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RE: Obscuring code? -- should the Perl system require code to be distributed as source?

Tolkin, Steve
July 26, 2000 10:42
RE: Obscuring code? -- should the Perl system require code to be distributed as source?
Message ID:
I think this "meta-topic" is perhaps the most important one 
addressed on this bootstrap list: 
Should the Perl system require code to be distributed as source?
Here I am referring to programs written in the Perl language, tobe executed
by the Perl system.

Tom's opinion, captured below, is pretty strong.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tom Christiansen []
> Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 7:06 PM
> And just to add to the allusion, I'd rather a Kiddie::Porn module
> be added to the core than this Evil.

But the situation is not so clear to me.
Distributing object code has several advantages, and is widely
practiced, by almost all programming languages.

I think at least some discussion is in order.

The advantages of object code include:
1. Helps protects the "intellectual property" of the creator.  (Maybe not
perfectly, due to the possibility of reverse engineering, to generally to a
high enough degree in practice.)
2. May improve performance, e.g. reduced load time, reduced network
transmission time, and reduced disk space consumption.  There are some
corollary advantages e.g. it is quicker to detect when one program is an
exact copy of another.

I believe that these issues can be subtle.  For background reading I
recommend the book Code by Lawrence Lessig.   He discusses the 4 kinds of
1. architecture (e.g. the presence of a "shrouding" routine in the Perl core
and/or a module, or its absence, or CPAN requiring all modules to be source
code, etc.) 
2. law (perhaps the government will pass an anti-virus law requiring
programs to be distributed as source)
3. norms (Larry et al. encourage the Perl community to never shroud their
4. the market (can developers make more money, or less, or none, for
programs distributed as source vs. as object code)

The Perl community can adopt the norm of source to such a high extent that
no one ever considers shrouding their code (except for the obfuscated
contest).  But that is a decision that should only be made after some
consideration of the issue.

Hopefully helpfully yours,
Steven Tolkin      617-563-0516 
Fidelity Investments   82 Devonshire St. R24D    Boston MA 02109
There is nothing so practical as a good theory.  Comments are by me, 
not Fidelity Investments, its subsidiaries or affiliates. Perl Programming lists via nntp and http.
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