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Re: [gnu.misc.discuss,gnu.emacs.gnus] Free software: Packagers vs Developers

Stephane Bortzmeyer <bortzmeyer@pasteur.fr> writes:

> On Friday 2 July 1999, at 12 h 45, the keyboard of Per Abrahamsen 
> <abraham@dina.kvl.dk> wrote:
> > Not in a useful way.  I hear developers swear about Debian more often
> > than about e.g. Red Hat, despite Red Hat being more widespread.
> Debian has much more packages (three or four times as much). This
> can explain.

I think Debian has too many packages.  For example, separate packages
for Emacs extensions that are bundled with both Emacsen.

> > Neither do I.  I have no idea what to do with a bug report or patch
> > comming from a middleman, who neither have the same direct experience
> > of the problem as the user, nor the same knowledge of the code as the
> > developer.  
> That's violently insulting. You mean that someone who took the time
> to study a package, to find the best way to package it, who received
> all the bug reports (and who has to deal with them, they are public
> and filled under his name), who knows about software development
> cannot make better reports than any ordinary user?

For their own problems, maybe.  For the users problems, the users are the

> Adam di Carlo tried, on that same mailing list, to remind Debian
> developers to be nice with upstream authors, since they are at the
> origin of free software, after all

A rather condenscending formulation.

> To summary: you're an exception. Most free software authors practice
> what they preach and they let other people do what they want with
> the free software.

And when have I done different?  I merely pointing that the current
practice with middlemen is damaging the free software movement, and we
should seek ways to either make the middlemen unnecessary, or at least
minimize the damage done.  I suggested some ethical rules / social
conventions that would lessen the damage.

Most developers just curse you, I took the time to formulate the
problem and trying to start a discussion about how to improve the
process.  But so far I haven't had the luck to pass the first hurdle,
gettingyou to acknowledge that there is a problem, which is the same
place François Pinard and Hrvoje Niksic came to.

> > that he is willing to explain everything again, figure out what code
> > he has received from Debian,
> No need to do so. Everything is public
> <http://www.debian.org/distrib/packages> .

Yeah, right . That is called " figure out what code he has received
from Debian".

> > to my code or the Debian mangling, 
> Yes, people who modify your Sacred Code are mangling it. Please use more 
> neutral terms, if we want to discuss in an useful way.

I use "mangling" because the actual practice is harmful, in that it
hinders the development of the project.  There are plenty of ways to
modify the code without harming the project, some of which in fact

> > > That's why the queso package of Debian is 64-bits clean, unlike the
> > > upstream tarball, works with rejecting routes, unlike the upstream
> > > tarball, etc.
> > 
> > Maybe if there hadn't been a Debian package with all these attributes,
> > the _real_ queso would do all this.  Benefitting _everybody_, not just
> > Debian users.
> This is becoming really annoying.  As I said, everything we do is
> public.

That is not the point.

> Anyone can retrieve the "Debian patches" by anonymous FTP and apply them to 
> the upstream source or to a RedHat/FreeBSD/Solaris/Whatever package.

I presume most non-Debian users get it through their own distribution,
or directly from the developer. 

> Do you know this specific package and its author? (BTW, my opinion
> is that he is not a maniac refusing any help from Debian as a matter
> of principle, he simply has other things to do).

I have never heard of it.  If he is too busy, couldn't you join as a
co-developer of the project, or maybe even take it over?

Or, in the worst case, make an official (distribution neutral) split
with its own name?  Like screen vs. iscreen, gcc vs. egcs, Emacs
vs. XEmacs.  This kind of thing happens occationally, it is not a good
thing, but it can be necessary.

> > Sure, all the users of a specific distribution will appreciate the
> > enhancements.  It is the free software community as a whole who
> > suffers. 
> Why? If they are really improvments, they can adopt them, too. If they don't 
> think they are useful, they lose nothing.

Because bugs and feature requests and  don't get reported to the
developers, if they are already addressed by the middlemen.

> Could it be the real problem? Not a specific problem with a specific
> Debian maintainer, Manoj, who did a specific choice when packaging
> Gnus?

It is a specific instance of a inherent problem in making
distributions, which seems to be worst for Debian, but luckily a
problem which could be reduced by making suitable adjustments to the

First step is to acknowledge that there is a problem.

Second step is to realise that the problem can be lessened.

Third step is to work on how to improve the situation.

> I have the feeling that nothing Debian can do will please you,
> because you reject the whole idea of a distribution, anyway.

That would be convenient, wouldn't it?

> > what kind of option the above is.  User options are such thing as
> > enabling auto fill mode or font lock in Emacs.
> OK, I see the point, but it is not an issue here. Noone shipped a Debian 
> package which such options changed?

I have no idea.  Red Hat has.  My critisism wasn't Debian specific.

> > "Oh, you need a 64bit clean version.  Just use Debian."
> "Oh, you need a 64bit clean version. Just ask the maintainer of your
> current distribution to use Debian patches. Or ask the upstream
> author to integrate them - or equivalent. These patches are free."

Which one is shortest?

> (BTW, for queso, I didn't wrote them, someone send me the patches :-)

This actually makes it worse.  Getting patches from someone who didn't
wrote them is _really_ useless.

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