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ActiveState Returns to Open Source Roots 89

constab writes "ActiveState, the Sophos-owned company that makes free distributions and commercial programming tools for programming languages like Perl, Python, PHP, Tcl and Ruby, has been sold to a Canadian VC firm. According to the article, ActiveState will go back to its open-source roots and continue development of ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl. A full set of Mac OS X on Intel downloads is also in the works."
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ActiveState Returns to Open Source Roots

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  • Pender Financial Group (formerly Devon Ventures Corporation) is a merchant bank that invests in emerging growth companies, specifically those in the technology and health care fields. Subsidiary PenderFund Capital Management Ltd. manages the Pender Growth Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in tech companies located in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Pender Financial owns about $30 million in assets under management. Invested companies include high technology light manufacturer Carmanah, aerial mapping and surveying provider Intermap Technologies Corporation, web hoster Radiant Communications, and messaging software designer Voice Mobility.
  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cerelib ( 903469 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @01:35AM (#14657673)
    This sounds great. Hopefully they will open up, at least make free(beer), some of their more advanced tools. The Perl dev tools are really good. Only time will tell.
    • Yay, open source root (beer)!
      • by aichpvee ( 631243 )
        here [bogomip.net]
      • Root 21? (Score:3, Funny)

        by tepples ( 727027 )

        If you have to be 21 to buy beer, then do you have to be root 21 (that is, 4 years 7 months) to buy root beer?

    • by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp@fre[ ]ell.org ['esh' in gap]> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:04AM (#14659025) Homepage Journal
      The dev tools are fine. Eclipse can debug perl and even javascript seamlessly - allowing you to watch variables, stop on a given line, etc. with an embedded webserver and webbrowser. What isn't is the ActivePerl repository. Its almost entirely built by scripts, and the scripts are easily tripped up.

      Hopefully, they'll put a bit of effort into actually converting CPAN packages to ActivePerl so that ActivePerl enjoys a more complete collection of packages. Its not just the little, barely used packages that are missing. For example, Template-Toolkit isn't on ActivePerl. Maybe they could get packages from others who are currently maintaining ActivePerl repositories of tons of missing packages.

      Then maybe I can stop maintaining my virtual *nix workstation at work just to create ActivePerl packages.
      • Eclipse can debug perl and even javascript seamlessly

        If it was stable enough to run. I've tried to use eclipse-ruby for working on rails projects, and it regularly hangs on my Linux laptop.

        If activestate ever opened up Komodo to the public, I'd switch in a heartbeat.
      • I second rainman_bc. It isn't stable enough, and their customer support is lacking. I ran into multiple issues to get the Perl debugger to work properly due to undocumented conflicts. Even after getting it running with the debugger and all, it was slow and unstable (the debugging mostly).

        I ended up buying a license of Komodo Personal for 30 bucks, and been happy ever since.

        It covers all my installations for just 30 bucks, 3 versions included: Linux, Mac and Windows. I'm happy to pimp it.

        Got it hung under wi
    • I hope this doesn't stop the development of Komodo. It's a pretty darn fine IDE.
  • It's great that businesses (and organizations alike) can harness the brainpower of brilliant hobbyists to improve their product for free simply by going open source. I cannot think of any industry in which anything like this is so.
    • It's great that businesses (and organizations alike) can harness the brainpower of brilliant hobbyists to improve their product for free simply by going open source. I cannot think of any industry in which anything like this is so.

      Well, there is astrophysics, which has hobbyist astronomers that contribute to new technical achievements by big organisations; medical and environmental "hobbyists" like volunteer nursing assistants and birdwatchers who may discover new things or conduct studies... I could prob

    • http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,69946-0.htm l [wired.com]

      Lego brought in top level hobbyists to develop the new Mindstorms NXT kit. Brilliant move IMO.
  • Value (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MarkChovain ( 952233 )
    It would be interesting to know how much it was sold for, and how much Sophos valued the anti-virus technology.

    $23 million is not really a huge number in the scheme of things, but not the kind of money that a company the size of Sophos would throw away lightly!
    • Re:Value (Score:3, Informative)

      by smallpaul ( 65919 )
      "Pender Financial Group Corporation (TSX-V: PDF) announced on January 30, 2006 that it has entered into an agreement with Sophos, Inc., a subsidiary of Sophos Plc, to acquire the business, assets and liabilities of the ActiveState division of Sophos, Inc. for the purchase price of US $2.25 million."

      In other words, Sophos valued the anti-spam stuff at more than $20 Million.
      • Maybe they're not counting the value of ActiveState to guys like me - I've been recommending SophosAV products to clients because of their support of ActiveState. Their AV product is fine, but it was a case of "all things being equal, these guys support open source, so we'll go with them". I just renewed a client a few weeks ago for X number of thousand dollars. With ActiveState out of the picture, they're going to have to compete solely on their merits.
  • OS X on Intel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Do they mean OS X on Intel Macs, or working on cracking a generic version of OS X86 to run on beige boxes (illegal)? The article isn't too clear.
  • Q&A from ActiveState (Score:5, Informative)

    by MarkChovain ( 952233 ) <mark.chovain@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @01:56AM (#14657773) Homepage Journal
    ActiveState have put a Q&A [activestate.com] on their website. It has lots of pretty good info, with a little bit of PR thrown in for good measure.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Let's just hope part of this "back to the roots" thing they FINALLY improve ActivePerl so it can _finally_ install XS compiled modules from CPAN.

    It the CamelPack [stennie.org] guy that won the "vertical metre of beer" challenge can enhance ActivePerl to do it in only 2 days, why has it taken ActiveState so long?
    • What the hell? You don't need to improve ActivePerl at all. You just need to improve the rest of your system, by installing a suitable C compiler. Okay, yeah, it might be slightly nice if ActiveState were to provide a compatible environment for download side-by-side, but I certainly don't think it needs to be default. PPM is more in line with what "windows people" expect anyway :)
    • ActivePerl installs XS modules from CPAN just fine if you have a suitable compiler installed on your system; Microsoft Visual C++ or gcc (MinGW). ActivePerl will automatically reconfigure itself to match the compiler found.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @02:30AM (#14657902) Homepage
    "We'll go back to our roots by continuing what we currently do." - Huh?
  • FTA:
    ActiveState is also sticking to current plans around tools such as Komodo and the Perl Dev Kit and Ascher said there are "significant upgrades" planned for next year.
    Anyone else find the article unclear as to whether Komodo [activestate.com] will be opensourced?
    • by davidascher ( 520507 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @03:05AM (#14658002)
      Sorry, no current plans to open source Komodo at this time.

      David Ascher, ActiveState
      • Well, that's less than Kommodious. Isn't it a full-fledged XUL application? I, for one, wouldn't mind paying for the privilege of seeing that source code, just to learn how to code XUL.
        BTW, the Python Cookbook is teh roxorz. Thanks.
    • by rtos ( 179649 )
      Unfortunately the Komodo [activestate.com] IDE won't be open sources (free as in beer) any time soon.

      But honestly, that's ok with me. It's only $30 for the personal license, and they license per developer not per seat/cpu... so you are welcome to install it on as many machines as you use (e.g. desktop and laptop).

      I do quite a bit of Python coding, and after checking out Eclipse [eclipse.org], SPE [stani.be], and a few others, I'm still a huge fan of Komodo. I've easily gotten $30 of value out of using it.

      Plus, if you watch the bargain sites ca

  • Maybe I am missing something, but OS X already comes with perl, python, php, ruby, and tclsh. To what end is ActiveState porting their packaging of such things to OS X?

    Is this just for compatibility purposes, for software already written to target ActiveState's packages?
    • by simong ( 32944 )
      For that matter there was a perfectly good Windows perl port before ActiveState. ActiveState have added a nice IDE and, because they worked with Microsoft, produced a lot of MS/Windows compatability modules that would either have not existed or would have been based on guesswork. If they can do the same for OS X it will be worth the port. It's more for talking to Excel and Word rather than Windows32 filesystem calls, obviously but it's a viable port IMO.
    • I posted on another subthread [slashdot.org] on this. To reunify respond there.
    • > Maybe I am missing something, but OS X already comes with perl, python, php, ruby, and tclsh.

      wish (Tk) is also included as of 10.4.

      ActiveTcl comes "loaded" with lots of common extensions. Presumably their other language distributions are the same. That's the only "advantage" I can see to them, when the language is already installed with the OS.

      I suppose it's nice after 5 years or so they are finally supporting OSX. Last I checked, they did not. That appears to have changed. Would have been nicer 3
  • by AWG ( 621868 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:01AM (#14659019)
    I have been using ActivePerl for 5 years now, and ActivePython for 1.5. Komodo is a great IDE, but what makes ActiveState great is basically just the fact that they are ActiveState.

    In a corporate environment, using software from an actual company makes managers and IT folk feel warm and fuzzy. And yes, I realize that ActiveState is just mostly just nicely packaging up available open source software... but I don't tell anyone that. Corporate types tend to like it when they can buy something from someone, or at least point to a (stable) company that sells the product. Saying I'm using ActivePython goes over much better than saying I downloaded something from community-based python.org. And no, I'm not saying any of this makes sense, but it has been my experience for the past five years.

    If it weren't for ActiveState, I would be forced to write in VC++ or VBA. Thanks to them, I'm using perl and python for my job every day. And that is pretty awesome.

    So, keep up the good work, ActiveState!
    • This is indeed downright silly but makes a lot of "sense" in many corporate environments.

      I hadn't really heard of that company and was wondering what the point was in buying a packaged OSS language. In view of your exerience, it's much more clear.

      On a side note since I just found about it I'm testing at their Komodo IDE since I have a bit of PHP to do. Looks good so far.
    • Corporate thought (Score:4, Insightful)

      by typical ( 886006 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @12:33PM (#14660355) Journal
      In a corporate environment, using software from an actual company makes managers and IT folk feel warm and fuzzy.

      Second this *ten times over*.

      I've been suggesting perl for producing test harnesses for ages (writing them in C is just a waste of time), but the folks running things just don't *trust* perl. Until someone discovered ActiveState. I walked in one day and found them using the commercial Komodo, happy as a clam, and talking about how great perl was.

      Confused the hell out of me.

      The only thing I can guess is that if you have business roots, you're always trying to figure out the other guy's angle. Why is he doing something for you? What's he planning to get? If business folks can figure this out, and decide that it's aligned with their own interests, then they feel okay accepting the deal.

      Open source software just doesn't make any sense in a model that only recognizes human time and direct monetary value. So you get people who *never* have worked with hobbyists who like producing free stuff. They've never worked in an environment in which the marginal cost of production and distribution can approximate zero. It's very reasonable for them to look very dubiously at software, thinking "I can't figure out how this guy is going to profit from this, so I'd better stay the hell away, since he might try some sort of horrific extortion down the line. Who the hell would write software for *fun*? I have to yell at people to get them in on time to meet our deadlines!"

      On the other hand, doing a deal in which the other guy is clearly making a profit means that they don't need to imagine ways in which they can get stabbed in the back later. They can be comfortable believing that the other guy is simply happy making the deal.

      It's a weird mentality from a hobbyist standpoint, but it's the only way I can explain why so many companies look at Debian and walk away quickly but are happy as a clam buying Red Hat Enterprise Edition. /me shrugs

      As long as I get to use something at work that I can freely use myself the rest of the time, I'm all for it.
  • I've been using ActivePerl these past two weeks - not that I haven't before. The install is so quick, it's forgettable. Never have had any problems using ActivePerl. Yes, I am glad there is a co. that stands behind it. Perl is awesome, but if left to the whim of fate on Windows, I fear the angry mob of Python, Ruby, whatever is new and thinking it's better than everything before it type thinking. I am glad that Perl proves itself worthy.

User hostile.