On Thu, May 26, 2016 at 4:19 PM, Jim Hall <jh...@freedos.org> wrote:
> In general, I try to be careful about the licensing for programs we
> include in FreeDOS. We have run into problems before.
> 1. One example is ArrowASM. We included ArrowASM with FreeDOS for a
> long time, such as the FreeDOS 1.0 release. But in 2011, several
> FreeDOSers found that ArrowASM was just a "hacked" version of MASM
> 3.00 (see technote #240) and we promptly removed ArrowASM from the
> FreeDOS distribution and from the FreeDOS archives.

This was not our fault (obviously). Arrowsoft Assembler had been
propagated on many big sites (e.g. Simtel) for literally decades. It
wasn't majorly hacked to death, but it was different enough to be
non-obvious. Plus even the options and strings and copyright (and even
compiler runtime stamp) were changed as part of the ruse. It was even
compressed (and made unrecognizable by removing the LZ91 signature).

Any MASM before v5 (or maybe v6) is incredibly obsolete because it
didn't support 386+ code, which (as you know) was a game changer for
most developers. So most of us didn't even think about it since we
never used ancient MASMs for comparison. Besides, it claimed to be a
MASM clone, so we naively believed it. Thus there is little remaining
public mention of any version before v5.

The real problem is that we couldn't afford to wake the sleeping
giant, so we didn't bother asking MS (and/or IBM or whomever) for
clarification at all. Without any kind of official word, we don't
truly know whether this was infringing or not (probably yes, but we
can't say for sure: MASM had many public variations over the years).

Luckily, we have better alternatives, like JWasm or even NASM, so it's
not much of a loss. There's still (too much) old legacy code for MASM
(and TASM) out there.

> To avoid running into problems, my preference is to include open
> source software with FreeDOS. I don't necessarily draw the line at
> "free software" the same way that Stallman does. Even a few years ago,
> I wanted FreeDOS to meet Stallman's Free System Distribution
> Guidelines (see Rugxulo's link), but these days it doesn't matter to
> me. I don't care if it's "open source" or some GNU license. If the
> program works, is open source, and let's others use it, I'm happy with
> it.

If it's literally impossible to please certain people, then no we
shouldn't try. It's probably not worth throwing everything away and
folding just because it doesn't fit their ideals. The world is
imperfect, yet we still have to live in it. Let's not make excuses,
and thus we must fix what we can, but let's also not burn the house
down because it isn't perfect.

Then again, maybe x86 isn't the best platform (anymore?) to try to
achieve such a 100% libre system. To be honest there might be better
choices, in theory, but I don't honestly know which ones. So maybe
holding too tightly to one specific cpu family or OS (even *nix/POSIX)
isn't a good idea, in the long term.

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