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.comment: Peace in Our Time? - page 2

Weird and Confusing Events

  • September 6, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The peculiar and ambiguous events of the day were temporarily swept aside late yesterday afternoon when I was party to very pleasant phone interviews with Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman of Helix Code, which hopes to become a successful business by providing value-added services for Gnome users. (A news story on what they had to say about their project will appear here soon.) And while they did not, of course, endorse KDE, the sense I came away with was that there's no fundamental dislike of the rival project. In fact, Miguel says he regrets some of the highly publicized things he's said in the past about KDE.

"I wouldn't say that there are any hard feelings," he said. "There has always been a competition factor; I personally made a couple of mistakes a few years ago, but all in all, I think we have very good relations with the KDE people. There are some very nice people working with KDE, for instance Kalle Dalheimer, a great guy. I haven't had a lot of contact with most of the KDE team, but the ones I've spoken to are pretty nice people."

"What really matters is the users, the developers, the code," said Nat. "Of course, the license is important. I think what matters is what actually happens, and not what the big guns are saying at any given point.

"To me there's no Gnome-KDE war to speak of. This is not a Larry Ellison-Bill Gates thing."

But there does seem to have been a war of press releases.

"I don't think the Gnome project has done anything like that," Nat said. "If Richard Stallman does that, well, that's his choice."

What about the new Qt license?

"I'm very happy that they decided to GPL it," said Miguel, who is also on the board of the FSF. "It can only be considered a win for free software. So all in all, it's a big thing.

"I'd also like to say, 'I told you so, three years ago.' That was exactly the email I sent to the people at Trolltech three years ago, that they could still keep their dual-licensing system. It's nice that they've seen that there was an actual problem.

"I don't think it changes things, because people who actually care about licenses are a minority of the software world. That's why KDE got so much popularity independent of whether it had license problems or not. But it's going to help a lot of people who finally can have a free desktop, and that's good. But now we have two competing desktops which are pretty complete, so I don't think it makes any difference from the Gnome perspective, but I think it will encourage people to use the KDE technology and put KDE on a good legal ground."

In his article Stallman mentioned the possibility of Gnome and KDE merging oneday, but Nat says don't hold your breath.

"Gnome and KDE are very unlikely to ever be merged. I myself personally worked to try to make that happen in certain ways. We tried to make it happen, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe it will. That would be great. We'd love that. But merging the code bases is pretty much not an option, because they're so different.

"There's a competition between the two project, but you know what? Open source is the story of parallel development efforts. This is not new. I think that there will be a clear winner; I'm obviously putting my money on Gnome, and I think it's all about developers. If you win the developers, you'll have more momentum behind you. For us, there are a lot of developers out there."

What about issues such as data file format compatability?

"That's definitely going to happen," said Nat. "That's important. I think that that won't be a problem."

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