Given the nature of discussions on Drobe regarding Castle’s possible plans for RISC OS I think some clarification of the facts would help, supplemented by my own PERSONAL opinions regarding the direction in which I believe we are headed:
1. There are no insurmountable legal barriers to Open Sourcing RISC OS. Castle has mechanisms available which allow it to do this if it wishes. Though no doubt the legal profession will get richer at the expense of money that could be better spent on software development
2. I fully acknowledge RISC OS contains some third party code, but no one has ever suggested this code would ever be open sourced without the permission of the owners. Where the sources cannot be distributed those modules could generally still be provided in binary form (The RISC OS build environment has been specifically structured to enable a subset of the sources to be released to third parties if required). This is an issue that is fully understood and catered for.
3. When referring to “elements of RISC OS” it should be borne in mind there are some commercially sensitive/valuable components that probably wouldn’t be released. IMO the publicly released sources should be those necessary to provide a general purpose build of the OS on typical hardware. They won’t be every bit of code in the CVS.
4. Interesting comments about Taiwanese Set Top Box vendors, but no one was ever suggesting such issues wouldn’t be resolved (BTW, AFAIK the company Drobe inferred fed back contributions to the sources I don’t believe is actually the one mentioned, several other STB vendors were licensed the OS by Acorn/Pace, and indeed have been by Castle). Incidentally, I’m currently in Taiwan talking to Set Top Box manufacturers………..coincidence?
5. Open Source licensing of RISC OS would almost certainly be under a bespoke licence with appropriate terms for use, charges and feedback of sources. These may, or may not, follow accepted definitions of Open Source. Sorry to spoil the enjoyment guys, but speculating about which form of exisitng licence will be used is a little pointless. That said, positive contributions on what form the licence should take would be welcome. My view is it would need to include:
a. Minimal royalty for personal use
b. Per unit Royalty structure for commercial use
c. Feedback of sources in such a way that it can be re-licensed by Castle (i.e assignment of ownership of Derivative works to Castle)
d. Prohibition of use in certain areas, e.g. Only for use on ARM processor hardware, certain excluded/controlled application areas.
6. There have been several negative posts concerned about the future of new hardware for RISC OS desktop use. Surely the benefit of open source is that others can port the OS to existing commercially available platforms expanding immediately the range of products available? There are plenty of third party products out there running various X-scale processors for example which would be tempting targets for RISC OS ports without the need to invest in bespoke hardware development. Moreover, the Open Source availability should encourage other companies to develop new hardware safe in the knowledge they have unfettered access to the OS sources and an easy route for licensing.
7. Whilst I note with interest the debate on porting RISC OS to non ARM hardware. I really don’t think this is practical, or will be legally allowed. The OS architecture is intrinsically linked to the ARM, and large amounts of assembler embedded in the sources would require major re-engineering.