I am starting to dislike GNU project

When GNU project was announced over 30 years ago it was something great. But time passed and I have a feeling that it is more and more politics instead of coding.

I do builds. For over 10 years now. It was ARM all the time with some bits of AVR32, MIPS, x86. During last two years it is nearly 100% AArch64. And during last months my dislike to GNU project grows.

Why? several reasons.

Commit messages

There is a lot of articles about “how to write good commit messages”. I can tell you where to look for bad ones: gcc, binutils, glibc — base of most of GNU/Linux distributions. All of them can be fetched from GIT repositories but look like deep in CVS era. Want to find what was changed? You will get it in commit message. Why it was changed? Forget.

GNU forks

Do you know what IceCat is? Or GNUzilla? Let me quote official homepage:

GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software. While the Firefox source code from the Mozilla project is free software, they distribute and recommend non-free software as plug-ins and addons.

Where is source? Somewhere in GNU cvs probably. I failed to find it. OK, there is a link to something which is probably source tarball but we have XXI century — developers take source control systems got granted.

Of course IceCat fails to build on AArch64. Why? Because it is based on already obsoleted by upstream version 24 of Firefox. Support for 64-bit ARM platform was merged around Firefox 30 and is complete in version 31. Sure, I could dig for patches for IceCat version but no. This time I refuse.

I do not know, but maybe GNU project needs some fresh blood which will make them more developer friendly?

1 thought on “I am starting to dislike GNU project”

  1. You are mostly right. I am (was?) translator for GNU team. When I joined, and it was several years ago, I felt like “these are old people”. I understand, that ideology is important but… As a translation team we needed wiki. GNU didn’t provide it’s own wiki, we wanted to avoid keeping all in one place managed by one person, so we choose Wikia. It ran fine for several years, then people from GNU told, that using this non free service is not right. Why Wikia is non free? It serves ads. How ads are not free (according to open soruce)? I don’t know.

    As you mentioned, lots of their software is obsolete. It may not be important for freedom geeks, but it surely is a barrier for adoption of free software among ordinary users. I used Icecat several years ago for several months. Then I dropped it. I use Iceweasel, which is more or less the same (free version of Firefox), but in Debian it comes packed to deb, ready to use. And fresh: http://mozilla.debian.net/

    Free Linux distros on GNU page? IMO it’s a joke. I know may Linux users, but none of them uses those distributions. Debian still is not a free distribution according to GNU. Because one can add “non-free” section to sources.list…

    But RMS is mostly right on many things. It’s a pity that on many aspects GNU is so impractical. I’d switch to more practical alternative if it were one.

    BTW open source gives you access to source code, not source code + changes. 😉 And they give source of Icecat. When you use Debian you also get acces only to source code snapshots… And be glad you have git. Translation team still uses cvs. 😉

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