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GNU is Not Unix

Free & Non-Free Documentation 209

Guylhem writes "After the problems the LDP had with Debian rules, it seems clear we need an organization which would for example sort documentation between free (as "libre" or "freedom") and non free. After some discussions with people from the GNU project and the FSF, we came to the conclusion no such project already existed. I am please to announce that I am now starting the GNU Writing Movement with help from the GNU project. We will provide links to existing free documents, with a possibility to rate the documentation quality. The project is not competing with existing documentation project such as the LDP or GDP. It will complement them, both by serving somewhat as a meta-project for free software documentation, to provide help to authors willing to replace their FAQ or HOWTO will a full Guide on a specific topic, and to develop brand-new book-length material on many topics. "
If you can't find a home for your documentation at an existing documentation project, and you agree with the philosophy of the GNU project, we can help you. Volunteers are welcome for the first phase of the project - cataloging existing free software documentation, rating it, and determining TODO lists for what needs to be documented.
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Free & Non-Free Documentation

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  • by spencerogden ( 49254 ) <spencer@spencerogden.com> on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:36PM (#2712429) Homepage
    I think what really may be needed is for an organization, such as this one, to raise donations to hire writers to fill in the gaps in open documentation. We all know some projects are documented well others poorly, all of them could use help making the documentation make sense to newbies. This just isn't something that enough people do out of the good of their hearts. Maybe this would be a path to getting quality documentation.
    • It would be xxx:the missing man pages!
    • Finally, the grammar nazi will have a place away from Slashdot to correct grammatical mistakes!!

      The grammar nazi knew all along that he would provide an important role for the free software movement. He always thought that this role was improving the grammar of the Slashdot community, but alas... now he has a chance to show his stuff to the greater free software community. Maybe he will finally get the respect that he deserves.

      Today is a day of celebration!!

    • I don't see how it is that difficult to competently put together documentation.

      I think we should steer away from technical documentation, and start writing stuff aimed at average users, such as "Linux for Idiots" style books or "Linux for the mentally disabled".

      It wouldn't be too difficult.
      • No one said it was difficult, its just not fun (for most people). It is especially not fun, ususally, for the very people best qualified to write it, the people who wrote the program, no one knows it better. Unfortunately, most coders aa) don't like wrting documentation and/or b) are not good at wrting it at a level appropriate for beginners.

        It comes back to the revelation seen here on /. [slashdot.org] that explaining something to a newbie is harder the more of a guru you are.
        • The revelation was actually that explaining something to a newbie is harder the more of a "I'm such a leet guru" attitude you have. There are plenty of those around who can't help anybody because their ego gets in the way.
        • After many years as an analyst and developer, I spent a year writing technical documentation aimed at application developers for a switching platform.

          It was a revalation. A couple of thoughts:

          Point one: You're right. Writing documentation is not a lot of fun.

          Point two: It's a whole lot harder than you think -- at least if you care about the result. Just like programming: It's pretty easy to write lousy doco. It's hard to write good stuff.

          As to the developers being most qualified to write it?

          Ha!

          A few actually are quite good, but most aren't. The problem isn't knowledge or even writing ability. The trouble is that developers typically see things differently from users. Things of critical importance to someone working deep in the bowels of code may not matter at all to someone who just calls it through an API or who uses the program.

          These are among the reasons that high-quality documentation will tend to be in short supply unless money is paid.

          There is, of course, another reason, and your post demonstrates it: developers don't seem to think that writers have any special skills and tend not to value their contribution beyond the time-saving. The people asking for help too often hold little regard for those who can offer it.

      • "Linux for the mentally disabled" ? Defitively not politically correct but I love the name.

        Man, that's going to be the title of my next document. Hey, people are *purchasing* linux for dummies, so they have no self esteem problem. That means they can as well come and read my presentation of GNU/Linux ;-)
      • I can't agree less. There is a lot of documentation that tells you the basics. There is little documentation - and it is damnably hard to find - to help you troubleshoot nontrivial and nonobvious problems, or to integrate components cleanly. It's the intermediate and higher user that is really getting left out in the cold - doing things like configuring useable printing systems (via cups or such), setting up fax servers, configuring vpn and tcp/ip wrappers and the like are documented poorly and inconsistently, with outdated information everywhere (frankly, I'm convinced that most of that information is spread by word of mouth, if not by simple apostolic descent.) Writing for the newbies is easy - what is difficult is teaming up someone who knows the hard stuff with someone who can document it well, since expertise usually requires abandoning the very metaphors that make assimilating difficult material possible.
    • It will take time. I would love to raise funds and distribute them to writers to help producing better documentation. This is the long term goal. Currently, we will just map what's available. Then if people are interested

      We already accept donations - if you did read and enjoyed one of our documents, give a little to the LDP (contant webmaster@ibiblio.org - we receive donations through ibiblio) or the GNU project (gnu.org)

      The money is spend wisely - recently we paid the shipping free to send donated books to Africa and Brasil.
  • by Starship Trooper ( 523907 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:37PM (#2712435) Homepage Journal
    All this bickering over licence is ludicrously counterproductive. Licences don't sue people, people do. I hardly think the writer of a GPL piece of software would care what you do with the accompanying documentation, and it is baffling to me why the Debian nuts think documentation needs to be under its own special licence instead of using the GPL along with the software it documents. The reason I switched to open-source software was to get away from all the stupid EULA politics and policing of the traditional software world. I hate to see this pigheadedness seep into the open-source world.

    Writing documentation is an incredibly difficult task, and few people do it well; to throw out an incredibly useful and well-written resource simply because of a miniscule licencing technicality is both horribly naïve and terribly anal behaviour. How does this guy think he'll be able to rewrite, say, all the Linux man pages without (a) having the original manpages as a reference and (b) quite possibly not being anywhere near as good a documentor as the original Linux Documentation Project? Open-source documentation is scarce and hard to come by as it is, why does Debian feel the need to exacerbate this shortcoming even further?

    • The reason I switched to open-source software was to get away from all the stupid EULA politics and policing of the traditional software world. I hate to see this pigheadedness seep into the open-source world.

      Seep into the open-source world? It already poured in a long time. It has always been an issue but the first time it came to a head in a major way was the QT/GPL war of a few years back. And you're right; this sort of thing sucks and wars over the exact lettering of different licenses and how they may or may not be compatible with other licenses is one of the major factors holding OSS/FS back from more mainstream acceptance.

      This sort of thing is, RIGHT NOW, scaring off corporations who don't want to even think about the legal hassles that might be involved with trying to comply with 10 different OSS/FS licenses. As an example, they may wish to integrate their software into a non-Windows OS (such as Linux) without reinventing the wheel and recreating various existing open libraries. When they take a look at the potential complexity involved, from a legal standpoint (not technical!), they just say 'fuck it' and keep going the closed-source/Windows-only route.

      I've seen this happen first hand at two different companies; engineers want to open things up, management looks into OSS/FS, sees the drubbing from the community (and threats of lawsuits everywhere!) other companies take when attempting to go OSS/FS while making very minor missteps with license compliance, usually due to the semantics of trying to mix multiple OSS/FS licenses. Management tends to nix the idea very quickly.

      • scaring off corporations who don't want to even think about the legal hassles that might be involved with trying to comply with 10 different OSS/FS licenses.

        As opposed to the legal hassels of trying to comply with 10000 give-us-your-firstborn-son proprietary licenses? At least open source people are less likely to sue than huge multi-billion dollar corporations [microsoft.com].

        • Can you name some exact examples instead of just linking to Microsoft? I'm not aware of any major proprietary-licensed API or software product that disallows you from using it with some other software due to the other software's license...And that's the main sticking point for using OSS/FS for many companies.
        • Companies are acclimated to the closed-source view, and bother the producers and consumers of software tools are usually willing to bargain or compromise for special licencing provisions and/or rights to source code. The average open-source hacker is far more idealistic, and will ravenously stick to his choice of licence (just look at all the GPL vs. BSD flamewars if you don't believe me).

          There is also the trouble of actually finding the authors who hold the copyright to the code; there is a TON of old, unmaintained software that has outdated e-mail addresses and no other way of contacting the author. And for large collaborative projects like Linux, copyright is split between the thousands of contributors that have added to the project over its lifespan. A corporation provides a single, monolithic entity to approach for licencing; an open-source project provides an unkempt mishmash of hundreds of hard-to-find developers with different ideals and personalities; your average company isn't going to bother rectifying licence terms with that many different, unpredictable people.

          • A corporation provides a single, monolithic entity to approach for licencing; an open-source project provides an unkempt mishmash of hundreds of hard-to-find developers with different ideals and personalities; your average company isn't going to bother rectifying licence terms with that many different, unpredictable people.

            And what exactly is the problem with that? Let them do their things their outdated ways, who cares? Tell you what: most of the corporations who currently think they're so hot will be bankrupt ten years from now; there is no question that free software will still be around. Their model is wrong, not ours.
    • amen. i'm sick of hearing that the GNU borg has approved or not approved a certain group's contribution this week.

      in STallman's original USENET posting, he writes "I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement." Note he writes that he couldn't sign a license agreement... hrm; like the license agreement he forces anyone who wants to put any GNU code into their projects to do ?

      Having no licenses was the original idea of open source and should remain so.

      That's what made open source software so nice; you could hack without worrying about strange, arbitrary laws governing which code you can use and which you can't. Just download the code you need and go; everyone is happy.

      but with all of the slightly different licenses to keep track of and all of the political infighting, it's becoming just as bad as (or even worse than) closed source software.

      dd
      • by ryants ( 310088 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @08:41PM (#2712839)
        Note he writes that he couldn't sign a license agreement... hrm; like the license agreement he forces anyone who wants to put any GNU code into their projects to do ?
        From the GPL, section 5:
        5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
        You aren't forced at all. If you want to benefit from his (and others') work, then these are the rules you have to play by. You can't take without giving. If you don't like it, don't use their work. It's that simple.
        That's what made open source software so nice; you could hack without worrying about strange, arbitrary laws governing which code you can use and which you can't. Just download the code you need and go; everyone is happy.
        That what the page at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#GPLC ompatibleLicenses is for. Makes it simple.
        it's becoming just as bad as (or even worse than) closed source software.
        How do you figure that? You have 0 rights with closed source/non-free software.
        • "You aren't forced at all. If you want to benefit from his (and others') work, then these are the rules you have to play by. You can't take without giving. If you don't like it, don't use their work. It's that simple."

          Microsoft et. al. would say the exact same thing about their software.

          which was my original point; GNU getting into the license police is starting to make open source software just as hard to deal with as closed source software.

          i'm not a lawyer and don't want to become one; i just want to hack and make things without having to dealing with all these licenses.

          dd
          • Microsoft et. al. would say the exact same thing about their software.
            Uhm... except you don't have access to MS code. So... what are you talking about?
            i'm not a lawyer and don't want to become one; i just want to hack and make things without having to dealing with all these licenses.
            Yeah... see, you just visit that "Compatible Licenses" page... if the license of the code you wish to use is compatible with the license you wish to use, proceed, else stop. Is that so difficult?
      • Learn the difference between a License agreement and a Copyright Assignment.

        The rule is that anything that is Copyright the FSF, must be wholly copyright the FSF, or they weaken their position to defend it in court. Some GNU projects don't assign their copyright, but in that case, if someone violates copyright the FSF can't get involved to prosecute.

        Your view on what makes "Open Source" software (Which GNU software isn't...) so nice completely disregards copyright law. Certainly in the US and Canada, any document, piece of software, etc. that does NOT have a copyright statement and/or license agreement is automatically copyright the author and is restricted from being copied.

        Welcome to the real world.
    • Alas, I'm not the one who decices. No I didn't wake up someday and said to myself "let's use a non free license to piss off debian people". We had a license. We decided to use it. Then we had a problem - I'm just doing my best to work around it.

      Here we have a license problem (you read the Debian story did you? Hmm? Yes I know that's slashdot :-) I didn't make it up. It is really a problem. Debian was going to move most of the LDP documents out of its main tree. We did everything in a hurry and it's now (mostly) fixed. But *prevention* is better - I'd rather have avoided this problem altogether!

      In the imaginary problem you present, rewriting all the manpages doesn't sound like a good solution. It would also be counterproductive since most of them are available under a free license.

      Which aren't? There you will need the GWM. We will be able to tell precisely which document is not free (free={GPL,FDL,BSD,OPL...}) and then we can rewrite that very document.

      The bad solution is forgetting the license problem until it finds you.
      • Here we have a license problem (you read the Debian story did you? Hmm? Yes I know that's slashdot :-) I didn't make it up. It is really a problem. Debian was going to move most of the LDP documents out of its main tree. We did everything in a hurry and it's now (mostly) fixed. But *prevention* is better - I'd rather have avoided this problem altogether!

        The point I was trying to make is that this sort of thing shouldn't be a fucking problem in the first place. Debian has obviously survived for the past five years without nagging the LDP to make silly little fixes to their licences; it's positively atrocious of them to go "Change your licence or we're dumping your documentation; you have 48 hours to decide". A problem as pointless and minuscule as this should not be a big enough deal to make the Slashdot frontpage twice, nor should it require what amounts to an ultimatum to solve.

        Also, licences don't sue people. I said this in my parent post, but it must be reiterated. An open-source licence is not so much a diction of what can and can't be done with the code as it is a statement of the author's intentions. I seriously doubt the Linux Documentation Project is going to call the Debian Linux distribution on some technicality of the GPL or DFSG. What could have been solved peacefully in a relatively quiet way by friendly parties shouldn't explode into an ultimatum situation and the discarding of reams of perfectly good manuals and HOWTOs only to be rewritten half-assed.

        • Currently, I receive a message every day from the LDP updates scripts. Most of the messages are about "relicensed documentation". So yes, it worked and the problem is being solved.

          But I must agree with you, we did it the bad way. Ideally, Debian wouldn't have had a problem with the LDPL, the LDP would have been very happy with it and it would be such a perfect world.

          But it isn't. So this time, even if is is unlikeley, I want to be sure that documentation license problems won't ever happen again. That's whay the GWM is about. We are just going to *catalog* the documents and *say* what license covers them.

          No big deal. No ultimatum. If you are making your homemade non-GNU linux "No GNU No GPL" distro (good luck finding a kernel and compilator) you can discard the documents released under the GPL just by checking them on our website. Same if you don't like the BSD license or any other license.

          We will just let you know which licenses are covering which documentation. It is just going to be a service, not an obligation. If you just don't care about licenses, don't check. Just consider the GWM as a "one stop" for free software documentation, from LDP to Gnome.
          • All right, I'm sure your motivations are pure and all, but the fact that you're doing this under the GNU name is simply bound to get Stallman and his anal-retentive ways tangled into this mess. I have nothing against the GPL or the BSD licence (though I find BSD to be a tad too free, if you know what I mean), but GNU projects have a history of GPL bigotry and "our way or the highway" elitism which has caused no end of grief for many open-source projects (KDE, anyone?) and turned away many parties interested in Linux. From the poorly-written Slashdot article, I got the impression you were in the business of replacing non-compliant documentation, not merely cataloguing it as you say you are doing.
          • FYI, Debian doesn't have a problem with the LDPL as it currently stands. The old LDPL didn't allow modification, so it was non-free, but the new one is fine by us (for whatever that's worth).

            I have a horrible feeling that a lot of the problems over the last few weeks stem from over-reactions and not enough communication on everybody's part ... I've been keeping David Merrill up to date, but perhaps not everybody else.

    • I don't think that the rational between this project is to add more restrictions.

      It appears that this project is going to (attempt to) take the various documentation, accept what is released under the FDL (and compatible) licences, and sort/catalog/improve it.

      This seems to be more of a Sourceforge for documentation then an attempt at licence-wrangling.

      But if I am wrong, then ya, I agree with you. We need another licence like we need another X-tris variant.
      • Not only FDL compatible licenses or just documentation licenses- all free licenses.

        The GPL, the BSD license, the OPL for exemple will be perfectly fine.

        But anyway you got my point - the project will be a kind of sourceforge for documentation.
    • it is baffling to me why the Debian nuts think documentation needs to be under its own special licence instead of using the GPL along with the software it documents

      It's baffling to me too why you think we think that. :-) Nobody in Debian objects to documentation being under the same free licence as the software it documents.

      why does Debian feel the need to exacerbate this shortcoming even further?

      The "GNU Writing Movement" wasn't started by Debian. I think you've got your people mixed up.

    • Debian nuts think documentation needs to be under its own special licence instead of using the GPL along with the software it documents.

      I feel it prudent to point out the the GPL itself is not under the GPL license. I.E. You may not make modifications to it at all, only verbatim copying.

      The reason I switched to open-source software was to get away from all the stupid EULA politics and policing of the traditional software world. I hate to see this pigheadedness seep into the open-source world.

      As Stallman has needlessly pointed out to me many times, the GPL is about Free-Software not open source. In this argument, it is most telling because all of the politics and license disputes come from the freesoftware/GPL world. All of us BSDers have software and documentation that falls under the BSD license, or public-domain. I.E. No politics, no infrastructure is needed to bring about lawsuits when people violate the licenses (because who would stupid enough to violate those very liberal terms?)

      It's long been said that the worst thing about the GPL is that people think the GPL is an acceptable Open-Source license. As you've discovered for yourself, it's quite accurate to call the GPL a communistic virus.

      And moderators, it's not flame-bait, it's squarely on-topic... ($5 says I get moderated down for this).

      • I feel it prudent to point out the the GPL itself is not under the GPL license. I.E. You may not make modifications to it at all, only verbatim copying.

        The reason that the GPL is not under the GPL is because it's an interface between the GPL world[tm] and copyright law.

        If you modify the GPL, it is no longer the GPL - and hence does not provide the interface it is designed to provide.

        It's long been said that the worst thing about the GPL is that people think the GPL is an acceptable Open-Source license. As you've discovered for yourself, it's quite accurate to call the GPL a communistic virus.

        What you haven't addressed (Mr evilviper I'm not flame-bait your bad moerdators) is the fact that many people believe that a communistic virus is a very acceptable Open-Source license. Anything else is allowing people to use your code without sharing your ideals.

        I'm sure communism (note the same root word as community) is overused as a dirty word - communism in this case is being used to refer to a virus that forces you to release derivative works back to the community - not something that makes you move to Russia and become a Marxist.

        For my throw away tag line. Name a Russian who's had to go to America (land of the free and brave) to be attacked by the local KGB equivalent and thrown in jail without a trial. Oh yeah, that communism sure is the only system that doesn't care about people.
        • If you modify the GPL, it is no longer the GPL - and hence does not provide the interface it is designed to provide.


          Huh? That doesn't make any sense. Perhaps we don't understand each other here.

          If I was to take one line out of the GPL ("...or any future version") it would serve to guarantee that my code would be released under my own terms. I've been pointing out to people that Stallman and the Free-Software Foundation could stick a clause in the next GPL saying that GPL'ed software may be used in propritary applications if $500,000 is deposited into Stallman's unnamed Swiss bank account. So, as a GPL developer, you have about as much control over your code as BSDers... The difference being that BSDers don't live in the bright shiney imaginary world as GPLers. As always, it's a bunch of tree-hugging hippie crap (parphrased Eric Cartman).


          many people believe that a communistic virus is a very acceptable Open-Source
          license

          As Stallman pointed out to me many times, the GPL is not about Open Source (and rightfully so) it is about Free Software. e.g. It is not an Open Source license at all. Secondly, practically no people believe a communistic license is acceptable at all. The problem is that the GPL has the hype, and people don't realize what they are actually supporting and promoting.

          Finally, GPL is communistic in the sense that it is harshly anti-corporate. Stallman has announced that he would prefer if coders were forced to use the GPL. I.E. He doesn't even support your write to do what you want with your own program. He wants to crush all the software companies, but just as happened in Russia, I think he will discover that his system is inherently flawed. If commercial software companies go out of business, the open source projects will fail as well. I could go into more detail, but this post is already far too long.


          Finally, I always have a good laugh when I hear about a GPL project soliciting commercial support. Gnome and KDE are both trying to get corporate money to support the development of the software that is trying to lead to the downfall of those same comapanies.


          I don't think anyone can argue that Stallman is not a communist, a wannabe dictator, and a hyppocrite.

  • It won't matter (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's this simple: Authors of free/open software have so little economic incentive to write good documentation that they very (and I mean very) seldom do so. This new organization, while obviously very well intentioned, won't change that.

    Free/open software desperately needs much, much better documentation in two areas: End user docs and architecture/design/implementation docs for other programmers who want to work on or with the code. Until the basic economics of f/o software change, those needs won't change, either.

    • Free/open software desperately needs much, much better documentation in two areas: End user docs and architecture/design/implementation docs for other programmers who want to work on or with the code.
      And how is that different from non-free/closed source software?

      Personally I think Free software has much better documentation. Yes, I am counting e.g. O'Reilly titles as Free Software documentation. I glance over to my bookshelf and see such useful titles as "sed & awk", "GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtools", "LaTeX", "Linux Core Kernel", etc etc.

    • It may come a time when the GWM will receive enough donation to be able to pay authors to produce free software books.

      We are well intentioned and may change that situation.
  • Link in the article is broken, this is the fixed one [slashdot.org] (hmm, what's this it says down here, could it be "Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs!")...
  • Why so complicated? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chuck ( 477 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:51PM (#2712482) Homepage
    Perhaps I don't understand the pure joy of releasing information with 1000 conflicting licenses. If I were to write documentation for an existing software project, I would simply contribute it to the original author, so it may be released with the distribution, under the same license as the software.

    Does my naivete in this matter mean that the author will exploit my contribution to the project, and use it in a way that I didn't intend? Who cares? If the software is "less free" than the documentation, isn't that a problem anyway? And if the software is "more free" than the documentation, isn't that just dumb?

    Man, some people are just looking for a fight.
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:52PM (#2712484)
    Now we have three open-source/free software doc projects: The featured project, LDP, and OSWG. So much wasted effort by so many people who could do God only knows what if they were to combine their talents, rather than taking their ball and running home at ever little perceived slight.


    No, this isn't a troll, just an expression of frustration from someone who simply sees the fragmentation of open-source/free software as a Very Bad Thing. Those who promote this type of behavior (including the submitter) are doing a disservice to the open-source/free software community, as well as throwing up unnecessary barriers to those who would like to be part of the action but simply do not have the time or the patience to deal with all the in-fighting.

    • Now we have three open-source/free software doc projects: The featured project, LDP, and OSWG. So much wasted effort by so many people who could do God only knows what if they were to combine their talents,
      What are you talking about? Right in the summary it says "The project is not competing with existing documentation project such as the LDP or GDP. It will complement them, both by serving somewhat as a meta-project"

      The project is about taking down unnecessary barriers, not putting them up.

      • I'm talking about what it looks like I'm talking about. If the project doesn't compete with existing documentation projects, that simply means documentation will be hosted in more than one repository -- how will I know which repository is most current, unless I specifically cross-check each doc before downloading? If the multiple repositories will be synced up, why have multiple repositories? Finally, if non-competition means developers deciding which repository to release their docs to, then there will be duplicated efforts through the maintenance of multiple repositories.


        Regardless of what the submitter says (and what you quote), the existence of multiple repositories will, in some way, increase the burden of work on multiple repository maintainers, developers and doc writers, and most of all, simply users who don't want to have to search multiple repositories for documentation.


        One solution might be a "master" index of all the existing repositories...but I suppose one party will be miffed if they find themselves in the same listing as another party who differ ideologically, in which case we'll have to have multiple "master" indices to assuage all the hard feelings!

        • Everything will be automatic. The idea is you give us a URL from which we can pull your document.

          We do centralise documents on one website because even if you think an additional repository is a "problem", it helps.

          Nobody should have to go to 10 different places to try to find one document. Everything can be found from one place. When you want to get new software, do you go to sourceforge.net/freshmeat.net or some guy's obscure website?

          Answer: you do both. You find the guy's website with sourceforge.net/freshmeat.net. There's an advantage with sf.net : if the website is down or if the coder move, you still have a mirrored copy on sf.net.
    • Re:Fantastic... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guylhem ( 161858 ) <{ten.mehlyug} {ta} {todhsals}> on Sunday December 16, 2001 @08:46PM (#2712850) Homepage
      Alas, the OSWG died of a slow and painful death - here's the death certificate BTW : http://www.oswg.org/.

      The LDP is just about writing documentation. If you add the BSD doc proj., the GNOME doc. proj and the KDE doc proj you have 99% of the documentation that's currently produced.

      The OSWG did try to become a meta-documentation project. It failed. Too bad. But we still need some kind of organisation around the documentation projects, for exemple to sponsor authors, decide common documentation formats or rewrite non-free or bad documentation, etc.

      Just consider the free software world and the number of organisations (LPI, GNU, Open something) which try to support individual projects.

      Now consider the free documentation world, where there is *only* 4 significant projects, and no meta organisation *at all*.

      It's not about fragmentation or waisting effort- it's the beggining of a collaborative work. If the LDP, the GDP, the LDP and BSD doc. want to build bridges, we (GWM) will be there to help them. If they don't, we will still collect documentation and try to combine the fruit of they effort.

      That's the beauty of free software - you can build on someone else's work.
    • Re:Fantastic... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wfrp01 ( 82831 )
      Now we have three open-source/free software doc projects: The featured project, LDP, and OSWG.

      Open source and free software are not the same thing. They are very similar, but they do in fact have different points of view and differing objectives. Licenses are one of the more powerful tools these organizations can use to advance thier position.

      Your point seems to be that you don't really care about all this balony, you just want the documentation. If that's all you care about, then these organizations are truly redundant. But there's more to it than that.From the preamble of the GNU Free Documentation License [gnu.org]:

      The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other written document "free" in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

      To some people, these things matter - a lot. There are issues to consider besides just making the documentation "available". Like ensuring that it will remain available. It makes perfect sense that groups would organize in support of these principles.
  • by perdida ( 251676 ) <thethreatproject@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:53PM (#2712491) Homepage Journal
    I remember when people said the software was gonna be free, it was thru support and documentation that they were gonna make money.

    Now the documentation is going into the GNU-virus? How are people around the computer field supposed to make money?

    If, on the other hand, you are trying to de-legitimize Linux as an economic activity, making it an artistic activity instead, this isn't the way to go about it. You need guns for that.

    People have to make money (in this society) when they spend a lot of time and resources in something. Otherwise they starve or they lose sleep or other needed resources. They will fight for this availability to make money, no matter what.
    • Free documentation = freedom to share it, people will still get paid to write it.
    • No matter how good the documentation is, understanding a complex system well enough to customize it is more than many users and companies want to waste their time on. The beauty of programming and computers is that you have to understand things and then just do them right once. Repetition is a computer's job. In consequence, the only reasonable jobs in this field are the non-repetitive tasks: Consulting, administration, custom development and if you can find sponsoring: adding to the free pool of software and documentation.
    • Kill computers! People whose sole skill is using slide rules need food too!
    • Thanks for the high quality of your comment. Yes I'm making a living, and yes I only do free software. It also pays my studies.

      I'm sure I could try to make more money if I renounced to my ethics, but I just don't want to. Consider that as a personal issue.

      And yes, I do bear arms. And BTW - I live in Europe, not in the US. Here it's not a constitutional right. You've got to be part of rifle association.
    • People have to make money (in this society) when they spend a lot of time and resources in something. Otherwise they starve or they lose sleep or other needed resources. They will fight for this availability to make money, no matter what.


      That's simply inaccurate. Many people play chess without being paid for it. Many people program without being paid for it. Many people build garden railways without being paid for it. In fact, most of what people do is not paid work.

      If you need money, may I suggest getting a job? This has nothing to do with free software, which is produced for the fun of it (and, by some, to make the world a better place).
  • by Leeji ( 521631 ) <slashdot AT leeholmes DOT com> on Sunday December 16, 2001 @06:54PM (#2712493) Homepage

    If this project becomes a centralized point of distribution or access (ie: SourceForge,) this could really help the open-knowledge community.

    For example, many people run out to buy expensive assembler books when the best resource is available online. [ucr.edu] Or, they run out to buy expensive Linux device driver manuals when the best resource is available online. [xml.com]

    Open-source software mainly helps people write new software that uses key techniques / algorithms from open software. Open-source documentation, on the other hand, helps impart the foundations on which the open-source programs get created.

    Ideally, this openscience [wearcam.org] approach would spread -- and students wouldn't need to spend $500 per semester on textbooks. And unfortunately, the Project Gutenberg [promo.net] idea to import books as their copyright expires (50 years after the author dies) would never fly for technology-based books.

    As a side note, this index of online books [upenn.edu] has a lot of good information.

    • currently the copyright on works by individuals is life+70 years.
    • You perfectly understand what I will try to acheive.

      I'm not into the license wars - as long as it is free (as freedom) we will catalog it. We are mostly interested in free software but other documents, like project gutenberg books will also welcome.

      Currently we are trying to find all the free documents available on the web, so comments like yours are very helpful. Do not hesitate to contact me if you know other places where one can find good documents.

      The GWM *is* about building a centralized point of distribution for documentation, a one stop "shop" (forgive me for this word ;-)

      There is no documentation sourceforge or freshmeat. Once we will have done that, we may try to raise funds, help with the rewritings, etc.

      The GWM will be a meta organisation providing a catalog of free documentation. That's not reinventing the wheel.
    • SourceForge is an excellent tool, but one must take care to not become over-dependant on it. It is already in a single- point- of- failure position for many projects, just because it *is* so convenient. But remember that it is owned by a public corporation, and one cannot afford to become excessively vulnerable. Corporations change their management and policies over time. At some point we must expect that we will be suddenly surprised. So we need to ensure that the surprise isn't catastrophic. This means mirrors. This means being very careful about any license agreements. etc. Even when code is GPL, the owner of the code can change the licensing (though they can't back-date the changes to cover previously copied versions). There are legal reasons why a project should be willing to turn over ownership (so someone else could manage any needed legal defense), but there are also reasons why they shouldn't. Consider carefully, the most important owned posession of many projects are their names. The code is, essentially, freely available to anyone for use without selling it. So if there is no intention to sell the code, then the name is the most important (non-human) asset. The right to say "This is ThingUmBob, and that is not!"

      P.S.: note that the FSF also requires that ownership in the code be signed over. There are very good reasons to do this. But there are also good reasons to consider this a dubious practice. It creates a single point of failure. The GPL helps significanlty here, however, as only the changes since any relicensing was done can be affected.
  • incentive? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by motherhead ( 344331 )
    Free OS, free code, and now free support... i am wondering if some of our best brains are going to have to (in the future) put their open source projects on the back burner so that they can earn enough to make rent.

    Not knocking GNU or opensource mind you. Just pointing out that geeks like toys as well as the next guy. Toys cost.

    "...after all, we are not communists." ~ The Godfather
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So many man pages out there are absolutely useless they are detrimental to read. Every single man page in existence should have at the least several accurate descriptions of the command's common usage.
    For example, after showing the various flags to throw for "grep", why not then show some common examples using those flags as in: grep -i help your_file.txt? That would do wonders for people trying to learn the common commands and I have necer been able to figure out why this is not a common feature of man pages. Fix the basics first, then worry about how free some piece of documentation is and composing "book quality" documentation.
    • man pages assume you already know the command and are just using the page for reference, not for learning (eg. I know grep has a command for case-insensitivity, what is it now?). So that's why they are the way they are.

      Having said that, though, I agree with your idea and think man pages could be made a lot more useful. Most commands with a billion switches (ls, etc) tend to only have a couple of those switches used by real people (and not shell scripts) on a day to day basis. Some sort of pointer into the most used switches and examples would be a Good Thing.

      I believe a lot of this poor documentation (from an end user's view) is still a holdover from the 'White Coat Guru' attitude that still has sway over many UNIX users..You know, the 'RTFM' guys who believe they and they alone are on the 'cluetrain' because they know every obscure feature of sed and awk.

    • Re, "...why not then show some common examples..." Examples are the one best tool for teaching somebody how to do something. Put a few in there and see how many man-hours are saved-- not just the user's, but the better-informed people they bother all day with questions.

      Also, syntax (synopsis) code is very cryptic. It's straightforward enough after you learn it, but for a newbie all those [ ]s and { }s look like a barb-wire fence. Examples would clarify what the separate elements represent.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm so sick of nitpicking about "kinds" of free; ENOUGH already.

    Why is it that all these "free license" people always seem to "greedy"? It's not enough for me to write something and hand it to you with my blessings, I have to GIVE you ALL rights to what I've written?

    All this comes off as petty bickering. Everyone involved needs to stop inventing cute little acronym "groups", and start writing documentation; most of it sucks anyway; whenever I install linux these days, all of /usr/doc/LDP etc is skipped or removed, because its all outdated garbage. Shit, some of it's more than three years+ old. Its getting to be a challenge to find docs that are actually current with the status quo of linux software.

    Why don't you boys stop the pissing match over whose license is "right", and actually fix the fucking documentation?
    • I agree. Why can't things just be released into the fucking Public Domain? End of story. Put it out there and quit all this belly aching.

      If the writer has altrusitc goals, what does it matter? The purpose is to help others. The point of all these different licenses is either for ego purposes or fear of misuse.

      Maybe I've been listening to too much Carlin...
  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @07:16PM (#2712562)
    As an author, I'm offended by your suggestion that the LDP, and by inference the authors of various documents, had "problems" with the Debian license.

    It's the other way around. Debian manufactured a crisis and is trying to put the blame on the volunteer authors instead of accepting that their quest for ideological purity is going too far. If Debian has a problem with one of my documents, they're free to rewrite it from scratch. Paraphrasing is *not* sufficient.
    • Don't get offended over all this; this endless wrangling over licenses just isn't worth that kind of emotional investment.
    • If Debian has a problem with one of my documents, they're free to rewrite it from scratch.

      This appears to be exactly what they're doing.
    • I'm curious. Is there something in particular about the licensing terms that Debian would like to impose that bothers you? What do you mean when you say their "ideological purity is going too far"? Or are you simply finding it annoying and burdensome that they would do this post facto?
      • Look at your own language! Debian wants to "impose" a license on documents contributed by volunteer authors to a completely independent organization?!

        Here's a clue: I write documents for my own purposes, and if I think they'll be useful to others I'm willing to invest a considerable amount of effort into preparing them for publication. I don't mind LDP changing formats as the tools improve (first LinuxDoc, now DocBook) because adhering to a *single* set of external constraints helps me ensure that I'll have few problems myself in the future. But I'll be damned if I'll meekly comply with demands from every third party that wants to act as a self-appointed editor. Today Debian wants me to drop everything to check my licenses, then next year Red Hat or Microsoft or the People Republic of Freedonia will be demanding that I make other "small" changes.

        If Debian's argument has merit, then LDP will change what it accepts and I'll deal with it then. But until then, I see it as no different than being in a restaurant and having another patron suddenly demand that I leave the rest of my meal uneaten because, *gasp*, I was eating chicken and *they* are a vegetarian.
        • Debian wants to "impose" a license on documents contributed by volunteer authors to a completely independent organization?!

          I don't understand how they can do this. They can only impose restrictions on what they find acceptable in their own organization. Isn't it their right to do so?

          If you find their requirements unacceptable, then your documentation won't be distributed by Debian. If that bothers you, you'll have to deal with them. If it doesn't, why all the fuss?

          To correct your restaurant analogy, it sounds like you're upset that a vegetarian restaurant won't serve you chicken.

          Is there something in particular about Debian's requirements that upset you? Or are you just upset that they would impose standards at all? How tough is it, really, to change a license?
          • It's not even "Debian won't distribute...". They will just put it in a "non-free" directory. This warns people that they need to be aware that it has limits on what you can do with it that are different than the rest. And if they don't have the same permissions, then this is probably mandatory (as in, CYA).
            .
    • Debian did no such thing, and this story has nothing to do with Debian. I'm the Debian LDP maintainer and I found out about this project from Slashdot.

      There is no such thing as "the Debian license". I don't know the details of your documents, but statistically they're more likely than not to be within Debian's definition of free (not that I suspect you care one way or the other).

    • Debian may have a good resposability in the problem, but we are the ones who sticked to the LDPL.

      I had no problem with the license, in fact I really enjoyed it. But people at Debian didn't.

      I don't want to go in a license war - let them say which license they best like and I will A) try to be happy with that and b) forget what they did.

      The idea behing the GWM is also to define what is acceptable as a free documentation license, so that other project (KDP, GDP) will not have the same problems the LDP had.
    • How exactly is Debian making a big deal about this?

      They just decided to put the documents that don't meat DFSG in a non-free directory. It's not a big deal.

      Slashdot is making a big deal out of this perhaps... And btw a lot of mis-informed comments like [slashdot.org]
      this one and were moderated up last time so don't believe everything you read here.

      There are only 273 LDP documents that don't meet Debian Free Software Guidelines. A lot of the authors of these articles probably don't care too much if people translate their documents or if people add things to make them distro specific etc. However, unless the author gives specific permision then it is illegal for Debian to do so.

      Seriously though, as I look down the actual list of non-free documents I have a hard time seeing what the big deal is. Many of them don't really apply to Linux these days. Some dealt with old versions of X, the 2.2 kernel, old versions of red hat, old hardware, or integrating Linux and OS/2 for example etc. Some of them are amusing and have historical value like the coffee-howto. I was surprised that the apache-faq was non-free but that's about it. It's easy to forget how fast things change in the Linux world, reading through the list reminded me of that.

      Conclusion: 1) Don't believe everything people say on slashdot. 2) Most people are happy with licenses like FDL or other free licenses so please consider using one. 3) If you don't use one Debian doesn't hate you, they'll just put your document in the non-free directory.

      btw: If you want to know whether your LDP document does not meet DFSG just check this list [linuxdoc.org]. I really doubt your document is on it.

  • by joestar ( 225875 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @07:17PM (#2712567) Homepage
    Mandrake Linux manuals:
    http://www.mandrake.com/en/doc/81/en/ref.html/fore word.html#LEGAL [mandrake.com]

    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation[...]
  • Another documentation project! So what? It is like all those new programming languages that crop up because the old one is "not good enough anymore", and the new one is supposed to replace it! This usually meant that people have an extra language to learn. Look at C++ and C, C# and JAVA, and I'm sure there are more. Creating something new does not make the old one (which works just fine, thank you) obsolete. I agree with a href="http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=24969&ci d=2712435">previous comment that all this bickering is counter productive. The best way to fix a problem is to "work" on it not start something new.
  • by Spinality ( 214521 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @07:28PM (#2712603) Homepage
    Despite some whiny comments below, this meta-project sounds useful and appropriate to me. I'd encourage serious contributors to give some attention to the issue of documentation standards, or (to make it less dictatorial) style guides. There are plenty of FAQ's, for example, that would have been better if the authors had samples and guidance -- so many times I've seen postings saying "I'm working on a new FAQ; here's a draft, any suggestions?" and finding that a simple template would have saved lots of time and effort.

    So to you and your contributors: If you're going to support a metadocumentation effort, try to start by consolidating metadocuments, and (perhaps) providing a linkable source of common dox and linx that folks would probably like to reference.
    • If I'm not mistaken, both LDP and OSWG support a framework of documentation standards. Guidance and samples are in abundance, if one takes the time to look. So apart from your argument in support of this "meta-project" simply making no sense in light of the facts, give all us whiners another good reaon why duplication of document submission and maintenance efforts will somehow be "useful and appropriate."
      • One last time - this is *not* duplication! I'm currently the LDP coordinator. I'm not doing that inside the LDP because I don't think that's the good place to do it.

        The LDP already has a good catalog on gldp.org - I would like to provide the same service (and more) to other documentation.

        That means cataloging. That means a meta project, unless you want everybody to join the LDP. Dont forget there're other projects out there (not a lot alas - and don't talk about the dead OSWG).

        If I had pursued this project as a "LDP project" it may have been considered a kind of assimilation of the other projets. It would have introduced artificial competition and would have been redundant with other documentation projects.

        A meta projects means everyone stays free, since it is not going to be in competition with anything. I prefer to go that way.

        Guylhem
        linuxdoc.org
        gnu.org/doc
    • Thanks a lot for your support. Every volunteer is welcome. Currently I do not plan to consolidate metadocuments or dictate a consistent style.

      We will just take whatever poeple are writing. Then the users will rate the documents àla slashdot moderation, so the best documents can emerge from the mass.

      Then if we find some specific topic has no good document (say UUCP - I like my HOWTO but maybe people don't like it) we can commit ressources to produce that very document.

      There is only one requirement for a document to enter the GWM - it will have to be available under a free license. The choice of the "free license" is yours. There are lots of guidelines already exisiting. If people come with strange homemade licenses (for ex. forbidding commercial redistribution) we may publish a list of existing compatible licenses and requirements for a license to be considered "free".
  • Wikipedia. [wikipedia.com]

    http://www.wikipedia.com if you're frightened of links.

    • Wikipedia seems to favor volume over accuracy. The pages I looked at all tended to display the writer's agendas fairly plainly. Some are very misleading, either by omission, or by stating opinions as facts.

      Writing factual articles is difficult. It requires research and responsibility on the part of the writer, and dedicated, professional peer review from above to weed out the writer's personal agendas, or point out missing information that was overlooked. That's what you get when you look at a dictionary, or a professional encyclopedia, and I just don't see it there in Wikipedia.

      It's not enough to have lots of people's opinions on a subject, or only some of the facts, or a collection of truths and untruths. If a source of information isn't dependable, it's useless to me.

      Jon Acheson
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @07:47PM (#2712652)

    I wish people would renember how many time's we've all been screwed over by someone who seeminly out of generosity makes something free, or very easy to distribute - and then when we really need it they ream the screws to us like there's no tommorow. I can't see how anybody could blame Debian for wanting to be proactive just this once.

    • The problem is that the "crisis" was totally manufactured by Debian itself. Let's agree, for sake of argument, that a large number of documents couldn't be released under the "main" section....

      BFD. They could probably still be released under the "non-free" section. We aren't talking about documents that had no license, or were clearly commercial products, these are (from what I understand) mostly documents that predate the "Debian-approved" license they prefer. This isn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last time, and there's a well-defined section precisely for this "problem."

      Finally, your argument lacks a certain critical symmetry. Why is the volunteer effort of Debian maintainers to be applauded, while the volunteer effort of authors (who arguably have a harder job since there are far fewer authors than Debian maintainers) of no consequence?
      • They could probably still be released under the "non-free" section.

        And they are. What did you think we were doing? It's Debian's fault that someone writes about it on Slashdot?

        these are (from what I understand) mostly documents that predate the "Debian-approved" license they prefer.

        They're documents that, legally, we can't modify and/or sell. That's a problem.

        the volunteer effort of authors [...] of no consequence?

        There's a lot of effort in the world that's misdirected. A lot of people do things that are redundant, or pointless, in an active attempt to do good. If you write a document that can't be used by free software people, then you haven't helped the free software community.

        there are far fewer authors than Debian maintainers

        I sure hope not. Are there only a few hundred free software documentation authors in the world?
  • Wikipedia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by javilon ( 99157 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @07:52PM (#2712669) Homepage
    Maybe what is needed is a wikipedia [wikipedia.com] for documentation. Usually programmers are not very good at documentation, and users find difficult to get into docbook and stuff.

    Wikipedia have got about 20000 articles in just one year, some of them of very good quality.

    If we were to give users the ability to do the documentation themselves, I bet they would use the oportunity.

    The teaching from wikipedia is that you get good quality writing if enough people works on it. Something like code peer review.
  • Really now, I've read some of the arguments here about freeing documentation, and im wondering who really will make the effort to create the docs for this project. I'm of the persuasion of making minimal docs and then allowing other companies to sell it as a service (or even as a "For Dummies" book). This way Linux could be viable and all the "windows heretics" could see the light of a free OS.

    I mean making everything free would just make people homeless. And it would take up a lot of man hours. I think people should get the basics, or then look us newsgroups or whatever, or get a proper manual for the info. An example is the recent debate of QT vs Gtk on slashdot (can't find the link for some reason). People complain Gtk is really badly documented compared to QT. Well all that is needed is minimum documentation to work - companies should be encouraged to develop full documentation (and maybe tidy the source up). The work can be copyrighted and sold for all I care (can't think of disadvantages), with people getting jobs due to open-source. This should encourage others to take it more seriously.
  • having done some technical writing myself, i now know the difference between software developers and technical writers. software developers make the software (DUH), but also know MORE than anyone else about what the project / software is about. however they usually know jack shit or close to nothing about writing and eloquent expression. because of this, they hire technical writers. the problem is the fact that technical writers write better (DUH, again), but also usually dont know THAT much about what they are writing, and the developers end up unsatisfied with the result.

    writers should work in conjunction with software developers to document their work. yuo cant have a bunch of guys contribute to the cause...

    finally, developers usually find the docs the MOST ANNOYING part of the process of completing their project / producing their software. therefore...we can't really reach a golden mean...and creating an organization of sorts to document things is NOT incredibly useful, IMHO.

    however, the rating system might remedy this. the developers might not be pleased and be too lazy to write their own docs, but can write the written stuff.

    eh, whatever: hate to judge prematurely...so good luck guys!

    QED
  • by coupland ( 160334 )

    I was watching the news a few years ago and some guy in India had lit himself on fire to protest the Miss Universe pageant. Sorry bastard, didn't know the difference between a worth cause and a silly one.

    Surely the fate of the Brazilian dung beetle is more important than this cause. Let's leave the definition of "free" and Free documentation to a later generation who will hopefully have realized what a ridiculous topic this is...

  • by KidSock ( 150684 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @09:32PM (#2712980)
    Whomever writes the code should document it. Anyone else will likely produce something that is inadequate. Only the developer who wrote the code truely understands the work right down to it's semicolons. Developers always think there code is very self explainatory but trust me when I tell you that other developers are not interested in looking at your code. This is because it's either crappy code or it's potentially nicer than something they would write but the most likely scenario is that the just want to know how to use it and move on with their own code.

    Please do not obsess over organization and presentation. Users will only withstand a very basic hierarchial organzation. Just start vi, insert the standard <html> boiler plate, and start typeing. Use lots of contextual inline hyperlinks to sections of LXR'd code, hyerlinked specs, other topic documents, and related sites. Don't make people dig for this stuff. Yes, lead them by the hand. Only the largest projects need a full blown index. Have one page of intro and a page for each topic. If you introduce a new major feature or there's an issue just write up a page of html on it and add a link to it in the main page. Use lot's of lists and tables. They provide good landmarks and organize info nicely.

    Most importantly just get the information out of your head so people can use it. Spending one day a week on writing up a page on some topic will do wonders for your project. There are three reasons for this. The first is simply that users will know how to use your code which is obviously a prerequasite to actually using it. Second you will understand your code better and likey become keener to it's strengths and faults in the process. If you find yourself evading a particular topic then that's the topic you should explore. Don't leave that neusance dangling over your shoulder or it will take the fun out of your work. And it might very well be an artifact of an issue with the code or application. Third, colleagues and users will ask fewer questions and be able to contribute intellegently to the discussions and sumit useful problem reports.

    Documentation is so very important, your code is virtually useless to anyone except you if you don't. Finally, if you spell as well as I do, use a spell checker ;-P
    • The problem with this is it takes MUCH LONGER to write the documentation than it does to write the original software!!

      I have a lot of little utilities, probably very useful to the public, that I've written for myself here, but to release them to the public would take a lot of time in code cleanup and documentation that I simply do not have.

      I've tried to release some of the better stuff, but documenting and making things not crash and be secure is a very time-consuming and boring task.

  • I found this topic to be quite interesting. As a long time UNIX and Linux user - I mean pre-RedHat and pre-GUI installs, I installed distributions like MCC, SLS and Slackware. At that time, we had a bunch of HOWTOs, which by the time they were written were obsolete. Some of these documents were varied in terms of usefulness, accuracy or depth. Documents like an IP firewall HOWTO was worthless once it was written because it didn't cover all the latest bugs and hacks, and the command line options no longer worked.

    Documentation has since gotten better with innovations like the LDP, enabling developers and writers to submit and critique documentation but the fact of the matter is, we still need to concentrate on getting useful, readable, concise and comphrensive documentation on individual components. It still is hard to find the latest PCMCIA setup instructions.

    I am not sure that fighting over what is free & non-free is necessarily the best thing. Although it is great to see the latest FreeBSD and Linux book sets at Barnes and Noble and Amazon - I think the community still has a ways to go in developing "useable" documentation. What are your thoughts?

    -Pat

  • apparently the package maintainer is futzing around with the packages in a way that will violate Apache's licensing scheme, so rather than giving the package maintainer a good kick in the ass (which sounds like the right thing to do ;-) the package is being moved to Non-Free.



    Hrm. Package maintainer mucks around; software gets stigma of being Non-Free. Anyone else a little concerned about that?

    • I'm not quite sure what you're talking about, but part of the point of Free Software is that you can futz around with it. If you can't futz around with it, and redistribute it, then it's not Free Software.
  • I brought this up last week when we were discussing new international copyright laws and was wondering if there was a way to protect the copyright on my work while still being able to make it freely available...

    The solution presented was

    Open Content [opencontent.org] - which seems to have some use in the academic fields.

    Of course, when I check my link, the site is down, which probably means it's been checked and slashdotted already.

    However, I do see some limitations with the opencontent project, and seeing a generalized GNU license for written works would be nice.

I've looked at the listing, and it's right! -- Joel Halpern

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