompanied by a patch file. Troll Tech may incorporate patches into future versions of their "Professional Edition" of Qt if they so choose. Straight and modified binaries may be distributed, but source must be available and redistribution can not be restricted.

In other words, it is not the GPL, but it is probably good enough. It does mean that linking KDE (which is GPL'd) with Qt is probably still legally questionable, but that is something the KDE people can easily fix if they want by tweaking their own license. The requirement to distribute as clean source and separate patches should not be a problem for most; Red Hat's and Debian's packaging systems already work that way anyway. So it appears that the KDE problem is truly fixed.

So what is the other issue? Morale among some GNOME developers has dropped considerably. Some are saying that there is no longer any reason to pursue GNOME development and are dropping out. See, as an example, this message posted to the GNOME mailing list today. GNOME, which yesterday was the great Linux desktop hope, today looks like just the number two development in this field.

We at LWN strongly encourage the GNOME developers to persevere. While the KDE problems certainly added some wind to GNOME's sails, it was never the real reason for the GNOME development. KDE, for all that it is clearly the best desktop that Linux has, looks an awful lot like so many other systems out there. GNOME was founded with a vision of doing things differently: tighter integration of applications through the CORBA bus, a more artistic and experimental look, choice of window managers, no dependence on any one company, etc. The fact that KDE will now sprout up on a lot more desktops does not change the value of that vision.

The competition between the two desktop projects has also clearly helped to push both forward.

GNOME is going to have to rethink its plans at this point. It would be nice to see more cooperation between GNOME and KDE, especially on complex applications like office suites. It might even be worthwhile to look at what a merger of the two projects would involve. But GNOME has not lost its reason to exist just because it now must share the free software high moral ground. GNOME has produced a lot of good software in a short time; we're looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Editor's update: we have gotten much feedback saying that the GNOME developers are not so demoralized as indicated here. It may well be that we have misinterpreted what we saw in the mailing lists. We still think that GNOME needs to continue...

Do you really know what is lurking on your Linux system? Access to source code does a lot to build confidence in the integrity of the applications we are running on our systems. Since the source is open, we know that there are no back doors or other nasties in there. Right? Bruce Perens is not so sure, and he has written this feature article to explain why.

Stable kernel 2.0.36 has been released at long last. This version of the 2.0 kernel, like the others over the past year, is largely a result of Alan Cox's efforts. One would hope that this would be the last of the 2.0 releases, but Alan has already been seen to murmur about a 2.0.37...

One of the additions in 2.0.36 is the traffic shaper - a simple network traffic limiter. Here at LWN Labs we have played with this facility for a while and written a report on what the traffic shaper is and how to make it work.

LWN is running off a new server with much better network connectivity; the bandwidth difficulties of recent times should be solved for a while. We are now hosted at NeTrack in, of course, Boulder, Colorado. Hopefully reading LWN will be a less tiresome process; the writing may not be any better, but at least you need not wait so long for it.

Thursday, November 26, is Thanksgiving in the U.S. LWN will be taking the holiday off, so there will be no weekly newsletter published next week. We will return as usual on December 3. The daily updates page will continue to be updated during this time.

We got the winners of the Linux Journal Editor's Choice Awards just before going to "press." Briefly, they are:

  • Product of the year: Netscape Communicator
  • Most desired port: Quark Xpress
  • Best new gadget: Schlumberger smart card
  • Best new hardware: Corel Netwinder
  • Best new application: Informix
  • Best business solution: Cisco Systems (print servers)
  • Best new book: Samba: Integrating Unix and Windows (John Blair)

November 19, 1998



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