Subject: Re: Cygnus and proprietary software
From: Stan Shebs <>
Date: 31 Dec 1997 11:13:19 -0800

(I believe our system never sent this out - apologies if y'all have
seen this already. -s)

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From: Stan Shebs <>
Date: 19 Dec 1997 14:18:16 -0800 (John Gilmore) writes:

> I think an interesting issue for the free software business list to
> discuss is: How can a free software company protect itself from the
> proprietary software virus that infects the rest of the world?  As
> Cygnus grew, it had to retrain just about every manager and marketing
> person it hired, whose natural tendency was to try to lock things up
> rather than make them free.  Eventually it failed to retrain enough
> sufficiently senior people, and started making proprietary products.

Well, that's one interpretation of history.  I think it's somewhat
unfair to the people you're referring to, since you're implying that
they had no useful thoughts and approaches to bring to the company.
Right now Cygnus puts more money into developing free software than
any other company in existence; I credit some of those "retraining
failures" with bringing in the cash that makes that possible.

> [...]  Since we were talking about GDB GUIs, Cygnus's "source
> navigator" GUI for gdb and make is proprietary.  Is this why there
> hasn't been a free GDB release in almost two years?

Since I'm still the GDB maintainer for the FSF, this is really unfair
to me personally, and I'm disappointed that you chose to make such an

I would have been happy to explain all in private email, but since you
chose to make the accusation in public, I'll answer in public.  First
off, your comment is inaccurate; there have been many free GDB
releases since 4.16.  There are Cygnus customers who've put Cygnus
releases up for ftp at various places on the net (MIT for instance,
also an assortment of semi vendors); various people have taken up GDB
snapshots, which we have been putting out steadily all alon,) and
re-released them; and there is gnu-win32, which includes a complete
working GDB with sources.

As for an "official" FSF release, the basic situation is that there
has been little interest in having one.  Since the beginning of 1997,
nearly an entire year, I've seen maybe 4(!) queries about when a new
FSF release was expected.  I was also waiting to get the native Hurd
support polished, since RMS was very keen to have that, but now that
Hurd development seems to have fizzled, it's probably best just to put
it out in its current (basically done) state.  So in the interest of
getting the new code out to a larger audience, we have been working on
a 4.17 release anyway, and expect that it will be out in a month or

(Incidentally, I subscribe to GCC mailing lists as well; if GDB had
gotten the level of demand for a 4.17 that GCC was getting for 2.8, we
would have had it out there in three weeks.)

None of this has anything to do with GUIs, proprietary or otherwise;
while I've seen the Source Navigator GUI for GDB from a distance, I
haven't used it myself, and the core GDB team at Cygnus does not work
on it.


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