Brave GNU World

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Brave GNU World

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Issue #12

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Welcome to the 12th issue of Georg's Brave GNU World. Since this issue finishes the first year, I will give an introduction into the evolution and history of the column. In my eyes it serves as an excellent example for dynamics inherited from the GNU Project.

But I will once again start with the practical topics as it appears to be a tried and tested concept.

GNU Pascal Compiler

Pascal is one of the languages that has maintained a big community of fans for several years now. Porting the accumulated sourcecode to another language would be a non-trivial task, so the GNU Pascal Compiler (GPC) - currently maintained by Peter Gerwinski and Frank Heckenbach - will probably be of interest to several people [5].

Its advantages are pretty obvious. First of all it is a 32/64bit compiler that is compatible with the other GNU programs like the GNU C Compiler and the GNU Debugger. It runs on all systems supported by the GNU C Compiler which is well-known for its portability and GNU Pascal supports a high level of optimization. Additionally GPC removes the 64kB/640kB limit of some older systems.

As Peter Gerwinski told me, GNU Pascal is the only compiler he knows of that fully supports the ISO 7185 Pascal Standard as well as the Borland Pascal 7.0 "quasi-standard." On top of this, a big subset of the ISO 10206 Extended Pascal standard, some "Pascal for Scientific Calculations" (Pascal-SC) and carefully designed GNU extensions have been implemented.

Although due to the lack of "human resources" the development is not going forward as fast as the developers would like, a huge milestone is being approached: the full integration of GNU Pascal into the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). Other plans are completion of the ISO 10206 Extended Pascal implementation and compatibility with newer products like Borland Delphi.

The next project stems from the area of system administration and monitoring.


The "Modular Object Oriented Dynamic SpreadSheet" (Moodss) is a modular Tcl/Tk application by Jean-Luc Fontaine. A central Moodss Core gets its data from different modules loaded at startup. This data is first displayed in the form of a table which can then be used for creating graphs, 3d pie charts and other graphical elements.

Besides a variety of modules supplied along with the package, Moodss allows the creation of special data-gathering modules which makes it possible to display rather unusual sets of data. Jean-Luc mentioned a user who uses Moodss to monitor stocks. The program allows for graphical configuration via "drag and drop" which should not be a problem for anyone. Additionally solid help for the user is provided in form of menus, tooltips, help windows and complete HTML documentation.

These factors may have been the decisive reasons why Moodss won the "Best System Admin Technology" award at the O'Reilly Tcl/Tk conference August 24th 1999. The license is of course the GNU General Public License and you can find the project on the homepage of Jean-Luc Fontaine [6].

After I have recently written about the funding of Werner Koch's GNU Privacy Guard project by the German BMWI ministry I now have great news from France.

Free Software in the French government

The French law proposal 117 [7] states that services of the State, the local communities and publicly-owned establishments can only use software "of which the use and modification are free and for which the source code is available" - in other words Free Software. To reach this goal by January 1 2002 an "Agency of the free software" is being created. This agency is given the responsibility to provide information about application of this law as well as deciding which licenses meet the criteria. The agency is open to internet users and its decisions will have to be preceded by consultations on the internet.

These formulations are precise and the law proposal contains the words "Free Software" several times among other reasons due to a meeting that took place on November 17th 1999. At this meeting Richard M. Stallman and Frederic Couchet discussed software-specific questions with Senator Pierre Laffitte. In my view not only the engagement and work by the Free Software scene should be highlighted but especially the open-mindedness and willingness to discuss these matters by the French politicians.

I have been delighted by this news and I am sure that a lot of you will feel the same way. We should now actively encourage other governments to follow this great example. I offer myself as the coordinating point for local efforts and ask everyone willing to volunteer for local political work to contact me [1].

As I already said there is more good news. This issue completes the first year "Brave GNU World" and I think this is somewhat notable.

One year of Brave GNU World

To the best of my knowledge the Brave GNU World is the only column worldwide that is published simultaneously in five languages on a monthly basis; and the feedback I get is sometimes quite remarkable. But a lot of what makes the column special is created by the cooperation of a lot of GNU friends worldwide. I would now like to seize the moment to explain how things came to be.

The moment of birth was at December 5th 1998 when I gave a speech about the GNU Project [8] at the GNU/Linux Cluster "CLOWN" in Paderborn on the request of Tom Schwaller. The whole area of "GNU Philosophy" was obviously unknown to most people and a lot of people had no idea that something like the GNU Project existed. Tom and I discussed how to counteract this tendency and he asked me whether I would like to write something about the GNU Project in the German Linux-Magazin. In several emails we developed the idea of a monthly column that should inform about recent developments in the technical and philosophical sense from the perspective of the GNU Project. Without this initial boost the Brave GNU World would probably never have come to pass - thank you, Tom.

But the GNU Project is strongly international in its conception and spirit and a column restricted to German would contradict its philosophy. It was also clear right from the start that the column should be available on the GNU webserver. Both facts require a translation into English. Although my English certainly isn't bad I was and am well aware that as a non-native speaker I am prone to make mistakes. So I needed people with profound English knowledge in order to proof-read the issues for mistakes and inconsistencies. After realizing that I would need proofreaders I also transferred the concept to the German version and looked for volunteers on a GNU internal mailinglist. I received such a lot of mail that I had to choose, which I did with a little assistance of a six sided die.

Right from the beginning the time-limiting factor has been the editorial timing of the Linux-Magazin. That is why I first write the column in German, send it to the German proofreaders, eliminate bugs and flaws and then send it to the editorial staff of the Linux-Magazin. Afterwards I create the English translation and send it to the English proofreaders. In this context I would especially like to thank Telsa Gwynne. Her extremely qualified and detailed feedback guarantees monthly insights into the English language that double my fun doing the English version.

This was pretty much what I planned the column to be. But one special Sunday morning that I still remember quite well I received email by Francois Thunus who asked me whether I'd be interested in a French translation. Until that point I had never thought about it but the perspective immediately fascinated me. And soon after OKUJI Yoshinori obviously had a similar idea and asked me whether I'd be interested in a Japanese translation.

In order to expand the existing structure in a useful way I asked the translators to also pick up some proofreaders and give me the email addresses of those who can read English or German. The basic idea was to provide everyone with the version that they would be able to read. This would allow them to cross-read other versions in case something is unclear in one translation and it helps in finding and removing "translation artefacts" while staying as close to the original message as possible.

By the way: since the column wants to reach a wide audience, the emphasis is on ease of reading and not on literal, word-for-word, translation. The Japanese version, especially, often requires a total restructuring.

Issue 3 already came out simultaneously in four languages and was apparently also printed in a French Linux Magazine - although I have never received any official confirmation about this. Soon afterwards Nicolas Garcia-Pedrajas, Diego Fernando Marin and Eloy Sanz-Tapia contacted me independent of each other asking whether I may be interested in a Spanish translation. They have been doing it ever since. Counting all people involved in the making of the column the "Brave GNU World" family must have more than 40 members worldwide. Without them the "Brave GNU World" would not be what it is and I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you.

But I would also like to use this opportunity to look ahead. First of all the proofreading. Like all continuous tasks the proofreading has worn out one or two of the proofreaders and I think it is time to take new members into the family. Especially for the German version I would like to recruit three or four people willing and capable of giving me feedback fast. Due to the preparation time of the printed Linux-Magazin I often wait until the very last moment to write the column and usually there are only one or two days for feedback.

A second problem is related to the features about software projects. The authors are very often so deeply focused on their projects that they don't take the time to contact me. Once asked to talk about their project they will happily do so, but since I am very often extremely busy myself I tend to miss quite some interesting projects. This is why I would like to create a new group of "Brave GNU World" participants that you could call "Scouts."

Their job will be to keep their eyes open for potentially "Brave GNU World-worthy" software and then make contact with the author. I do have a list of standard questions that has proven itself to be quite helpful - you will be able to find it on the homepage [3]. Although of course everyone could be a part-time scout I would like to have a few people "officially" taking on this task so I know this very important job rests in capable hands.

There are some more ideas flittering around in my head but I think I'll keep them around for later. As usual, I am very much looking forward to read your comments, ideas and questions [1] and I hope the second year "Brave GNU World" will provide some of you with insights and ideas.


[1] Send ideas, comments and questions to Brave GNU World <>
[2] Homepage of the GNU Project
[3] Homepage of Georg's Brave GNU World
[4] "We run GNU" Initiative
[5] GNU Pascal Homepage:
[6] Homepage of Jean-Luc Fontaine:
[7] Law proposal 117 (in French):
[8] "History and Philosophy of the GNU Project" by Georg Greve: http.//

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Copyright (C) 1999 Georg C. F. Greve, German version published in the Linux-Magazin

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Last modified: Fri Mar 10 12:19:35 CET 2000 greve