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“UserLand Planning to Release Frontier's Kernel”

From: Seth Dillingham In Response To: Top of Thread.  
Date Posted: Monday, May 17, 2004 7:31:54 AM Replies: 3
Enclosures: None.

Dave announced this morning that UserLand is planning to release the source to Frontier's kernel sometime this year. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, and apparently they're doing it mainly to ensure the future of the platform: low expectations of community-building or bug fixing.

Years ago, Dave told me that if Apple released MacOS as open source, he'd release Frontier as open source. Well, Apple's kernel is now open source, and apparently Frontier's kernel will be, too. (That's just an interesting coincidence, though. This wasn't Dave's decision to make, now that he's only a board member and not running the company.)

Note that he didn't announce that Frontier will be open source: just Frontier's kernel. There's no indication that one will be able to download the source code and build the Frontier application. There's nothing that says anything to the contrary, either.

Months ago I caught a small hint that this was being considered, but there's been nothing since then and I completely forgot about it.

This news affects me and the software I write, directly and rather intensely. There are business decisions I've been trying to make about the future development path of some of Macobyte's software. If this new offering from UserLand is strong enough -- which I'm not counting on, by the way -- then my final decisions could be very different than what I thought they would be just a couple hours ago.

That's a big if, though, as I'd need to believe two things. First, that fixing bugs and adding features in the kernel would be a better use of Macrobyte's time than bringing my software to another platform. Second, that changes I make in the kernel source could somehow be put to immediate use in my software, rather than having to wait for a point release from UserLand.

What won't work at all is a situation where you still have to buy licenses to Frontier in order to do anything meaningful with the 'open source.' For example, if Frontier is updated so that replacement kernels can be dropped in easily, but you still have to buy the application, it's useless to me. I don't mind contributing improvements to the code, but I won't pay for that "privelege."

Whatever the outcome, this is the most interesting news to come out of UserLand in many years, and it gives me an option for the future of some of Macrobyte's software that I hadn't considered before today.

Update: Duncan has some comments, too. So does Daniel.

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