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Re: Concerns about GNU Bison maintenance.

From: Akira Urushibata
Subject: Re: Concerns about GNU Bison maintenance.
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 2020 10:36:44 +0900 (added by address@hidden)

  On 2020-08-06 13:20, wrote:

  The GNU system, and GNU project is entierly volunteer based, and it is
  up to each maintainer to decide what features to work on and include.

While this is true, it should be noted that there is no rule that
proclaims this.  This is the way things are because the supply of
volunteers is scarce.

I have been contributing on the image format conversion and processing
package Netpbm for nearly two decades.  I'd like to share my thoughts on
this issue from the perspective of a maintainer of a software package.

I understand the importance of backward compatibility.  There are
applications and net-based software systems over a decade old which
use Netpbm utilities.  We can't expect every network engineer to be
accustomed with the details of Netpbm.  In fact we are accustomed to
the fact that those who are entrusted in keeping systems running may
know little or even nothing about it.  Any change which ignores
backward compatibility would be highly disruptive.  As such we go to
lengths to avoid such things.

To maintain Netpbm requires a diverse set of skills.  Knowledge of
image processing, image formats and data compression is required.
On the programming language side proficiency in c, shell scripts, Perl,
GNU Make and HTML (for documentation) is called for.  Python is also
required, although infrequently, because some distributions need
documentation in man format, and Netpbm employs an HTML to man conversion
script happens to be in Python.

Some time ago ghostscript made a change on how certain marginal pixels
are rendered and it was detected during routine tests.  Naturally the
ghostscript maintainers were contacted immediately: they replied they
were doing the right thing.  I had to brush up my rusty Postscript to
make necessary modifications to the Netpbm programs that employ

Free software has improved in quality but at the same time build
chains have grown complicated.  Netpbm is not unique among widely used
system software packages.  As a result of having acquired, of the
course of many years, contributions from people with diverse
backgrounds, widely used system software packages have source code in
so many programming languages that even talented programmers cannot
hope to be learn thoroughly.  This means that whenever a problem
occurs involving an arcane detail of a lesser-known language,
maintainers are obliged to devote time studying it.  I see this as a
loss of freedom for the maintainer and society as a whole, for the
same time could be used to improve software in a more straightforward
manner, in the direction of one's stated goals and using tools that
one is adept with.

GNU software should respect the freedom of the users.  This is clearly
stated in GNU project documents.

Thank you for reading.

Akira Urushibata

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