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Will Project Harmony Bring Harmony to Linux?

  • July 19, 2011
  • By Sean Kerner

Some ideas and debates on the Linux Planet and open source sphere just don't seem to ever die or go away. One such debate is around contributor license agreements for open source projects, including Linux distributions. The issue is once again front and center as Project Harmony has officially hit 1.0 in an attempt to bring harmony to an area of tremendous discontent. This past week, Flash, PuTTY and Mono all with significant news.

1. Project Harmony 1.0

While the Linux kernel and the associated open source components that make up a typical Linux distribution are licensed under open source licenses, those licenses aren't always sufficient for contributions. Open source licenses in the view of some work well for the consumption and distribution of open source, not necessarily for contributions to open source.

That's where Project Harmony comes into play. Over the years, the issue of Contributor License Agreements has been a thorny one. Open source projects, contributors, lawyers and open source advocates all have seemingly different views on whether or not contributor licenses are really needed, and if so, what verbiage they should include.

Project Harmony is an attempt to provide a standardized set of agreements to help bring a degree of unity and "harmony" to the process. Harmony has been spearheaded by Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux. However, it hasn't been warmly welcomed by everyone on the Linux Planet.

In a critical review of Harmony, Red Hat legal counsel Richard Fontana noted that while he respects Canonical's viewpoints, he (and Red Hat) will not be joining the chorus of support for Harmony. Without the support of Red Hat, it's unclear if Harmony will evolve into anything more than a Canonical pet project or if it will truly have an impact on the wider Linux and open source ecosystems.

2. Mono Lives

Although many in the Linux community aren't fond of Mono, many others rely on it.

Mono is an open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET framework. Novell founded the Mono project back in 2001. It hit its 1.0 release in 2004. After Attachmate acquired Novell for $2.2 billion earlier this year, it didn't see Mono fitting into its plans. Attachmate laid off an undisclosed number of Mono developers in May, leaving the future of the project and the applications that rely on it, in doubt.

In May, in stepped startup Xamarin, which founded by the founder of Mono, Miguel de Icaza. The only minor problems were who was actually going to run the Mono community and a pesky issue of intellectual property.

Now, three months after the layoffs, SUSE (which is the stand-alone division for Novell's Linux under new owner, Attachmate), is giving Xamarin a broad intellectual property grant. SUSE is also partnering with Xamarin to provide support to former Novell customers.

So Mono isn't dead after all.

It turns out, however, that Xamarin's key focus is mobile development. Where that leaves Mono users of Moonlight (an implementation of Microsoft's Silverlight), Tomboy, Beagle and other Mono powered Linux desktop apps, remains to be seen. Xamarin has pledged to keep pushing Mono development forward, since Mono is the core engine for desktop, server and mobile. Also, the Xamarin products, including MonoTouch, rely on the core mono project.

3. Adobe Flash 11 for 64-bit Linux

Adobe isn't the biggest fan of the Linux desktop. It recently announced plans to abandon it for its AIR runtime, and it has been slow at updating Flash for Linux as well.

This past week, Adobe Flash Player 11 for 64-bit Linux finally hit the beta stage, marking the debut of Flash for 64-bit Linux users. While Steve Jobs launched a crusade against Flash on iOS, Linux issued no such edict, although there are multiple attempts by open source projects to create alternatives to Adobe's Flash player.

4. PuTTy 0.61 released

If you use SSH on Linux, chances are you use PuTTY (or have at some point). You likely haven't thought much about PuTTY in a while since it's an SSH client that simply works without much fuss.

As it turns out, it has been four years since the last PuTTY release. Yes, four years. That's a long time to go between releases.

The new 0.61 release (no 1.0 release any time soon, either), has some bug fixes and compatibility updates for Windows 7, which likely has no real impact for Linux users.

If it ain't broke don't fix it?

5. IBM Donates Symphony to Apache

The Apache OpenOffice.org project got another big vote of confidence from IBM this past week. IBM donated the source code for its Symphony office suite, which is based on OpenOffice and offers some additional features and tweaks.

The move brings OpenOffice a big infusion of code from one of its biggest offshoots. It also means that a future OpenOffice release could be the base for another IBM office suite that benefits from the Symphony improvements.

It's unclear how much, if any, impact, this will have on the major Linux distributions that have all moved to LibreOffice at this point -- stranger things have happened.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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