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Xara LX forked to replace rendering engine

By Nathan Willis on February 27, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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The Xara LX vector graphics editor took a big step forward last week. After months of gridlock between open source contributors to the project and its corporate owners, one of the contributors published his own fork of the code base -- and the company approved, offering to host it in the official Subversion repository.

The stalemate stemmed from Xara's decision to exclude a single library from its GPL source code release. That library, CDraw, is the rendering engine responsible for rasterizing the workspace contents and drawing it to the screen during an editing session. Xara is very proud of the speed and quality of CDraw, to the point where it cites CDraw's speed as the chief advantage of the product over its competition. But the company feared that releasing the source code to CDraw would constitute giving up its competitive advantage. Thus when it launched the open source Xara LX project, Xara bundled it with a binary-only CDraw -- but one explicitly licensed as freely redistributable.

Outside contributors expressed reluctance to invest time in the Xara LX project, citing dependency on the non-free CDraw as the reason. The project languished, each of the two camps seemingly of the opinion that the other was not holding up its end of the deal -- the coders regarding Xara's partial source code release as insufficient and Xara finding the coders' contributions insignificant.

This month the inaction was replaced by a candid, in-depth debate on the developers' mailing list. Outside contributors and Xara employees traded arguments on the merits of CDraw and the relative risks that opening it would pose to each party.

Xara had long stated an interest in open sourcing CDraw when it deemed the time right, but eventually Xara's Charles Moir conceded that it might never happen at all. Economic realities including Xara's January acquisition by Magix made an open source CDraw a remote possibility.

The turning point came after Moir asserted that the CDraw issue was a red herring. Community development on Xara LX ought to be happening anyway, Moir suggested, regardless of what happened to CDraw. If worse came to worst, he proposed, someone could replace CDraw with an open source renderer like Cairo.

Show me the code

On February 20 Carl Worth -- the principal developer of Cairo -- volunteered to do just that. Worth excised the CDraw library from Xara LX, replaced each call with a dummy function, and posted the code to his public Git repository. Moir replied with an offer to host the code on Xara's servers, and even develop it as an official, parallel branch of Xara LX.

Immediately, the mailing list discussion switched from philosophical debate to practical examination of the code. The stalemate was broken.

Moir is optimistic that the Cairo move will attract additional Linux developers and convince mainstream Linux distributions to include Xara LX. But he maintains a hard line on anyone attempting to port Xara LX to Windows, as that might threaten Xara's revenue stream.

"Our position isn't changed on that. We won't support any Windows port -- not that we can stop it of course if someone wants to really screw up the party. But if that happens and we perceive our business is threatened, then we just stop work on the product and all future work and development goes closed source. I can't see how that helps the open source community at all."

Worth is happy that his CDraw-free Xara LX code is at last producing momentum. "I've always thought [Xara LX] would be a really interesting project, but I've also always thought the non-free CDraw was holding it back much more than Charles realizes. I've told Charles for this whole year that the non-free aspect and uncertainty around CDraw was preventing contribution. If Charles had said a year ago, 'We can't make CDraw free ever,' then I probably would have done this fork back then (it really took almost no time to do). So there's some evidence right there that just clarifying the situation, even in the less desirable direction, is already leading to more contribution."

Although he thinks it would be fun, Worth said he will probably not have much time to contribute to Xara LX himself. But he does anticipate that other people already more familiar with the code base will pick up the effort to turn his fork into a functional app.

Moir said that he, too, looks forward to continuing to develop Xara LX, and that he would like to see more features from the commercial version of the app make it into the open source project. "But it's all a quid pro quo -- if we're getting something back from all the work we've done (and that doesn't mean we have to make money from the Linux market, but that we just grow the user base, have an active developer community, etc.) then it makes sense for us to continue giving and enhancing the Linux version with our new features as well."

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on Xara LX forked to replace rendering engine

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Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 27, 2007 07:45 PM
First, the lack of development during the past few months was mostly due to the official Xara developers usually working on the Linux version, being temporarily moved to the Windows version, to allow for a quicker release. Obviously, when there is no official replies to messages, and no patch is integrated, the development mostly stop, and the non-official developers move to something else.

Second, on their position about a possible Windows port, although I do understand their concern (in the context of today society), I can't say I'm happy to hear this, to say the least. It's pretty much similar to the TransGaming-Cedega case: "our code is free, GPL, but don't get too cocky, or we will stop everything, and you will have to face the anger of all of our users, because this will be your fault"...

If they don't want people to port their code to Windows, they just have to license it like this. Don't use the GPL, or any other free license, and then threaten people, so they don't use their rights fully.

"This is a free country, but don't say too much".

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 27, 2007 09:02 PM
If free software community is not worth having CDraw opened, then Xara is not worth having any contribution at all...

Worse, Xara Group used and abused the words "free software" and "open source" lately, just to adorn their soft with good PR, without opening the hearth of Xara LX.

Let's fork it and release a Windows build to show them they cannot have the benefits of being free software without playing nicely with the free software rules.

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 27, 2007 10:35 PM
I couldn't help but thinking the threat to go closed source if the community ports Xara LX to Windows that they (Xara Group) are really trying to get free help from the community to make their product better.

At least that what my crystal ball told me.

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 11:15 AM
> Let's fork it and release a Windows build to show them

Let's not be silly. They did a huge step forward for a company that never dealed with open source. Showing them how unforgiving open source community can be is hardly something you really want in the end.

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 08:18 PM
They keep using that word again [opensource]. I don't think it means what they think it means...<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

It's about individual freedoms isn't it? What the "Community" wants is irrelevant.

This declaration may have the opposite effect by inspiring some people to actually do a windows port. All perfectly legal AND ethical in the context of things opensource.

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 09:23 PM
Let's not be silly. They did a huge step forward for a company that never dealed with open source.


No, it is not a huge step for open source or free software. As long as it isn't fully released, it's just an attempt to screw the FOSS community, their "open source" move is not about freedom or openness, it's just trying to get people working for free to improve the soft while keeping the software non-viable without the closed source non-free part. It's about control, not freedom.

They don't play nice at all, they pervert the meaning of free software, they are not worth respect.

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Re:Two things...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 09:36 PM
Please try to read what you are quoting. How can you judge someone if you don't even read attentively enough?

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Free Software's raison d'entre

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 27, 2007 10:02 PM
The whole reason that Free Software exists is to replace and kill proprietary software and its hold on the users. How can Xara expect to keep the Windows version non-free (as in cost) when the code is already Free?

What happens to these two platforms when Linux becomes a larger player on the desktop? If, we should hope, Linux ever takes 51% of the desktop market (umm.. i said, hope), will the Linux version be for-charge and the Windows version suddenly free?

I like the line, "Its a Free country, just don't say too much." Freedom of anything isn't Freedom at all when there is the chilling effect of threats to exercisers of their rights.

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Just use inkscape

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 27, 2007 10:53 PM
Inkscape is coming along by leaps and bounds and is a true multiplatform application.

The newest release is spectacular.

Who needs Xara an their attitude?

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they're new to this 'GPL' idea...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 02:15 AM
Maybe with some time Xara will see that being Free/Libre and Open Source is good for the company as a whole, not just for the Linux side of things.

Until then, let the fans work on it and the corporate side be amazed at what we can do. If they want to lock us out of their future, that is life.

At least we'll always have... this version...

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Using Inkscape instead of Xara is not a solution

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 04:20 AM
Using Inkscape instead of Xara Xtreme LX is not a solution. There are so much things, Inkscape doesn't offer for vector artists, that using Inkscape is no option. I understand, that there are a lot of Inkscape user, because this project is longer popular and more people are doing marketing for this project, but in the end Inkscape is limited to the functions within the SVG format and - much more worse - so slowly, if you tries to create larger drawings (with a lot of objects). For creating vector art in the Graphics industry, we need Xara Xtreme.

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Re:Using Inkscape instead of Xara is not a solutio

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 11:26 AM
Inkscape, too, has a lot of features missing in Xara, of which you are probably unaware. Have a look at <a href="http://wiki.inkscape.org/wiki/index.php/Xara_X" title="inkscape.org">http://wiki.inkscape.org/wiki/index.php/Xara_X</a inkscape.org> one day.

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Re:Using Inkscape instead of Xara is not a solutio

Posted by: Nathan Willis on February 28, 2007 06:05 AM
"Slow enough" and "fast enough" are personal value judgments, not critical arguments, but however you feel about the speed of the applications, it is quite incorrect to say that Inkscape is "limited to the functions within the SVG format." Inkscape expands on SVG, which is a powerful part of the design of SVG itself -- as XML, it's extensible, and not just Inkscape but any other vector editor can create its own namespace with which to extend SVG functionality. And as valid SVG, it will still render correctly in more limited applications that don't understand the extended features.

Nate

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come on, don't be so hostile!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 05:20 AM
(quote)
If free software community is not worth having CDraw opened, then Xara is not worth having any contribution at all...

Worse, Xara Group used and abused the words "free software" and "open source" lately, just to adorn their soft with good PR, without opening the hearth of Xara LX.

Let's fork it and release a Windows build to show them they cannot have the benefits of being free software without playing nicely with the free software rules.



I can't understand why people are always so hostile...



I myself value "free as speech" very much -- indeed most of us do.

But we should note, Xara is a company, not an open source entity. So the whole project of opening up XaraLx is about cooperation. They indeed donated a great pile of sourcecode to the community and on top of that spent a good amount of developer time on advancing this app to beta 0.7. They are open to a fork, approve it and even host the fork in their Subversion.


Did Corel donate the Draw\! src to the community? What about Adobe, not to mention Microsoft. Remember, these are direct competitors to Xara.


And what are the "friends of open source" doing? They are screaming "fight Xara, let's hurt them and port it to Windows!".


So, please guys, just let's help to bring this fork to successfully using Cairo. If really at some point in the future "the worst comes to the worst" and Xara Corp. turns out to be hostile, then will be the right moment of thinking hostile, not now.


--

a happy XaraLX user

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Re:come on, don't be so hostile!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 28, 2007 03:09 PM
So the whole project of opening up XaraLx is about cooperation


Obviously it's not, CDraw will obviously never be free, making the whole Xara LX a very poor investment for contributors.

The threat "Make a windows port and we may consider not releasing portions of our application under gpl again" is unacceptable, and proves they didn't understand what is free software about.

Did Corel donate the Draw\! src to the community? What about Adobe, not to mention Microsoft.


Did Corel claimed Draw! was a free software and enjoyed seeing it listed in free software directories, advertised on free software community sites? Did Adobe do that with Illustrator?

I have no problem with Xara being a closed source paying software,but because they try to enjoy as much positive "free software" PR while not playing nice with free software at all. They are insulting free software community's very spirit.

Worse, they dare to whine because community isn't interested in contributing to their half-closed application...

They don't respect free software, they don't respect the community they are trying to mobilise around Xara LX, why would community obey them?

They released a half software? Ok, let's make it complete, multi-platform, and let's make it available on all platforms.

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Re:come on, don't be so hostile!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2007 04:36 PM
I agree with this.

I don't use Xara, but they have a business to run. If they can't make money from Xara anymore, then they can no longer pay developers to work on the opensource code.

Thats a fact of life.

If Xara was ported to windows<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/and/ that hit their revenue then not only would Xara's shareholders lose out, the community would lose the full-time paid developers and corporate support.

They are simply warning the community of this (perhaps in a less than tactful manner). This doesn't make them evil. If you want to use a fully free, entirely community based vector drawing program then you have alternatives.

They're not trying to stop anyone, just discourage them.

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Xara LX superior to Inkspace for typical PC users

Posted by: Administrator on March 15, 2007 04:48 AM
I have more than a decade of experience working with end users and graphics programs.



One simple (but critical) point - while Inkspace is improving rapidly in terms of features, it's accessibility to an average PC user is poor. The Inkspace commands are totally non-intuitive for such users.



On the other hand, Xara LX is so simple to pick up that an average user who has never before used the program will be able to start using it without any training.

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Xara LX forked to replace rendering engine

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.131.100.54] on October 15, 2007 04:29 AM
I agree, Xara LX is what I use when I trace bitmap graphics lately but with some little difficulty since I am a CorelDraw user. I like Xara's bezier tool, its almost perfect comparable to CorelDraw. And it is fast. The fact that I can use it immediately, than with Inkscape. Anyway, if I have time, I will try to explore Inkscape to modify the keyboard shortcuts to emulate CorelDraw. Anyway, this thread must be ancient(March) and I am posting this todate: 10/15/07.

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