Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software: Cygnus, and GPL
From: John Gilmore <>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 02:14:08 -0700

The Apache module interface is a brand-new API, defined by the
free software community, that seems from outside to be working.
I don't know if it's defined by anything other than its implementation.
I have enough trouble reading the Apache *user* documentation...

> Sometimes I want to use some feature invented by the free software
> community, such as extended inline assembler or Linux packet driver
> sockets or parsing debugging information generated by gcc.  These are
> things which are best used with documentation along the lines of a
> standard, such that I can write to a clearly and completely specified
> interface without needing to examine the implementation which I know
> will change in the future.
> These are the sorts of standards which I do not see the free software
> community writing.

While I managed GDB, Julia Menapace wrote "The ``stabs'' debug
format", a new manual for GNU's most prevalent debugging info format.
It is distributed with GDB (e.g. gdb-4.18/gdb/doc/stabs.texinfo).  She
and I largely generated the manual by reverse-engineering, since GCC's
Stabs implementation itself had been reverse-engineered from the PCC
compiler's debug symbol table information originally used by
Berkeley's PDX and DBX debuggers.  Indeed, in many cases we didn't
know why particular formats or values were there -- but at least we
documented 'em as best we could, including some bug reports.

We didn't write a standard, just a manual.