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MPE as a hobby needs emulation

HP reported at last week's OpenMPE meeting it will enable the time-honored tradition of a hobbyist's license for operating systems, giving the 3000 community a way to teach itself and experiment with MPE for non-commercial research and education. But HP's method of licensing MPE/iX to the programmers and students of the environment will use the proposed emulator license, an agreement that appears to require an emulator to surface for the HP 3000/9000 hardware.

Another part of HP has already granted a hobbyist license for another commercial operating system, OpenVMS. That license was created in 1997 by Digital, and more than 40,000 copies have been granted to date. The license is free once a user registers with Encompass, the HP/Compaq users group, and Encompass registration is free at the basic level. Of course, HP is still supporting OpenVMS with no apparent end-of-life date for its service, so those OpenVMS hobbyists enjoy even more privileges than MPE/iX customers. The OpenVMS hobbyist license doesn't require an emulator.

Mike Paivinen, the R&D project manager who's the lead for HP's MPE Beyond 2006 Component Team, reported that the OpenVMS license doesn't release source code. "I investigated the OpenVMS hobbyist’s license on the Web, and everything I could see indicates it’s an object code license," he said. "Basically, it’s a license that allows you to run all the add-on software that ever ran on VMS that was owned by Compaq and its predecessors."

He also said HP believes the cost of the forthcoming MPE emulator license — estimated at about $500 in a 2003 HP statement — will be cheap enough to serve for hobbyists.

MPE experimentation and learning will benefit from such a license, but there are some in the 3000 community who are searching for a source code license for hobbyists. Even though there's only a select group of programmers who could understand and work with MPE source, one of the most adept developers in the community has already asked for it: Mark Klein, the former head of ORBiT Software R&D, former OpenMPE board member — and the most likely candidate for this fall's post of outside reviewer of HP's MPE build process. (We'll have more on that build review plan later on this week.)

Paivinen said a decision about hobbyist's source is a way off into the future. "The original question was, 'I’d like to have a hobbyist’s license to run MPE in my garage.' Our answer is fundamentally that the license we expect to do for an emulator is likely to be cheap enough that price would not be prohibitive to hobbyists’ use. Therefore, we don’t intend to do a hobbyist’s object license."

"Mark Klein said he’d like to have a hobbyist’s source code license. That’s well-down in the queue of things that we’re evaluating. We think that the license we would do for an emulated environment will end up being cheap enough that it really wouldn’t prohibit people from using it in hobbyist form. You have to invest in your hobbies, too."