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Re: [Groff] space width

From: Walter Alejandro Iglesias
Subject: Re: [Groff] space width
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 21:45:03 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Tue, Feb 04, 2014 at 11:32:00AM -0500, Peter Schaffter wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 04, 2014, Dave Kemper wrote:
>> I understand the need for backwards compatibility, but I more and more
>> find myself wishing groff had a global option to choose between "follow
>> historical usage" and "be sane."  For someone in 2014 writing a new groff
>> document, there is zero advantage to, for example, having calculations
>> treat addition and multiplication as the same precedence, or any of a
>> dozen other little pitfalls that exist solely for compatibility with a
>> 1970s back end.
> I have to say I completely agree.  Backward compatibility is
> essential, but more and more, I wonder about future compatibility.
> As far as I know, I'm the only person actively developing
> a macro set for groff.  I can tolerate--just barely--the
> contortions I have to go through sometimes in order to work with
> a backwardly-compatible groff, but I have the advantage of my age
> and an appreciation for the long history of (n/t/g)roff.  What of
> future macro programmers, though?  How many who might contribute to
> groff are going to shake their heads over what to them will seem
> absurd anachronisms and simply move onto programming for something
> unemcumbered by what are rapidly becoming absurd historical
> idiosyncracies?  Is the absolute purity of backward compatibility
> worth relegating a powerful and useful program to the museum?
> --
> Peter Schaffter

Let me explain why I reacted before, it wasn't about this particular case or
about what you've said.  What I've said in the other message I've quoted was a
general observation.  In general therms what in the name of *modernity*
developers have being doing with Unix, by Unix I mean the idea behind, what
made of it a well designed OS, has being just adapting it to those used to the
MSWindows experience.  Marketing.  First that modifications took place in
userland, but today, base, init and even the kernel are suffering them.  I
remember twenty years ago when you saw in curriculums "Computer experience:
Microsoft Word".  Today my mother in law uses Microsoft Word but everybody
still ignores (even engineers friends of mine) how to use a plain text editor.
Uh, that's retro fashion, dude!  To read and write, what a waste of energy,
dude!  That's the education the crowd have had all this years about computers.
Today someone sees a Unix booting and think that all that characters in BIOS
font on a black screen are some kind of prehistoric thing.  They want a fancy
full resolution image with a progress bar, that's modern.  That's why
developers modified even the kernel to get that *indispensable* fancy image.
In the near future for all interface with computers, modern computers, there
will be only one icon 30cm diameter in a touch screen for the user to hit with
his head (supermarket cashiers have being using touch screen from years ago,
nobody envied them).

Perhaps I'm wrong about your specific case.  My knowledge about groff and its
development is poor.  My rant was intuitive.  Anyway, despite my ignorance I
was able to wrote my own groff macros just after reading gnu documentation.  I
am happy with the result, its quality is by far better than what I've got in
the past with a lot of the considered *modern* tools by the crowd.  I guess a
lot of other people is able to do the same I did.

So, you think your modifications will save groff of being relegated to museum.
Perhaps I'm wrong about this specific case and sorry if I'm being rude but it's
not about obsolescence, today only fancy staff has success with the crowd,
that's the real reason why useful tools like Groff or Unix in general are
condemned to oblivion.


About backwards compatibility.  Why does everybody still say "I was" instead of
"I amed"?  Why alphabetical keyboards still preserve the diagonal instead of a
square layout like numeric ones?


About my discussion with the texlive developer and the quality of Groff.

A novel I've wrote edited with Groff (take in care Firefox plugin doesn't
render fonts correctly, use xpdf or acroread):

Another one edited with LaTeX:

+1GB TeXLive vs. 9MB Groff.

When I've told that developer I was to translate my novels to Groff
he laughed in my face.


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