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Re: [Maxima] Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: GCL compliance and Bill Schelter

From: Camm Maguire
Subject: Re: [Maxima] Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: GCL compliance and Bill Schelter
Date: 25 Jul 2003 11:51:16 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.2


Mike Dewar <address@hidden> writes:

> Camm,
> Licensing issues seem to develop into religous wars and since releasing
> Axiom under the BSD I've spent more time justifying that decision to
> free-software advocates than helping people try to undrstand and use the
> code.  I can't help thinking the free software community needs to get a
> better perspective.  Its a simple fact that for all sorts of practical
> reasons it is unlikely that we could have released the code under the
> GPL.  I don't agree with your point about axiom being "better served" by
> a GPL license since I don't agree that building commercial products on
> top of Axiom would be a bad thing (this is the model that MuPad have
> tried to adopt, although with limited success as far as I can see - a
> free kernel with proprietory user interfaces, help systems, IDEs etc.).
> However we should agree to differ on this.

Let me please state that I respect your position greatly.  And let me
please reiterate that I think the actions of NAG and IBM in releasing
axiom are nothing but extremely praiseworthy.  And let me finally
state that even in the case of GPL'ed programs, I think there is
nothing wrong with commercial companies making a living selling and
supporting the program.  I think Redhat, Suse, and IBM are good
examples of this with respect to sales of GNU/Linux, and also examples
that such sales and profit need not necessitate closing the source.

> As far as your point about building a GPL'd product using BSD code, I
> believe that you are correct although I have heard opinions to the
> contrary.  The broad principles should be OK, it seems that the devil is
> in the detail and that making sure that the correct notices, disclaimers
> etc. appear in the right places is a little tricky.


> As for your specific question (6) about Axiom users saving custom
> images, the fact is that as far as I know nobody outside IBM and NAG
> ever did this when Axiom was built on AKCL and while its would have been
> possible with the CCL version the procedure was never documented so I'm
> confident that it didn't happen!  The only significant advantage to a
> user of doing this would be to save an image with their favourite
> libraries pre-loaded, which these days isn't a big time saving. 

Great, good to know -- thanks!  What about loading binary object
(e.g. '.o') files?

Take care,

> Kind regards, Mike.
> On Thu, Jul 24, 2003 at 05:24:52PM -0400, Camm Maguire wrote:
> > Greetings, gentle people!
> > 
> > I must confess that I don't even have time now to adequately ponder
> > the flurry of latest emails.  I'd like to make the following points,
> > which I hope will calm and clarify.
> > 
> > 1) I will do everything in my power to ensure that GCL's license will
> >    never force a license onto projects that use it as a compiler.
> >    This is not only achievable, but from my understanding, not even
> >    controversial among the existing participants of this
> >    discussion. Please, everyone, rest assured.
> > 
> > 2) There are several different ways to achieve 1), some more difficult
> >    than others, including possibly doing nothing at all if it can be
> >    shown that Dr. Schelter received permission to use unexec more than
> >    10 years ago.  Frankly I think this is the most likely actuality,
> >    especially given his work with emacs over the years.  But the
> >    actual path to 1) is not yet clear in my mind, and probably won't
> >    be for some time.  In the mean time, we have the status quo, which,
> >    with all its ambiguities, is just as functional as its always been.
> > 
> > 3) This having been said, it is my opinion that axiom would be better
> >    served by a GPL license.  It is of course completely up to the
> >    axiom developers and any other relevant parties, certainly not me,
> >    but I feel that the existing BSD license places all the volunteer
> >    work being poured into axiom at risk of being hijacked by a
> >    commercial fork of the code.  The last thing I am is a lawyer, but
> >    my understanding of the BSD license is that anyone, including the
> >    developers, can, if they so chose, relicense their copy/modified
> >    version of the code under the GPL.  This does not violate the BSD
> >    license, to my understanding, and should require no special
> >    permission.  After all, one can make a commercial fork of BSD code
> >    without permission, so one should certainly be able also to make a
> >    GPL fork of said code.  
> > 
> >    Again, this decision lies in the hands of others than me; I just
> >    state this here to clarify the point that should a GPL license for
> >    axiom ever be desired, it should not require extensive negotiations
> >    with other parties, who are free to continue to distribute the code
> >    prior to such a fork under a BSD license.
> > 
> > 4) The basic confusion surrounding this discussion stems from a
> >    misunderstanding, IMHO, of how GCL (or lisp in general) works
> >    technically.  Tim basically hit the nail on the head.  I will try to
> >    summarize separately in a note to RMS, but the basic idea is that
> >    unlike in C programming, lisp executables have the entire compiler,
> >    linker, and image saver -- basically all of GCL -- in the
> >    executable itself.  I'm still not sure to what extent this is as a
> >    result of an early GCL design decision, or to what extent it is
> >    mandated by the Common Lisp standard.  In any case, there is a
> >    *long* history of GCL usage in this mode, which it would be
> >    completely unfair to suddenly disrupt.  I repeat I will do all in
> >    my power to avoid this.
> > 
> > 5) From the perspective of fairness, this 'common lisp usage' as
> >    outlined in 4) cuts both ways.  Say someone writes a two line BSD
> >    lisp file which modifies the compiler to print 'hello world' when
> >    compiling a file.  Say the resulting image is BSD licensed.  Then
> >    someone could make a proprietary fork, release a binary with no
> >    source, and effectively hijack GCL.  Even if the image had some
> >    intermediate license which required the distributor to just
> >    distribute the GCL source, we've effectively permitted someone to
> >    distribute a modified GCL compiler without releasing their
> >    modifications, which is against even the LGPL.  
> > 
> >    On the other hand, it is quite unfair I feel to force large user
> >    space programs like maxima, acl2 and axiom to choose the GPL for
> >    their substantial code base because of GCL.  The way this is
> >    typically handled in LGPL situations is to define an 'application
> >    interface' as a wall between an LGPL'ed "library" and the user's
> >    main code.  Any changes on one side of the wall must have
> >    modifications distributed in source, whereas there are no
> >    restrictions to changes on the other side of this 'wall'.  Perhaps
> >    the common lisp hyperspec could be a definition of such an
> >    interface.  Code using functions in this spec might be
> >    unrestricted, whereas modification of the functions themselves
> >    would be LGPL'ed.  I feel this is what clisp was trying to achieve
> >    with its exception clause, but I'm really just speculating here.
> > 
> > 6) I'd be interested to know from the perspective of maxima, acl2, and
> >    axiom users whether typical usage of the *final distributed binary*
> >    (as opposed to intermediate images in the build process) would
> >    require the ability to dump new images and/or load compiled
> >    modules.  
> > 
> > 7) I realize these issues are important, as demonstrated with
> >    exceptional clarity recently by this SCO/Linux mess.  (Can anyone
> >    imagine how much worse the situation might be had SCO not
> >    itself distributed Linux under the GPL?)  But I must confess I'm a
> >    bit tired of this discussion, and its eating up what little time I
> >    have to push GCL forward.  Can we please get back to the code now?
> >    I trust a solution will present itself in time, and until then, we
> >    should be content with the status quo.
> > 
> > Take care,
> > 
> > -- 
> > Camm Maguire                                                address@hidden
> > ==========================================================================
> > "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."  --  Baha'u'llah
> > 
> > 
> > _______________________________________________
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> > address@hidden
> >
> > 
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Camm Maguire                                            address@hidden
"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."  --  Baha'u'llah

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