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Re: O: gnu-standards -- GNU coding standards

[References broken; I just saw this in the archive.  Anyone know why
repeated requests to subscribe to debian-legal aren't working?]

Anthony Towns wrote:
> > On Tue, Apr 09, 2002 at 01:36:15AM -0500, Jeff Licquia wrote:
> > I don't find such arguments very interesting, though.  It's certainly
> > easy to "solve" a problem by shifting the definitions around, 
> I'm sorry, but the above isn't bending the definitions at all. Software
> is a broader term than program. You don't get to claim the terms work
> the way you use them and then think that ends everything.

I don't recall claiming anything about the meanings of words, besides
the fact that they are malleable.  In fact, I recall saying:

> > I don't find such arguments very interesting, though.

Plainly put, I couldn't care less about what words mean.  I'm interested
in what we as a community consider to be right.

One of the reasons that I spoke up is that there seem to be a lot of
fundamentalists among us: people who refuse to consider that "the
written wisdom handed down from the ancients" might be inaccurate as
received.  I think the possibility must be considered, even if it is
rejected.  And I am personally willing to reject such a conclusion if
the community deems it to be warranted.

I just prefer that we actually consider, rather than follow the Holy
Book to the Promised Land.

> > I could try to "unbend" them by asking what the
> > practical difference there is between printed and electronic versions of
> > books, 

> Uh, you can't find a practical difference between a printed book, and a CD
> with the contents of that book encoded on it? Really? One fairly obvious
> one is that you need a computer (some hardware) to make any use of the
> latter, while you can read the former quite happily without a computer.

And what really changes about it that doesn't change when you translate
it, or print it in Braille, or come out with an illustrated edition, or
etch it in rock, or memorize it?  Indeed, some of those changes have
much more of an impact on the work itself than merely putting it on a

To answer my own question: as computer data, a book can be linked to
other books, or self-indexed, or analyzed.  It's trivial to
cut-and-paste into other works, or quote (either with linking or
embedding).  And so on.  Does any of this matter?  Perhaps it does, and
perhaps it doesn't.

Whether you *call* it software or not doesn't change anything about what
it is or how you use it.  So, hiding behind Webster doesn't impress me. 
Tell me, rather, why I should throw out my ideas about the purpose and
usage of literary (as opposed to functional) works.

> > Except that most of the crypto technology you used to find on Italian
> > and Dutch FTP servers was either code from the USA or (rather poorly)
> > algorithms from the USA.  The really big example: PGP.
> Which was, as far as the regulations were concerned, reimplemented from
> a text book outside the US, not exported.

Wrong.  PGP, for example, wasn't printed in source form by MIT Press
until the 2.x days (2.3.2, if my memory serves me).  PRZ was
investigated by Customs for the export of PGP 1.x.  

Also, every version of PGP back in the day made it to Italy within hours
of its release from MIT (and months before the source code could be
printed).  If Customs had known who was doing this, the existence of a
book with last year's source code in it wouldn't have made any
difference at all to that person's criminal case.

> > I'm not sure that usefulness is a good criteria, however, for modeling
> > what we believe.  
> What would you propose instead? What "feels" good? What various luminaries
> want?

Sure.  What "feels" good - to the Debian developer community.  What the
various luminaries in Debian want - including you, Mr. Release Manager. 
Also, what people can argue for.

That tells me a lot more about what Debian thinks is right than the
Oxford English Dictionary does.  It might even show me where I'm being
muddle-headed.  I've certainly been muddle-headed before; who hasn't?

> Usefulness is a very effective justification for our current requirements.

Usefulness is a very effective justification for lots of things, few of
which have much to do with what is right.  For example, proprietary
licensing, patent abuse, and outright lying seem to be very useful to
Microsoft.  Does this justify their actions?

Also, I note for the record that my original message said:

> > Usefulness is a good thing if it doesn't contradict other, more
> > important values.

Back to AJ:

> Freedom's not a bad one, although it doesn't indicate why we make the
> concessions we do (like allowing upstream to require us to use different
> names, or patch files).

Maybe because we think that upstream has some freedoms as well?

It might be interesting to ask ourselves what duties we have as users,
as Debian maintainers, and as upstream authors, and decide if those sets
of duties change at all when we're talking about code, icons, manuals,
or literary works.  "Rights" are very difficult to pin down; duties are
usually much easier to analyze, IMHO.

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