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Re: Release plans

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Release plans
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 22:01:05 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Hi, Stephen!

On Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 11:39:16PM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> Alan Mackenzie writes:

>  > What, exactly, are we getting so worked up about, then?

> Well, I've been perplexed by the "no dynamic loading" policy for about
> a decade now.  I know that Richard is not going to give an answer
> except that he's fearful, uncertain, and doubtful about dynamic
> loading, and so has decided to avoid it.  I was hoping you might
> provide some insight, but you're giving me the same line.  I'm very
> frustrated by that.

Sorry.  The thing is, we're at the place where free software principles
become ironic, inconsistent and contradictory, even absurd.  Every
half-decent religion or philosopy, even science and maths, has suchlike,
so why should we expect free software to be any different?

Yes, we want software to be free, but no, we don't want people to use
this freedom in certain ways, ways which would inhibit the progress of
free software.  Something's got to give.  In a democracy, sometimes
people get elected who want to dismantle the democracy.  So you have a
constitution to protect it, and this usually works.  In maths, there is
the Axiom of Choice (which is obviously true) and Zorn's Lemma (which is
patently absurd), yet the two are logically equivalent.  Mathematicians
are fairly relaxed about absurdities and joke about them over an
afternoon cup of tea.

The "resolution" in free software is to soft-pedal, to hope that nobody
does anything too unfree, and to avoid giving them too much help and
encouragement.  A bit like politics, really.  So whilst making dynamic
modules part of "official" Emacs might not change what is possible, it
might well encourage what is legitimate, yet we don't want to happen;
it's a kind of touchy-feely thing.  That's my understanding, anyway - I
could be totally wrong.  On the particular issue of dynamic modules, I
don't feel I have the experience to judge the conflicting issues, so I
defer to Richard's.  I'm not sure what would happen if we made dynamic
loading a first-class feature, documented in the Elisp manual and NEWS,
as opposed to being downloadable in some obscure patch, not supported by
the main maintainers, assuming you've even heard of it.

Eric Ludlam mentioned a product called Xrefactory a couple of days ago.
It seems to be a refactoring tool based upon (X)Emacs.  Yes, this is
legitimate within the terms of the GPL, but isn't the sort of thing we
really want to encourage; it's not free, neither in the speech nor beer

[ .... ]

>  > > No.  I understand your point.  "Introducing a module loader could
>  > > cause Emacs to become non-free."  That's scary.

>  > Again, non-free "for whom?".  If you'ld've made specific reference to
>  > people who couldn't or wouldn't take action against non-free add ons
>  > themselves, I'd accept you'd understood my point.

> I don't think there are *any* people who *couldn't* take action[1],
> and I don't understand why "wouldn't" is a problem in the context of
> freedom.  There are two kinds of people who wouldn't, those who have
> considered the consequences and decided they don't care, and those who
> just don't care.  Either way, why isn't it their place to decide, and
> our place to provide them with the information they need to make
> informed judgments?

I think our basic philosophies just differ here.  I appreciate living in
a "free" society, yet if Nuremberg were once again subject to a military
invasion, would I accept a rifle and be willing to use it?  Probably not.
I gladly accept the freedom guaranteed by professional soldiers.  Just as
those soldiers protect those "who don't give a damn", I feel we should
protect the (software) freedom of those who, for whatever reason,
wouldn't protect their own.

> And I still don't see how they "lose" freedom or Emacs becomes unfree.
> In the first place, they *gain* capabilities that they did not have
> before.  True, those capabilities do not come with the four freedoms
> attached, but what have they "lost"?  In the second, Emacs itself is
> still free, the users have the four freedoms with respect to it.

Again, with Eric's example of Xrefactory, any hackers who buy that
product and incorporate it into their development process thereby lose
some of their freedom - their process has become tied to a product they
can't control - to some extent.  This is another one of these
contradictions about software freedom - by exercising freedom you
diminish it.

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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