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Re: Release plans

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Release plans
Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2008 21:07:45 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 10:42:28AM -0700, Thomas Lord wrote:
> Alan Mackenzie wrote:

> > The ability to link binary libraries into Emacs means the
> > ability to link non-free binaries in (think Linux modules
> > here), possibly with _very_ useful functionality, whose
> > inclusion could screw up Emacs's freedom in a significant way.
> > Five years from now, lots of people could be "freely" chosing
> > this "non-free" version.  This would be damaging to the aims
> > of the FSF.

> Lots of things might happen in the future.

Now you're playing verbal games with me.  <sigh>

> >> It is defeatism if you think that Emacs maintainers can't
> >> easily hack their way out of [popular, non-free Emacs
> >> add-ons] or even if you think that that's a likely outcome.

> > "Defeatism".  That's a sort of ad hominem,

> No, it is not.

No, of course not.  It's one of those handy little words which can always
be defended as rational and objective, yet at the same time give a very
good impression of an ad hominem attack and have the same effect.  It can
be used to appear to be exceptionally rude, yet without exposing the
writer to general censure.  Except, of course, you're not being rude
here, you're just being objective and rational, which is very reassuring.

> "Defeatism" means a mode of strategic or tactical reasoning in which it
> is assumed that the only choices are between various losses.  The
> assumption in the dynamic loading decision is that either GNU Emacs
> loses by not having a dynamic loader, or GNU Emacs loses by having
> non-free, C-level add-ons catch on.  Defeatism is a kind of "planning
> to lose" and if defeatism is the only reasoning applied then it is
> self-fulfilling: loss of some kind is assured.

"Defeat" is utter loss; it's when your king is in checkmate, when when
the whistle blows after 90 minutes your opponents have scored more goals,
when the enemy troups have routed your army and destroyed your strategy
to the point where the only sensible action is to surrender.

The inability to use dynamically loaded binaries in Emacs is like none of
these things.  It's an inconvenience, possibly minor, possibly major.
But it is _nothing_ like the utter rout implied by the word "defeatism".

> > which seems intended to deflect from analysing whether something's
> > true or not.

> In contrast, THAT is an ad hominem.

Of course it is.  You were just being rational and objective.  Thanks for
clarifying that.  My apologies.

> >  And no, it's not defeatism.  We can hack our way out of software
> >  problems fairly easily, that's what we do.  But you're kidding
> >  yourself in the extreme if you think you can just hack your way out
> >  of a legal problem, or a social problem.

> I'm afraid I get a bit lost in the theoretical abstractions of
> possible future legal and social problems.

I've noticed this.  That's why I'm trying to help you visualise these in
a more concrete, more accessible fashion.

> Here is what I see:

> A dynamic loader *might* lead to non-free, C-level add-ons.

> A dynamic loader *might* then lead to non-free add-ons that
> become very popular.

> A dynamic loader (well designed) *will* lead to opportunities to
> write valuable free software C-level add-ons.  Therefore it
> *might* lead to free software add-ons being written and some of
> those *might* become very popular.

> Conversely, no dynamic loader means no add-ons, either free or
> non-free.  No dynamic loader means *certainty* that GNU will not
> enjoy the benefits of having a dynamic loader in Emacs.  No
> dynamic loader means *certainty* that no non-free add-ons will
> be created.

Here is what you don't see, or at least refuse to consider: a non-free
add-on which becomes popular could be used maliciously to remove freedom
from Emacs.  Seen through your spectacles, every user is free to chose to
use that add-on or not, so there's no problem.  I'm making one last
effort in the post to help you see where you are wrong (see below).  If
this doesn't help, there's no sense in continuing the conversation.

> If the free and non-free software worlds are regarded as opposing
> armies, the GNU army's choice is to either inflict a loss on both sides
> (no dynamic loader -- the defeatist strategy) or afford both sides a
> possible win (possible free and non-free add-ons).

That's a wierd way of looking at things, which I don't agree with either
in detail or in the broad sweep.  The continuing absence of a dynamic
loader does not impose a loss on both "sides", or even any side.  It
merely makes it inconvenient to integrate certain inessential[*]
functionality into Emacs.

[*] inessential = "not composing the essence of", which is not identical
to "unimportant".

> I happen to believe that there is *power* in freedom.  If both the free
> and non-free army is given the chance to create add-ons, the free army
> (if it plays intelligently) can obtain more benefit from the
> opportunity in the long run.  The same advantage, offered to both
> sides, is worth more to the free side.

I don't think you understand power and its mechanisms, such as dominance,
deceit, lies, disinformation, demagoguery, deviousness, blackmail,
ridicule, manipulation, .... at all.  Richard most assuredly does, which
is why I am happy to trust his judgement on this matter.

[ .... ]

> > RMS is battle hardened with bitter experience behind him.  He's
> > possibly the only one of us with any useful feel for legalities.
> > There is nobody better to make the final judgement.

> Why is any "final judgement" needed over this question?

"Final" as in being the last person in the chain of command, the one who
is finally responsible.  Not "final" as in fixed once and for evermore.

> It's only a judgment call *if* you believe that the consequence of
> non-free add-ons can possibly be reason enough to avoid a feature.

I do believe this, so does Richard, and I expect a lot of other people do

[ .... ]

> We can assume, with absolute conservatism, that non-free add-ons *will*
> result and *will* become popular.  No reason to believe it but let's
> assume it.  Let's assume the worst case imagined.  What then?

> Short answer: "We'll have to think of something."

Maybe that's how the Trojan leader fielded the misgivings of his
underlings as they were dragging the magically materialised horse through
their city walls.

> Longer answer: We'll have to think of something but we'll also be in an
> enriched circumstance.  We'll be enriched because we have the option to
> write free software GNU Emacs add-ons.  We'll be enriched because we
> didn't waste time arguing against a feature with defeatist reasoning.

What don't you understand about this:

;;  microsoft8.dll
;;  Copyright (C) Microsoft, 2013.
;;  This binary library extends Emacs, giving it transparent access to all
;;  directories and files in the .NYET environment, together with convenient
;;  access from Emacs to your Email, calendar, etc.
;;  To protect the security of your .NYET system, this library also guards
;;  against malware by only allowing digitally signed LISP or binary libraries
;;  to be compiled or loaded.  All libraries you may need to run Emacs have
;;  been duly signed.
;;  microsoft8.dll MUST be loaded before any other Emacs extensions.  The
;;  system administrator is recommended to load this library at the top of his
;;  site's site-start.el file.

?  Nobody is forced to load this library.  But I hope you can see now
that it would be a big problem nonetheless.

> -t

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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