Subject: Re: Ximian's proprietary connector for open source Evolution
From: "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 13:04:49 -0800
Wed, 5 Dec 2001 13:04:49 -0800
on Wed, Dec 05, 2001 at 09:26:23AM -0500, William C. Cheng (william@cs.umd.edu) wrote:
> Greetings,
> 
> Any one knows how Ximian is getting away (or not) with mixing
> proprietary "connector" software with an open source base?  Is it the
> good-o dynamic linking does not violate GPL type of argument?

Depends on how it works, and I haven't taken a good look at it yet.

However, I've had some thoughts on the strategic implications of how
this application is being licensed, and possibly designed.  Note that
much of this is speaking from ignorance of details of technical and
licensing characteristics.

Groupware (email, calendaring, PIM) interchanges between proprietary and
open standards (both free and non-free software) systems is a positive
goal.  While it may provide a possible market for extending the reach of
proprietary systems to migrate into networks served by open standards
systems, it seems to me there's a much large potential for reducing
barriers to introducing open standards (and free software) clients, and
reducing lock-in leverage, for sites with deployed proprietary mail /
groupware systems. 

And that lock-in is a very significant factor.  Cracking it and driving
in a wedge would be very helpful, even if that wedge is itself
proprietary.  This was the common thinking behind HP's OpenMail (and a
large part of the disappointment that HP failed to continue, or open,
the product).  Providing a technology that would interoperate with or
replace MS Exchange and/or Lotus Groupware would be an all-around gain
for the GNU/Linux (and other alternative) desktops.

Which gets us to what I consider to be the interesting questions
concerning Ximian's "connector".

Is this a general application which would allow applications other than
Evolution to interact with an Exchange server?  Clearly, Evolution is
designed as a drop-in MS Outlook replacement (including reproducing
several very annoying Outlook misfeatures such as a default HTML message
format, and broken linewrap/quoting handling, and a focus on integrated,
rather than interoperable feature[1]), and would offer integration,
particularly with Exchange calendaring features, not possible with a
simpler, (cough) superior client such as mutt ;-).  Other tools (the KDE
mail/calendaring suite should be able to provide similar features,
however.

The ability for me to be able to connect with, say, a client's Exchange
server by way of  my choice  of email and calendaring clients, would be
a very positive development.  It would also allow sites to start
exploring use of non-MSFT groupware.  This would be a most positive
development.

And there's always the possibility that Ximian's product could be r/e'd
to a truly free solution.  I don't see this as a necessary step, but if
the interoperability of the connector is limited to Evolution, I'd
strongly encourage it.

Could someone with more familiarity with technical characteristics of
Ximian's offering speak to some of the questions I've raised?

Peace.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>       http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
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