OEone's Peter Bojanic on HomeBase, Mozilla

By Staff Staff | Posted at 12:55 PM

Peter Bojanic is Vice President, Software Development of OEone Corp., a Hull, Québec company that
develops the extremely easy to use HomeBase DESKTOP and SUITE software (see our new mini-review of HomeBase SUITE 1.5 here).
Mr. Bojanic also serves as an associate staff member of the Mozilla.org project, creators of the Mozilla/Gecko
engine that runs Netscape 6, Galeon, and OEone HomeBase DESKTOP.

Peter kindly agreed to talk about OEone's new product lineup and the Mozilla.org
Project with OfB's Timothy R. Butler.

Open for Business: How did you get involved with the Mozilla project? Was your
work at OEone what got you started with that project or was it the other way

Peter Bojanic: OEone started active development using Mozilla milestone releases in
February, 2001. Initially we were working in relative isolation from
mozilla.org and its development community. Gradually, we became
better acquainted with Mozilla developers and eventually made
connections with staff at mozilla.org. Our Penzilla project pushed the
limits of the Mozilla technology, and was one of the most ambitious
XUL-based projects under development.

My personal role with mozilla.org evolved from representing OEone's
interests and objectives with Mozilla technology. I worked most closely
initially with Mike Shaver because he lived in Montreal, which is
considerably closer to Ottawa/Hull that Mountainview, CA. Gradually, as
our work on Penzilla progressed, OEone became a more visible and active
member of the Mozilla developer community and my relationship with
mozilla.org evolved.

OfB: You have been an “Associate Staff” member at the Mozilla Project since
the beginning of the year. Could you explain a bit about what this position

Bojanic: “considers Mozilla 1.0 a tremendous success”
PB: mozilla.org is a virtual organization that exists to support the Mozilla project and its development community. It is operated by a group of
staff members who come from a variety of organizations and backgrounds.
I had been working with mozilla.org staff for almost a year, and wanted
to make a more active contribution to the Mozilla project.

My background in software development and project management, and
intimate experience with Mozilla itself, gave me something to offer
mozilla.org. I volunteered my efforts to Mitchell Baker and the other
staff and mozilla.org, and they invited me to participate as their first
associate staff member. Essentially, I participate in regular staff
discussions (both online and by teleconference), provide input on
decisions, and contribute effort to projects.

As an Associate Staff member, I do not speak officially for mozilla.org,
except in cases when I am given a specific mandate, such as Mozilla 1.0
project management and planning.

OfB: What parts of Mozilla development have you been involved with? Are you
satisfied with the direction of the project?

PB: I wrote an executive summary of XUL and related Mozilla technologies
called the Joy of XUL. I also provided
project management support at the early stages of planning for Mozilla
1.0. Like most Mozilla contributors, my involvement was most intense
during the Mozilla 1.0 development cycle. Getting the project to that
milestone was essential for everyone building applications with Mozilla.

I consider Mozilla 1.0 a tremendous success, and I remain satisfied with
the direction of the project. I'm less involved these days with ongoing
development on the trunk although I remain interested and informed of
its progress.

Like so many other Mozilla developers, OEone is focused on building
products with Mozilla. The long-lived Mozilla 1.0 branch provides
developers with the solid foundation on which to build innovative new
applications. Penzilla and HomeBase can move forward and build momentum
now that 1.0 is delivered.

OfB: How did OEone decide to base HomeBase on Mozilla? Were you involved in
that decision?

PB: The decision to base HomeBase on Mozilla wasn't my decision, but it was
one of the main reasons I joined OEone. I had been following the Mozilla
project with great interest prior to joining the company in 2000. Our
president, Eid EID knew that a standard-based Open Source browser had to
be one of the cornerstones of our operating environment.

The harder question was how far to go with Mozilla. One of the design
goals for Gecko was to provide a small, fast, standard-compliant
rendering engine that was easily embedded in applications. We knew
Mozilla was going to be our browser. But I saw compelling value in XUL
and saw some significant benefits to building applications with HTML,
CSS, JavaScript, and other skills that web developers already had in

OfB: Was the combination of KDE/Qt and the Konqueror web browser also

PB: We gave some consideration to alternative approaches in the beginning,
but none provide the Internet-centric look and feel we wanted to
achieve. For example, easy integration of existing Netscape plug-ins
into our environment was an integral part of our vision. Browsers in
general, and Mozilla specifically, are the ultimate integration platform
and there is an abundance of reusable components available.

There are also plenty of developers with the existing skills required to
build XUL applications. This was a significant consideration for OEone
as we were growing an engineering team from scratch in the midst of one
of the most competitive IT job markets in Canada.

Mozilla was the natural choice.

OfB: Now, I understand today marks the release of the Open Source/Free
Software version of Penzilla. How was the decision made to turn HomeBase into
Open Source/Free Software?

PB: It was always OEone's intention to release some proportion of the
software we built back to the Open Source community. We've done that
along the way with components like MozStreamer, the Mozilla GStreamer
plug-in, and AbiMoz, our AbiWord Plugin. We also released the complete
Calendar application to mozilla.org for inclusion in the core browser
application suite.

OEone recognizes the necessity for good development tools to attract
developers to the platform. Mozilla offers the powerful framework, rich
applications, and great developer tools like a JavaScript debugger
(Venkman) and DOM inspector. Mozdev brings together the community of
developers who are building applications for and with Mozilla. It's our
hope that by making Penzilla open source, we'll attract even more
developers and make it even easier to build innovative new applications
for Mozilla.

OfB: How does the Open Source release of your software differ from that in
your boxed set?

PB: The OEone HomeBase SUITE product that OEone offers through its web site is a
complete Linux distribution, based on customized version of Red Hat 7.1.
It features the Penzilla framework, our complete set of applications,
and a subscription to our HomeBase ANYWHERE package of services. OEone
HomeBase SUITE was formerly called OEone HomeBase.

OEone is now offering a new product, HomeBase DESKTOP, which is a
distribution of the Penzilla framework and applications for existing Red
Hat 7.1 and 7.2 users. We have licensed Penzilla and its applications
under the same tri-license (GPL/LPGL/MPL) that Mozilla uses to make it
easy for developers to reuse. HomeBase DESKTOP is therefore a free

OfB: What is OEone's long range plan at the moment? Now that you are making
HomeBase Free Software, will OEone be moving toward a subscription model to
support continuing development?

PB: OEone's HomeBase client products optionally work with our HomeBase
server to provide a managed operating environment. A HomeBase ANYWHERE
subscription provides users with some server storage space,
synchronization between their desktop and server space, automated
software updates, remote customer support, and access to their personal
information through a secure web interface. HomeBase ANYWHERE is how
OEone adds value to the client software, and how it offers a revenue
model to OEM and ISP customers.

OEone will be delivering more valuable services in the future through
the HomeBase ANYWHERE subscription.

OfB: In a conversation before the interview, you had talked about trying to
attract developers to the platform with the new Free Software version of
Penzilla. Is HomeBase currently easy to extend with new functionality - for
instance, a custom application for inventory management at a company?

The innovations that Penzilla offers are an easier framework for building
Mozilla applications, a set of reusable libraries and components for
rapid application development, and a rich set of applications to build
upon, reuse, and learn from. We offer a Developers Guide and
Reference to help developers get started, and a Mozilla Developers
reference section on our web site.

With Penzilla it's relatively easy to build something new like a custom
inventory management application. It would also be easy to integrate
calendar functionality, email messaging, and multimedia features into
that application. And, if you need an open platform on which to deploy
these applications, HomeBase SUITE offers a rapid way to integrate and
deploy a complete desktop solution and keep it current through the auto
update service.

OfB: Although HomeBase is already well suited for enterprise use, do you see
an separate edition that is focused purely on the enterprise in the future?

PB: OEone is actively evaluating ways that Penzilla and HomeBase can be used to
deliver value to enterprise customers. As with all Open Source systems,
compatibility with established proprietary standards is often a
challenge. I think we'll see focused, vertical solutions of Penzilla
early on, where compatibility is a non-issue.

We're also building relationships with groups like OpenOffice.org, with
whom we share an interest in compatibility for the Microsoft Office
documents formats. We will continue to lower the barrier of entry and
acceptance of Open Source platforms for both consumer and enterprise

OfB: Coming around full circle here, are you pleased with the rate of
development you were able to achieve building HomeBase on top of Mozilla?
Would you recommend using Mozilla/XUL for those looking at crossplatform
development solutions?

PB: Our small team of engineers delivered a complete operating environment
with more than 20 applications in less than six months. Open Source
generally, and Mozilla more specifically, were key contributors to that
kind of momentum and success. There is no way could have built
such product in such a short time using proprietary technology.

The even more compelling part of the story is the relative maturity and
stability of the product. We built very little directly from scratch. We
harvested and reused ruthlessly. Open source was our prime directive.

Our product and development efforts are focused exclusively on Linux
because it's Open Source. But Mozilla and Penzilla can be used to build
cross platform applications with remarkable ease. The Calendar
application makes a great case study because it was ported so easily to
Windows and Macintosh.

OfB: Any closing thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

PB: Mozilla is a rich cross-platform application development platform that
is open source and has a strong developer community behind it. In order
to grow that community we need to promote Mozilla, the “platform” and
offer developers a compelling set of tools.

OfB: Thank-you for your time Peter.

PB: My pleasure. Thanks kindly for this opportunity, Tim.

For more information, visit the OEone web site. Mini-Review of HomeBase DESKTOP 1.5 >>