RISC OS 5 source code release revealedPublished: 29th Sep 2006, 21:55:39 | Permalink | Printable
[Updated] Reaction and views from across the platformCastle and RISC OS Open Ltd have revealed their ambitious plan to release the source code of various RISC OS 5 components. Under a so-called 'shared source initiative', a phased release of RISC OS is promised to take place over the next few months - starting with applications including Paint, Edit, Draw, Configure, Unicode, the web browser Browse, and the printer manager. The Shared C Library and RISC OS build scripts will also be released, according to CTL and ROS Open.
It is hoped the project will kick start outside development of the desktop operating system, which has somewhat died down over recent years. It is also hoped the various hurdles that minority closed source operating systems face - such as modern driver development - will be more easily tackled with extra developers working on the source code.
But independent programmers have so far viewed the announcement with mixed opinions. While some say it is hard to judge the impact of this new initiative without seeing a formal license, others have warmly welcomed the news and pledged to take up development.
RISC OS Open have stressed that the license will not be a traditional open source agreement. Instead a dual-license will be employed allowing people to view the software blueprints, make modifications, and distribute updated components provided the updated source code is handed out too. To use the RISC OS source code commercially, you must pay a royalty fee.
- The RISC OS source code - the blueprints to its design - will be made available, and can be updated and re-released by third party developers.
- The source code will still belong to Castle. A formal 'shared source' license will be published "in due course".
- Applications can include RISC OS modules provided developers publish the modules' source code.
- RISC OS Open hope to "promote more rapid development of the software base", and say support and encouragement will speed up the roll out of code.
- They will set up a system to accept updates and changes from coders.
- As exclusively revealed earlier this year on drobe.co.uk, RISC OS Open are staffed by ex-Acorn, ex-Pace Micro, ex-Element-14, and ex-Tematic engineers and managers.
- Over a million deployed consumer electronics products are RISC OS powered according to Castle and RISC OS Open.
There is no requirement to pass source code changes back to RISC OS Open, and while the company will act as gatekeepers to the official source code, this will be performed on a not-for-profit basis. Punters will be able to donate cash to the project.
In a statement, RISC OS Open company secretary Steve Revill said: "It's the first time that the public have been able to access these components at a source level. We believe that it's an exciting opportunity for developers to submit their improvements for all to use.
"With the help and support of the RISC OS community, I am sure that there will be even more to follow. It is our sincere hope that this will stimulate the growth of our community and introduce a new era of development."
Castle boss Jack Lillingston said: "In today's era of fast moving technological developments, both users and developers should have worldwide and easy access to an operating system. For too long RISC OS has been regarded as a closed proprietary OS and this has hampered wide scale take-up.
"We are delighted to be supporting the creation of an international RISC OS community with the team at ROOL. Their activities will further the use of RISC OS in a structured way, promoting the take-up of RISC OS."
RISCOS Ltd boss Paul Middleton said: "We are too busy finishing off the first Select 4 issue to comment much on the matter.
"It is probably worth pointing out that the 'open sourcing' of RISC OS is going to solely cover RISC OS 5 versions. We do not intend to 'open source' RISC OS 4 versions as some people seem to have assumed.
"I would point out though that we have always been happy to work with developers who require source level access to RISC OS, in the same way that Acorn made sources available for particular projects. The difference between us and ROOL is that we do require any changes made to be fed back to us, as we only want one version of RISC OS 4 to be available."
Aemulor and Geminus developer Adrian Lees said: "I'd want to know if there's no 'contamination' clause so that I could still go ahead and re-implement an OS component later after seeing source code, if I so chose. Of course, I want to know what will be open sourced; I'm especially interested in lower-level software - the Kernel and Window Manager.
"It'd be nice if this and new hardware development from Castle fitted together. If CTL does make a new motherboard, I'd happily contribute to the OS changes needed to get it running.
"Also, supposing I plus someone else wanted to port RISC OS to different hardware, bought in or custom, I want to know what the license fee per unit is likely to be, ie. how much we'd have to add to the hardware price as a minimum to cover costs. is there a clause about the target platforms, especially emulation on non-ARM CPUs?"
CDVDBurn author Steffen Huber said: "I really welcome this move. To me, it is the first positive piece of news for our market since the launch of the Iyonix. It is probably the only way to keep RISC OS alive, and it has the potential to interest many ex-RISC OS developers.
"It is of course too early to consider all consequences - what exactly is that 'per unit royalty fee', would this 'shared licence' allow royalty free shipping of a freeware emulator complete with RISC OS, does selling support for an otherwise free product make it a commercial product. The coming discussions will keep us surely busy for a while."
Artworks and Techwriter developer Martin Wuerthner said: "I am delighted to see progress in this direction. I was about to ask Castle for the source code of some OS components because I wanted to release improved versions, so this move is very welcome."
GCCSDK developer and Firefox porter Peter Naulls said: "Some of the choices are a bit strange - Browse for example. Do we really need to resurrect that, with respect to the considerable effort that Acorn developers did put into it? On the other hand, the core apps - Paint et al - and I suspect I won't be the last to say this, have more than a passing resemblance to those which had considerable improvements by RISCOS Ltd for Select and Adjust. This might be another nail in the ROL coffin.
"I remain cautious about this, until I see precisely what's available and of course what the precise conditions of the licenses are, and bearing in mind that much of RISC OS continues to need is application development, not OS-level improvements per se, and the distraction that this might bring. On the other hand, it will no doubt revitalise some developers."
R-Comp boss Andrew Rawnsley was more reserved. He said: "It seems fairly reminiscent of RISCOS Ltd open sourcing parts of Printers, ie. not hugely exciting. I guess if people are interested in developing those components, it is good, but really, you have to ask, shouldn't Castle actually have paid coders working on these things, especially given the open-but-not licence?
"Unfortunately, most of the items listed have better versions already in existence as part of Adjust, so really all it does is accentuate the OS split, because the public only have source access to 'out-dated' versions of things."
Rob Kendrick, NetSurf GTK developer and drobe.co.uk contributor, said: "I assume CTL are hoping or praying that suddenly thousands of companies will start using RISC OS and give them royalties. From what they're suggesting, it really is Open Source, just with a no-commercial-use clause in one of the two licences the source is available under.
"The only people who use 'shared source' are people who hate 'open source' - ie, Microsoft. The two are essentially the same."
NetSurf developer John-Mark Bell said he would reserve judgement until he has seen the exact 'shared source' license.
Michael Drake, NetSurf designer and contributor, said: "This sounds good. My view is that anything like this is better than nothing. RISC OS was going nowhere. And the RISC OS Open website is a RISC OS site that doesn't look vile."
Currently, no fixed release timetable is known, and the exact license conditions have yet to be published. RISC OS Open first popped onto the radar in June, prompting questions of what would opening up the OS achieve - Castle later dropped hints at its plans to release the blueprints. RISCOS Ltd's Paul Middleton argued earlier this month that Castle's wish to reveal the OS source code would have no effect on ROL, and that this "is not the panacea for suddenly taking RISC OS forward. No operating system can be developed solely for free."
• Earlier today Jack declined to comment further on how Castle may use the new IOP XScale cores. He said: "You know us - no comments about future products."
RISC OS Open website - FAQs, the lot
Announcement PDF - drawn up in Microsoft Word
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