[rms at gnu.org: Some problems on gnucash.org]

Robert Merkel robert.merkel at benambra.org
Thu Aug 10 17:42:53 EDT 2006

On Thu, Aug 10, 2006 at 09:52:59AM -0700, Derek Neighbors wrote:
> I could be totally full of crap, but have been around a while.  I can  
> add some history (from my perception)... Hopefully Linas will correct  
> me where I am wrong.
> On Aug 10, 2006, at 9:10 AM, Chris Shoemaker wrote:
> > On Thu, Aug 10, 2006 at 01:07:14AM -0700, Thomas Bushnell BSG wrote:
> >> Christian Stimming <stimming at tuhh.de> writes:
> >>
> > Maybe you were just joking around, (I do see a smiley), but if you're
> > seriously asserting that GnuCash was ever "released under the auspices
> > of the GNU Project"[1], which appears to be definitive of GNU
> > packages, then I would expect GnuCash's documentation to have declared
> > itself to be GNU software.  I've been unable to find any evidence that
> > this was ever true.  Do you have any?  If not, I believe you are
> > mistaken.
> At the time that GNUCash appeared to be friendly with the GNU Project  
> there wasn't much documentation about GNUCash in general.  I don't  
> think it or propagating relationships in what existed was a primary  
> focus.  In a nutshell, just because documentation doesn't state  
> anything doesn't prove a ton (in either direction).
> > I admit that the FSF has apparently declared GnuCash to be "a GNU
> > package" for at least some time. [2] But, the FSF's own definition of
> > a GNU package seems to require that the software authors declare their
> > software to be so.  I have no explanation for this inconsistency.
> RMS' email to this list was asking this project to FIX this problem.   
> I admit that it seems a bit delayed.  For the record some time ago  
> GNOME put Open Source on their home page and it caused quite a  
> problem (as obviously they were at the time one of the most prolific  
> GNU projects).
> > As for RMS's implication that "the GNU Project" wrote GnuCash [3],
> > GnuCash's authors are quite well noted in GnuCash's source and AUTHORS
> > file.  I don't know of the official membership of the GNU Project -
> > perhaps it's a circular definition, but of those contributors, you,
> > Thomas, are the only one I know of that's apparently associated with
> > the GNU Project.
> I think only the developers can say.  Here is where I think some of  
> the roots (or my understanding of them) are confused.  It is my  
> understanding that Linas took an X-accountant program which was no  
> longer maintained and gutted it to not be dependent on Motif.  My  
> interactions with Linas certainly made me believe he was very  
> connected to the Free Software Foundation AND the GNU Project because  
> I was introduced to him via RMS as needing to collaborate for the  
> betterment of the GNU Project.
> It is also my understanding that the GNU Project very much helped  
> Linux Global Partners put money behind the company Linas ran  
> (GNUMatic) which employed many of the people in the AUTHORS file.   
> During my interaction with GNUMatic it was very much communicated  
> that GNUCash was part of the GNU Project.
> Once GNUMatic shut its doors most of those developers stepped away  
> (including Linas) and Derek Atkins took primary leadership of the  
> project.  Since that happened there seems to no longer be any  
> connection to the GNU Project.
> > I'm just trying to objectively examine the few things that would
> > suggest ambiguity on the subject.  On the whole, I'm inclined to trust
> > the more numerous and less ambiguous data that clearly indicate the
> > GnuCash has never been a GNU package, e.g. a public statement by a
> > core GnuCash developer in 2001, "While GnuCash is licenced under GPL
> > software, we are not technically a GNU project." [4]
> I don't think a comment in a Slashdot posting is "hard evidence".   
> Note that Robert Merkel, if memory serves correct, was an employee at  
> GNUMatic.  Many of the GNUMatic employees started Linux Developers  
> Group (LDG) after GNUMatic closed.  There was a vested interest to  
> try to muddy copyright waters of code for LDG's gain.  Note: I am not  
> saying that to be negative or indicate any sort of wrong doing.  Not  
> even saying the source is wrong.  Just saying that the source loses  
> credibility because of potential conflict of interest.
> The FSF asks projects to ASSIGN copyright, but doesn't MANDATE it (or  
> at least they used to not do so).  I think well run projects do, both  
> for legal issues and issues like this.
> > All that aside, I don't really have a strong opinion either way, if
> > other devs wanted to make GnuCash a GNU package.  They would have to
> > announce it, though.  As far as I can tell, they don't really care
> > much.  However, it's strange that RMS claims that GnuCash is a GNU
> > package, and definitely impolite to imply that GnuCash was written by
> > "the GNU Project." [3]
> I definitely agree here.  I think the current developers (those  
> putting in their time) need to assess whether they want to be a part  
> of the GNU Project.  If so, they should do the things that are  
> expected of GNU projects.  If not, they should let RMS and the FSF  
> that they are not interested in being part of the FSF GNU Project.
> In summary,  I am not so sure it matters if GNUCash was or wasn't  
> part of the GNU Project.  I think what is important is deciding if  
> they CURRENTLY want to be part of the GNU Project.
> --
Speaking for myself only, it was my understanding that neither Gnumatic 
nor LDG assigned copyright of the code written by myself or anyone else 
in Gnucash to the FSF.  I *did* write a manpage for Guile 
for which, IIRC, copyright *was* assigned to the FSF, but never for any 
GnuCash work.  

As for whether GnuCash should call itself "part of the GNU project", you
are quite correct in that it is an issue for the active developers.  For
what it's worth, as I said way back in the Slashdot interview years ago,
I find the philosophical dispute between free software and open source
to represent a false paradox.  I also find RMS's seeming tendancy to
take (for the GNU project) direct credit for things he philosophically
inspired to some extent, but took no direct part in creating, a bit
annoying.  Does that make things clear as mud? 


                                           Robert Merkel
                                     robert.merkel at benambra.org

In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or
later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat. In the
past, also, war was one of the main instruments by which human societies
were kept in touch with physical reality. All rulers in all ages have
tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but
they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair
military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence,
or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions
against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In
philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might
make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to
make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later,
and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions. Moreover,
to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past,
which meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the
past. Newspapers and history books were, of course, always coloured and
biased, but falsification of the kind that is practised today would have
been impossible. War was a sure safeguard of sanity, and so far as the
ruling classes were concerned it was probably the most important of all
safeguards. While wars could be won or lost, no ruling class could be
completely irresponsible." (II.9)
   --George Orwell, "1984"

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