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RE: Release plans

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: Release plans
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 09:47:41 -0700

> They do of course exist though.  The two classes that seem to 
> be common are:
>   1) People that got used to emacs in another OS (in my experience
>      usually old unix systems, e.g. sunos/solaris), and 
>      continue to use it in windows.  I suppose this number is
>      dwindling.
>   2) People that are influenced in some way by an emacs user.  E.g.,
>      windows-using spouse/friend/... of emacs user.

There is another large class, and it is not dwindling much at the moment.

More and more, I see developers using a Windows laptop or desktop machine to
access a GNU/Linux machine remotely (e.g. through VNC), the latter machine often
being a VM.

This might be true only of large organizations that produce software (companies,
government,...), but I suspect that it is more general than that and becoming
more so. It is certainly true of Oracle, as one example.

Where I work:

The developers use Windows on their desktop/laptop (today) because that is what
everyone in the organization uses. They use the same tools as everyone else
(non-developers) for interacting and getting the organization's work done
together. And yes, this is a non-negligible part of what they do. Even a
developer's computer time is not all spent on development - far from it.

This includes all of the work that is not necessarily software development per
se. And it includes even much of the software development work in the larger
sense: project management, specs, product management, and so on. That work is
done using Windows desktop boxes for the most part, even if, under the covers,
the (typically Web) Windows clients interact with databases and other tools that
run on GNU/Linux. Software development in the stricter sense of coding, testing,
version control, and so on, is done on the remote GNU/Linux boxes.

Yes, to the extent that they can use Web clients for this work (and they can,
more and more), they could use only their GNU/Linux boxes for that, even if that
involves another layer of indirection (e.g. VNC). But they typically don't.
Perhaps this also has to do with less support on GNU for the office tools they
use to get this work done. Or perhaps it's just ignorance, or perhaps it's
bandwidth slowdown (e.g. VNC). I don't know. And perhaps this will change. But
today that work is done through Windows.

In sum, the developers use their remote and often virtual GNU/Linux machines for
software development, but they use Windows for everything else.

Emacs? Many use Emacs for their development on GNU/Linux. Many others use some
flavor of vi for that, and some use both Emacs and vi. What editor do they use
on Windows? My guess is that many use the same editor they use on GNU, but I
know that some use things like TextPad or even NotePad on Windows. I believe
that some who use Emacs all day long on GNU do not even know that they can also
use it on Windows. Those who do know take advantage of this and presumably
spread the word.

Some who use Emacs on both platforms take advantage of Tramp to access files on
their GNU/Linux machines from an Emacs session running on Windows. That is, if
they happen to be working on Windows in Emacs, they also do some of their work
on GNU directly from the same Emacs session, rather than pulling up VNC or
otherwise accessing the remote GNU machine. 

In general, they take advantage of the fact that Emacs runs everywhere, acts the
same everywhere, and can access remote files from anywhere. The combinations are
several, and I am sure that they are all used. Because it runs on multiple
platforms and allows remote use of different platforms to some extent, Emacs is
in some technical (not political) sense above and outside any choice of OS.

So yes, it is very useful to many _users_ of GNU that Emacs continue to run on
Windows. Whether that is important and useful to FSF is for FSF to decide. It's
obvious to me that Emacs on Windows benefits GNU/FSF greatly, but I won't try
further to convince anyone of that.

I would guess that there has been a gradual shift in development in many
software organizations to using GNU/Linux more and using Windows less, and this
is true for more than just the developers. It is a slow movement. The shift for
development per se is one thing, but I think the shift of computer use outside
development is largely due to increased support for remote work, better
bandwidth, and Web services. Not to mention cheap, blade-server GNU machines.

Better GNU support for the non-development use of computers would hasten the
move. When marketing and HR departments find it just as easy to do their work on
GNU, the battle will be won.

You will notice that most of the posts in this thread have taken the point of
view of an individual computer user, and most often of a developer. To answer
the question of which tools and processes get used in general and why, you need
to look beyond the individual to the social groups s?he is part of. People work
and play with others, and to do that they often use tools that the groups decide
are most appropriate.

Use of GNU/Linux has now moved beyond the hobbyist stage, thanks largely to
Linux and cheap PCs. Its adoption and use are no longer decided only by lone
hackers. Its growth is more and more determined by its utility to groups of
people working together, often large groups. Developers built GNU/Linux, but
they are no longer the only users.

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