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  1. Technology
November 30, 1993


By CBR Staff Writer

NewOrg on hold until foundation settles future

The people trying to develop a workable proposal for NewOrg, the official home for the Common Open Software Environment, have backed off in order to try to give the Open Software Foundation and its board room time to breath and decide what to do: either stay open or shut down. The founders of Unix International have set the pace with a decision 10 days ago to close the consortium at the end of December. Both Unix International and the Foundation staff were asked to make recommendations about their own fate and both are said to have come back with proposals relatively unchanged from the status quo. Unix International’s board decided to override the recommendation it got, and the Foundation’s board is now said to be wrestling with the same dilemma. NewOrg’s decision to lay low for a while, said to be because it realised the pressure it was putting on the Foundation was only aggravating the situation, will probably move the debut of its organisation into 1994. The Foundation’s board told the COSE/NewOrg people to lay off and stop trying to define its charter for it. NewOrg insiders are still talking about taking over parts and people from the Foundation, but leaving the software development pieces – and the Addamax Corp suit – behind.

Software Foundation rescues dead DME’s network manager

Although the Open Software Foundation has decided to scrap the Distributed Management Environment, US reports say it does plan to reference object-based frameworks from different vendors that can work with its Distributed Computing Environment and management objects sitting on top of these frameworks. The Distributed Management Environment was to have comprised three elements: the object management framework; the network management option; and distributed services, which is now shipping. The last was supposed to include print management services, but these were said to have been scrapped because they had nothing new to offer the market. Work is said to be continuing on the network management option component however, and it is set to come out in the middle of 1994, although the Foundation says that it is cautiously optimistic that it will be out before then.

The Open Software Foundation plots the future of Motif and its other user interface developments

With not a lot else to shout about at the moment, the Open Software Foundation has been talking up the prospects for Motif and its future user interface technologies. We already know that Motif 2.0 will include new widgets provided by the likes of Digital Equipment Corp, IBM Corp and Lotus Development Corp, including text and container widgets, a combo box and notebook. They were chosen earlier this year after a 1992 request for technology. The widgets will emulate Microsoft Windows and IBM Common User Access more closely than in previous versions – but not at application programming interface level – and the environment will also come with tools that enable developers to build new widgets using C and C++ routines. The enhancements mean that Motif 2.0, due by mid-1994, will be different in some respects to Motif 1.2, the version used as the basis of the COSE Common Open Software Environment alliance’s Common Desktop Environment. Motif 2.0 is understood to use a different drag and drop mechanism, while bevelling around windows will be dropped, changes that at least one COSE firm believes will mean a less sophisticated front-end. It also notes that these changes may lead to some instances of incompatibility between different Motif implementations, and says some developers are already in a quandary, wondering whether to aim for Common Desktop Environment (Motif 1.2) or Motif 2.0 as their primary development target. The Software Foundation’s director of Motif, Elizabeth Connelly, says the fact that the Desktop Environment is based on 1.2 shouldn’t prevent developers writing to 2.0 and she does not anticipate any problems. Moreover, she’d like to see COSE move the Desktop Environment up to 2.0. The Software Foundation believes the industry

will address the issue and says the Motif specification set, when ratified by X/Open Co as a standard – it’s already been taken up by IEEE – will reflect agreement between COSE and the Foundation over the interface, conformance to which should ensure there is no divergence between a standard Motif application programming interface and implementations.

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The new licensing and pricing charges for Motif 1.2 will be carried forward into 2.0, the Foundation says, where developers with full distribution licences can pay a fixed yearly fee currently $1m – to use or distribute unlimited copies in binary form under the same operating system. As far as future developments are concerned, the Foundation has scaled back or abandoned some of its original far-reaching plans, but is still on course to evaluate what such development will require and what would result. There’s now no need to work on structured graphics mechanisms, it says: that task is already in hand at the X Consortium with the next-generation Fresco toolkit, C++ and structured graphics extensions to the Xt toolkit that will start to appear in X11.6, due on general release next year, with a fully-fledged implementation due in X11.7. The Software Foundation has a working group on structured graphics and both it and its members have been taking those requirements forward to the consortium. As for the Graphical User Interface Application Interoperability Initiative, the Foundation says there are already half a dozen or more alternatives either available or under development that provide application interoperability under the windowing system, OpenDoc, Object Linking & Embedding and DEC’s ATA being examples. Anything the Foundation does won’t be unique, it argues, so it will let others get on with the work and fold its stuff in. The Software Foundation’s next-generation interface environment, UEC II, isn’t conceived as an evolution of Motif as such, and won’t be yet another polishing-up of the style guide with a new set of widgets. Rather, it is seen as a means of distributing a user environment across networks and will include ways of incorporating technologies such as handwriting and pen-computing and the ability to drop multimedia features on to text widgets. It also starts with the assumption that developers shouldn’t need to be concerned with building point-and-click into their applications. This should be function of the interface itself. To use the Foundation’s Distributed Computing Environment as its delivery vehicle, UEC II is currently undergoing business evaluation and a technical feasibility study at the Foundation, with a prototyping schedule, if agreed, to resolve technical unknowns.

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