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The GPL and Qt collide again. At the Atlanta Linux Showcase, Debian developer Branden Robinson shared with us something that he discovered while checking out Corel's beta version of Corel Linux at their booth: Corel had developed a GUI packaging utility called get_it which linked against both libqt and libapt-pkg. libqt is the Qt development library and libapt-pkg is licensed under the GPL. Anyone remember the long furor over KDE due to licensing?
We did not mention the issue at the time, to give Branden an opportunity to notify the libapt-pkg author and maintainer Jason Gunthorpe and give him a chance to respond, as well as to notify Corel officially, since they were likely unaware of the problem. We are pleased to report, from conversations on the debian-legal mailing list and from reports back from Branden, that Debian and Corel have come to an amicable agreement: Jason will place a specific exception into the license for libapt-pkg to allow Corel to link against both it and the Qt library. Meanwhile, Corel has been sensitized to the potential side-effect of their choice to combine the Debian GNU/Linux base with the Qt development libraries.
Problem solved? Not exactly. This is a heads-up as to potential difficulties ahead as more and more commercial companies start developing using existing code bases licensed under the GPL. The *BSD camp is likely to point their fingers at the GPL as the cause of this. The GPL camp is just as likely to point their fingers at Qt, for choosing to work out their own license instead of the GPL. Qt's license for 2.0 has been declared to be open source and compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines, yes, but not compatible with code released under the GPL.
This is one reason why proliferation of licenses is bad. If the difficulties are hard to spot and avoid when dealing with the BSD license, the GPL and, in this case, the QPL, add the MPL, the ZPL, and every other license that each corporation feels impelled to create and the problem becomes more and more difficult. The results can be dealt with individually, with authors examining the intent of the people using code based on multiple licenses, when only two licenses are involved. If twenty different licenses become involved, or twenty different authors, the problems become monumentally difficult. Even worse, the licenses involved make look good at first glance but may contain clauses that make them anything but "free". A couple of recent examples might include Apple's initial version of APSL and Sun's SCSL.
Please think seriously before you create a unique license for your software product. Please use the GPL or the BSD style license if you can. If you don't like them, consider the Artistic license or the modified BSD style license. Whatever you choose will be better than the results of "rolling your own".
Age became an issue in this Wired article on Comdex. "Persons under the age of 18 (including infants in strollers and backpacks) are not permitted at this event and will not be allowed on the exhibit floor. " We saw a similar placard up at the Embedded Systems Conference last week. It strikes a jarring note, though, in the Linux community, where many creative and productive projects testify to the achievements of people young and old alike and most interactions happen in forums where you don't even know the age of the people to whom you speak. What happens when a meritocracy meets an autocracy? In this case, 17-year-old Mike Lavers, who also happens to be company founder and CTO for Matrixcubed Internet Services, was denied entrance to this year's Comdex.
Slashdot heard about it, of course, and garnered close to 300 comments, ranging from outrage about the restriction to comments on fears of lawsuits to general condemnation of the treatment of people under the age of 18 in the US. Not too surprisingly, the next Slashdot mention indicated that an exception had been made and Mike would be allowed to attend, according to an updated Wired article.
However, Comdex isn't changing its general policy. Anyone under the age of 18 is going to have to ask for an exception to the rule. That leaves a bad taste. If anyone wonders why teenagers turn to drugs and violence, ask them how much "freedom" they have to involve themselves in more creative projects that will bring them praise and recognition. Hopefully Linux-based conferences will refuse to buckle under to this industry trend and continue to hold their doors open to anyone not likely to be bored silly by the proceedings ...
Two more critical commercial applications come over: First, Allaire is expected to announce Monday the planned shipment of Cold Fusion 4.5 for Linux next month. Second, this press release from Lotus has buried in it, several paragraphs down, the notice of the imminent availability of Domino Release 5 for Linux.
Both announcements have been about a year in coming. In the case of Allaire, it was just over a year ago that they mentioned their plans to bring Cold Fusion to the Linux platform. Their user community has been waiting, not so patiently, since. In the case of Lotus, a year ago in this ZDNet UK story, Jeff Papows, president and CEO of IBM's Lotus development corp. stated, "... I just cannot say Linux offers a viable proposition...". Well, that was primarily in reference to Lotus Notes, not Domino, whose Linux port has been spoken of since January, but it was fun to point out. Now if we can get Framemaker and Quicken over ... seriously, open source software will eventually catch up with these commercial giants, but that doesn't change the fact that having good quality commercial software as an option, as soon as possible, will make life better in the short-term.
Slides from Liz's talk at ALS. A bit belatedly, the slides from Liz's talk at the Atlanta Linux Showcase, "Linux Distributions: Well-known through Unknown", have been made available. This talk has been updated from the original draft posted in November, with the addition of a few more slides and some corrections. Note, for those of you who don't like the GIF pages that Star Office produces, try clicking on "text" on the top menu to view the talk in text format. That makes it possible to drag off the URLs and also makes the speaker notes visible.
Next: Alternative Linux. Coming next week, November 1st, 2nd and 3rd, is Alternative Linux 1999 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tutorials, conference talks, Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond in the same room together ... just about any amusement you could ask for from a Linux conference. If any of you make it there, be sure to send a report and maybe some pictures!
Linux system admin training in November. Eklektix Inc., publisher of LWN, is offering a public version of its Linux System Administration course the second week in November. Some seats remain open in this course; now is your chance to learn about Linux administration from the people who bring you LWN. (End of word from our sponsor).
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October 28, 1999