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The Qt licensing change continues to make waves. Here are a few developments in this area that are worthy of note.
  • The front-page article in our November 19 issue drew a great number of responses, almost all of which were critical. Much of that criticism was aimed at our description of the effect of the Qt licensing change on the morale of the GNOME developers, which was overstated. Those of you who have not seen the followup posting that we put into the daily updates page may want to have a look. (Folks interested in GNOME may also want to check out this interview with Bob Young, Marc Ewing, and Michael Fulbright in LinuxToday and this article in the December Linux Gazette by Miguel de Icaza).

  • KDE developers, too, were unhappy with our article. In fact, nobody seems to have liked it. A small subset of the responses we got appear in the letters to the editor section this week.

  • GNOME may be continuing as always, but the Harmony project, which seeks to produce a free version of the Qt toolkit, has been torn apart. Some of the prominent developers of Harmony have decided not to continue with the project, preferring instead to concentrate on producing patches for Qt. They originally wanted to take the "Harmony" name with them, but, after some rather unharmonious discussion, they have agreed not to do that.

    Those who are leaving the Harmony project cite a number of reasons for doing so. These include the feeling that Harmony is now unnecessary given the new Qt licensing, which they see as being good enough; and the desire to not to show disrespect to Troll Tech, which, some feel, has bent quite a bit to answer the free software community concerns. There is also a fear of being sued by Troll Tech; this fear has led at least one of the departing developers to ask that the code he has contributed be removed from the Harmony code base. Harmony developer Joel Dillon has nicely written up his reasons for ceasing work on Harmony.

    The fear of lawsuits was not necessarily helped by this posting by the president of Troll Tech to the Harmony mailing list, wherein he says "...I cannot guarantee that we will never sue the Harmony project." (This, BTW, is just part of a longer message which tries to explain Troll Tech's history and motivations in general).

    Richard Stallman, meanwhile, has chimed in with a very brief note expressing his support for Harmony. See also his take on the new Qt license, which could be described as "grudging acceptance."

  • There is also a petition out there for those who would like to ask Troll Tech to change the QPL to address the outstanding concerns before the final version is released.

The conclusion that can be drawn from all this, unfortunately, is that the desktop wars are not yet over. Opinions remain strong on all sides, and compromise seems unlikely. One can only hope that this division settles into a healthy competition before too long.

Principia and Bobo become ... Zope

As we mentioned in a lead-in on our daily page, Digital Creations has moved ahead with their plans to open up the source code for Principia, an object-based web development platform, and integrate it with Bobo, a popular open source web toolkit also developed by Digital Creations. In fact, they've gone even further and dropped their Aqueduct relational database integration product in as well. The result is a new product, the Z Object Publishing Environment, to be known as "Zope" for short. Zope now has all the elements it needs to be positioned as the free, open source alternative to many popular commercial web development packages. You can find more out about Zope at the Zope website, which may or may not be on-line by the time we publish. In addition, the first beta release of Zope will be officially announced tomorrow, December 4th.

As we learned more about the process by which Digital Creations decided to take their primary products open source, we were intrigued by the impact of venture capital funds upon this decision. To find out more about that, check out this week's feature article, The Road to Open Source: Venture Capitalism? . We feel this story is an example as to why open source just makes good business sense.

Who owns "Open Source"?

The Linux world appears to have a bit of a mess on its hands, due to competing claims of ownership of "open source."

In one corner we have Eric Raymond, Bruce Perens, and others. They recently put out an announcement of the founding of the "Open Source Initiative" as a California non-profit corporation. OSI's charter includes the management and defense of the "open source" trademark.

In response, Software in the Public Interest(SPI) posted this message in which they assert their ownership of the trademark.

The positions seem to be strongly polarized, and the truth of the situation is not immediately evident. Certainly, according to this entry at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office the (pending) Open Source trademark is owned by SPI. Bruce Perens claims that he, acting then as president of SPI, transferred the trademark to Eric Raymond on March 20, 1998. He says that the paperwork has been sent to the USPTO and the change will eventually show up in their database. Thus, Eric and OSI claim the legal right to the trademark and the ability to control how it is used. In response to a query, Eric sent us this messagereaffirming that point.

SPI's claim is that Bruce transferred the trademark without authorization from the SPI board of directors, and thus the transfer is not valid. (It is worth pointing out that the SPI board, at that time, was made up mostly of people who are now members of the OSI. One could conceivably conclude that the March 1998 board would have been in favor of this transfer. On the other hand, it appears that the USPTO was not notified of the transfer of the trademark while the current OSI members were on the SPI board).

SPI's position is that any moves regarding the trademark should only happen after extensive consultation with the Linux community. They have set up a mailbox at opensource-consult@spi-inc.org and are asking that people send their opinions on the matter. The response period is long - through the end of the calendar year. Note that responses will be made public unless the responder requests otherwise.

It would be unfortunate if this dispute were to end up in the courts. An ugly battle will not reflect well on free software in general. It could also permanently tarnish the image of the "open source" term; in the end the victor could find that they battled for something which no longer has value.

Wedding pictures! Nina Miller sent us a pointer to a page full of pictures of her and David's wedding. David Miller in a tux...

December 3, 1998



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