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[Axiom-developer] RE: The 30 Year Horizon

From: Bill Page
Subject: [Axiom-developer] RE: The 30 Year Horizon
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2006 23:17:25 -0500


I worry that some of your statements below might be interpreted badly
by some other people important to Axiom.

On November 6, 2006 1:53 PM you wrote:
> ... 
> I picked up a collection of source files that were being removed
> from commercial distribution and thrown out. The collection was
> not complete and not functional.

I am not sure how you define "complete" but NAG did claim that
they had delivered to you a completely functional Axiom system
which ran on Linux. True, it was based on a different lisp system
(ccl) then the one you were most familiar with and some parts
that involved other commercial licenses had been removed, but
the decision to re-implement Axiom under gcl was yours. This
involved some significant extra work since both Axiom and gcl had
evolved some since this combination was last fully operational.

> As one of the original authors of the code, prior to its becoming
> a commercial product, I was quite upset to see that all of that 
> fundamental research in computational math was going to be
> destroyed.

I don't think you were the only one. I recall several emails from
Mike Dewar of NAG to various email lists asking for people willing
to take on Axiom as an open source project. It's just a good thing
that you came along when you did. :-) Or do you think my summary
of this part of Axiom's history is not accurate? (It could be,
I wasn't there.)

> It took nearly 3 years of my work to put Axiom back together.

Getting Axiom working under GCL also involved some very critical
input from both Camm Maguire and Jergen Weiss. In fact the email
archive shows that Jergen Weiss was the first one to report an
operational system and he contributed the updated Axiom database
that was essential to solve the remaining problems. (I remember,
I was there by then. :).

Anyway, this is not intended to reduce the importance of your
contribution by rather just to ensure that other people who
contributed in the "early days" are also properly recognized.

> ... 
> Axiom is a project with stated goals. Those goals are supposed
> to set the direction of the project. Axiom's been quite flexible
> about methods of reaching those goals.

You mean "you" are trying to be flexible. To that I can only say,
well, um ...

> For instance, Bill has insisted that the browser be the basis for
> future user interface work. He's been very convincing and at this
> point I agree with him. The Crystal effort and the new hyperdoc
> browser are trying to use the firefox browser as a base.

Ok that's a point, but I felt at the time that it was a pretty
"hard sell". :-)

> However I see the build-improvements branch completely ignoring
> goals. When *I* don't understand why decisions are being made and
> how they fit the future direction I have to say something fundamental 
> is broken.

I agree, but I don't think it is with the approach being taken by
the build-improvements branch.

> I'm watching the build-improvements branch fit Axiom to the tools
> rather than the other way around. Axiom's being laid upon a 
> procrustean bed, with parts being cut off because they don't "fit"
> the tools. 

That is not true.

> * I see files being rewritten because noweb can't handle them.

I see files being written in a standard literate programming language.

> * I see patches to tools being rejected as inappropriate, treating
>   the tool as more important that the project.

I see cooperation with other open source projects and relying on those
resources instead of alienating them.

> * I see files being rejected and modified because SVN has a problem.

I did see that at all. The only files being modified were because of
limitations in the target operating systems such as MAC OSX and

> * I see files being thrown out, like the document command, because
>   they don't fit some standard.

That is not true.

> * I see the designed structure of Axiom, rather than being implemented
    using autoconf, being restructured to fit the dictates of autoconf
    and the free software foundation.

If by "designed structure" you mean the old make scripts, then I think
that is good thing. There are good ways to use the available tools and
there are bad ways. As I have said previously, in my opinion your
original make scripts were "just crazy". 

> * I see the idea of literate programming being pulled apart into
>   "source" and "documentation" to fit ideas foreign to the project
>   in the name of "today's standards".

I don't see any of that happening.
> ... 
> This isn't about compromise and this isn't about standards. This
> is about inventing the future.

That is out of scope of the Axiom project. The future will invent

> I hear people complaining about keeping a snapshot of GCL and
> how "wrong" this is to subsume other projects (even though GCL
> has several projects subsumed in it).

It is wrong to subsume other projects. That policy kills possible
collaboration and taxes limited resources. Concerning GCL: Camm has
said that he would like to correct this situation when possible.

> I can't imagine the outcry when Axiom swallows ACL2 in order to
> support a program proof technology, one of the stated goals.

There is no way that Axiom is going to "swallow" ACL2. Get

> ...
> [Concerning Waldek's recent contributions you wrote:] 
> I see that you're doing excellent work and that you're making great
> strides in adapting Axiom to today's technology. And you've clearly
> energized people by showing such rapid progress in optimizations
> and adoption of standards. Your car will be blindingly fast.
> But you've missed the goal.

If we don't "energize people by showing rapid progress" and
thereby attract new developers and new contributions, there is
no way to achieve any of the goals that you have set for Axiom.

Bill Page.

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