Quaker meeting was good. The kids, especially, had a good time in San
Diego, and (mostly) didn't get fried or too melted down.
In Pacific Yearly Meeting, I'm on Secretariat Committee, which
basically means I put out the daily newsletter during meeting. This is
a great way to get to know lots more people, especially for someone
who feels as new and shy as I did when I started. Also, I like doing
I used LaTeX, mostly because I'm so familiar with it. Almost all the
stuff coming in electronically was in Microsoft Word. I just converted
everything to text (on the Windows box) and redid the formatting by
It's always a humbling reminder to see how difficult computers are for
people. There was a lot of tech support provided in the
Secretariat office last week. A lot of the problems were things that
should have just worked. One of the more frustrating was a brand new
iBook running Mac OSX, which crashed every time you tried to add a new
printer in the "Print Center". Eventually, someone looked through the
console logs and found that it was an unresolved symbol in a Canon
printer driver bundle. Since we didn't care about Canon printers at
all (the printer was an Epson C60), deleting the bundle solved the
problem. How the hell are people supposed to figure that out? It took
three or four clueful people, and quite a bit of time.
Since OSCON was happening concurrently, I managed to meet a few free
software people. Tuesday evening, Richard Stallman came by USD to talk
to me. I'm still wrestling with the issues discussed. I deeply respect
and admire Richard's vision and his principled approach, but there are
also some things I simply do not agree with, and that is causing
Essentially, the problem is that the GNU Ghostscript web pages and
release mention the AFPL version, which goes against the GNU coding
standards. According to those, it's ok to mention "well known"
programs like Windows and OS X, but not to recommend them, or to
mention less well known programs, such as AFPL Ghostscript.
I have two problems here. First, I don't believe in witholding
information. Since Ghostscript is continually improving, the AFPL
releases really are better than the GNU ones. In particular, if people
are having problems, moving to the AFPL release might be a good way to
solve them quickly. Also, in this age of Google, holding back on
information is rather futile.
Second, I don't consider the AFPL version to be unethical. The primary
freedom given by the GPL but not the AFPL is the right to sell the
program for money without compensating the author. The other important
rights, such as use, modification, and improvement without
discrimination, are intact, as is gratis distribution.
It is intriguing to imagine how things might have turned out
differently if the AFPL took hold, rather than the GPL. For one, it
would address a big problem in free software, the lack of
compensation for developers. Red Hat-style distributions would be at a
disadvantage, because they'd have to find the authors and pay them,
and Debian-style distros would probably have a wider role. I think
that the community spirit of free software could work under the AFPL
As it is, the question is basically moot, largely because the GPL
community is huge, while there is not much of an AFPL community aside
from Ghostscript. Both licenses are thorny and prickly when it comes
to intermixing with other licenses, so it's really just as well that
only one is popular. Otherwise, there's a pretty big risk of dividing
the community. That looked like a real risk when the NPL came out, but
again, the GPL won.
In any case, I promised Richard that I would fix up the current GNU
release. However, I realize I don't really have my heart in being a
GNU maintainer. There are a few possibilities. One is for some other
volunteer to step up to the plate. Another is to amicably part ways
with the FSF and do GPL, but not GNU, releases of Ghostscript in the
future. This would be a shame, because I feel that GNU is a worthy
project and needs support. Fortunately, there's no urgency; there's
plenty of time to figure out the Right Way.
I tried to talk to Richard about the GNUstep project and its relation to
Mac OSX, but he's not following the project. I find this quite
disheartening. I feel that Richard was far more effective as a leader
when he was actively designing and writing the software to make the
GNU project real.
Ankh, simonstl, and Paul Prescod
I had considerably more fun chatting with Ankh and simonstl on
Saturday evening, and meeting Paul and his wife Lilia at the San Diego Zoo with the family on
Sunday. Our conversations were deep and wide-ranging. I am more and
more convinced of the importance of personal connections. In
particular, it's really important to have friends inside the W3C,
especially because I've been so critical of the organization. In the
past, DV has filled that role, but he's since gone to Red
Hat. Now, I feel that if I really have something to say, Ankh will
make sure it gets heard by the right people.