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Re: Emacs vista build failures

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Emacs vista build failures
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2008 12:33:53 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Hi, David!

On Sat, Jul 26, 2008 at 01:11:10PM +0200, David Kastrup wrote:
> 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?

The fact that it's a weasel word, which can mean anything, everything, or
nothing.  ;-)

> If they write software that runs only on non-free system, what's the
> benefit for free software?

Indirect, if any.  But the benefit you were talking about was to "others"
(which means other people), not to free software.  People who hack
software on MS-Windows do provide benefit to other people; their
employers/customers and their own families, for example.

> >> It is the one [community] 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.

The central point.  As I said before, I think for Richard (and possibly
for you), free software is an end in itself.  For me it's a tool towards
a better world.  I suspect that's the essential difference between us
which is fuelling this discussion.

[ .... ]

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

Of course not!

> >> 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.

Yes, I think that's true.  A lot of them do want to use a free system
but can't, because their employers' setups won't let them.

> > 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.

Maybe promoting deeper understanding of the issues for both of us?

> > 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.

I agree with all that, and none of it contradicts what I've said.  I
would just add that the fact that software is free tends to promote its
technical excellence, Emacs and Linux being two good examples.

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

> That's his problem.

:-)  But we can help him.

> > 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.

Maybe, but we're talking about a small amount of effort, not all of it.
I think that effort is worth it, particularly when somebody (Eli) is
willing to do it.

> 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.

Interesting, but not too surprising, I suppose.

> I am not convinced that the net payoff for Emacs on free systems is
> positive, ....

OK.  I think it is.

> .... and I don't see that browbeating me to claim otherwise is going to
> change the situation underlying my beliefs.

Browbeating?  We're having a polite discussion.

> So why bother?

I might learn something.  (I have done.)  You might learn something.

> David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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