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Re: non-software violates social contract?

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>>>>> On Thu, 29 Aug 2002 23:05:09 -0500, Aaron Swartz <me@aaronsw.com> said:

>> Sorry, but these complexities are the very things you *must* go into
>> if you want to delineate software and non-software.

> Of course, but I wanted an answer to the more basic question
> first. Thankfully, you answered it at the end:

>> My point is that fine, I guess Debian can include non-free
>> non-software.

>>> There are quite a few things (RFCs, the GPL,
>>> etc.) which I think are clearly not intended to be executed by
>>> computers. I don't think arguing about AI and advanced parsing
>>> techniques is relevant to the point at hand.
>> The fact that fonts are described as a set of mathematical equations
>> for
>> splines has nothing to do with AI or advanced parsing techniques. Is
>> a C
>> program that only describes a set of splines not software?

> I was talking about AI and parsing in the context of RFCs and the
> GPL. Is the GPL software?

No.  Go ask the person who wrote it.

>>>> [...] XML (and SGML) are just alternate forms of expressing S-exps,
>>>> used in LISPs [sic] for programming [...]
>>> So? ASCII is used in C programming.
>> I made this point because it's difficult to prove that
>> "<html><head><title>Foobar</title>...</html>" is not a program, but
>> "(html (head (title "Foobar") ... ) " is. In fact, I'd say it's
>> impossible.

> My point is that "(html (head (title \"Foobar\") ... )" is not a
> program, no more than, say, an email which happens to be syntactically
> valid Tcl.

Of course it is.  Imagine HTMLgen ported from Python to Scheme, as
I've seen for introductory CS coursework.  "(html (head (title
\"Foobar\") ...)" is a program.  More than that, it's clearly
*software*, intended largely (if not primarily) for digestion by
computing machines.

>> It stops being a fun puzzle and becomes a real problem when Debian
>> packages such programs. Look at the apt-dpkg-ref package. Although
>> "documentation", it's actually a LISP program to output LaTeX source to
>> create a document. So, is it a LISP program, a LaTeX program, or a
>> document?

> The LISP is software, the document is not.

What about the LaTeX?  The solution is the same as for the GPL: ask
the person who wrote it.  It is his intent that matters.  tex.web is
written largely for human consumption, but largely for mechanical
consumption, and its author intends it to be Software.  Thus, it is
software.  It's also a document, of course.

A book is an object, made of wood pulp, glue, and ink.  It's also a
(encoding of a) document.  Similarly, apt-dpkg-ref is a piece of
software, made of computer programs.  It's also a (encoding of a)

>> However, it's difficult if not impossible to prove that any given
>> stream
>> of bits is not software. So the only non-free things we can include are
>> proven non-software, like ham sandwiches or desks.

> How do you prove a desk isn't software?

Ask the builder of the desk.
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