Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 18:17:16 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

| One of the major merits of using the Debian Linux distribution is that
| it allows the user to be a "passive consumer" of those components about
| which (s)he wishes to be passive, and to be "activist" about other
| components.

  Good point.

| There's a pretty big argument hole in the GPL argument about "ability to
| modify;" there aren't that many people generally interested in actually
| modifying the software.

  The threshold to actually modify is also high.  Since the program has to
  be recompiled, the whole compilation environment has to be dragged in,
  and this is sometimes no small feat.  If modifications have been made to
  other parts of the environment, the probability that one cannot rebuild
  something from scratch becomes non-zero.  E.g., I remember when I made a
  number of changes to Emacs.  Patching every new version and making sure
  that things worked right was getting to be a major pain.  Those changes
  that did not get accepted by the maintainers were simply too hard to keep
  in my version.  I still build my own Linux kernels because of a few bugs
  that the maintainers do not to consider bugs, but got _seriously_ burned
  when building with gcc-3.0.  The dependency chain for building something
  from scratch is often so subtle that it is difficult to specify fully.

| But the notion that everybody's planning to hack on _all_ this stuff is
| just nonsense.  We're all passive about _some_ things, unless the goal is
| to build a minscule embedded system from scratch, and keep refining
| that...

  Imagine how different this would be if users did not have to recompile
  the whole system, if the system had a compiler that could compile patches
  that could be loaded into a system without rebuilding all of it, etc...
  This is a much easier way to obtain the goal of user modifiability than
  requiring people to have all the source and to recompile from scratch.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.