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Re: [Miles Bader <address@hidden>] fancy-splash & GNU systems

From: Noah Friedman
Subject: Re: [Miles Bader <address@hidden>] fancy-splash & GNU systems
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 11:39:42 -0700 (PDT)

>If the problem is only the sentence about Emacs being part of some
>system, then I'm not sure I understand why do we need to say that on
>Linux.  If this is somehow important, I agree with Miles that
>something similar should be said on other systems.

I really don't want to start an argument about this on emacs-devel because
I don't expect anyone to change my mind, and I don't expect to change
anyone else's mind either.

But let me suggest that perhaps the special case is offensive.  There are
no systems (except possibly the Hurd) composed entirely of GNU software.
Although the FSF has after the fact pointed to Debian or other systems
which include the linux kernel and GNU packages and said "this is a GNU
system", there is no specification of what that means; the Hurd-based
system is very different and yet that is a GNU system too.  And if you
don't consider Red Hat or Caldera to be distributing a "GNU system" because
they include proprietary components, then the current decision procedure
based on system-type is inaccurate (or perhaps it is the system-type
setting that is wrong).

That seems like a rathole to me.  It would be fairer to ask the companies
which are building these complete operating systems to acknowledge the
sources of the components somewhere that's easy to find.  I note that Emacs
does this already in the AUTHORS file included in the source distribution.
Such a list for Debian, Red Hat et. al. would need to acknowledge not just
GNU, but the XFree86 organization, Aladdin, the American Mathematical
Society, Sun, Netscape/AOL, and literally thousands of other individual
contributers and organizations.  SuSE actually does this, and I wish other
vendors would follow their example.

I think it's pointless to try to apply a quantitative measure to each
organization or person's contribution in terms of code lines or number of
distinct programs, etc.  The fact remains that many of those contributed
components are significant and were difficult to write and have been in
development or use for just as long as the GNU Project has existed.  Giving
GNU special recognition is unfair to a lot of people who have worked just
as hard as the FSF has, and did not necessarily do it just because rms has
been a spokesman for free software (in fact many of them surely did it in
spite of him.)

If it were up to me, I would take out the special-cased "Linux-based GNU
system" and instead put the legend "One component of a free software
system" and display it on all systems.  Then add a text property to it so
that if you click on it, it takes you to www.gnu.org via w3 or just visits
some local file included in the emacs distribution that talks about what
free software means.

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