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

On Wed, Apr 10, 2002 at 01:40:49AM -0500, Jeff Licquia wrote:
> 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.

Well, you're the one arguing that the "ancients" couldn't possibly
have meant the DFSG to apply to documentation since it's clearly not
"software", and that it's therefore up to everyone else to justify why
we should care that the GNU FDL mightn't be DFSG-free.

> > 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?  

I invite you to try to run sed over a printed book, then, or to use dpkg
to install or remove it from your bookshelf.

The differences between a book and a CD-ROM with a book on it are pretty
obvious. Yes, obviously there are similarities too, but the fact is Debian
distributes software that can be put on CD-ROMs, not pages that can be
collated into books. What purpose, exactly, does trying to conflate the
two serve?

> Indeed, some of those changes have
> much more of an impact on the work itself than merely putting it on a
> CD.

I invite you to try to read a copy of _The Stranger_ translated from the
French into English and printed in a book. I invite you to try to read
a copy of _The Stranger_ in either the original French, or in English,
encoded in pdf on a CD. Which one requires the extra the extra tools?

> Whether you *call* it software or not doesn't change anything about what
> it is or how you use it.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet".

If you find definitional arguments so boring, why do you spend so much time
doing them badly?

It doesn't matter whether I call a book on a CD software or
"glurgforbing".  But it's a fact that there are important similarities
between a book on a CD, a book on a hard disk drive, a book in flash RAM,
and a book on a disk drive. Similarities that don't exist between a book
on a CD and a printed book. Similarities that do exist between books
on CD and programs. Similarities that're covered by a fairly reasonable
use of the word "software".

For one thing, you can put them in a .deb.

> Tell me, rather, why I should throw out my ideas about the purpose and
> usage of literary (as opposed to functional) works.

For the exact same reasons proprietry software developers should throw
out their ideas about the purpose and usage of those works. Because
they're both unnecessary and unhelpful. There're plenty of examples of
both cases already.

> > > 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.  


The only way to get a useful consensus on what "feels" good is either:

	(a) have an objective measure, that can be discussed and analysed
	(b) start off with a group of people who already agree

It's too late to do (b), and if you're not willing to do (a), then I'm
wasting my time.

> > 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. [...]

> 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.

You neglected to indicate what these "more important" values were.

In particular, you'll find it's a lot easier to get people to agree on
what's useful, than on just about anything else.

> 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?

Upstream has all the freedom in the world, including the freedom to
license things in such away that Debian can't distribute them. Microsoft,
eg, often exercises that particular freedom. So what? How does that help
us draw the lines the DFSG does?

> 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.  

While you're asking yourself this, perhaps you should also ask yourself
if it's really better to create divisions amongst things that are really
all just ones and zeros, rather than finding ways of doing away with them.


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

     ``BAM! Science triumphs again!'' 
                    -- http://www.angryflower.com/vegeta.gif

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