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Re: Open-source library proxying to a closed-source library (ITP #679504)

Hello Francesco,

On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 5:03 PM, Francesco Poli
<invernomuto@paranoici.org> wrote:
> I am sorry to say this, but I think that the time of a competent
> developer would be far better spent in writing Free Software, rather
> than in building "proxies" having the sole purpose of making it easier
> to use proprietary software...   :-(

I understand your point. Let me elaborate about this:

In my field, people don't use much free solvers, because they don't
perform as good as the proprietary ones. They will usually point you
at the following resource [1] to explain to you that their code
performs performs 4x to 20x better with a proprietary solver. Because
of this, people rarely bother to even try free alternatives.

IMHO, the lack of users is one of the reasons why free alternatives
cannot compete with proprietary solutions. But who would blame the
users? They are just being pragmatic and use the best solution
available. They are also trying to avoid making a professional
mistake, targetting a solver that is notoriously slower than another
one that their compagny could buy. Everyone, including academics, use
these proprietary solvers, so why wouldn't they?

Osi is an interface that lets you abstract your code from the solver.
You can write your code once, and make it target different solvers,
including a lot of free software libraries. Osi can target 11
different libraries, 7 of them being open-source. This approach makes
it easier to try different solutions and find the solver that fits
your problem best. Whenever people use it, we can hope that they are
going to try the opensource alternatives. We can hope that we are
bringing users to the free software.

Osi is very neat, but debian delivers a version that does not let
users target their proprietary solvers. As a consequence, when they
discover they can't use their proprietary solver with the package
provided by debian, users go away. This proxy library is my attempt to
fix that. I am not only trying to make easier for a developer to
target proprietary solver: I am trying to bring more users to Osi, a
free framework that will let them experiment with various solvers.

> It could *maybe* qualify for the contrib archive [2], as long as it is
> determined to be (legally redistributable and)

Who would determine whether it is legally redistributable?

> (even though I see that it is licensed under the terms of the EPL, a
> license that I personally dislike...).

The EPL is the license recommended by coin-or [2] where I intend to
submit my project. I would be happy to relicense my work differently
as long as the new license is approved by the open source initiative
(coin-or requirement) and as it makes it possible to link Osi with it.

[1]: http://scip.zib.de/
[2]: http://www.coin-or.org/contributions.html

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