Someone pointed out that the Physics Tracker software is very useful for video work. Wouldn't it be great to integrate it into Moviestorm (so we can capture simple movements from video)? Its in the Java language, it would take an afternoon's work to get tech demo working, so why don't we?
Ah yes, the General Public License. The Physics Tracker source code is released under the GPL, a popular OpenSource license. One of it's terms is that if you release software that uses GPL'd source code, you must also release your source code under the GPL. In this way it ensures that nasty big companies can't use your work in their product without also giving away the product. In the big scheme of things this is important for several reasons:
- You know what your application is doing - if you want, you can go and find out why the operating system crashes when you type "con/con" on the command line.
- In the future you will always be able to read your old work. Some versions of Word stopped you opening old files (presumably to force old users to upgrade), this wouldn't happen with OpenSource as you could write your own solution to the problem.
- Commercial companies can't just steal your work, make minor improvements and sell it on.
But there are alternative open source licenses (BSD, Apache, LGPL...) that do not require the release of the source code and these have been vital to getting Moviestorm where it is today. Our wonderful HTML renderer, FlyingSaucer, is one example. It would have taken us 6 months to build our own, but we where able to plug Saucer in quickly and so we where able to have nicely rendered help files within Storm that afternoon.
So it seems that the existence of the GPL damages startup companies. While OpenSource is great at re-making applications, only commercial companies (and in particular startups) seem to have the time, energy and coordination to break into new territory. Visicalc,
So is it fair that the GPL doesn't give back to the proving ground of new ideas, the commercial world? Answers on a postcard.