[I apologize in advance for the length of this message---please consider it an indication of my sincere interest at helping make the Free Software Xara "experiment" a success.] On Thu, 15 Feb 2007 17:56:32 -0000, "Charles Moir" wrote: > I agree and have even suggested before now that Xtreme should be using > Cairo because come the day it's hardware accelerated, then it will > (should) out-perform CDraw anyway. In fact there's nothing at all to > stop anyone adapting Xara to using Cairo right now (any more than there > is stopping Inkscape using it - they are in the same boat really). I'm > sure Carl would certainly approve. I'd definitely approve, (if even just because I love people to write cairo-using applications so that they can find more of the bugs I've written into cairo so I can start getting rid of them). And Charles, thanks for having this discussion here. [I was beginning to be afraid that the entire Xara LX (or Xara Xtreme or whatever the (so-close-to!) Free Software thing is called) experiment had been determined to be a failure and it was being abandoned by those who had begun it.] Frankly, I'd love to see the experiment become wildly successful. I'd love to be able to point other companies at a successful transition of a program from being proprietary to being Free Software without any disaster occurring. As for the current state of the experiment, it is quite obvious that the project has not yet successfully attracted a lot of development effort from "the community", (I'm going to use the phrase "the community" for simplicity---as if it could be described as a single, consistent entity rather than thousands of individuals with inconsistent opinions). There are likely many factors that contribute to the lack of success so far, and for any given potential developer the answer to "why aren't you involved with Xara Xtreme" could be different. Speaking for myself, the license arrangement with CDraw is definitely the most significant factor that's prevented me from being involved more. After that come other things like the fact that I'm really busy and I'm not sure how much time I'd have even if the CDraw licensing were resolved. So, if you're honestly asking if the CDraw license could have any effect on a developer's decision not to contribute to Xara Xtreme, I can at least point to myself as an existence proof that it can and does. I can't say what the copyright holders should do, (it's their code and their decision to make), but here is a random collection of thoughts from me on various issues that have been raised recently, (please pardon me for replying in just one message rather than following up at 4 or 5 different points): * As is, Xara cannot be included as part of any distribution that consists of only Free Software, (this includes, for example Fedora and Debian, (ignoring the non-free repository that is officially not "part of" Debian). My interest as a member of the free software community is to improve the software that "belongs to" that community. And for me, that set of software is defined by the distributions I use, (which are Fedora and Debian). * The licensing situation prevents me from being a proponent for people to do development on Xara Xtreme. I've mentioned before that I think that getting software into the distributions is a key part of "advertising" the software to the development community. Without this, the reason some developers aren't contributing might be as simple as they've never heard of it. So, who's out there telling them about it? Imagine the following conversation that could take place between a proponent of Xara Xtreme and a potential developer: Proponent: You should help improve the Xara Xtreme software---it's free software now. Potential developer: Oh? Cool.... hmm... "apt-cache show xara" isn't showing me anything. Proponent: Yeah, it's not included in Debian yet. Potential developer: Why's that? Proponent: Well, it's mostly free software (GPL even!), but there's this one part that's not, so there's a GPL exception to allow you to link with it. They've said they intend to release it's source at one point, but we don't know if that will ever happen, and as companies change hands, we really can't predict what will happen, but really, you should go work on it. Maybe that looks far-fetched or silly, but it's real enough to me that I haven't been putting myself in that role as a proponent. * As is, Xara can only be used on the platforms for which a CDraw binary is made available, (Linux on ppc, x86, or x86_64 if I'm not mistaken). * A comparison was made to Adobe's products for viewing PDF and Flash files. I don't think this is a positive comparison for Xara. Adobe is definitely not a part of the community in any interesting way. The products described here are distributed solely as proprietary software, and the community has been investing tremendous amounts of effort to write Free Software equivalents, (see evince/poppler for PDF; swfdec and gnash for Flash). If Xara wants to follow Adobe's model here, it could certainly do so, but it would appear to be a complete failure of how I view the experiment. And again, I'd love to be able to say to Adobe, "Look, Xara released their money-making application under the GPL and no disaster happened. Why don't you release the source for your Flash player for which you're already giving away binaries at no cost anyway." * The current binary-only distribution limits the architectures under which the software is available. There was some discussion of "use anywhere". I had understood the original poster to mean that code could be compiled for any desired architecture, (not that there was a desire to slice the program up and put pieces into some competing product). As is, the program can only be used on three architectures, (ppc, x86, and x86_64), against which Xara has done the work to compile and test. But distributions like Debian have official support for more than triple the number of architectures and even more that are experimental: http://www.us.debian.org/ports/ Now, from a product-marketing point-of-view these "other" architecture might appear so miniscule has to be easily ignored. But the universality of Free Software is precisely what makes it appealing to many. So software the prevents migration and porting to any architecture of choice is automatically uninteresting to many. * "CDraw is valuable as a secret and we don't want any other software to benefit from it except for Xara" I can't really comment too much on that. It's your call. But I would expect the GPL to give the same protection to CDraw that it gives to the value in the rest of Xara Xtreme. * "Use of CDraw should be replaced by use of cairo" Doesn't this undercut the "CDraw is valuable" argument to some extent? * "Use of CDraw could be replaced with use of cairo easily enough by the community" I don't know about the "easy" aspect of this. I don't think I've seen any documentation on CDraw's interface. And all of this thread doesn't give me the impression that Xara folks would be that interested in doing lots of extra work to help with the port anyway, (if it's perceived as subverting the 'secret sauce' aspects of CDraw). Even then, "we can code around the binary blob if we're forced to" isn't a great basis for a Free Software project. If that's really the plan, that should probably be done first. But it doesn't look like a very exciting job to me, (as compared with, say, just hacking on inkscape). As for Xara/cairo integration, a more interesting thing to start with might be PDF export. A similar route is happening with inkscape now, (that is, there's code for cairo-based PDF export from inkscape before there's any code to actually draw the primary interface with cairo). And speaking of inkscape... * "Why does inkscape get all the community love?" I think inkscape's got a few things going in its favor: 1. It's in all the distributions 2. There's no binary blob in it 3. There's no uncertainty due to "corporate ownership" I think there's plenty of opportunity and room for Xara Xtreme to follow what inkscape is doing quite well already. Points 1 and 2 are solvable, (at least in theory). And I don't think point 3 is an insurmountable obstacle. The GPL is a great equalizer and has allowed dozens of corporate interests to collaborate quite readily with the community. And finally, I like to think that the Free Software community only grows. I don't think there's any need to imagine that one of inkscape or Xara Xtreme needs to "win" and the expense of the other's "loss". * On trust When I first read libs/LIBS-LICENSE I saw: TEMPORARY LICENSE FOR CDRAW --------------------------- This license applies ONLY to the "CDraw" libraries ("Libraries") distributed in the "libs" directory. Xara intends to release these under the same license as the remainder of the Xara LX program, at which time this header will be changed to indicate that. However, for the time being, the Libraries are distributed in binary form only, and you may use them only under the terms of this license. Since then I haven't seen further indication of a change in the license. I did get the picture that the delay was set for "until we see substantial involvement from the community", but that stance might very well be forcing a stalemate that hasn't broken in the last year. I did speak with Charles and others involved with the project quite a bit at LGM last year, (any Xara folks coming to LGM again this year?), and I did feel they were all very sincere. But have corporate changes now made execution of the original intent impossible? If so, were community members that adopted a "wait and see" attitude proven correct? -Carl PS. Again, I'm not trying to say what the copyright holders should do with their code. It's their right to do what they will with it, and I'm in no position to make demands, nor does Xara owe any obligation to me. I've also never been in the position of relying on a proprietary application for my paycheck and then considered releasing that application as Free Software, (though I have been relying on Free Software to get a paycheck for years now). I'm just trying to answer the questions asked to the best of my ability given my experience in the Free Software community. But please do understand that the community does not generally "give back" if it feels it hasn't been "given to" in the first place, (and again, please pardon my over-simplified personification of the community).
Description: PGP signature