Archiving Software

Tony Duell ard at
Sat Dec 17 17:46:51 CST 2005

> > > I would spend many hours helping people understand it, explaining why
> > 
> > It's odd, but I've released a number of classic computer-related programs 
> > under the GNU license and have never had any stupid questions like this. 
> > I do sometimes get interesting questions from people who know what they 
> > are doing and who want to do something totally different with it.
> I've been running a mail-order software company selling development tools
> for embedded systems (of my own creation) for over 20 years. In the early
> years, I distributed source code, and I would estimate that a full 80% of
> the technical support revolved around issues relating to people who didn't
> "know what they are doing" trying to make changes to my tools, and
> expecting me to show them how, and to fix it when they made horrible
> messes of it.

I've seen plenty of xource code released on the terms that the 
manufactuer will not support it (I am sure some old HP calculator hackers 
here remember those wonderful NOMAS listings for the 41 and 75 
machines...). And of course the GNU license does not require you to 
support anything.

It may be different if you're _selling_ something (and thus feel morally 
or legally bound to support it), but for free software I don't see the 
problem with telling people to get lost if they expect help in modifying 
or understanding it.

That said, I have received a lot better support from free (as in GPLed) 
software authors than I've received from any software company. And in the 
latter cases, I was simply trying to get the program to behave as 
advertised, to do the job it was sold to me to do.

> On top of that, published source to my C compiler was ripped off in at least two
> instances and used to create competing commercial products by companies
> which were beyond my ability to persue.

You have already said you don't consider that Imagedisk is 'commercial' 
so this, IMHO is totally irrelevant.


> Well .. after that response, I guess the feeling is mutual. Clearly you have
> never tried to make a living in the software business. And your earlier crack


> about "having" to invent your own image format because you don't have
> access to my source (when the existing format is fully documented) only
> reinforces this impression.

It is my bitter experinece that documented interfaces (be they file 
formats, routine entry/exit conditions, or hardware specs) have 
undocument quirks and odd behaviour, and the only way to be _sure_ is to 
read the sources or schematics as appropriate.

For example, when I was writing my HP calculator file translation 
utilities, I didn't just trust the information given in the manuals 
(which was wrong in some cases), I spent many an evening reading the HP71 
ROM source code in the IDS volumes. And the HP41 source listings for that 

> In the case of ImageDisk, it happens to be written with the PC version of
> my own C development system - It uses video and other libraries which
> are unique to my tools, and will not compile without changes under GNU C,
> Turbo-C, Microsoft-C or any windows/linux system ... In short the source
> code isn't going to be very useful to many people and I am not ready to
> begin the process of spreadng the program across platforms.

I guess you think I want ao make a few changes to your program and 
recompile it. Not so. I have explained in another message why I'd like to 
read the sources.

I've read many source listings that I don't have any way to translate 
back to object code (do you have an HP Capricorn processor assembler on 
any of your machines? No, neither do I, but it didn't stop me reading the 
1000-or-so pages of the HP75C ROM source). For the same reason I read 
scheamtics and repair manuals (not just for computers, or even for 
electronic stuff) for machines I don't own and have little chance of 
owning. You can learn a lot from so doing. 

And if you think that's 'ripping off your code', well, maybe it is, but I 
don't know a single programmer or designer who _doesn't_ read other 
people's code/scheamtics.

> If you look back on the early ImageDisk postings, you will find that I stated
> that I would release the source code when I felt it was mature enough, but

And that, I suspect is the real reason. I can actually understand that, I 
once designed an I/O interface for the HP48, and I didn't release the 
schemaitsc until I'd built everything at least twice (once on stripboard, 
once on PCB) to help prove the design was sound. %deity that was an 
expensive project.

Not being a programmer, I send out really awful code sometimes, but I can 
understand why you'd not want to do this.


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