What’s up with nano?

As expected, the recent state of events where nano transitioned maintainership to Benno Schulenberg, and the project left GNU, has a lot of people speculating about what happened, and more disappointingly, making some pretty nasty assertions about motivations.  I want to try and give a brief update on them to hopefully calm things down.

  • I was mandating copyright assignment from Benno.  False.  What happened: In an effort to transition maintainership to Benno, as he was clearly far more capable and available than I have been for some time, I tried to get him added to the GNU maintainers list to peacefuly transition the project to him.  A private thread ensued between myself, GNU, and Benno, and what came out of that conversation was that Benno was not going to be allowed to become a maintainer of the project in GNU’s eyes. He would have not been able to upload to ftp.gnu.org, etc.  Which leads us to…
  • Benno took over the project in a hostile way.  False.  What happened: The project team voted, and while the majority of team had a slight to moderate preference to stay with GNU, many did not care either way.  Since Benno could not be the maintainer for nano under GNU’s banner, it made sense to move the project back out from under GNU.  When I informed them of what happened, GNU viewed this as Benno forking the project.  While that’s true, I don’t believe Benno had any choice but to do exactly that.  That does not mean the editor was stolen from GNU or any sort of malice has been committed here.A lot of people who care about nano are trying to do what’s best for it, and GNU and Benno just have different ideas about what that is.  I don’t feel I have much say in the matter since, as mentioned, I have not had the time to maintain the project for a long time now, so I am not trying to take sides or place any blame here.  If it sounds like I am that is completely unintentional, as I have great respect for both GNU and Benno.
  • Benno took over the website in a hostile way.  False.  What happened: Mike Frysinger, another member of the project who happens to work with me, came to chat with me about how to transition the project to Benno, since at the time I saw no solution other than letting nano leave GNU and become run by Benno.  I (of my own free will) re-pointed the nano website to a new server hosted by Mike.  I want to call out Mike and Jordi Mallach for attempting to keep the project whole, or when it became clesr that it could not be kept whole, transition it in a responsible way.  The website is a rather trivial part of this project, and is only referenced in one place by the source code.  Clearly it has sentimental value to some, but this is really being blown out of proportion.Nano’s website could be anything, nano-editor.org just happened to be something I registered a long time ago, and as it holds sentimental value to me as well (and does not require much overhead to maintain) I continue to hold onto it.  If GNU does continue development, it’s unclear what would happen to the domain, but my preference would be to leave it pointed at Banno’s version of the project and use the GNU website for its version.

I hope that clarifies at least some of the things being said about this issue, and obviously it’s still not clear what the future holds.  This has not been easy for anyone on the project, and I’d ask that people be respectful of all parties involved when trying to determine a way forward.

A/UX 2K14 Notes

Since AUX Penelope has been shut down, I’m going to jot down some details about where you can get A/UX software and commands you need to get going with your shiny old A/UX system.


  • At this point you want a full 68040 Mac like the Quadra 650, 700, 800, or 9xx, they can still be had on eBay relatively easily.  If you want to use a luggable you’re stuck with an SE/30 which is B&W.  Get yourself a decent amount of RAM and a supported CD-ROM.
  • KB/Mouse: Any ADB KB & mouse you can find should work like a champ.  Im toying with picking up the GeeThree PS/2->ADB adapter so I can eliminate the old physical mouse as my KVM does support PS/2.
  • Video: Unless you want to have a dedicated monitor for it, grab a DB15 to HD15 (AKA VGA) adapter from eBay as well.


  • Boot from the boot floppy (yes, remember those?) and put the CD you burned in the drive.  TODO: document writing the floppy image.  For now, Google It!
  • Configure the network:
    • Run newconfig
    • Add default route cmd to /etc/rc:  “/usr/etc/route add default 1”
    • Add nameserver to /etc/resolv.conf:  “nameserver”
    • Enable the telnetd server, by changing the inetd line in /etc/inittab to: “net9:2:respawn:/etc/inetd               # set to “respawn” for networking”
  • Get the pre-compiled /usr/local installation from  ftp://ftp.asty.org/pub/mirrors/aux/robbraun/ using the default A/UX ftp program (make your life easier with “prompt off”, “mget *”).  Put it somewhere out of the way, like /root.
  • Extract the tarball, first getting gzip, tar and bzip2 setup

cd /
 tar xvf /root/gzip-1.2.4a.tar
/usr/local/gzip-1.2.4a/bin/gzip -dc /root/bzip2-1.0.6.tar.gz | tar xvf –
gzip -dc /root/tar-1.12.tar.gz | /usr/bin/tar xvf –
/usr/local/bzip2-1.0.6/bin/bzip2 -dc /root/aux-usr.local-10172010.
tar.bz2 | /usr/local/tar-1.12/bin/tar xvf –

  • Disable auto-login: rm /mac/sys/Login\ System\ Folder/Preferences/Autologin
  • Enable color (glorious color!) if possible in Control Panels > Monitors
  • Sharing files to your system over AppleTalk (won’t work over IP!) using netatalk:
    • Debian/Ubuntu: set “ATALKD_RUN=yes” in /etc/default/netatalk.
    • Uncomment the default info on the last line of /etc/netatalk/afpd.conf.  Make sure to remove “-noddp” and use either “-ddp” or “-transall” to use both DDP and IP. You also have to add “uams_clrtxt.so” to the -uamlist arguments to even be able to login from A/UX, and if you want Guest login you also need to add “uams_guest.so”.  Then restart: /net/init.d/netatalk restart and be prepared to wait.
  • Configure SSH
  • Get some fun apps and control panels


When Non-Free is “Free Enough”

[This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2001 on the University of Washington PINE license.  Restored here for posterity.]

When Non-Free is “Free Enough”
by Chris Allegretta

The University of Washington’s Pine mailer. A popular piece
of software, indeed, as is its editor component, Pico. So much so that
most people turn a blind eye to its license: a license, I feel, that is
as bad as anything that has ever come out of Redmond.

Virtually every major GNU/Linux distribution ships binaries of Pine and
Pico with the notable exception of Debian. After all these programs are
veritable mainstays of the Unix world. Ironically, according to the
legal terms of the program, Debian may be the only distribution legally
allowed to distribute the program!

From the
Pine Legal Notice
Redistribution of this release is permitted as follows, or by mutual
(a) In free-of-charge or at-cost distributions by non-profit concerns;
(b) In free-of-charge distributions by for-profit concerns;
(c) Inclusion in a CD-ROM collection of free-of-charge, shareware, or
non-proprietary software for which a fee may be charged for the packaged

Let’s say producer PhatHat makes a “Super Ultimate PowerPack 10 CD
Edition” distribution and sells it for $40 with support. That would
appear to satisfy section (c) of the notice, correct? But what if they
also include on those CDs binary only, “proprietary” drivers for oh,
say, the latest Ovidian video card. Now are they in violation of the
Pine license? I’d say yes. There is the “written permission”
clause, but that’s a highly outdated means of licensing software in
the wonderful electronic age in which we live.

However, because of Debian’s stance on not shipping non-free software in
their standard distribution, they could pass this portion of the
licensing terms for distributing Pine. But Debian doesn’t put Pine into
their main archive. In fact they wont even ship binaries of Pine or
Pico! The source code, along with various patch files, can be found in
Debian’s non-free section because the distribution terms violate
the Debian Free
Software Guidelines

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is
distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license
must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium
must be free software.

This is actually just one reason Debian doesn’t include Pine binaries.
Want more? Read on.

Suppose tomorrow the Pine license changes to something more
restrictive, say, completely closed source, binary only redistribution.
Are all those distributors who were already in violation of the
license going to simply drop the package from their distribution? I doubt

Why, you ask? Simple, because they can’t stop distributing the program,
users have come to rely upon it to read their email and edit their
documents! Read the debian-user
mailing list sometime and see how many times users of other
distributions scream “Ahh! where’s Pine and Pico, my life will end
without them!” The users are not at fault, their old “Open Source”
operating system included Pine and Pico, so why shouldn’t Debian? The
programs are “Open Source” after all, aren’t they?

The thing is, they aren’t. The Pine license is not a
Free Software
license, nor does it meet the Open Source
. Why is it included in the distribution, then? Well,
So back to our new license scenario. I hear you saying “I highly doubt
Pine will go proprietary, it’s published by a university”. Fair enough.
Suppose instead that Pine’s maintainers get new jobs more demanding of
their time, or something else stops them from maintaining the program
full time. Now a security issue arises that requires patches to the
source code. What can our distributors do then?

Well, what is normally done in situations like
this is that programmers from outside the project will go back to the
last release of the program, and fork a new version of the program from
there with their own patches. This is what
the OpenSSH developers did when the
original ssh program went commercial and there was no support of
the older, more open version.

So they can just fork a new copy of the program, right? Wrong. You
can’t fork Pine and produce modified binaries, this is

by UW, it’s specifically addressed in the Pine FAQ. In
fact, later on the FAQ brazenly
states, In particular, the earliest Pine licenses included the words:
“Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software… is
hereby granted,” but some people tried to pervert the meaning of that
sentence to define “this software” to include derivative works of “this
software”. The intent has always been that you can re-distribute the UW
distribution, but if you modify it, you have created a derivative work
and must ask permission to redistribute it.

So, people who support Open Source and Free Software are perverts for
thinking you should be able to ship modified binaries of a program!
The wording could have been “change” or “twist”, but the word chosen was
“pervert”. I feel this is an intentional slander of proponents of the
GPL and other Free Software licenses.

hy do I feel this licenses is as bad as Microsoft’s licenses? I
don’t, I think it’s worse. With any commercial license, you do not ever
expect to see or have rights over the source code to the software.
In the case of Pine, users are lulled into thinking they have
rights to do what they want with the software, but really they don’t.
And if UW makes the license more proprietary or simply stops updating
it, there’s nothing they can do about it.

So, what can we do? For one thing, stop referring to Pine and
Pico as Open Source! And if you can’t handle that (and you know who you
are), at least don’t nominate them for awards
specifically for Open Source programs! Also do not lump Pine and Pico
in with other GPL covered programs on web pages or when discussing Free
Software, as this may confuse people into thinking that Pine and Pico
are in fact also Free Software programs, which they are not.

Another thing you can do it educate your peers, when they
say Pine is “Free” or “Open Source”, mention that the license restricts
modified redistribution, and have them read it over for themselves.

You can also use free alternatives to these programs. The mutt mailer is very similar program to
Pine, once you get used to the slight difference of starting up at your
messages and not at a menu. There are keymaps you can download to make
mutt behave like Pine. You can also use (weren’t you waiting for the
plug?) GNU nano instead of Pico
to edit your files.

Yes, I am the author of GNU nano. I am biased in this regard. But nano
is itself evidence that Pine may indeed be “free enough” for people, when
perhaps it shouldn’t be. Pine and Pico have been around for ten years,
and nano is the first project I’m aware of that attempts to remedy the
licensing problem by making a complete clone of the software starting from
scratch. The question comes down to: do you want full rights over the
software you use, or is Pine “free enough” for you?

Chris Allegretta, chrisa@asty.org