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Re: Emacs vista build failures

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: Emacs vista build failures
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2008 10:50:01 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

Alan Mackenzie <address@hidden> writes:

> Morning, everybody!
> On Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 05:20:16PM +0300, Eli Zaretskii wrote:
>> > From: Richard M Stallman <address@hidden>
>> > Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 18:05:28 -0400
>> > Cc: address@hidden, address@hidden, address@hidden,
>> >    address@hidden, address@hidden, address@hidden, address@hidden
>> >     > When I ask myself, is the world better for having Emacs and Firefox
>> >     > running on Microsoft Windows, the answer is an unequivocal yes -
>> >     > people who hack on MS-Windows can thus do a better job.
> [David K:]
>> >     But their job does not in general benefit others.
> Hmm.  What if that software written on w32 has satisfied users?

What of it?  Excel, Microsoft Word, Windows Vista and other proprietary
software satisfy far more users than free software does.  And more
Chinese citizens are satisfied with their government than European
citizens.  Does that mean that we should take our standards for human
rights from China?  Do the ends justify the means?

This is not what free software is about.

> Let's see, users of mobile telephones, users of automotive control
> systems (which reduce pollution), Emacs itself (there is at least one
> Emacs developer with his Emacs hosted on w32), .......
> [David K:]
>> >     So we are creating better opportunities for work that does not
>> >     help the community.
> "The" community.  That of Free Software is merely one of many
> interlocking and interdependent communities.

It is the one the GNU project cares about.

> My view, already expressed, is that we have a moral imperative to
> contribute towards the wellbeing of the world, not just our own
> restricted subset of it.

It is not restricted.  Anybody who cares can be a part of it.  We are no
longer in the situation that you have to run free software off unfree
operating systems.  We don't have a moral imperative to help those who
refuse to be helped.  That's a waste of resources.

> My impression is that a substantial minority, possibly even a
> majority, of Emacs users run on this particular non-free OS, and that
> the cost of supporting them is low by comparison.

The cost is that they don't care about using or improving free systems.

> Carry on doing it, Eli!
> Again, what is the purpose of free software?  Is it an end in itself,
> it's final goal being its exclusive use by everybody, or is it to
> improve the world?  If the former, I hope the goal is never scored,
> because then free software would by stymied, with nowhere to go.

It is to improve the world, and the world is not improved by locking
people into Windows.  A developer using Emacs for developing Windows
software will lock his users into Windows.

There is enough other software that has this effect.  It is not a
particularly interesting goal to make Emacs do the same.  The idea of
free software is not to provide a comfortable place for people willing
to give up their rights.  Like with democracy, given the choice many
people will be perfectly happy to take choices compromising their

It is not an objective for free software to make it easier for them.  It
is a sideeffect.  Freedom rarely comes without the choice or ability to
foresake it again.  It is fragile, and only letting people keep that in
mind gives it strength.

It appears that we are not exactly doing a good job.  Emacs is
one-of-a-kind, and so there are not really any technically equivalent
alternatives, free or non-free.  Should we treat this as a strength or
as a weakness?

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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