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FreeDesktop.org Window Manager Spec 1.0 released. FreeDesktop.org has announced the release of version 1.0 of the Extended Window Manager Hints Specification. This spec describes how the window manager interoperates with graphical applications; it is essentially an extension of the venerable ICCCM (Inter-Client Communication Conventions Manual).
The actual contents of this specification are pretty dry. Have a look if you're fascinated on how virtual desktops should best be implemented, or if you have a burning need to know how shading is handled. Most of our readers, we suspect, have little interest in the details of how these things work, as long as they work well.
What makes this specification interesting is that it was developed jointly by the GNOME and KDE projects. Both the kwin and sawfish window managers implement the conventions in this specification. We have moved one step closer toward cooperation and interoperability between the two primary Linux desktop projects.
A few more developments like this one and even the most sensationalist media outlets will have a hard time continuing to beat the drums of "holy war." There is no war, just two projects that are trying to make the best desktop they can in their own ways. There will be many times when cooperation is the best way forward, and, at least some of those times, that is what will happen. This is how the two projects will deal with each other; "holy war" has nothing to do with it.
Biting off small pieces of the open source space. Some announcements this week show that the Linux business community is more active than ever. There are a few interesting business models being tried out; sooner or later the best ways of making an open source business work will be worked out. Meanwhile, it is worthwhile to look at what some companies are up to.
The original Linux businesses tended to be based around distribution building; they had names like Yggdrasil, Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, and Pacific HiTech, WGS. Somebody still tries to get into that business occasionally, but it's a hard place to get started in this stage of the game. What we are seeing instead is businesses that carve out a smaller piece of the free software landscape and attempt to sell services around that. Many examples exist: Sendmail Inc. (sendmail), Gnumatic (gnucash), Helix Code (GNOME), theKompany.com (KDE tools), and many others, including Cygnus (development tools), which may well be the first company to have operated in this arena.
A couple of relatively new companies made their moves this week. One is Great Bridge. This company's turf is the PostgreSQL relational database management system. Great Bridge has gone about hiring PostgreSQL hackers, including three of the six members of the "Global Steering Committee." This week Great Bridge announced the availability of its commercial, boxed version of the database. But the company's real hopes are clearly based around its service offerings, which include support contracts, developer services, consulting, and training.
Great Bridge (and PostgreSQL) are not without competition, however. NuSphere also chose this week to announce its own set of products and services, all based around MySQL. These include, yes, a boxed version of the MySQL database, developer support, consulting, and training. NuSphere's offerings appear to be aimed at a more price-sensitive market than Great Bridge's, but the idea is the same.
Great Bridge and NuSphere might just be onto something. The commercial database market is dominated by large systems with even larger price tags. If PostgreSQL and MySQL can prove themselves capable of playing in that league, they may find no end of willing buyers. That is a big "if," though. Companies tend to be conservative about their database systems.
Also this week, CodeWeavers put out an announcement of the "Preview Edition" of CodeWeavers Wine. Wine, of course, is the long-awaited utility that allows Windows applications to run on Linux. CodeWeavers, too, has been out snarfing up hackers; its team includes Alexandre Julliard and a number of other prominent Wine developers. Like Great Bridge, CodeWeavers sees Wine as the vehicle which will carry it to success.
There will doubtless be a "Wine in a box" offering once the 1.0 release is out. But, again, the real emphasis appears to be on services. CodeWeavers offers training, support, development and porting services, and even marketing. The intended customer base is not people who want to run Wine; instead, CodeWeavers is going after software companies that have a product they would like to sell to Linux users. For these customers, the available services go from basic consulting through to the "Caribbean Option":
You provide us with all of the materials we need to build your product for Linux and retire to a Caribbean Island. We evaluate the product and create a certified Linux native version. Through our partnerships, we can even arrange product sales and support. A few months later, we mail the checks to the Caribbean island you've retired on!
If the next wave of Linux users hits as expected, there's likely to be a great many companies with products to port, quickly, to Linux. CodeWeavers could find itself busy.
An entirely different approach could be characterized as "invest a great deal of money and make some high-profile sales demonstrating that you are a total Linux solution provider." Along those lines, see this week's Linux in Business page for coverage of IBM's latest moves.
Interview: Eric S. Raymond. Maya Tamiya, creator of the Japanese Linux site ChangeLog.net, recently had an opportunity to interview Eric Raymond while he was at the Linux Conference 2000 Fall in Kyoto. Maya has now graciously provided the English version of the interview to LWN as a feature article. Have a look for a far-ranging discussion on events in the Linux world, software patents, Linux on the desktop, Linux stocks, running an open source project, and more.
(Note that this feature contains a lot of pictures of Eric. For those with slow connections or a lack of interest in the photography, there is a low-image version available).
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December 14, 2000