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Re: whither GNU

From: Thomas Lord
Subject: Re: whither GNU
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 21:56:30 -0700
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20060808)

David Kastrup wrote:
If technical superiority would have been RMS' priority, he would not
have started the GNU project:
It all started when he wanted to fix a bug in a printer driver
(the story goes)....

a starting project will always be worse
than existing solutions.

That's nothing to do with what we're talking about.

It's fine: we're building a new system and it starts off
"behind the pack".  Of course.

The question is what happens when we get to a fork
in the road.  Say, you are hacking some GNU code
and a choice arises:  you can make a change that makes
it better or you can avoid that change.  So, there's the
choice.    RMS is offering some pretty abstract
"theory" about why you should choose to *not* make
the improvement in these cases.
Now, I'm not really reaching for some overarching
theory of my own about what makes a program
better or worse but I will go so far as to say that there
are some straightforward cases.  GCC is better (all
else being equal) with tree print/read.  Emacs is better
with a dynamic loader.   I don't think those are controversial
assertions *other than* RMS' theory that those features
put the free software movement at risk.

Now, wait and let's see if I understand this:  I should
fight for software freedom in order (among other things)
to have the rights to inspect and improve a program I
use but, in the course of my fight for software freedom,
I should inspect but not improve in these certain cases.
Sorry, that seems like a reductio ad absurdum conclusion --
there must be some bogus premise.    The bogus premise,
I see from about 20 years of history, is that it is important
to fret over what proprietary hacks a feature might enable.
It's a bogus premise because foresight is not 20-20:  we
sure kept people from making proprietary Emacs or
GCC add-ons but, meanwhile, built a heck of a platform
for proprietary web software.  Fretting over tactics to
avoid creating such platforms is pointless.  20 years of
experience shows this.
So, I say, back to common sense and simple minded
"make the programs better."    Reject a dynamic loader
in Emacs if there is no good use for it or if the maintenance
cost is too high but don't reject it because someone might
possibly use it to launch proprietary code -- they'll do that
anyway, one way or another, using whatever features we
do include.

  The free software movement which he started
has always and consistently considered non-free software unacceptable.
The "Open Source Movement", in contrast, tries selling free development
models via claims of technical superiority.  RMS has never ascribed to
that somewhat seductive idea.

This has nothing to do, either, with the Open Source Industrial
Complex, or ESR's eyeball fetish, or any of that.   Quite independently
of any of those things there is a fork in the road: dynamic loader or

I don't see your use of insulting language like "think harder"

It's not insulting. It's colloquial and comparatively mild.
So: guess again.

 as a
desirable contribution either.  You imply that people coming to
different conclusions than you or having other priorities must be

Well, that's kind of true.   Yes, I think it is a dumb idea to ban
features like a dynamic loader in GNU Emacs.    That's not insulting.
I'm using "dumb" in the technical sense.  It means "please rethink that,"
or something close.   It also means "um, I'm not sure people should
trust the leadership if this is what they're coming up with."

If you can't say words like that in an engineering discussion
then you can't have an engineering discussion.   It isn't personal.
It isn't an attack.   Those words summarize the conclusion of the
critical analysis.
My own mistakes in software engineering I usually describe
as "bone-headed" or "idiotic" or something like that.   Those
words are attributes of mistaken ideas -- they aren't personal
attacks.   Those are useful words in part because it is always important
to remember that anyone, especially one's self, can be "bone headed"
in an engineering project.    That's why we have peers -- to point
that kind of bogosity out, when it happens, if you are lucky.

I can assure you that Richard is not an idiot

He's been my supervisor.  I've worked in an office down the
hall from him.  I've interacted with him on and off for about 20 years.
I personally happen to like him although we aren't close.   I'm pretty
familiar with his strengths and weaknesses as a software engineer.

(which is not to say that
you can't find some relative idiots among free software supporters as
well as anywhere else).  I can also tell you that this sort of public
insulting and derision is not going to win any points for your case.

Nobody is slinging insults and derision UNTIL YOU JUST THERE.

Stop impugning my character.   I can be understood perfectly well without
interpreting my comments as "insult" and "derision".   You have absolutely
no excuse for attacking my reputation that way.  Knock it off.

Richard is not a person who takes kindly to this sort of behavior.  And
I don't see that I can blame him much for that.

Are you his spokesperson?

If you want to show off your purported superiority,

Um.... as one who is posturing as a defender of civility,
you make a *fine* hypocrite.

go ahead and make a
spectacle of yourself.


But if you want to have your arguments
considered at all, you'd better choose a different conversation style

Ok.  Try this one:  shut up with that noise.

I've been critical of some ideas that have governed GNU.  You've
"spun" that as if I'm on some kind of personal rampage trying
to attack RMS and prove my superiority or something.
YOU are the problem here, sycophant, and I'm tired of
being attacked in the way you are attacking me.


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