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[Savannah-hackers] [ #124612] Maintaining GNU Backgammon

From: Ted Teah via RT
Subject: [Savannah-hackers] [ #124612] Maintaining GNU Backgammon
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 11:47:09 -0500

Hello Joern,

Congratulations on your appointment as maintainer!  I have added you to
gnu-prog and gnu-prog-discuss mailing lists, as well as to
maintainers.list.  In addition, please find a copy of maintain.text
attached to this email.

Finally, could you please provide us with the following contact information:

        Home Address and Phone Number:

        Work Address and Phone Number:

        Cell Phone Number:

Thank you for your help.

All the best,
Ted Teah

cc: address@hidden, address@hidden, address@hidden

Maintainer Name:  Joern Thyssen 
Package: gnu backgammon
* Maintaining: (maintain).        Maintaining GNU software.

Table of Contents


About This Document

Stepping Down

Recruiting Developers

Legal Matters
  Copyright Papers
  Legally Significant Changes
  Recording Contributors
  Copyright Notices
  License Notices
  External Libraries

Cleaning Up Changes

Platforms to Support

Dealing With Mail

Recording Old Versions

  Distribution tar Files
  Distribution Patches
  Distribution on `'
  Test Releases
  Announcing Releases

Web Pages

Ethical and Philosophical Consideration

Terminology Issues
  Free Software and Open Source
  GNU and Linux


Free Software Directory

Using the Proofreaders List



Information for maintainers of GNU software, last updated June 2, 2003.

Copyright (C) 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000,
2001, 2002, 2003 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

     Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of
     this entire document without royalty provided the copyright notice
     and this permission notice are preserved.

About This Document

This file contains guidelines and advice for someone who is the
maintainer of a GNU program on behalf of the GNU Project.  Everyone is
entitled to change and redistribute GNU software; you need not pay
attention to this file to get permission.  But if you want to maintain a
version for widespread distribution, we suggest you follow these
guidelines; if you would like to be a GNU maintainer, then it is
essential to follow these guidelines.

Please send corrections or suggestions for this document to
<address@hidden>.  If you make a suggestion, please include a
suggested new wording for it, to help us consider the suggestion
efficiently.  We prefer a context diff to the `maintain.texi' file, but
if you don't have that file, you can make a context diff for some other
version of this document, or propose it in any way that makes it clear.

This document uses the gender-neutral third-person pronouns "person",
"per", "pers" and "perself" which were promoted, and perhaps invented,
by Marge Piercy in `Woman on the Edge of Time'.  They are used just
like "she", "her", "hers" and "herself", except that they apply equally
to males and females.  For example, "Person placed per new program
under the GNU GPL, to let the public benefit from per work, and to
enable per to feel person has done the right thing."

The directory `/gd/gnuorg' is found on the GNU file server, currently
`'; if you are the maintainer of a GNU package, you
should have an account there.  Contact <address@hidden> if you don't
have one.  (You can also ask for accounts for people who help you a
large amount in working on the package.)  `/gd/gnuorg/maintain.tar.gz'
is a tar file containing all of these files in that directory which are
mentioned in this file; it is updated daily.

This release of the GNU Maintenance Instructions was last updated
June 2, 2003.

Stepping Down

With good fortune, you will continue maintaining your package for many
decades.  But sometimes for various reasons maintainers decide to step

If you're the official maintainer of a GNU package and you decide to
step down, please inform the GNU Project (<address@hidden>).  We
need to know that the package no longer has a maintainer, so we can
look for and appoint a new maintainer.

If you have an idea for who should take over, please tell
<address@hidden> your suggestion.  The appointment of a new
maintainer needs the GNU Project's confirmation, but your judgment that
a person is capable of doing the job will carry a lot of weight.

As your final act as maintainer, it would be helpful to set up the
package under `' (*note Old Versions::).  This will
make it much easier for the new maintainer to pick up where you left off
and will ensure that the CVS tree is not misplaced if it takes us a
while to find a new maintainer.

Recruiting Developers

Unless your package is a fairly small, you probably won't do all the
work on it yourself.  Most maintainers recruit other developers to help.

Sometimes people will offer to help.  Some of them will be capable,
while others will not.  It's up to you to determine who provides useful
help, and encourage those people to participate more.

Some of the people who offer to help will support the GNU Project, while
others may be interested for other reasons.  Some will support the goals
of the Free Software Movement, but some may not.  They are all welcome
to help with the work--we don't ask people's views or motivations
before they contribute to GNU packages.

As a consequence, you cannot expect all contributors to support the GNU
Project, or to have a concern for its policies and standards.  So part
of your job as maintainer is to exercise your authority on these points
when they arise.  No matter how much of the work other people do, you
are in charge of what goes in the release.  When a crucial point arises,
you should calmly state your decision and stick to it.

Sometimes a package has several co-maintainers who share the role of
maintainer.  Unlike developers who help, co-maintainers have actually
been appointed jointly as the maintainers of the package, and they carry
out the maintainer's functions together.  If you would like to propose
some of your developers as co-maintainers, please contact

Legal Matters

This chapter describes procedures you should follow for legal reasons
as you maintain the program, to avoid legal difficulties.

Copyright Papers

If you maintain an FSF-copyrighted package, then you should follow
certain legal procedures when incorporating legally significant changes
written by other people.  This ensures that the FSF has the legal right
to distribute the package, and the standing to defend its GPL-covered
status in court if necessary.

*Before* incorporating significant changes, make sure that the person
who wrote the changes has signed copyright papers and that the Free
Software Foundation has received and signed them.  We may also need a
disclaimer from the person's employer.

To check whether papers have been received, look in
`/gd/gnuorg/copyright.list'.  If you can't look there directly,
<address@hidden> can check for you.  Our clerk can also check for
papers that are waiting to be entered and inform you when expected
papers arrive.

The directory `/gd/gnuorg' is found on the GNU machines; if you are the
maintainer of a GNU package, you should have an account on them.
Contact <address@hidden> if you don't have one.  (You can also ask
for accounts for people who help you a large amount in working on the

In order for the contributor to know person should sign papers, you need
to ask for the necessary papers.  If you don't know per well, and you
don't know that person is used to our ways of handling copyright papers,
then it might be a good idea to raise the subject with a message like

     Would you be willing to assign the copyright to the Free Software
     Foundation, so that we could install it in PROGRAM?


     Would you be willing to sign a copyright disclaimer to put this
     change in the public domain, so that we can install it in PROGRAM?

If the contributor wants more information, you can send per
`/gd/gnuorg/conditions.text', which explains per options (assign vs.
disclaim) and their consequences.

Once the conversation is under way and the contributor is ready for more
details, you should send one of the templates that are found in
`/gd/gnuorg'.  This section explains which templates you should use in
which circumstances.  *Please don't use any of the templates except for
those listed here, and please don't change the wording.*

Once the conversation is under way, you can send the contributor the
precise wording and instructions by email.  Before you do this, make
sure to get the current version of the template you will use!  We change
these templates occasionally--don't keep using an old version.

For large changes, ask the contributor for an assignment.  Send per a
copy of the file `/gd/gnuorg/request-assign.changes'.

For medium to small changes, request a disclaimer by sending per the
file `/gd/gnuorg/request-disclaim.changes'.

If the contributor is likely to keep making changes, person might want
to sign an assignment for all per future changes to the program.  So it
is useful to offer per that alternative.  If person wants to do it that
way, send per the `/gd/gnuorg/request-assign.future'.

When you send a `request-' file, you don't need to fill in anything
before sending it.  Just send the file verbatim to the contributor.  The
file gives per instructions for how to ask the FSF to mail per the
papers to sign.  The `request-' file also raises the issue of getting a
copyright disclaimer from the contributor's employer.

For less common cases, we have template files you should send to the
contributor.  Be sure to fill in the name of the person and the name of
the program in these templates, where it says NAME OF PERSON and NAME OF
PROGRAM, before sending; otherwise person might sign without noticing
them, and the papers would be useless.  Note that in some templates
there is more than one place to put the name of the program or the name
of the person; be sure to change all of them.  All the templates raise
the issue of an employer's disclaimer as well.

You do not need to ask for separate papers for a manual that is
distributed only in the software package it describes.  But if we
sometimes distribute the manual separately (for instance, if we publish
it as a book), then we need separate legal papers for changes in the
manual.  For smaller changes, use `/gd/gnuorg/disclaim.changes.manual';
for larger ones, use `/gd/gnuorg/assign.changes.manual'.  To cover both
past and future changes to a manual, you can use
`/gd/gnuorg/assign.future.manual'.  For a translation of a manual, use

If a contributor is reluctant to sign an assignment for a large change,
and is willing to sign a disclaimer instead, that is acceptable, so you
should offer this alternative if it helps you reach agreement.  We
prefer an assignment for a larger change, so that we can enforce the GNU
GPL for the new text, but a disclaimer is enough to let us use the text.

If you maintain a collection of programs, occasionally someone will
contribute an entire separate program or manual that should be added to
the collection.  Then you can use the files `request-assign.program',
`disclaim.program', `assign.manual', and `disclaim.manual'.  We very
much prefer an assignment for a new separate program or manual, unless
it is quite small, but a disclaimer is acceptable if the contributor
insists on handling the matter that way.

If a contributor wants the FSF to publish only a pseudonym, that is ok.
The contributor should say this, and state the desired pseudonym, when
answering the `request-' form.  The actual legal papers will use the
real name, but the FSF will publish only the pseudonym.  When using one
of the other forms, fill in the real name but ask the contributor to
discuss the use of a pseudonym with <address@hidden> before sending
back the signed form.

*Although there are other templates besides the ones listed here, they
are for special circumstances; please do not use them without getting
advice from <address@hidden>.*

If you are not sure what to do, then please ask <address@hidden> for
advice; if the contributor asks you questions about the meaning and
consequences of the legal papers, and you don't know the answers, you
can forward them to <address@hidden> and we will answer.

*Please do not try changing the wording of a template yourself.  If you
think a change is needed, please talk with <address@hidden>, and we
will work with a lawyer to decide what to do.*

Legally Significant Changes

If a person contributes more than around 15 lines of code and/or text,
that is legally significant for copyright purposes, which means we need
copyright papers for it as described above.

A change of just a few lines (less than 15 or so) is not legally
significant for copyright.  A regular series of repeated changes, such
as renaming a symbol, is not legally significant even if the symbol has
to be renamed in many places.  Keep in mind, however, that a series of
minor changes by the same person can add up to a significant
contribution.  What counts is the total contribution of the person; it
is irrelevant which parts of it were contributed when.

Copyright does not cover ideas.  If someone contributes ideas but no
text, these ideas may be morally significant as contributions, and
worth giving credit for, but they are not significant for copyright
purposes.  Likewise, bug reports do not count for copyright purposes.

When giving credit to people whose contributions are not legally
significant for copyright purposes, be careful to make that fact clear.
The credit should clearly say they did not contribute significant code
or text.

When people's contributions are not legally significant because they
did not write code, do this by stating clearly what their contribution
was.  For instance, you could write this:

      * Ideas by:
      *   Richard Mlynarik <address@hidden> (1997)
      *   Masatake Yamato <address@hidden> (1999)

`Ideas by:' makes it clear that Mlynarik and Yamato here contributed
only ideas, not code.  Without the `Ideas by:' note, several years from
now we would find it hard to be sure whether they had contributed code,
and we might have to track them down and ask them.

When you record a small patch in a change log file, first search for
previous changes by the same person, and see if his past contributions,
plus the new one, add up to something legally significant.  If so, you
should get copyright papers for all his changes before you install the
new change.

If that is not so, you can install the small patch.  Write `(tiny
change)' after the patch author's name, like this:

     2002-11-04  Robert Fenk  <address@hidden>  (tiny change)

Recording Contributors

*Keep correct records of which portions were written by whom.* This is
very important.  These records should say which files, or parts of
files, were written by each person, and which files or portions were
revised by each person.  This should include installation scripts as
well as manuals and documentation files--everything.

These records don't need to be as detailed as a change log.  They don't
need to distinguish work done at different times, only different
people.  They don't need describe changes in more detail than which
files or parts of a file were changed.  And they don't need to say
anything about the function or purpose of a file or change-the Register
of Copyrights doesn't care what the text does, just who wrote or
contributed to which parts.

The list should also mention if certain files distributed in the same
package are really a separate program.

Only the contributions that are legally significant for copyright
purposes (*note Legally Significant::) need to be listed.  Small
contributions, ideas, etc., can be omitted.

For example, this would describe an early version of GAS:

     Dean Elsner   first version of all files except gdb-lines.c and m68k.c.
     Jay Fenlason  entire files gdb-lines.c and m68k.c, most of app.c,
                   plus extensive changes in messages.c, input-file.c, write.c
                   and revisions elsewhere.
     Note: GAS is distributed with the files obstack.c and obstack.h, but
     they are considered a separate package, not part of GAS proper.

Please keep these records in a file named `AUTHORS' in the source
directory for the program itself.

Copyright Notices

You should maintain a legally valid copyright notice and a license
notice in each nontrivial file in the package.  (Any file more than ten
lines long is nontrivial for this purpose.)  This includes header files
and interface definitions, makefiles, scripts, other data files used in
building or running the program, documentation files, and any supporting
files.  If a file has been explicitly placed in the public domain, then
instead of a copyright notice, it should have a notice saying explicitly
that it is in the public domain.

Even image files and sound files should contain copyright notices and
license notices, if they can.  Some formats do not have room for textual
annotations; for these files, state the copyright and copying
permissions in a README file in the same directory.

Change log files should have a copyright notice and license notice at
the end, since new material is added at the beginning but the end
remains the end.

When a file is automatically generated from some other file in the
distribution, it is useful to copy the copyright notice and permission
notice of the file it is generated from, if you can.  Alternatively, put
a notice at the beginning saying which file it is generated from.

A copyright notice looks like this:


The COPYRIGHT-HOLDER may be the Free Software Foundation, Inc., or
someone else; you should know who is the copyright holder for your

Replace the `(C)' with a C-in-a-circle symbol if it is available.  For
example, use address@hidden' in a Texinfo file.  However, stick with
parenthesized `C' unless you know that C-in-a-circle will work.  For
example, a program's standard `--version' message should use
parenthesized `C' by default, though message translations may use
C-in-a-circle in locales where that symbol is known to work.

The list of year numbers should include each year in which you finished
preparing a version which was actually released, and which was an
ancestor of the current version.

Please reread the paragraph above, slowly and carefully.  It is
important to understand that rule precisely, much as you would
understand a complicated C statement in order to hand-simulate it.

This list is _not_ a list of years in which versions were _released_.
It is a list of years in which versions, later released, were
_completed_.  So if you finish a version on Dec 31, 1994 and release it
on Jan 1, 1995, this version requires the inclusion of 1994, but
doesn't require the inclusion of 1995.

Do not abbreviate the year list using a range; for instance, do not
write `1996--1998'; instead, write `1996, 1997, 1998'.

The versions that matter, for purposes of this list, are versions that
were ancestors of the current version.  So if you made a temporary
branch in maintenance, and worked on branches A and B in parallel, then
each branch would have its own list of years, which is based on the
versions released in that branch.  A version in branch A need not be
reflected in the list of years for branch B, and vice versa.

However, if you copy code from branch A into branch B, the years for
branch A (or at least, for the parts that you copied into branch B) do
need to appear in the list in branch B, because now they are ancestors
of branch B.

This rule is complicated.  If we were in charge of copyright law, we
would probably change this (as well as many other aspects).

For an FSF-copyrighted package, if you have followed the procedures to
obtain legal papers, each file should have just one copyright holder:
the Free Software Foundation, Inc.  So the copyright notice should give
that name.

But if contributors are not all assigning their copyrights to a single
copyright holder, it can easily happen that one file has several
copyright holders.  Each contributor of nontrivial amounts is a
copyright holder.

In that case, you should always include a copyright notice in the name
of main copyright holder of the file.  You can also include copyright
notices for other copyright holders as well, and this is a good idea for
those who have contributed a large amount and for those who specifically
ask for notices in their names.  But you don't have to include a notice
for everyone who contributed to the file, and that would be rather

License Notices

Every nontrivial file needs a license notice as well as the copyright
notice.  (Without a license notice giving permission to copy and change
the file, copying and modification are legally prohibited, and that
would make the file non-free.)

The package itself should contain a full copy of GPL (conventionally in
a file named `COPYING') and the GNU Free Documentation License
(included within your documentation).  If the package contains any files
distributed under the Lesser GPL, it should contain a full copy of that
as well (conventionally in a file named `COPYING.LIB').

You can get the official versions of these files from three places.
You can use whichever is the most convenient for you.

   * `'.

   * The directory `/gd/gnuorg' on the host `'.  (You
     can ask <address@hidden> for an account there if you don't have

   * The `gnulib' project on `', which you can access
     via anonymous CVS.  See `'.

The official Texinfo sources for the licenses are also available in
those same places, so you can include them in your documentation.  A
GFDL-covered manual must include the GFDL in this way.  *Note GNU
Sample Texts: (texinfo)GNU Sample Texts, for a full example in a
Texinfo manual.

Typically the license notice for program files (including build scripts,
configure files and makefiles) should cite the GPL, like this:

     This file is part of GNU PROGRAM

     GNU PROGRAM is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
     it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published
     by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2, or (at your
     option) any later version.

     GNU PROGRAM is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
     WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
     General Public License for more details.

     You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
     along with PROGRAM; see the file COPYING.  If not, write to the
     Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330,
     Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

But in a small program which is just a few files, you can use this

     This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
     modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
     published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the
     License, or (at your option) any later version.

     This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
     but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
     General Public License for more details.

     You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
     along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
     Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA
     02111-1307 USA.

Documentation files should have license notices also.  Manuals should
use the GNU Free Documentation License.  Here is an example of the
license notice to use after the copyright notice.  Please adjust the
list of invariant sections as appropriate for your manual.  (If there
are none, then say "with no invariant sections".)  *Note GNU Sample
Texts: (texinfo)GNU Sample Texts, for a full example in a Texinfo

     Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
     under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or
     any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the
     Invariant Sections being "GNU General Public License", with the
     Front-Cover Texts being ``A GNU Manual,'' and with the Back-Cover Texts
     as in (a) below.  A copy of the license is included in the section
     entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".
     (a) The FSF's Back-Cover Text is: ``You are free to copy and modify
     this GNU Manual.  Buying copies from GNU Press supports the FSF in
     developing GNU and promoting software freedom.''

If the FSF does not publish this manual on paper, then omit the last
sentence in (b) that talks about copies from GNU Press.  If the FSF is
not the copyright holder, then replace `FSF' with the appropriate name.

See <> for more advice about
how to use the GNU FDL.

If the manual is over 400 pages, or if the FSF thinks it might be a good
choice for publishing on paper, then please include our standard
invariant section which explains the importance of free documentation.
Write to <address@hidden> to get a copy of this section.

Note that when you distribute several manuals together in one software
package, their on-line forms can share a single copy of the GFDL (see
section 6).  However, the printed (`.dvi') forms should each contain a
copy of the GFDL, unless they are set up to be printed and published
only together.  Therefore, it is usually simplest to include the GFDL
in each manual.

Small supporting files, short manuals (under 300 lines long) and rough
documentation (README files, INSTALL files, etc) can use a simple
all-permissive license like this one:

     Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification,
     are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright
     notice and this notice are preserved.

If you would like help with license issues or with using the GFDL,
please contact <address@hidden>.

External Libraries

When maintaining an FSF-copyrighted GNU package, sometimes you will want
to use a general-purpose free software module which offers a useful
functionality, as a "library" facility (though the module is not always
packaged technically as a library).

In a case like this, it would be unreasonable to ask the author of that
module to assign the copyright to the FSF.  After all, person did not
write it specifically as a contribution to your package, so it would be
impertinent to ask per, out of the blue, "Please give the FSF your

So the thing to do in this case is to make your program use the module,
but not consider it a part of your program.  There are two reasonable
methods of doing this:

  1. Assume the module is already installed on the system, and use it
     when linking your program.  This is only reasonable if the module
     really has the form of a library.

  2. Include the module in your package, putting the source in a
     separate subdirectory whose `README' file says, "This is not part
     of the GNU FOO program, but is used with GNU FOO."  Then set up
     your makefiles to build this module and link it into the

     For this method, it is not necessary to treat the module as a
     library and make a `.a' file from it.  You can link with the `.o'
     files directly in the usual manner.

Both of these methods create an irregularity, and our lawyers have told
us to minimize the amount of such irregularity.  So consider using these
methods only for general-purpose modules that were written for other
programs and released separately for general use.  For anything that was
written as a contribution to your package, please get papers signed.

Cleaning Up Changes

Don't feel obligated to include every change that someone asks you to
include.  You must judge which changes are improvements--partly based
on what you think the users will like, and partly based on your own
judgment of what is better.  If you think a change is not good, you
should reject it.

If someone sends you changes which are useful, but written in an ugly
way or hard to understand and maintain in the future, don't hesitate to
ask per to clean up their changes before you merge them.  Since the
amount of work we can do is limited, the more we convince others to help
us work efficiently, the faster GNU will advance.

If the contributor will not or can not make the changes clean enough,
then it is legitimate to say "I can't install this in its present form;
I can only do so if you clean it up."  Invite per to distribute per
changes another way, or to find other people to make them clean enough
for you to install and maintain.

The only reason to do these cleanups yourself is if (1) it is easy, less
work than telling the author what to clean up, or (2) the change is an
important one, important enough to be worth the work of cleaning it up.

The GNU Coding Standards are a good thing to send people when you ask
them to clean up changes (*note Contents: (standards)Top.).  The Emacs
Lisp manual contains an appendix that gives coding standards for Emacs
Lisp programs; it is good to urge authors to read it (*note Tips and
Standards: (elisp)Tips.).

Platforms to Support

Most GNU packages run on a wide range of platforms.  These platforms are
not equally important.

The most important platforms for a GNU package to support are GNU and
GNU/Linux.  Developing the GNU operating system is the whole point of
the GNU Project; a GNU package exists to make the whole GNU system more
powerful.  So please keep that goal in mind and let it shape your work.
For instance, every new feature you add should work on GNU, and
GNU/Linux if possible too.  If a new feature only runs on GNU and
GNU/Linux, it could still be acceptable.  However, a feature that runs
only on other systems and not on GNU or GNU/Linux makes no sense in a
GNU package.

You will naturally want to keep the program running on all the platforms
it supports.  But you personally will not have access to most of these
platforms-so how should you do it?

Don't worry about trying to get access to all of these platforms.  Even
if you did have access to all the platforms, it would be inefficient for
you to test the program on each platform yourself.  Instead, you should
test the program on a few platforms, including GNU or GNU/Linux, and let
the users test it on the other platforms.  You can do this through a
pretest phase before the real release; when there is no reason to expect
problems, in a package that is mostly portable, you can just make a
release and let the users tell you if anything unportable was

It is important to test the program personally on GNU or GNU/Linux,
because these are the most important platforms for a GNU package.  If
you don't have access to one of these platforms, please ask
<address@hidden> to help you out.

Supporting other platforms is optional--we do it when that seems like a
good idea, but we don't consider it obligatory.  If the users don't take
care of a certain platform, you may have to desupport it unless and
until users come forward to help.  Conversely, if a user offers changes
to support an additional platform, you will probably want to install
them, but you don't have to.  If you feel the changes are complex and
ugly, if you think that they will increase the burden of future
maintenance, you can and should reject them.  This includes both free
platforms such as NetBSD or FreeBSD and non-free platforms such as

Dealing With Mail

Once a program is in use, you will get bug reports for it.  Most GNU
programs have their own special lists for sending bug reports.  The
advertised bug-reporting email address should always be
address@hidden', to help show users that the program is a GNU
package, but it is ok to set up that list to forward to another site
for further forwarding.  The package distribution should state the name
of the bug-reporting list in a prominent place, and ask users to help
us by reporting bugs there.

We also have a catch-all list, <address@hidden>, which is used
for all GNU programs that don't have their own specific lists.  But
nowadays we want to give each program its own bug-reporting list and
move away from using <bug-gnu-utils>.

If you are the maintainer of a GNU package, you should have an account
on the GNU servers; contact <address@hidden> if you don't have one.
(You can also ask for accounts for people who help you a large amount
in working on the package.)  With this account, you can edit
`/com/mailer/aliases' to create a new unmanaged list or add yourself to
an existing unmanaged list.  A comment near the beginning of that file
explains how to create a Mailman-managed mailing list.

But if you don't want to learn how to do those things, you can
alternatively ask <address@hidden> to add you to the bug-reporting
list for your program.  To set up a new list, contact
<address@hidden>.  You can subscribe to a list managed by
Mailman by sending mail to the corresponding `-request' address.

When you receive bug reports, keep in mind that bug reports are crucial
for your work.  If you don't know about problems, you cannot fix them.
So always thank each person who sends a bug report.

You don't have an obligation to give more response than that, though.
The main purpose of bug reports is to help you contribute to the
community by improving the next version of the program.  Many of the
people who report bugs don't realize this--they think that the point is
for you to help them individually.  Some will ask you to focus on that
_instead of_ on making the program better.  If you comply with their
wishes, you will have been distracted from the job of maintaining the

For example, people sometimes report a bug in a vague (and therefore
useless) way, and when you ask for more information, they say, "I just
wanted to see if you already knew the solution" (in which case the bug
report would do nothing to help improve the program).  When this
happens, you should explain to them the real purpose of bug reports.  (A
canned explanation will make this more efficient.)

When people ask you to put your time into helping them use the program,
it may seem "helpful" to do what they ask.  But it is much _less_
helpful than improving the program, which is the maintainer's real job.

By all means help individual users when you feel like it, if you feel
you have the time available.  But be careful to limit the amount of time
you spend doing this--don't let it eat away the time you need to
maintain the program!  Know how to say no; when you are pressed for
time, just "thanks for the bug report--I will fix it" is enough

Some GNU packages, such as Emacs and GCC, come with advice about how to
make bug reports useful.  If you want to copy and adapt that, it could
be a very useful thing to do.

Recording Old Versions

It is very important to keep backup files of all source files of GNU.
You can do this using RCS, CVS or PRCS if you like.  The easiest way to
use RCS or CVS is via the Version Control library in Emacs; *Note
Concepts of Version Control: (emacs)Concepts of VC.

The history of previous revisions and log entries is very important for
future maintainers of the package, so even if you do not make it
publicly accessible, be careful not to put anything in the repository or
change log that you would not want to hand over to another maintainer
some day.

The GNU Project provides a CVS server that GNU software packages can
use: `'.  (The name refers to the multiple versions
and their subversions that are stored in a CVS repository.)  You don't
have to use this repository, but if you plan to allow public read-only
access to your development sources, it is convenient for people to be
able to find various GNU packages in a central place.  The CVS Server
is managed by <address@hidden>.

The GNU project also provides additional developer resources on
`' through its `' interface.  All
GNU maintainers are encouraged to take advantage of these facilities,
as `savannah' can serve to foster a sense of community among all GNU
developers and help in keeping up with project management.


It is important to follow the GNU conventions when making GNU software

Distribution tar Files

The tar file for version M.N of program `foo' should be named
`foo-M.N.tar'.  It should unpack into a subdirectory named `foo-M.N'.
Tar files should not unpack into files in the current directory,
because this is inconvenient if the user happens to unpack into a
directory with other files in it.

Here is how the `Makefile' for Bison creates the tar file.  This method
is good for other programs.

             echo bison-`sed -e '/version_string/!d' \
               -e 's/[^0-9.]*\([0-9.]*\).*/\1/' -e q version.c` > .fname
             -rm -rf `cat .fname`
             mkdir `cat .fname`
             dst=`cat .fname`; for f in $(DISTFILES); do \
                ln $(srcdir)/$$f $$dst/$$f || { echo copying $$f; \
                  cp -p $(srcdir)/$$f $$dst/$$f ; } \
             tar --gzip -chf `cat .fname`.tar.gz `cat .fname`
             -rm -rf `cat .fname` .fname

Source files that are symbolic links to other file systems cannot be
installed in the temporary directory using `ln', so use `cp' if `ln'

Using Automake is a good way to take care of writing the `dist' target.

Distribution Patches

If the program is large, it is useful to make a set of diffs for each
release, against the previous important release.

At the front of the set of diffs, put a short explanation of which
version this is for and which previous version it is relative to.  Also
explain what else people need to do to update the sources properly (for
example, delete or rename certain files before installing the diffs).

The purpose of having diffs is that they are small.  To keep them
small, exclude files that the user can easily update.  For example,
exclude info files, DVI files, tags tables, output files of Bison or
Flex.  In Emacs diffs, we exclude compiled Lisp files, leaving it up to
the installer to recompile the patched sources.

When you make the diffs, each version should be in a directory suitably
named--for example, `gcc-2.3.2' and `gcc-2.3.3'.  This way, it will be
very clear from the diffs themselves which version is which.

If you use GNU `diff' to make the patch, use the options `-rc2P'.  That
will put any new files into the output as "entirely different."  Also,
the patch's context diff headers should have dates and times in
Universal Time using traditional Unix format, so that patch recipients
can use GNU `patch''s `-Z' option.  For example, you could use the
following Bourne shell command to create the patch:

     LC_ALL=C TZ=UTC0 diff -rc2P gcc-2.3.2 gcc-2.3.3 | \
     gzip -9 >gcc-2.3.2-2.3.3.patch.gz

If the distribution has subdirectories in it, then the diffs probably
include some files in the subdirectories.  To help users install such
patches reliably, give them precise directions for how to run patch.
For example, say this:

     To apply these patches, cd to the main directory of the program
     and then use `patch -p1'.   `-p1' avoids guesswork in choosing
     which subdirectory to find each file in.

It's wise to test your patch by applying it to a copy of the old
version, and checking that the result exactly matches the new version.

Distribution on `'

GNU packages are distributed through directory `/gnu' on `'.
Each package should have a subdirectory named after the package, and
all the distribution files for the package should go in that

Only the latest version of any program needs to be on `'.
Being an archive of old versions is not the function of `'.

Diffs are another matter.  Since they are much smaller than
distribution files, it is good to keep the diffs around for quite a

Please talk with <address@hidden> in regard to putting new versions
on `'.

Test Releases

When you release a greatly changed new major version of a program, you
might want to do so as a pretest.  This means that you make a tar file,
but send it only to a group of volunteers that you have recruited.  (Use
a suitable GNU mailing list/newsgroup to recruit them.)  We normally use
the FTP server `' for pretests and prerelease versions.
You can place items on `' by putting them in the
`~ftp/gnu' directory on `'.

Once a program gets to be widely used and people expect it to work
solidly, it is a good idea to do pretest releases before each "real"

There are two ways of handling version numbers for pretest versions.
One method is to treat them as versions preceding the release you are
going to make.

In this method, if you are about to release version 4.6 but you want to
do a pretest first, call it 4.5.90.  If you need a second pretest, call
it 4.5.91, and so on.  If you are really unlucky and ten pretests are
not enough, after 4.5.99 you could advance to 4.5.990 and so on.  (You
could also use 4.5.100, but 990 has the advantage of sorting in the
right order.)

The other method is to attach a date to the release number that is
coming.  For a pretest for version 4.6, made on Dec 10, 2002, this
would be 4.6.20021210.  A second pretest made the same day could be

For development snapshots that are not formal pretests, using just the
date without the version numbers is ok too.

One thing that you should never do is to release a pretest with the same
version number as the planned real release.  Many people will look only
at the version number (in the tar file name, in the directory name that
it unpacks into, or wherever they can find it) to determine whether a
tar file is the latest version.  People might look at the test release
in this way and mistake it for the real release.  Therefore, always
change the number when you release changed code.

Announcing Releases

When you have a new release, please make an announcement.  You can
maintain your own mailing list for announcements if you like, or you can
use the moderated general GNU announcements list, <address@hidden>.

If you use your own list, you can decide as you see fit what events are
worth announcing.  If you use <address@hidden>, please do not
announce pretest releases, only real releases.  But real releases do
include releases made just to fix bugs.

Web Pages

Please write pages about your package for installation on
`'.  The pages should follow our usual standards for web
pages (see <>); we chose them in order to
support a wide variety of browsers, to focus on information rather than
flashy eye candy, and to keep the site simple and uniform.

The simplest way to maintain the web pages for your project is to
register the project on `'.  Then you can edit the
pages using CVS.  You can keep the source files there too, but if you
want to use `' only for the web pages, simply register
a "web-only" project.

If you don't want to use that method, please talk with
<address@hidden> about other possible methods.  For instance, you
can mail them pages to install, if necessary.  But that is more work
for them, so please use CVS if you can.

Some GNU packages have just simple web pages, but the more information
you provide, the better.  So please write as much as you usefully can,
and put all of it on `'.  However, pages that access
databases (such as mail logs or bug tracking) are an exception; set them
up wherever is convenient for you, and the pages on `' can
link to them.

Web pages for GNU packages should not include GIF images, since the GNU
project avoids GIFs due to patent problems.  *Note Ethical and
Philosophical Consideration::.

Ethical and Philosophical Consideration

The GNU project takes a strong stand for software freedom.  Many times,
this means you'll need to avoid certain technologies when such
technologies conflict with our ethics of software freedom.

Software patents threaten the advancement of free software and freedom
to program.  For our safety (which includes yours), we try to avoid
using algorithms and techniques that we know are patented in the US or
elsewhere, unless the patent looks so absurd that we doubt it will be
enforced, or we have a suitable patent license allowing release of free

Beyond that, sometimes the GNU project takes a strong stand against a
particular patented technology in order to encourage everyone to reject

For example, the GIF file format is covered by the LZW software patent
in the USA.  A patent holder has threatened lawsuits against not only
developers of software to produce GIFs, but even web sites that contain

For this reason, you should not include GIFs in the web pages for your
package, nor in the distribution of the package itself.  It is ok for a
GNU package to support displaying GIFs which will come into play if a
user asks it to operate on one.  However, it is essential to provide
equal or better support for the competing PNG and JPG
formats--otherwise, the GNU package would be _pressuring_ users to use
GIF format, and that it must not do.  More about our stand on GIF is
available at `'.

Software patents are not the only matter for ethical concern.  A GNU
package should not recommend use of any non-free program, nor should it
require a non-free program (such as a non-free compiler or IDE) to
build.  Thus, a GNU package cannot be written in a programming language
that does not have a free software implementation.  Now that GNU/Linux
systems are widely available, all GNU packages should function
completely with the GNU/Linux system and not require any non-free
software to build or function.

A GNU package should not refer the user to any non-free documentation
for free software.  The need for free documentation to come with free
software is now a major focus of the GNU project; to show that we are
serious about the need for free documentation, we must not contradict
our position by recommending use of documentation that isn't free.

Finally, new issues concerning the ethics of software freedom come up
frequently.  We ask that GNU maintainers, at least on matters that
pertain specifically to their package, stand with the rest of the GNU
project when such issues come up.

Terminology Issues

This chapter explains a couple of issues of terminology which are
important for correcting two widespread and important misunderstandings
about GNU.

Free Software and Open Source

The terms "free software" and "open source" are the slogans of two
different movements which differ in their basic philosophy.  The Free
Software Movement is idealistic, and raises issues of freedom, ethics,
principle and what makes for a good society.  The Open Source Movement,
founded in 1998, studiously avoids such questions.  For more
explanation, see

The GNU Project is aligned with the Free Software Movement.  This
doesn't mean that all GNU contributors and maintainers have to agree;
your views on these issues are up to you, and you're entitled to express
them when speaking for yourself.

However, due to the much greater publicity that the Open Source Movement
receives, the GNU Project needs to overcome a widespread mistaken
impression that GNU is _and always was_ an activity of the Open Source
Movement.  For this reason, please use the term "free software," rather
than "open source," in GNU software releases, GNU documentation, and
announcements and articles that you publish in your role as the
maintainer of a GNU package.  A reference to the URL given above, to
explain the difference, is a useful thing to include as well.

GNU and Linux

The GNU Project was formed to develop a free Unix-like operating system,
GNU.  The existence of this system is our major accomplishment.
However, the widely used version of the GNU system, in which Linux is
used as the kernel, is often called simply "Linux".  As a result, most
users don't know about the GNU Project's major accomplishment--or more
precisely, they know about it, but don't realize it is the GNU Project's
accomplishment and reason for existence.  Even people who believe they
know the real history often believe that the goal of GNU was to develop
"tools" or "utilities."

To correct this confusion, we have made a years-long effort to
distinguish between Linux, the kernel that Linus Torvalds wrote, and
GNU/Linux, the operating system that is the combination of GNU and
Linux.  The resulting increased awareness of what the GNU Project has
already done helps every activity of the GNU Project recruit more
support and contributors.

Please make this distinction consistently in GNU software releases, GNU
documentation, and announcements and articles that you publish in your
role as the maintainer of a GNU package.  If you want to explain the
terminology and its reasons, you can refer to the URL

Do contrast the GNU system properly speaking to GNU/Linux, you can call
it "GNU/Hurd" or "the GNU/Hurd system."  However, when that contrast is
not specifically the focus, please call it just "GNU" or "the GNU

When referring to the collection of servers that is the higher level of
the GNU kernel, please call it "the Hurd" or "the GNU Hurd."  Note that
this uses a space, not a slash.


We would like to recommend using `' as the CVS
repository for your package, and using `' as the standard
FTP site.  It is ok to use other machines if you wish.  If you use a
company's machine to hold the repository for your program, or as its
ftp site, please put this statement in a prominent place on the site,
so as to prevent people from getting the wrong idea about the
relationship between the package and the company:

     The programs <list of them> hosted here are free software packages
     of the GNU Project, not products of <company name>.  We call them
     "free software" because you are free to copy and redistribute them,
     following the rules stated in the license of each package.  For more
     information, see
     If you are looking for service or support for GNU software, see for suggestions of where to ask.
     If you would like to contribute to the development of one of these
     packages, contact the package maintainer or the bug-reporting address
     of the package (which should be listed in the package itself), or look
     on for more information on how to contribute.

Free Software Directory

The Free Software Directory aims to be a complete list of free software
packages, within certain criteria.  Every GNU package should be listed
there, so please contact <address@hidden> to ask for information
on how to write an entry for your package.

Using the Proofreaders List

If you want help finding errors in documentation, or help improving the
quality of writing, or if you are not a native speaker of English and
want help producing good English documentation, you can use the GNU
proofreaders mailing list: <address@hidden>.

But be careful when you use the list, because there are over 200 people
on it.  If you simply ask everyone on the list to read your work, there
will probably be tremendous duplication of effort by the proofreaders,
and you will probably get the same errors reported 100 times.  This
must be avoided.

Also, the people on the list do not want to get a large amount of mail
from it.  So do not ever ask people on the list to send mail to the

Here are a few methods that seem reasonable to use:

   * For something small, mail it to the list, and ask people to pick a
     random number from 1 to 20, and read it if the number comes out as
     10.  This way, assuming 50% response, some 5 people will read the

   * For a larger work, divide your work into around 20 equal-sized
     parts, tell people where to get it, and ask each person to pick
     randomly which part to read.

     Be sure to specify the random choice procedure; otherwise people
     will probably use a mental procedure that is not really random,
     such as "pick a part near the middle", and you will not get even

     You can either divide up the work physically, into 20 separate
     files, or describe a virtual division, such as by sections (if
     your work has approximately 20 sections).  If you do the latter,
     be sure to be precise about it--for example, do you want the
     material before the first section heading to count as a section,
     or not?

   * For a job needing special skills, send an explanation of it, and
     ask people to send you mail if they volunteer for the job.  When
     you get enough volunteers, send another message to the list saying
     "I have enough volunteers, no more please."


/gd/gnuorg directory:
          See ``Copyright Papers''., ftp site for test releases:
          See ``Test Releases''.
          See ``Recording Contributors''.
          See ``Distribution tar Files''.
beta releases:
          See ``Test Releases''.
bug reports:
          See ``Dealing With Mail''.
contributions, accepting:
          See ``Cleaning Up Changes''.
copyright notices in program files:
          See ``Copyright Notices''.
copyright papers:
          See ``Copyright Papers''.
CVS repository:
          See ``Hosting''.
data base of GNU copyright assignments:
          See ``Copyright Papers''.
          See ``Distribution Patches''.
distribution, tar files:
          See ``Distribution tar Files''.
email, for receiving bug reports:
          See ``Dealing With Mail''.
          See ``Ethical and Philosophical Consideration''.
free software:
          See ``Free Software and Open Source''.
Free Software Directory:
          See ``Free Software Directory''.
FTP site:
          See ``Hosting''., the GNU ftp site:
          See ``Distribution on `'''.
GNU ftp site:
          See ``Distribution on `'''.
          See ``GNU and Linux''.
          See ``Hosting''.
legal matters:
          See ``Legal Matters''.
legal papers for changes in manuals:
          See ``Copyright Papers''.
license notices in program files:
          See ``License Notices''.
          See ``GNU and Linux''.
mailing list for bug reports:
          See ``Dealing With Mail''.
movements, Free Software and Open Source:
          See ``Free Software and Open Source''.
open source:
          See ``Free Software and Open Source''.
          See ``Distribution Patches''.
patches, against previous releases:
          See ``Distribution Patches''.
          See ``Ethical and Philosophical Consideration''.
pretest releases:
          See ``Test Releases''.
          See ``Using the Proofreaders List''.
quality of changes suggested by others:
          See ``Cleaning Up Changes''.
recording contributors:
          See ``Recording Contributors''.
          See ``Hosting''.
responding to bug reports:
          See ``Dealing With Mail''.
          See ``Terminology Issues''.
test releases:
          See ``Test Releases''.
time stamp in diffs:
          See ``Distribution Patches''.
version control:
          See ``Recording Old Versions''.
web pages:
          See ``Web Pages''.

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