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Re: What demotivates debian-arm? [Was: Re: Bug#425011: gcc-4.1: FTBFS on m68k and arm, multiple definitions of ffi_prep_closure]

On Fri, May 18, 2007 at 12:08:02PM -0500, Bill Gatliff wrote:

> > The regular ARM port isn't in very good shape at all, and
> > there is no indication that armeb or armel would end up doing
> > any better.
> Maybe I'm confused by the "armeb" and "armel" ports to which you
> refer.  This one:
>    http://lists.debian.org/debian-arm/2007/01/msg00013.html
> ... seems to be pretty good.  Maybe the internals aren't all that pretty 
> (I haven't looked), but given that it's only been in existence since 
> January '07, I'm willing to suggest that it's not really mature yet.  
> But in the abuse I've been giving it, it's held up pretty well.

What I wrote was:

	The regular ARM port isn't in very good shape at all, and
	there is no indication that armeb or armel would end up doing
	any better.

I.e., regardless of the technical merits of the port, there is no
indication that the current problems in the old-ABI port are suddenly
going to disappear once/if we switch to EABI (if ever.)

> > Well, I support dropping architectures that are not in good shape,
> > and ARM is in that category.
> Can you define the characteristics of an architecture that isn't
> in "good shape"?

How about this one:

	"An architecture is said to be 'not in good shape' at a
	certain point in time if there has been regular talk about
	dropping that architecture for several years up to that

> Sure, there are a lot of EABI-related patches left to 
> deal with, but that's to be expected with really new stuff.

I'm not talking about the EABI port.  The EABI port can't be dropped
since it's not even an official port yet (and maybe will never be.)

> > What arguments do you have for keeping badly maintained ports
> > around?  (Where arguments that involve the dependency of someone's
> > consulting business on the existence of a Debian ARM port do not
> > count.)
> For the record, my "consulting business" doesn't depend on Debian.  
> Period.

I'm not saying that your business absolutely depends on it, but being
able to take a set of prebuilt, QA'd binary packages and use those
does save time over having to compile everything manually, so it's not
that the value of Debian is zero to you.

If you would be using, say, OpenEmbedded in your consulting business,
would you (considering that you are so very very busy working very
hard to make sure that you and your family get by that you can't write
a simple 5-minute patch without a PO to cover for it) still be writing
a long email on the debian-arm@ mailing list arguing that Debian should
not drop their ARM port?

Doesn't it seem a bit strange to you to accept a gift from someone
(e.g. Debian) and then say "Thank you for the free gift.  If you pay
me handsomely for it, I might just give you something in return." ?
Heck, in the time you wrote this email you could have fixed that gcc
build issue.

> But I happen to think that if debian-arm were to get even a 
> fraction of the commercial attention that, say, Ubuntu gets, it'd
> be in a lot better shape than it is now and we'd all benefit.

Not saying anything about your statement, I disagree with the
assertion that all the debian-arm port needs is a little bit of
commercial attention, i.e. that the success of the port depends
on external factors.

> Which is why I try to use it wherever I can--- so I can participate
> in and materially promote that process.

So what you are saying is that by using Debian, you're doing the
Debian project a favor and a service, even if it does require a PO and
a chunk of dollar bills for you to contribute anything back at all
(other than bug reports which someone else can then fix for you.)

> Take Debian away, and I'll just go back to hand-building my runtime 
> environments like I did for years before coming over to Debian.
> Debian will become irrelevant to me, and I'll apply my time, skills,
> hardware and other resources somewhere else.  It's that simple, and
> I won't lose any sleep over it.

"Debian has no value to me.", I think we've already asserted that
that is not true.

How about:

	"Take Linux away, and I'll just go back to using *BSD.  Linux will
	become irrelevant to me, and I'll apply my time, skills, hardware
	and other resources somewhere else.  It's that simple, and I won't
	lose any sleep over it."


	"Take the IT industry away, and I'll just go back to herding sheep.
	Computers will become irrelevant to me, and I'll apply my time,
	skills, hardware and other resources somewhere else.  It's that
	simple, and I won't lose any sleep over it."

> But I think it would be a _major_ loss to Linux, Debian and the
> FOSS community to drop ARM.
> The best argument I can think of for maintaining an ARM port is that
> by doing so, you make it a lot easier to keep the code in many, many 
> projects a lot cleaner and platform-independent.  Cleaner, more 
> platform-independent code is more reliable and more easily maintained.  
> Platform-independence as a requirement fosters more "correctness".
> And a 15,000-package, ten-zillion line code base can use all the
> correctness it can get!

OK, so your two arguments for keeping the ARM port are:
+ It would be a loss to drop it.
+ By maintaining the ARM port and thereby keeping the Debian packages
  platform-independent, it is easier to support non-x86 architectures
  such as ARM.

Both arguments seem recursive to me.

And I don't think that they weigh up against the facts that the ARM
port is not being maintained the way it should and it doesn't look
like that will change.  You don't keep a port around "because it
would be nice to have" even if noone is working on it.

> > If I read the annual report correctly, ARM-the-company sold 2.4
> > billion ARM core licenses in 2006, but now we can't find ARM CPUs
> > anywhere?
> The limited resource hasn't been hardware, it's been the attention
> of people with the right skills.

What _you_ said was:

	I think the problem with Debian for ARM targets is the same
	as for other non-x86 targets, in that there are limited
	resources for support because the required hardware and skills
	are hard to come by.

Then I said that:

	If I read the annual report correctly, ARM-the-company sold 2.4
	billion ARM core licenses in 2006, but now we can't find ARM CPUs

Please don't delete half of the context of what you're replying to.

> True, it would be incredibly easy for ARM to fund a few Debian 
> developers.  But for some reason, they don't.

As far as I understand, they do fund a lot of ARM community work.

> > Since we're on the subject of "things that demotivate people to work
> > on the Debian ARM port" anyway, knowing that someone else is being
> > paid to work on some issue or might be paid to work on that issue is
> > a very good motivator not to work on that issue yourself.
> I fundamentally and completely disagree.

Are you disagreeing with what I wrote, or with what you think I wrote?

> For the people who "don't know what to do", having someone
> consistently available to them who DOES know what to do is a real
> benefit.  Whether that resource is getting paid to be there or
> not is of little concern.  

Sure, I agree with that.

> It's tough to be doing anything consistently when you're constantly 
> distracted by the need to also maintain a day job somewhere else.
> Which means you aren't there for the "don't know what to do" crowd,
> which means they stay in that state instead of becoming meaningful
> contributors.

That's a red herring.  A lot of people have day jobs and get along
just fine answering a question here and there on some mailing list
here and there.

> > (Which is incidentally also the reason why a Debian ARM EABI
> > port took so long -- if there was no money involved we would
> > have had an ARM EABI port 6 or even 12 months earlier.)
> My read was that the reason the ARM EABI port took so long was
> because it involved a lot of code in a lot of places, which meant
> there was considerable effort required to reach the point where
> it was self-hosting.

I don't think that either of those were the reason.

> As for your "if there was no money involved" comment, why did you
> wait to announce your EABI port (see above) until after Applied
> Data Systems sponsored it, and why did you credit their sponsorship
> in your announcement?
> And in that announcement, which is dated January 10, 2007, you claim
> to have not started working on EABI until November 24, 2006.  So I
> don't know where your "6 or even 12 months" is coming from.  Sounds
> like you didn't make any meaningful progress until ADS made it such
> that you didn't have to get distracted by a bunch of other stuff for
> a few weeks.  And when they did, you turned out work product in less
> than two months.

See Riku's email.  Note that I do not speak for ADS.

> > In that regard, I don't think that pitching your services on this
> > mailing list is helping to motivate people to work on the issues that
> > the Debian ARM port is currently facing very much.
> ... which is why I saved the motivation bits for the last paragraph.  
> The rest was my vote against eliminating ARM, citing reasons I think 
> debian-arm isn't getting the attention it deserves, and offering to
> help connect my resources (skills, time, but no funding) with others
> (no skills or time, but available funding) to come up with a way to
> keep debian-arm moving forward.
> If you want to work on a volunteer basis, you're certainly free to
> do so (if you don't, that's fine too but it'd be a real loss and I
> for one would miss you greatly).

Hmmm, Bill Gatliff will work for cash, but Lennert can do it for free..

> Some of us would also love to come to the party, but can't for all
> kinds of reasons.  Now everyone knows mine,

Making ends meet.

> It pains me a bit to admit my shortcomings,

Money is so important to you that you can't bear the thought of
having spent 5 minutes of your time fixing some issue for free while
you also could have earned money doing so?

Yeah, that sounds like a shortcoming, but don't worry, I think there
are effective therapies for that kind of thing.

> Finally, the fact that I get paid money to develop embedded systems
> puts YOU off Debian?  That doesn't sound much like my problem.  And
> I don't think you speak for the debian-arm community as a whole when
> you say that, either.

You're putting more words into my mouth here.

First of all, I don't mind at all if Bill Gatliff makes money off
some open source project, even if that open source project involves
some of my work.

I _would_ object against the (purely hypothetical) case where Bill
Gatliff would get a PO to implement a feature X and then sends Lennert
email saying "What is feature X?  How do I implement it?  Can you do
it for me?  This week?  Thanks!"

I would now be less inclined to work on feature X, _even if_ I had
already been thinking about implementing feature X in my own time
before Bill came around,

So if the guy who pimps his consulting business at every possible
opportunity (BTW, do you know I have a consulting business?) posts to
the linux-arm-kernel@ mailing list saying something like "Before I
dig into it, has anyone seen problems with $FOO?", I really do start
to wonder.

Presumably he's being paid to make $FOO work, which means that he
does have time to spend on it, but before spending any time on it
himself, he'd rather check first whether he can find someone else
to fix the issue for him.

Personally, in such cases, I just use the 'D' key.

As I did above, I'm not criticising what other people do, I'm just
giving you a possible motivation for others not to help them.

Yeah, I know, Bill Gatliff would like to give back more, but he
can't, because he's working day and night to keep his family fed.
(But purchase orders are welcome, I take it.)

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