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[DotGNU]portability of GNU software (was Re: Dotgnu written in C#?)

From: Norbert Bollow
Subject: [DotGNU]portability of GNU software (was Re: Dotgnu written in C#?)
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2003 15:58:41 +0200 (CEST)

DrDiettrich <address@hidden> wrote:

> I found serious problems with GNU/FSF software, which I would like to
> discuss now. Currently everybody concentrates on the freely available
> source code, whose availability is assumed to be the one and only
> critical point. But even if I see the need for legal institutions like
> the FSF, for defending the freedom of source code, the actual procedures
> unfortunately restrict the use of just that freely available source code
> to specific platforms.

The overall goal of the GNU project is to build an operating system.

This is a huge goal, so we must be careful not to be side-tracked.

Generally speaking it is good enough when GNU software runs on the
GNU system (and its popular variant, GNU/Linux) so portability of
most GNU packages to non-GNU platforms is a secondary concern.
Contributed portability fixes from users of other operating systems
are generally accepted, but for most GNU packages you should not
expect much more than that.

DotGNU Portable.NET is an exception to this rule, because DotGNU needs
a way to create webservice client programs which can be run on any
computer anywhere, regardless of the underlying OS.  Of course
Portable.NET is useful for many other purposes besides webservices,
and there are many other reasons why a highly portable .NET-compatible
software platform may be considered highly desirable, but from the GNU
perspective, the portability needs of webservice client programs are
the reason why DotGNU needs Portable.NET to be highly portable.

> IMO all of the steps above the mere compilation should be eliminated
> from a really free software project. All dependencies between code
> modules must be described in a compiler and platform independend way.
> All dependencies must be specified as /what/ must be done, and not as
> /how/ something should be done. Only then it's possible that a user can
> adopt such a project to his own platform and development environment.

The term "free software" has a specific meaning and a precise
definition already.  You are talking about something different
here... please give it a different name.  How about e.g. "sane
software"?  Then you can perhaps proceed to design a "sane
operating system" (SOS :-) or something.

What you're talking about here is interesting and definately
worthwhile, but outside the scope of the GNU project.  If you
feel strongly that you want to work on it, you need to start
a new project.

> This goal of platform and environment independence certainly is
> achievable. Free software should be either general in nature, so that it
> will run on any platform without modifications, or it will be designed
> for specific platforms or libraries, which then can be assumed as
> available and conforming to their own specifications at build and/or run
> time.

All GNU software is designed primarily for a specific platform.
For most GNU packages, this platform is the GNU system.  For any
webservice client program packages in DotGNU (so far we don't
have any, but at least one is planned: the DGEE admin tool), this
platform will be Portable.NET

> This is why I vote for a (new?) Integrated Development Environment,
> which replaces the current config-make-install chain, and most
> pertaining tools.

The only way of voting which is taken seriously around here is
to get the code written.  :-)

It seems to me that what you want is really outside the scope of
DotGNU (and even outside the scope of GNU), but when we see your
project moving forward in a credible way, we will be happy to
discuss ways in which DotGNU and your project could help each other.

> I also vote for an (automated?) translation of existing C projects
> into C#.

This is also outside the scope of the GNU project.

Greetings, Norbert.

Founder & Steering Committee member of
Free Software Business Strategy Guide   --->
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59        Fax +41 1 972 20 69

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