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Debian and the Graphical Desktop

              Debian GNU/Linux and the Graphical Desktop

The GUI desktop is obviously an important component of a free software
system like Debian. There are a number of projects that are worthy of
your interest, and I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about

GNOME - this effort is very exciting because it has come so far in just
 a short time. GNOME is entirely free software. It unites the GUILE
 embedded language and the GTK widget set into an interpretive
 graphical environment with an elegance and rapid development
 capability unrivaled by any other product. An interface builder and a
 number of desktop tools already exist. Development is so fast and
 furious that while we are making experimental Debian packages from
 their working source, the packages will be obsolete next week. This
 project reminds me of the early days of the Linux kernel, when
 progress was rapid and everyone who worked on it knew that something
 great was happening. You should definitely take a look at it. Information
 is at http://www.gnome.org/
GNUStep - This is a free software implementation of the OpenStep
 GUI programming environment. It's very clean and easy to write for,
 and still quite advanced even though NeXTStep/OpenStep now has ten
 years of experience. Although the present version runs on top of X,
 native GNUStep tools use Display PostScript for their renderer and are
 X-independent. GNUStep is interesting in that it will probably be
 compatible with the OpenStep GUI toolkit that Apple is using for its
 upcoming Rhapsody operating system. Information is at

Berlin - A lightweight, smarter, free software replacement for existing
 window systems. It's based on the Linux Generic Graphics Interface and
 other advanced technology. Berlin could eventually replace X as the
 graphics kernel underlying higher-level products such as GNUStep and
 GNOME. The Berlin team has also proposed their own high-level GUI toolkit
 and a desktop architecture. Work on the graphics kernel is currently
 estimated to be 70% complete. This is very exciting and worth a look.
 Information is at http://www.ecnet.net/users/gfetters/berlin/

Lesstif - A free-software replacement for Motif, it is presently
 distributed as part of Debian. It is still under development, and is
 now capable of hosting many applications that have been written for
 Motif. Since it provides a free replacement for such a fundamental
 component of today's workstations, it's worthy of your support.
 Information can be found at http://www.lesstif.org/

KDE - This GUI desktop is the one closest to being a complete solution
 for the end-user at this time, but it has one big problem. KDE itself is
 free software, but it is built upon on the Qt graphical toolkit which is
 not free software and thus can not be part of Debian (Qt fails tests #3
 and #6 of  our free software definition, at the end of this message.) We
 hope that the KDE team will eventually re-target their project to use a
 free toolkit instead of Qt. Information about KDE is at


1. Free Redistribution

The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from
selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate
software distribution containing programs from several different
sources. The license may not require a royalty or other fee for such

2. Source Code

The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in
source code as well as compiled form.

3. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow
them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code

The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified
form _only_ if the license allows the distribution of "patch files"
with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build
time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built
from modified source code. The license may require derived works to
carry a different name or version number from the original software.
(This is a compromise. The Debian group encourages all authors to not
 restrict any files, source or binary, from being modified.)

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program
in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the
program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic

7. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the
program is redistributed without the need for execution of an
additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to Debian

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's
being part of a Debian system. If the program is extracted from Debian
and used or distributed without Debian but otherwise within the terms
of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed
should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with
the Debian system.

9. License Must Not Contaminate Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is
distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the
license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the
same medium must be free software.

10. Example Licenses

The "GPL", "BSD", and "Artistic" licenses are examples of licenses
that we consider "free".
Can you get your operating system fixed when you need it?
Linux - the supportable operating system. http://www.debian.org/support.html
Bruce Perens K6BP   bruce@debian.org   NEW PHONE NUMBER: 510-620-3502

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