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Re: MAME emulator is giving incentive to use non-free software

From: Christopher Allan Webber
Subject: Re: MAME emulator is giving incentive to use non-free software
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2016 10:30:15 -0700
User-agent: mu4e 0.9.13; emacs 24.5.1

Mark H Weaver writes:

> Hi,
> I haven't yet looked closely at MAME, but for now I wanted to address
> the question of WINE.
> Jean Louis <address@hidden> writes:
>> Put yourself in the view point of free software user. What such user is
>> going to do with WINE?
> WINE has at least one useful purpose for a free software developer: to
> help them develop and test Windows ports of their software compiled with
> MingW.
> For example, it is important for GNU Guile to run on Windows because
> programs that already depend on Guile (e.g. GNU Lilypond), and programs
> that we hope will use Guile in the future (e.g. GNU Emacs) include ports
> for Windows.  The Windows ports of both of the aforementioned programs
> are useful for introducing the free software movement to Windows users.
> I would also note that WINE is included in both Trisquel and Parabola.
> * * * * *
> MAME is a different case.  FWIW, here's a Parabola ticket on the
> question of MAME:
> I'd like to know if there are any free programs that can be run under
> MAME and cannot be run natively on GNU/Linux.  Can anyone answer this
> question?
>      Thanks,
>        Mark

I'm the one who gave the Wine example with a friend running old versions
of Blender.  You could say "oh well that's unusual", but I think this is
a really bad direction.

For one thing, free software based emulators are a great entry point
into people exploring the guts of how machines work.

Many of these ROMs may be nonfree.  But I really think it's a mistake to
prejudge and *prevent* interesting research work by refusing to include
something that is from its point all the way down free software.
Emulation tools are also a great motivation for research on exactly some
of the hardest problems free software is facing right now, such as free
hardware designs.  By condemning this space we may reduce our chance for
serious advancements.  Please don't do this!

Sometimes having these systems available does eventually lead to
interesting software being released as free software.  For example, the
SCUMMVM machine was originally used to play proprietary old point and
click adventure games.  But *because* it was released, we saw one game
enthusiastically released as free software, Beneath A Steel Sky, and
this might never have happened otherwise.

Similarly, the z-machine has some free software games.  I am told that
this one is GPLv2+:

Some more:

A friend of mine is a free software developer who is greatly interested
in building text adventure systems on the z-machine with free software
stacks from top to bottom.  Would it make sense to demonize this work,
and prevent that from ever happening, because at present there are so
few options presently?

I think this is a really bad path to go down.  I hope we don't go down
it.  Let's condemn proprietary software, but not make assumptions that
free software systems will only be used for proprietary purposes.  We
might make that into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and prevent some future
interesting free work.  I think that would be a shame.

 - Chris

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