I'm writing this from a hotel room in Portland, where our
family is staying for a get-together for a mailing list of
parents (mostly mothers) on a mailing list for kids due to
be born at the same time as Alan. It's not easy to
travel with a five year old and a 15 month old, even if the
flight is only a bit over an hour. But we're all here
in one piece (each), fed, swum, and reasonably well rested.
I forgot the "atdt" in my chatscript, leading to believe
that the connector for my PCMCIA modem was broken, so I had
a harrowing experience trying to use the ThinkPad 600's
built-in ACP modem from Windows 95. There is now a GPL'd
driver, but installation looks nontrivial, so I haven't done
it yet - the PCMCIA modem works a lot better anyway.
I am reminded again of just how bad Windows 95 is. Bad. I
hear that Windows 2000 is a lot better. I'm curious, but
will find out soon, as my next computer buy is an IBM
complete with 1600x1200, 133
dpi LCD screen. Yum. I'll dual-boot Debian Woody and W2k on
it. About the only compromise on this machine is that it
doesn't have an 802.11b antenna built-in. Oh well. It's also
just a bit heavy, but with a screen like that, it's
hard to bitch.
I can definitely see how Richard Stallman has
acquired a reputation for being irritating. He asked me to
patch the GPL'ed Ghostscript documentation to not refer to
the newest Ghostscript versions. I told him I'd accept a
patch, which is, after all, the free software way. He sent
me back a somewhat snippish note saying that he was too
busy, and that he works 50 to 60 hours, so it was not
reasonable to expect him to do it personally.
Well, I didn't ask him to do it personally. If it's so
important to the Gnu project, then presumably there are
hordes of GNU minions who would be thrilled to take on this
earth-shakingly important task.
Of course, the suggestion that his time is so much more
valuable than mine is deeply, deeply irritating. I mean,
that's probably the best way to piss people off there is.
I responded, telling him that I asked for a volunteer in my
Advogato diary. As it is, this request yielded a volunteer,
so the work will get done.
RMS was even more unhappy with this response. Just asking
for a volunteer, it seems, is not living up to my
responsibility as GNU maintainer.
I see Richard's point, but I am not sure I agree with this.
If the ideological purity of documentation for GNU programs
is, as Richard asserts, so vital, then surely the GNU
community will take care of the issue with dispatch. If no
volunteer comes forward, that is a suggestion that it is
maybe not as important as Richard believes.
As I write this, I am reminded of Richard's dedication to
the cause, even when lots of other people think he is crazy.
It is entirely possible that Richard is right about
ideological purity in docs, even if very few other people
agree with him. But, to me, GNU is (at least now) much more
about the community than one person's vision.
I do believe in the goals of the GNU project, am proud that
Ghostscript is part of the GNU system, and take my
responsibilities seriously. If it weren't for this, I can
easily imagine resigning over this spat. The work of the
Ghostscript team on the GPL'ed version of Ghostscript is,
after all, a gift, and it's not exactly nice to be presented
with a picky dental report in return. It really saddens me
to think of how many talented people the GNU project has
lost because of Richard's personality quirks.
Of course, there may be silver lining: the people attached
to the GNU project are, by and large, those truly committed
to the ideals of the project, rather than shallow ego
gratification (I hear rumors that the newer top
administrative staff do fall in the latter category, but
don't really know them, so can't really comment). That might
ultimately make the project stronger than it would have been
if Richard was a nice guy.
Sorry for ranting. It feels good to get this off my chest.
I'm mailing Richard now to let him know I wrote this... I
think he should hear it too.