[tex-live] TL 13 -- how many maintained installations are there?

Philip Taylor P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Wed Apr 16 11:05:32 CEST 2014

Winston Smith wrote:

> Since when did it become acceptable to
> a.) introduce phone-home mechanisms into open-source software, and

The fact that TeX Live is so-called "open source" is completely
irrelevant to the discussion; we are discussing whether and how
it might be augmented to collect potentially useful statistical
information, which is a technical/philosophical issue rather than
a political one.

> b.) defame the personal decision of a software maintainer against this
>       as dictatorship, and

It is not the decision itself, but rather the fact that, according to
Reinhard, what can or cannot go into TeX Live hinges solely on the
opinions of one person.  If that is not a dictatorship, what is ?

> c.) accept surveillance and erode privacy (how many TeX-users will be
>        aware of that new "feature" and know how to turn it off?) under the
>        premise that surveillance is in place everywhere else (e.g. the phone
>        example)?

No-one is being asked to accept it; we are mooting the idea, and
discussing whether or not it might be worth implementing.  Only
when that decision has been reached, and only if the decision is
"yes, it is technically feasible and worthwhile", need we worry
about how to inform the users of the fact.  And if we /do/ decide
that the idea is worth implementing, then informing the users will
be a piece of cake, since when TeX Live is installed it can inform
the user that, unless they select the "opt out" option, the TeX Live
manager will henceforth collect anonymised usage statistics and report
them to a central repository.

> The whole idea of phoning home goes against half a dozen principles
> of open-source software. There are certain things you will never see in
> good (!) open-source software. Phoning home is one of them.

As I wrote above, the fact that TeX Live is so-called "open source"
software is completely irrelevant to the discussion.  I use TeX Live
because it provides (some of) the functionality that I need, just
as I use Microsoft Windows, Adobe Acrobat, Mozilla Seamonkey and
Easeus Backup.  Three of those five are not open source, and that
fact is just as irrelevant to my choice to use them as the fact
that TeX Live and Mozilla Seamonkey /are/ "open source".  The
choice of what software to use should be made solely on the
grounds of functionality and cost, not on overtly political criteria
such as the putative benefits of free-as-in-libre/open-source software.

> Naming and shaming does no-one any good.

On the contrary, if one does not "name and shame", all manner
of heinous things can be (and often are) conveniently swept under
the carpet.

Philip Taylor

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