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

From: Thompson, David
Subject: Re: MAME emulator is giving incentive to use non-free software
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2016 13:32:03 -0400

On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:30 PM, Christopher Allan Webber
<address@hidden> wrote:
> 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.

An emphatic +1 to this!  Very well put.  Thank you, Chris.

- Dave

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