GNU's Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 10, January, 1991

Table of Contents

The GNU's Bulletin is the semi-annual newsletter of the Free Software Foundation, bringing you news about the GNU Project.

Free Software Foundation, Inc.                Telephone: (617) 876-3296
675 Massachusetts Avenue          Electronic mail:
Cambridge, MA 02139  USA

GNU's Who

Joseph Arceneaux is implementing active regions for a future Emacs release. Roland McGrath has returned as a full-time employee after finishing school. He is polishing up the C library and maintains GNU make. Michael Bushnell is working on kernel related projects. Jim Blandy is preparing the Emacs 19 release and planning an X-based desktop.

Brian Fox is maintaining various programs that he has written, including the readline library, the makeinfo and Info programs, BASH, and the new GNU finger. Jay Fenlason continues with the GNU spreadsheet, Oleo, as well as maintaining tar, sed and the GNU assembler.

Mike Haertel continues work on the C interpreter; he is also maintaining and improving the "bin" utilities and species of grep. Kathy Hargreaves and Karl Berry are working on Ghostscript, making fonts and various utilities for dealing with them. Amy Gorin is writing the manual for tar.

S. Opus Goldstein does a great job running our office. Miria Brigid is answering phone calls, handling correspondence, and making distribution tapes. Robert J. Chassell, our Treasurer, has been working on the new edition of the Texinfo Manual, in addition to many other Foundation issues. He now hopes to complete his introduction to programming in Emacs Lisp. Joe Turner is our part-time system administrator.

Richard Stallman continues as a volunteer who does countless tasks, including refining the C compiler, GNU Emacs, etc., and their documentation. Finally, volunteer Len Tower remains our electronic JOAT (jack-of-all-trades), handling mailing lists and gnUSENET, information requests, and the like.

GNU's Bulletin

Copyright (C) 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Written by: Michael Bushnell, Robert J. Chassell, Richard Stallman, and Leonard H. Tower Jr.

Illustrations: Etienne Suvasa

Japanese Edition: Mieko Hikichi and Nobuyuki Hikichi

This page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

What Is the Free Software Foundation?

The Free Software Foundation is dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding, and modification of computer programs. We do this by promoting the development and use of free software in all areas of computer use. Specifically, we are putting together a complete integrated software system named "GNU" (GNU's Not Unix) that will be upwardly compatible with Unix. Some large parts of this system are already working, and we are distributing them now.

The word "free" in our name refers to two specific freedoms: first, the freedom to copy a program and give it away to your friends and co-workers; second, the freedom to change a program as you wish, by having full access to source code. Furthermore, you can study the source and learn how such programs are written. You may then be able to port it, improve it, and share your changes with others.

Other organizations distribute whatever free software happens to be available. By contrast, FSF concentrates on development of new free software, working towards a GNU system complete enough to eliminate the need to purchase a proprietary system.

Besides developing GNU, the Foundation has secondary functions: producing tapes and printed manuals of GNU software, carrying out distribution, and accepting gifts to support GNU development. We are tax exempt; you can deduct donations to us on your tax returns. Our development effort is funded partly from donations and partly from distribution fees. Note that the distribution fees purchase just the service of distribution: you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge (provided your friend is willing).

The Foundation also maintains a Service Directory: a list of people who offer service for pay to users of GNU programs and systems. The Service Directory is located in file `etc/SERVICE' in the GNU Emacs distribution. Service can mean answering questions for new users, customizing programs, porting to new systems, or anything else. Contact us if you want to be listed or wish a copy.

After we create our programs, we continually update and improve them. We release between 2 and 20 updates a year for each program. Doing this while developing new programs takes a lot of work, so any donations of pertinent source code and documentation, machines, labor, or money are always appreciated.

The board of the Foundation is: Richard Stallman, President; Robert J. Chassell, Treasurer; Gerald J. Sussman, Harold Abelson and Leonard H. Tower Jr., Directors.

What Is Copyleft?

In the previous section entitled "What Is the Free Software Foundation?" we state that "you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge." What exactly do we mean by this, and how do we make sure that it stays true?

The simplest way to make a program free is to put it in the public domain. Then people who get it from sharers can share it with others. But this also allows bad citizens to do what they like to do: sell binary-only versions under typical don't-share-with-your-neighbor licenses. They would thus enjoy the benefits of the freeness of the original program while withholding these benefits from the users. It could easily come about that most users get the program this way, and our goal of making the program free for all users would have been undermined.

To prevent this from happening, we don't normally place GNU programs in the public domain. Instead, we protect them by what we call copylefts. A copyleft is a legal instrument that makes everybody free to copy a program as long as the person getting the copy gets with it the freedom to distribute further copies, and the freedom to modify their copy (which means that they must get access to the source code). Typical software companies use copyrights to take away these freedoms; now software sharers use copylefts to preserve these freedoms.

The copyleft used by the GNU Project is made from a combination of a copyright notice and the GNU General Public License. The copyright notice is the usual kind. The General Public License is a copying license which basically says that you have the freedoms we want you to have and that you can't take these freedoms away from anyone else. (The actual document consists of several pages of rather complicated legalbol that our lawyer said we needed.) The complete license is included in all GNU source code distributions and many manuals. We will send you a copy on request.

We encourage others to copyleft their programs using the General Public License; basically programs only need to include a few sentences stating that the license applies to them. Specifics on using the License accompany it, so refer there for details.

"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours."

			-Benjamin Franklin

GNUs Flashes

Free Software Support

The Free Software Foundation develops and distributes freely available software. Our goal is to help computer users as a community. We envision a world in which software is freely redistributable. This means software will be sold at a competitive market price rather than a monopoly established price; often it will be given away. We see programmers as providing a service, much as doctors and lawyers now do--both medical knowledge and the law are freely redistributable entities for which the practitioners charge a distribution and service fee.

We maintain a list of people who offer support and other consulting services, called the GNU Service Directory. This list is contained in the file `etc/SERVICE' in the GNU Emacs distribution. Contact us if you would like a copy or wish to be listed in it.

Most of the listings in the GNU Service Directory are for individuals, but one is for Cygnus Support, which is the first for-profit corporation that we know of that provides support only for free software. Their address is or Cygnus Support, 814 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301. FSF is not affiliated with Cygnus Support, but we hope that it is a harbinger of the future.

If you find a deficiency in any GNU software, we want to know. We maintain a considerable number of Internet mailing lists for making announcements, reporting bugs and for asking questions. These mailing lists are also gatewayed into USENET news as the gnu.* newsgroups. The Emacs and GCC Manuals have chapters explaining where to send bug reports and what information to include.

If you don't have Internet access, you can receive mail and USENET news with a UUCP connection. Contact either a system administrator at a local UUCP site, or UUNET Communications, which can set up a UUCP connection for a modest fee. (UUNET is a non-profit organization that provides network connections.) You can contact UUNET by e-mail at or by paper mail at:

UUNET Communications Services,
3110 Fairview Park Drive - Suite 570,
Falls Church, VA  22042
Phone: (703) 876-5050

When we receive a bug report, we will usually try to fix the problem in order to make the software better. While our bug fixes may seem like individual assistance, they are not. Our task is so large that we must focus on that which helps the community as a whole, such as developing and maintaining software and documentation. We don't have the resources to help individuals. Even if we don't solve your problem, one of the other users may. Otherwise, please consult the Services Directory.

So, do tell us how an installation script doesn't work or where the documentation is unclear--but please don't ask us to help you install the software or figure out how to use it.If your bug report does not evoke a solution from us, you may still get one from the many other users who read our bug reporting mailing lists. Otherwise, use the Service Directory.

Protect Your Freedom to Write Programs

by Richard Stallman

Ten years ago, programmers were allowed to write programs using all the techniques they knew, and providing whatever features they felt were useful. This is no longer the case. The new monopolies, software patents and interface copyrights, have taken away our freedom.

"Look and feel" lawsuits attempt to monopolize well-known command languages; some have succeeded. Copyrights on command languages enforce gratuitous incompatibility, close opportunities for competition, and stifle incremental improvements.

Software patents are even more dangerous; they make every design decision in the development of a program carry a risk of a lawsuit. It is difficult and expensive to find out whether the techniques you use are patented; it is impossible to find out whether they will be patented in the future.

The League for Programming Freedom is a grass-roots organization of professors, students, businessmen, programmers and users dedicated to bringing back the freedom to write programs. If you are offended that you might be sued for patent infringement when you make computer systems that use X Windows or compress, if you are offended that you aren't allowed to support the commands most users know when you write a spreadsheet, don't just grumble--do something about it! You can help abolish the new monopolies by joining the League.

The League for Programming Freedom works to abolish the new monopolies by publishing articles, talking with public officials, boycotting egregious offenders, and possibly in the future by intervening in court cases. On May 24, 1989, the League picketed Lotus headquarters on account of their lawsuits, and then again on August 2, 1990. These marches stimulated widespread media coverage for the issue.

Convincing Congress is a big job. To impress public officials, the League needs more members: both activist members and members who only pay their dues. Additional corporate members are also needed. The dues are $42 for professionals, $21 for others, except students whose dues are $10.50. To join, mail your check, name and address to:

League for Programming Freedom
1 Kendall Square #143
P.O.Box 9171
Cambridge, MA  02139

Please also send your phone number and email address, and mention anything noteworthy you have done, especially in business or software.

For more information, please phone the League at (617) 243-4091, send Internet mail to, or write to the address above.

Note: The League for Programming Freedom is not an organization for free software, and it does not endorse the GNU project or the Free Software Foundation. Most League members write proprietary software, and some have founded companies that do so.

However, the FSF endorses the League strongly--perhaps desperately would be a better word. Patents are especially devastating for free software. The patent holders can read our source code to see what techniques we use, and we can't afford to license patents. (Not to mention the fact that if we agree to pay even one cent per copy made of a program, that program can't be free any more.)

In a few years, it very likely will be illegal to distribute a complete free operating system in the United States, because too many important parts would infringe patents. The result may be that future GNU software is released for distribution only outside the United States.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you appreciate the GNU project and would like it to produce more software. If you can do only one thing to help the GNU project, joining the League is the most important thing you can do.

GNU Project Status Report

Help Keep Government Software Free

by Richard Stallman

For 200 years, the US copyright system has placed everything written by the federal government in the public domain. This makes sense: we have all paid for it, so we should all own it.

Now there is a move to change this. If it succeeds, quite a lot of software that would be free today will be sold instead. We will pay to develop the software, and then we'll have to pay again to use it. And the GNU system won't be able to use it, since it won't be free.

We think this is scandalous. If you agree, please help prevent it, by writing to Congress:

House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property
2137 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

GNU Documentation

GNU is dedicated to having quality, easy-to-use on-line and printed documentation. GNU manuals are intended to explain the underlying concepts, describe how to use all the features of each program, and give examples of command use.

GNU documentation is distributed as Texinfo source files, which yield both typeset hardcopy and on-line presentation via the menu-driven Info system.

The following manuals, provided with our software, are also available in hardcopy; see the order form on the inside back cover.

The Emacs Manual describes the use of GNU Emacs. It also explains advanced features, such as outline mode and regular expression search. The manual tells how to use special modes for programming in languages such as C and Lisp, how to use the tags utility, and how to compile and correct code. It also describes how to make your own keybindings and other elementary customizations.

The Emacs Lisp Reference Manual covers the GNU Emacs Lisp programming language in great depth. It goes into data types, control structures, functions, macros, byte compilation, keymaps, windows, markers, searching and matching, modes, syntax tables, operating system interface, etc.

The Texinfo Manual explains the markup language used to create both an Info file and a printed document from the same source file. This tells you how to make tables, lists, chapters, nodes, indices, and cross references. It also describes how to use Texinfo mode in GNU Emacs and catch mistakes.

The Termcap Manual is often described as "Twice as much as you ever wanted to know about Termcap." It describes the format of the Termcap database, the definitions of terminal capabilities, and the process of interrogating a terminal description. This manual is primarily for programmers.

The Bison Manual covers writing grammar descriptions that can be converted into C coded parsers. It assumes no prior knowledge of parser generators. This manual describes the concepts and then provides a series of increasingly complex examples before describing what happens in considerable detail.

The GAWK Manual describes how to use the GNU implementation of AWK. It is written for someone who has never used AWK, and describes all the features of this powerful string manipulating language.

The Make Manual describes the GNU Make utility, a program used to rebuild parts of other programs when and as needed. It covers makefile writing, which specifies how a program is to be compiled and what each part of the program depends on.

The GDB Manual explains how to use the GNU Debugger. It describes running your program under debugger control, how to examine and alter data as well as modify the flow of control within the program, and how to use GDB through GNU Emacs, with auto-display of source lines.

GNU Wish List

Wishes for this issue are for:

GNU Software Available Now

We offer Unix software source distribution tapes, plus VMS tapes for GNU Emacs and GNU C that include sources and VMS executables.

The first Unix tape, called the "Emacs" tape contains GNU Emacs as well as various other well-tested programs. The second Unix tape, called the "Compiler" tape, contains the GNU C compiler, related utilities, and other new programs. The third and fourth Unix tapes (called the "X11" tapes) contain the X11 distribution from the MIT X Consortium.

See the order form on the inside back cover for details about media, etc. Note that the contents of the 1600bpi 9-track tapes and the QIC-24 DC300XLP 1/4 inch cartridge tapes for Unix systems are the same. It is only the media that are different.

Contents of the Emacs Tape

The software on this release tape is considered fairly stable, but as always, we welcome your bug reports.

Contents of the Compiler Tape

The programs on this tape are becoming stable. The exception is Ghostscript, but we are carrying it on this tape as a convenience. As always, we solicit your comments and bug reports. This tape used to be known as the "Pre-Release" or "Beta Test" tape.

Contents of the X11 Tapes

The two X11 tapes contain Version 11, Release 4 of the MIT X window system. X11 is more powerful than, but incompatible with, the no-longer-supported or available Version 10.

The first FSF tape contains the contents of both tape one and tape two from the MIT X Consortium: the core software and documentation, and the contributed clients. FSF refers to its first tape as the `required' X tape since it is necessary for running X or GNU Emacs under X. (The Consortium refers to its first two tapes as the `required/recommended' tapes.)

The second, `optional' FSF tape contains the contents of tapes three and four from the MIT X Consortium: contributed libraries and other toolkits, the Andrew software, games, etc. (The Consortium refers to its last two tapes as `optional' tapes.)

VMS Emacs and Compiler Tapes

We offer a VMS tape of the GNU Emacs editor, and a separate VMS tape containing the GNU C compiler. The VMS compiler tape also contains Bison (needed to compile GCC), GAS (needed to assemble GCC's output), and some library and include files. Both VMS tapes include executables that you can bootstrap from, because the DEC VMS C compiler has bugs and thus cannot compile GNU C.

Please don't ask us to devote effort to additional VMS support, because it is peripheral to the GNU Project.

How to Get GNU Software

All the software and publications from the Free Software Foundation are distributed with permission to copy and redistribute. The easiest way to get GNU software is to copy it from someone else who has it.

If you have access to the Internet, you can get the latest software from the host (the Internet address is For more information, get the file `/pub/gnu/emacs/GETTING.GNU.SOFTWARE' from prep.

If you cannot get the software one of these ways, or if you would like to contribute some funds to our efforts and receive the latest versions, we distribute tapes for a copying and distribution fee. See the order form below.

There are also third party groups that distribute our software: they do not work with us, but have our software in other forms. For your convenience, some of them are listed below. Please note that the Free Software Foundation is not affiliated with them in any way, and is not responsible for either the currency of their versions or the swiftness of their responses.

These TCP/IP Internet sites provide GNU software via anonymous ftp (use your ftp program, user name: anonymous, password: your name):,,, (under `PD:<Unix.GNU>'),,,,,,,, (VMS G++), (VMS GNU Emacs),,, and

Those on the SPAN network can ask rdss::corbet.

Information on how to obtain some GNU programs using UUCP is available via electronic mail from the following people. Ohio State also posts their UUCP instructions regularly to newsgroup comp.sources.d on USENET.

hao!scicom!qetzal!upba!ugn!nepa!denny, hqda-ai!merlin,
acornrc!bob, uunet!hutch!barber, sun!nosun!illian!darylm,
oli-stl!root, bigtex!james,, and (or osu-cis!karl).

Free Software for MS-DOS

GNUish MS-DOS project

Some GNU software has been ported to MS-DOS, but the FSF avoids involvement in this effort, because it is peripheral to the GNU project. Contact Thorsten Ohl, td12@ddagsi3.bitnet, who is organizing distribution of such ports. More information is in `/pub/gnu/MSDOS', obtainable via anonymous ftp on

Freemacs, an Extensible Editor for MS-DOS

Russ Nelson,, has written a small but programmable editor for MS-DOS that is somewhat compatible with GNU Emacs. The .EXE file is only 21K because it only contains a language interpreter and text editor primitives. Most of the programming is done in MINT, a string-oriented language. You may freely copy this software. Russ asks only that you return improvements to him for incorporation into the package for the rest of us.

The distribution is available from these sources:

Please do not contact the Free Software Foundation about Freemacs. We do not maintain it, and we have no information on it other than the above.

GNU in Japan

Mieko,, & Noboyuki Hikichi,, continue to work on the GNU Project in Japan. They translate GNU information, write columns, request donations and consult with people about GNU. They are looking for a lawyer volunteer to review their Japanese translation of the GNU Library General Public License. They held a GNU BOF at the JUS Symposium in December 1990. Many groups in Japan are redistributing GNU software, including JUG (a PC user group), Nikkei Business Publications and ASCII (publishers), Fujitsu FM Towns, and the Japan Unix Society. Anonymous UUCP is also now available in Japan.

Thank GNUs

Thanks to all those mentioned above in "GNUs Flashes", the "GNU Project Status Report" and "GNU Software Available Now".

Thanks to the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT for their invaluable assistance of many kinds.

Thanks to Shawn Keller for making tapes, to Devon McCullough for technical assistance, to Carol Botteron for proofreading and other assistance, and to Mieko and Nobuyuki Hikichi for their invaluable help raising both funds and consciousness in Japan.

Thanks to Chet Ramey for his continuing work on improving BASH.

Thanks to the University of Minnesota Department of Computer Science for allowing Mike Haertel to use their computers.

Thanks to Cliff Lasser of Thinking Machines, Inc. for the help with upgrading to SunOS 4.0.

Thanks to Village Center Inc of Japan for their gift.

Thanks to Information Systems and the Whitaker College Computing Facility at MIT for use of their machines to make our VMS master tapes.

Thanks to the Open Software Foundation for the Compaq 386.

Thanks go out to all those who have either lent or donated machines, including Hewlett-Packard for six 68030 workstations, two 80486 machines, and four Spectrum workstations, Brewster Kahle of Thinking Machines Corp. for the Sun 4/110, K. Richard Pixley for the AT&T Unix PC, Doug Blewett of AT&T Bell Labs for two Convergent Miniframes, CMU's Mach Project for the Sun 3/60, Intel Corp. for their 386/i860 workstation, NeXT for a NeXT workstation, the MIT Media Laboratory for the Hewlett-Packard 68020 machine, SONY Corp. and Software Research Associates, Inc., both of Tokyo, for three SONY News workstations, the MIT Laboratory of Computer Science for the DEC Microvax, and Delta Microsystems for an Exabyte tape drive.

Thanks to all those who have contributed ports and extensions, as well as those who have contributed other source code, documentation, and good bug reports. Thanks to those who sent money and offered help. Thanks also to those who support us by ordering manuals and distribution tapes.

The creation of this bulletin is our way of thanking all who have expressed interest in what we are doing.

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