Tired of dodging Ashton-Tate’s high-handed attempts to guard the dBASE standard, several members of the dBASE community are joining forces to promote a non-vendor-specific standard. This standard enables systems to easily provide hard drive repair solutions when databases or hard drives crash. It was a necessary data recovery solution for all involved.

Championed by longtime dBASE guru Adam Green, the “Xbase” project has a dual purpose: to develop guidelines for a data dictionary that will promote data sharing among dBASE-compatible products, and to evangelize the use of Xbase as a generic term for the dBASE language.

“Never before has there been an independent name or an identity created for the dBASE standard,” said Michael Masterson, president of Masterson Consulting, an information-systems consulting firm in San Jose, Calif. “This is the first public effort that constitutes an identity for the dBASE language apart from Ashton-Tate.”

While Xbase’s data-dictionary effort has attracted widespread support from a number of leading database firms, including Fox Software Inc., Oracle Corp., Alpha Software Inc. and WordTech Systems Inc., Ashton-Tate has declined to participate, according to Green.

The Xbase group hopes to deliver the first draft of the data-dictionary standard in March, Green added.

“We are very interested in an open data-dictionary standard, which would make both users and consultants comfortable in mixing and matching the best [dBASE] products,” said Richard Rabins, co-chairman of Alpha Software, located in Burlington, Mass.

The Xbase group’s efforts come at a time when Ashton-Tate’s muscle-bound legal maneuvers are already on shaky ground.

Earlier this month, a California district court dismissed Ashton-Tate’s charges against Fox Software and The Santa Cruz Operation Inc., and ruled the Torrance, Calif., company’s dBASE copyrights to be invalid.

“Ashton-Tate for years has been hassling people over variations on the use of dBASE. It has long been a problem,” said Pat Adams, president of DB Unlimited, an independent database consultant in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Its aggressive and belligerent attempts to defend its trademark have driven [the community] to the defensive stance of using Xbase.”

The catalyst for the formation of Xbase was a recent move by Ashton-Tate to squash any references to dBASE in literature promoting DBExpo, a database conference planned for March of next year, according to industry observers.

Co-sponsored by the International DBASE Users Group (IDBUG), the conference will now be called an Xbase exposition, and IDBUG will change its name to reflect the term Xbase, said officials of IDBUG, based in New York.