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Monday, 24 December 2012 08:45

Maintainer of two GNU software projects quits

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The maintainer of the Free Software Foundation's GNU grep and GNU sed projects has resigned, after looking after them for three and eight years respectively.

Paolo Bonzini said in a message, in which he also announced the release of a new version of GNU sed, that he had decided to sever his links with the two software initiatives due to technical and administrative decisions with the Free Software Foundation and its head, Richard M. Stallman.

GNU grep is an utility for finding specified patterns in files; GNU sed takes text input, performs some operation (or set of operations) on it and outputs the modified text.

Bonzini said he had also given up commit access to several other software projects associated with the FSF - Autoconf, Automake, Libtool, gnulib, libsigsegv and Bison.

He mentioned the inability to improve coding standards and change from one language to another for coding as one reason for quitting. "Sometimes, having a single person take executive decisions is a good thing. It is likely not possible to convince a diverse group such as the group of GNU maintainers to agree on coding standards for C++, for example," he wrote.

"However, all Stallman had to offer on the topic was "We still prefer C to C++, because C++ is so ugly" (sic).  As a result of this, the GNU coding standards have not seen any update in years and are entirely obsolete."

A second reason Bonzini cited was that the GNU Project was not doing anything for the FSF or vice versa. For example, the FSF was not trying to improve the GNU brand, something that needed to be done because free software was now being produced by multiple sources.

Bonzini said attaching the GNU label to a project did not make it attractive any more. "Being part of GNU is not an emblem of technical leadership anymore, either. 'If it is done poorly in Unix, feel free to replace it completely with something totally different and better'. Is this still true of today's GNU?" he asked.

This is not the only case of a maintainer of GNU software having problems with the project.

Earlier this month, Nikos Mavrogiannopoulos, the maintainer of GnuTLS, "a secure communications library implementing the SSL, TLS and DTLS protocols and technologies around them", moved it outside the GNU Project due to what he said was a major disagreement with the FSF's decisions and practices.

Stallman set up the FSF back in the early 1980s with the mission of developing a free operating system that could be used by all.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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