Deciding *what* to port
Posted Dec 16, 2004 13:54 UTC (Thu) by Max.Hyre
Parent article: Porting free software to Windows
Mr. Seigo's presentation
of current conditions is very strong. However, I find myself
drawing different conclusions from those conditions.
It strikes me that this discussion has parallels to the
GPL vs. LGPL analysis. In his explanation
of when to use which, RMS observes:
Using the ordinary GPL is not advantageous for every library. There are reasons that can make it better to use the L[esser] GPL in certain cases. The most common case is when a free library's features are readily available for proprietary software through other alternative libraries. In that case, the library cannot give free software any particular advantage, so it is better to use the L[esser] GPL for that library.
However, when a library provides a significant unique capability, like GNU Readline, .... [r]eleasing it under the GPL and limiting its use to free programs gives our community a real boost. At least one application program is free software today specifically because that was necessary for using Readline.
Now, take that in terms of apps and OSes: ``when a free [applications]'s
features are readily available for proprietary [OSes] through other alternative [application]s....'', and ``However, when a[n application] provides a significant unique capability, .... [r]eleasing it [only on Free OSes] and limiting its use to free [OSes] gives our community a real boost.''
This (to me) reasonable extension implies porting to MS windows
only those applications which
already exist as proprietary packages there, thereby introducing MS
users to Free Software.
OTOH, wherever a Free application is unique, or significantly
better than, a proprietary offering (arguably Firefox, as Mr. Seigo
shows), it should remain available
solely on Free OSes.
Once introduced to Free, it's inevitable that some MS windows users will notice that their freedom is worth a lot, and will spread the word.
The advantages of Free
will cause such users to give thought to Free OSes, and consider switching.
Thus, offering Free versions of stuff the users are already used to, can introduce
them to the advantages of Free. When other stuff which they want is only
available solely on a Free OS, so much the better.
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