Subject: Re: Thoughts on GPL
From: John Gilmore <>
Date: Tue, 03 Mar 1998 01:42:29 -0800

> Am I wrong?  Are there any applications, where Cygnus invested
> a significant amount of programmer time, which aren't built on
> previously GPL'd software, and which are now GPL'd?

Well, there's DejaGnu.  Just writing and maintaining the framework
burned two or three years of Rob Savoye's time at Cygnus -- let alone
the investment in test cases for individual GNU programs, written by
Rob and many others at Cygnus.  In case you didn't know, it not only
runs native, but also tests dozens of kinds of embedded systems,
compiling test cases using tools and libraries specific to the target,
downloading 'em, running 'em, checking the results, running the
debugger to the embedded system and checking the debugger; it's quite
a monster program.  All GPL.

(You could consider that DejaGnu is "built on previously GPL'd
software" because it calls Expect and TCL to handle sub-parts of the
job.  Let's be a bit more discerning than that.  It could have been
made proprietary; it wasn't.)

Another example is PRMS, the bug-tracking software.  It's from
scratch, though there are some Emacs macros that depend on the
existence of Emacs...  It wasn't as hard to write as DejaGnu, but even
before I left Cygnus, at least a year of work had gone into it.

I think Cygnus has other examples in the works and unreleased.

> Once Cygnus actually
> wrote from-scratch applications, they chose not to GPL them.


Cygnus acquired a from-scratch application from a third party, which
it chose not to GPL (Source Navigator).  In fact the acquisition
contract *required* that Cygnus not GPL it for some number of years,
because the *sellers* were afraid they'd hand it over to Cygnus,
Cygnus would publish it freely and then welch on the deal (maybe by
going out of business), and their proprietary program's market value
would have been destroyed.

I think Cygnus is writing some more non-GPL stuff in house, but the
specific projects haven't been announced yet.

I don't know what percentage of new "from scratch" work at Cygnus is
GPL versus non-GPL.  It's probably closer to half, than to either extreme.

It appears to me that my fear that Cygnus would be producing 90%
non-GPL software by now, having decided to let the "proprietary virus"
get a foothold in-house, doesn't seem to have occurred.  About which I
am somewhat relieved and happy.