[OS X TeX] Re: FYI: Fwd: AlphaX 8.2 - Final Release !!!

Joachim Kock jkock at gmx.com
Fri Mar 30 23:32:48 CEST 2012

> Could you tell me under what license AlphaX is released?
> From what I could tell it's either BSD or GNU but I can't
> tell from the web pages.


The question of Alpha's licencing is a subtle issue.  As far as
I understand it, the situation is the following.

Pete Keleher wrote the original Alpha for Mac OS 6 to 9.  Like
most software of its time it was shareware.  It was bundled
with OzTeX and had a considerable success.

In the mid Nineties, AlphaTcl, the library of Tcl scripts which
implements most of Alpha's functionality, was factored out and
made open source, so as to support also Vince Darley's Tcl/Tk
reimplementation of Alpha called AlphaTk (also shareware, now
apparently discontinued).

AlphaTcl is under a BSD style licence.

Pete abandoned Alpha a few years before the advent of OSX, and
passed the code base to a small group of volunteers known as the
Alpha Cabal, who ported Alpha to OSX, rewriting large portions
of the C code.  In spite of pressure from the community, Pete did
not want to make the 'binary' part of Alpha open source, partly
because the code was quite messy, or should we say of a highly
personal style, and partly because he still wanted the shareware
fee.  He agreed instead to assign half of the shareware revenue
to the EFF.

In principle this is still the licencing situation today ---
the binary application is shareware, and the AlphaTcl library
is open source --- although in the past ten years more and more
parts of the binary application have been rewritten, and the
developers do not make any effort to uphold the shareware fee.
For example, the price is nowhere to be found!  (I interpret
it as being zero (of which half goes to the EFF).)

The current release 8.2 is mostly the work of Bernard
Desgraupes, probably best known to this list as the author of
the book «LaTeX - apprentissage, guide et référence», a
standard LaTeX reference in the French-speaking parts of the
world, and also for his books on Tcl/Tk, Regular Expressions,
and Unicode.

The current binary may well be the last in the Keleher-shareware
era.  The next version, Alpha 9, is being completely rewritten
in Cocoa, and will be open source.  The development is under
way, and can be followed on SourceForge, under the project name
AlphaCocoa.  (Although the new AlphaCocoa is now able to launch
and load the Tcl interpreter, it seems that it cannot yet
actually do any editing, so we will have to be patient for some
time...)  The development of AlphaTcl continues in parallel; it
will also be the script library supporting Alpha 9.


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