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Re: Emacs vista build failures

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: Emacs vista build failures
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2008 13:11:10 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

Alan Mackenzie <address@hidden> writes:

> On Sat, Jul 26, 2008 at 10:50:01AM +0200, David Kastrup wrote:
>> Alan Mackenzie <address@hidden> writes:
>> > Morning, everybody!
>> > On Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 05:20:16PM +0300, Eli Zaretskii wrote:
>> >> >     > 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?
> It refutes your contention "their job does not in general benefit
> others".

How so?  What about "in general" has been unclear to you?  If they write
software that runs only on non-free system, what's the benefit for free

>> > [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.
> Along, hopefully, with the one that grows its food, the one that
> generates and supplies its electricity, the one the designs and builds
> cheap hardware, the ones that enable easy travel, the one that sends
> in the sand bags when the Elba floods, ......

There is nothing to be gained by putting the cart before the horse and
confusing the means to an end with the end itself, to the degree of
abandoning the end in order to run after the means.

>> > 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.
> I disagree wholeheartedly with the semantic shift, the sentiment and
> the characterisation.

You are free to your disagreement, but that does not mean that I should
be kept from uttering my opinion.

>> > 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.
> Again, not true.  Many Emacs users on MS-Windows use Emacs, submit bug
> reports and some even hack elisp.

Emacs is a free program, not a free system.  And I doubt that people
preferring to use Emacs on Windows do that because they want to use a
free system, but rather because they want to use Emacs.

> This will often be the case.  Other times, Windows will be merely a
> platform for developing portable software or embedded software.  The
> ethos of free software is that its creators do not constrain what its
> users may do with it, even if that aim is writing non-free software.

But the ethos is not that its creators need to applaud or help the users
writing non-free software.

So I don't see that you are doing anything for free software by
attacking my opinion.

> I believe that people are best persuaded to use free software by
> seeing how good it is.

That is the stance of the Open Source proponents.  One can't see "how
good" free software is if it does not yet exist or is technically
inferior.  The principal value of free software is not one of technical
excellence, but that nobody can take it away from you against your will
or capability.  And if you take a look at the current Windows licenses,
Microsoft explicitly reserves the right to remotely destroy your
computer and software if they think it desirable for pressing DRM or
other features.  So even if you don't count in the problem of not being
able to work against obsolescence of a platform (for a free operating
system, you can still find people working on it), Microsoft is free to
stop your copy of Emacs from working even on an existing system.

> The only context an MS-Windows user is going to see free software in
> is on MS-Windows.

That's his problem.

> Firefox and Emacs are prime examples.  I don't believe people will
> switch operating systems in order to use free application software -
> they will switch after seeing how good free software is.  I think you
> are of the opposite opinion, and I can accept that.

Please don't put words into my mouth.  I am of the opinion that we leave
people without a reason to switch to free operating systems if we let
ourselves be distracted into spending all our efforts in making software
run on non-free operating systems rather than improving them on free
operating systems.

I know that in the proprietary company I work, we abandoned supporting
our software on Windows because the cost, in contrast to expectations,
turned out to be prohibitely high.  I am not convinced that the net
payoff for Emacs on free systems is positive, and I don't see that
browbeating me to claim otherwise is going to change the situation
underlying my beliefs.

So why bother?

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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