[sword-devel] Windows users as "poor cousins"? (was: Help wanted on non-canonical text )

Greg Hellings greg.hellings at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 20:01:23 MST 2009

I think there's a second perspective you can look at it from, which is in
David's mind

On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 9:28 PM, Jonathan Marsden <jmarsden at fastmail.fm>wrote:

> David Haslam wrote:
>  I think those of us who are Windows users are regarded as "poor
>> cousins" by some CrossWire programmers. :confused:
> I think you may have that somewhat backwards.  CrossWire itself makes its
> source code available for download to everyone with Internet access, Linux
> and Windows and OS X and *BSD users, alike.  Whatever OS you choose to use,
> you are free to compile those sources for your chosen OS, and use the
> resulting binary libraries and utilities.

> For Windows users, *only*, Crosswire also offers binaries for download.
>  Sometimes out of date, it seems, but at least it does offer them --
> something it does not do for any Linux or FreeBSD users :)  This an
> *additional* priviledge, a luxury offered *only* to Windows users.

You could also look at it this way:
Most Linux or FreeBSD users are familiar with a source tree compile with
autotools.  Their systems come with a build chain pre-installed or available
through a very simple package install interface.  When a Linux or BSD user
searches for software on the Internet, finds a home page, and sees a
"Download" link they're very likely to be looking for an option that ends in
a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 so they can pull the source, compile, install and be
on their way.  This is native and natural, and CrossWire offers the latest
and most updated sources available to such users immediately at release.  It
is native and natural for a Windows user to look for a package that ends in
.msi or .exe and download and install that.  This is how software is
expected in Windows.

If you were to point a cowboy to a horse whose saddle was sitting on the
rail next to it, it would likely know how to saddle up and ride, but if you
pointed a suburbanite to a pile of car parts they'd be extremely unlikely
to  know how to assemble their car and drive off.  It's kinda like that (I'm
talking of knowledge and familiarity of the process, not of relative
complexity here).

On another hand, one could also point out that autotools is native to the
SWORD library, is regularly updated when file names, directory structures
and the like change.  Thus, at any given point, a user could just pull the
SVN tree and have a very high probability of things "just working."  The
Windows build files are maintained manually -- nearly every time I try to
build from SVN on Windows (which is every 4-5 months, so not very regularly)
thus far, I have had to edit the file list, or find compiler directives and
defines, etc that need to be tweaked because of the manual system which does
take a "poor cousin" seat all too often.  There are also file system paths
on Windows which had not been tested, then were found to mishandle unicode.
 Last I heard, this was not resolved -- though I understand that it works
fine in Linux.  Add to that the fact that BibleCS is given a highly
pre-eminent position as "The SWORD Project for Windows" right off of the
main site, but it hasn't finished being updated to work with the latest
release of the library and definitely hasn't been released as such yet.

Looking for those perspectives, it certainly does appear to some viewers
that Windows is a "poor cousin" in the scheme of things.  Having wandered
around this thread for several years, it's clear that this is not by design,
malice or ill intent.  It's natural that someone (Troy, Chris) give more
weight, time, effort and testing to the systems they are primarily
developing on (Linux/BSD what have you).  For better or worse, Windows DOES
garner less attention than the library itself, and probably less attention
than Linux -- because there are dedicated teams working on Xiphos, BibleTime
and the rest, while the BibleCS work is done almost exclusively by people
who are also concentrating on the whole library.

> Similarly, there are projects at Crosswire such as "BibleCS" (aka the SWORD
> Project for Windows) which are "Windows-only".  I don't know of any
> Crosswire software projects that are "Linux-only" or "FreeBSD-only".
> How does Crosswire going out of its way to do extra things for Windows
> users make such users in any sense "poor cousins" in this context?

It's more the fact that CrossWire clearly goes all the way for its Linux
users, but the efforts on Windows do seem to lag behind, since Linux is the
primary development platform for so many of the programmers here on these

> While there is currently an established and somewhat successful small team
> (independent of, but created at the request of, Crosswire) doing official
> Debian and Ubuntu Linux packaging, there does not seem to be a similar team
> doing Windows packaging of SWORD and its applications.  But I don't see how
> that lack of a packaging team is really the fault of the Crosswire
> programmers!
> Highly unofficially, Matthew Talbert and I have recently discussed and
> begun some work on creating a way to set up a (free) Windows development
> environment with which to compile and install SWORD (and hopefully later
> also SWORD applications such as Xiphos and BibleTime).  That work is in its
> very early days, and right now what is published is basically a proof of
> concept that quickly gets you a working C/C++ development environment, but
> does not (yet?) download/ configure/ compile/ install SWORD or the libraries
> that SWORD depends upon.
> See http://crosswire.org/~jmarsden/setup-mingw.html for the current public
> state of that project.  It is not currently of any use to non-programmers,
> and is not really intended for use by non-programmers even when (if!) it is
> completed -- non-programmers and C++ compilers don't mix, and should not
> *have* to mix :)
> Lastly: Virtualization cuts both ways!  Just as Linux users can run Windows
> in a virtual machine within the comfort and convenience of Linux, Windows
> users can run Linux in a virtual machine within Windows.  VirtualBox OSE
> (for example) is free software that can allow this; so other than the cost
> of licencing the Windows OS itself, there is no economic cost to this kind
> of "just do both" approach -- other than the availability of a reasonably
> modern PC, and your time to understand it and set it up.  This is not a
> "programmers only" concept, any confident Windows user with a modern PC
> could make use of it.

This could just be my experience, but I can count on a single hand the
number of PC power users I know who are comfortable with virtualization
without being programmers.  And of those people, every one of them falls
into the category of an IT professional with the exception of one (and that
one hasn't used Windows at home since he discovered The GiMP about 6 years
ago).  If we're going to offer applications and utilities for an operating
system, it makes sense to offer them in the format most comfortable and
native to its users.  Saying to them, "Oh, just get virtualization software
and run Linux" or "Go learn how to use a compiler and figure out how
autotools will work on Windows, then build it yourself" does not increase
our likelihood of acceptance with a market of people for whom that is
neither the norm, nor a comfortable stretch.

I know that this is largely just a perception issue.  Those people working
on the Windows side of things are working diligently, and updating front
ends to use the av11n in 1.6.0 is no small task.  I've never perceived
Windows as a second-rate citizen around here, nor have I heard any of the
developers express that opinion in earnest.  What I have seen is Troy
splitting his efforts to work largely on the library and updating BibleCS
when a new release is out.  But to the casual user strolling through the
website who sees version 1.6.0 available for Linux but only 1.5.11 available
for Windows, it's easy to see how they might be confused.


> Jonathan
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