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Chris Wright - by Christopher B. Wright
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Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.

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Summary: A fight erupts and cancels Chris's plans to have a nice, quiet and nostalgic look back at the Hobbes archive.

This article was going to be a nostalgia piece on the eventual closing of Hobbes, the OS/2 community's revered archive of all OS/2 related downloadable software. Its current maintainer is graduating and it looks as though there will be no replacement.

It was going to be a nostalgia piece. However, it now looks as though it's going to be a commentary on the mild controversy that has been created due to the Hobbes admin's musings on weather or not to release the software that runs the site under the GNU General Public License.

Here's the background: the Hobbes admin, Mr. Shagam, is graduating. It looks as though there is no successor as admin for Hobbes, so the future of this site -- which is an integral part of the OS/2 community -- is in doubt. As an attempt to find someone to carry the torch, as it were, the admin posts on the Hobbes site that he is _considering_ releasing all the software under the GPL. This would be so someone else can take it and mirror Hobbes to ensure the OS/2 community's largest OS/2 software archive will still, in some shape or form, continue to exist.

After this announcement, a company called Pepper Head announced that it planned to resurrect Hobbes. It had registered the hobbes.org domain name and would host the site, with the only notable exception being that it would also place minimal banner ads on the site to offset the cost of hosting it.

Both of these announcements were sent to WarpCast and both of these announcements were passed through WarpCast. Then, a minor piece of hell broke loose.

Mr. Shagam, apparently, had not officially given Pepper Head his blessing on their project (though their post seemed to read as though he had). He was, in fact, not happy with their proposal because according to user feedback, he says, banner ads were explicitly verboten. So, he rejects Pepper Head's offer and next states that he's considering modifying his original statement so that it would be under a modified GNU General Public License, one containing the extra stipulation that you couldn't run banner ads on it.

Pepper Head, as you may imagine, was not happy. In fact, their response to that decision, as posted on WarpCast, ends with the sentence "I refuse to be made a fool for attempting to do something for the good of the OS/2 community at large." In response, Mr. Shagam posted a detailed, post by post, blow-by-blow coverage of the controversy.

So now Pepper Head is upset, and is accusing Mr. Shagam of making misleading statements. And Mr. Shagam, in turn, is accusing Pepper Head of making claims they had no business making.

Criminy, people. There are better things to do with your time than take potshots at each other.

Ultimately it is up to Mr. Shagam to decide how the code that runs Hobbes will be released -- if at all. Pepper Head should feel a bit foolish for jumping the gun as they did. On the other hand, if the Hobbes code _is_ released under the GPL or some variant thereof, I would be disappointed if a "no banner ads" clause is put in there. Use shouldn't be restricted, it's ideologically no better than the US banning the export of high-level encryption software.

Everyone, take a deep breath. Now move on.

* * *

Should the New Mexico State University not find a new admin for the hobbes archive, it could leave the net when Shagam finally graduates. If so, this may leave us with either no alternative, or alternatives funded by banner advertising and commercial interests. Is the free ride over? Will we be expected to pay with membership fees or "clickthroughs" in the future? More discussion on this is in our interactive forums. Selected feedback will be posted below.

Copyright © 1999 - Falcon Networking ISSN 1203-5696
May 1, 1999