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    I need to take a moment to appreciate the opening paragraph:

    All long-lived programs are either implemented in dynamic languages, or eventually Greenspun themselves into subverting static programming languages to create a dynamic system (e.g., Unix process trees). The latter approach isn’t a bad idea, but it’s easy to introduce more flexibility than intended (e.g., data-driven JNDI lookups) when we add late binding features piecemeal, without a holistic view of how all the interacting components engender a weird program modification language.

    Between verb-ing Greenspun and referring to the log4j vulnerability as “more flexibility than intended” that paragraph does a lot. So here’s a hat-tip, good author.

    And since I’m going all meta here… that compiler explorer widget they use for source and disassembly is fantastic. I’m saving a link to that for future use.

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      Really great approach! The whole post showcases quite pragmatic approach to the problem they had and how they optimized it for. My favorite sentence is at the end:

      The library works for our target platforms, and we don’t wish to take on extra complexity that is of no benefit to us.

      Truly pragmatic approach: it works for us, if you want, fork and modify to oblivion, we give you a starting point. Wish more software is handled like this and doesn’t include all but kitchen sink.

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        More and more people are fortunately adopting the suckless philosophy.

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          Unfortunately, the suckless philosophy leads to software that doesn’t do what software is meant to do - alleviate human work by making the machine do it instead. The suckless philosophy of “simplicity” translates to “simplistic software that doesn’t do what you would need it to do, so either you waste time re-implementing features that other people have already written (or would have written), or you do the task by hand instead”.

          If, when required to choose exactly one of “change the software to reduce user effort” and “make the code prettier”, you consistently choose the latter, you’re probably not a software engineer - you’re an artist, making beautiful code art, for viewing purposes only. You definitely aren’t writing programs for other people to use, whether you think you are or not.

          This philosophy (and the results) are why I switched away from dmenu to rofi - because rofi provided effort-saving features that were valuable to me out-of-the-box, while dmenu did not. (I used dmenu for probably a year - but it only took me a few minutes with rofi to realize its value and switch) rofi is more valuable as a tool, as a effort-saving device, than dmenu is, or ever will be.

          In other words - the suckless philosophy, when followed, actively makes computers less useful as tools (because, among other things, computers are communication and collaboration devices, and the suckless philosophy excludes large collaborative projects that meet the needs of many users). This is fine if your purpose is to make art, or to only fulfill your own needs - just make sure that you clearly state to other potential users that your software is not meant for them to make use of.

          Also note that the most-used (and useful) tools follow exactly the opposite of the suckless philosophy - Firefox, Chromium, Windows, Libreoffice, Emacs, VSCode, Syncthing, qmk, fish, gcc, llvm, rustc/cargo, Blender, Krita, GIMP, Audacity, OBS, VLC, KiCad, JetBrains stuff, and more - not just the ones that are easy to use, but also ones that are hard to use (Emacs, VSCode, Audacity, Blender, JetBrains) but meet everyone’s needs, and are extensible by themselves (as opposed to requiring integration with other simple CLI programs).

          There’s a reason for this - these programs are more useful to more people than anything suckless-like (or built using the Unix philosophy, which shares many of the same weaknesses). So, if you’re writing software exclusively for yourself, suckless is great - but if you’re writing software for other people (either as an open-source project, or as a commercial tool), it sucks.

          To top it off, people writing open-source software using the suckless philosophy aren’t contributing to non-suckless projects that are useful to other people - so the rest of the open-source community loses out, too.

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            It’s fine to disagree with “the suckless philosophy”, but do please try to be nice to people gifting their work as FLOSS.

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              The tone is not dissimilar from the language on the page it is replying to: https://suckless.org/philosophy/

              Many (open source) hackers are proud if they achieve large amounts of code, because they believe the more lines of code they’ve written, the more progress they have made. The more progress they have made, the more skilled they are. This is simply a delusion.

              Most hackers actually don’t care much about code quality. Thus, if they get something working which seems to solve a problem, they stick with it. If this kind of software development is applied to the same source code throughout its entire life-cycle, we’re left with large amounts of code, a totally screwed code structure, and a flawed system design. This is because of a lack of conceptual clarity and integrity in the development process.

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                I wasn’t actually trying to copy the style of that page, but I guess that I kind of did anyway.

                @JoachimSchipper (does this work on Lobsters?) My reply wasn’t meant to be unkind to the developer. I’m frustrated, in the same sense that you might be frustrated with a fellow computer scientist who thought that requiring all functions to have a number of lines of code that was divisible by three would improve performance, an idea which is both obviously wrong, and very harmful if spread.

                …but I wasn’t trying to impart any ill will, malice, or personal attack toward FRIGN, just give my arguments for why the suckless philosophy is counter-productive.

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              Some people insist on understanding how their tool works.

              I have a few friends like that - they are profoundly bothered by functionality they don’t understand and go to lengths to avoid using anything they deem too complex to learn.

              The rest of open source isn’t ‘losing out’ when they work elsewhere - they weren’t going to contribute to a ‘complex’ project anyways, because that’s not what they enjoy doing.

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                Nice rant

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                  You throw advertising for suckless in the room as the true way, link to your website with the tone described here and then complain about responses ? That doesn’t reflect well on the project.

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                    What are you talking about? There is no one single true way, as it heavily depends on what your goals are (as always). If your goals align with the suckless philosophy, it is useful to apply it, however, if your goals differ, feel free to do whatever you want.

                    I don’t feel like replying exhaustively to posts that are ad hominem, which is why I only (justifiably) marked it as a rant. We can discuss suckless.org’s projects in another context, but here it’s only about the suckless philosophy of simplicity and minimalism. I am actually surprised that people even argue for more software complexity, and SLOC as a measure of achievement is problematic. In no way does the suckless philosophy exclude you from submitting to other projects, and it has nothing to do with pretty code. You can do pretty complex things with well-structured and readable code.

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                      While you may find it insulting, I don’t think the comment is ad hominem at all. It’s not saying that the suckless philosophy is defective because of who created/adopts/argues for it. That would be an attack ad hominem. The comment is saying the suckless philosophy is defective because software that adheres to it is less useful than other software, some of which was then listed in the comment.

                      While it’s (obviously) perfectly fine to feel insulted by a comment that says your philosophy produces less-than-useful software, that does not make the comment either a rant or an ad hominem attack.

                      It’s a valid criticism to say that over-simplifying software creates more human work, and a valid observation that software which creates more human work doesn’t do what software is meant to do. And you dismissed that valid criticism with “Nice rant.” If you don’t feel like responding exhaustively, no one can blame you. But I view “nice rant” as a less-than-constructive contribution to the conversation, and it appears that other participants do as well.

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                        My post was neither a rant, nor ad-hominem. You should be a bit more thoughtful before applying those labels to posts.

                        It’s clearly not an ad-hominem because nowhere in my post did I attack your character or background, or use personal insults. My post exclusively addressed issues with the suckless philosophy, which is not a person, and is definitely not you.

                        It’s also (more controversially) probably not a rant, because it relies on some actual empirical evidence (the list of extremely popular programs that do the opposite of the suckless philosophy, and the lack of popularity among programs that adhere to it), is well-structured, is broken up into several points that you can refute or accept, had parts of it re-written several times to be more logical and avoid the appearance of attacks on your person, and takes care to define terminology and context and not just say things like “suckless is bad” - for instance, the sentence “So, if you’re writing software exclusively for yourself, suckless is great - but if you’re writing software for other people (either as an open-source project, or as a commercial tool), it sucks” specifically describes the purpose for which the philosophy is suboptimal.

                        It also had at least three orders of magnitude more effort put into it than your two-word dismissal.

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                      Rather than labeling it a rant, wouldn’t it be more persuasive to address some of the points raised? Can you offer a counterpoint to the points raised in the first or last paragraphs?

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                        It is definitely a rant, as the points adressed are usually based on the question which norms you apply. Is your goal to serve as many people as possible, or is your goal to provide tools that are easy to combine for those willing to learn how to?

                        In an ideal world computer users would, when we consider the time they spend with them, strive to understand the computer as a tool to be learnt. However, it becomes more and more prevalent that people don’t want to and expect to be supported along the way for everything non-trivial. We all know many cases where OSS developers have quit over this, because the time-demand of responding to half-assed PRs and feature-requests is too high.

                        @fouric’s post went a bit ad-hominem regarding “software engineers” vs. “artists”, but I smiled about it as my post probably hit a nerve somewhere. I would never call myself a “software engineer”.

                        Hundreds of thousands of people are using suckless software, knowingly or unknowingly. Calling us “artists” makes it sound like we were an esolang-community. We aren’t. We are hackers striving for simplicity.

                        I could also go into the security tangent, but that should already be obvious.

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                          It is definitely a rant, as the points adressed are usually based on the question which norms you apply.

                          …norms which I addressed - I was very clear to describe what purposes the suckless philosophy is bad at fulfilling. That is - my comment explicitly describes the “norms” it is concerned with, so by your own logic, it is not a rant - and certainly contains more discussion than any of your further replies, who do nothing to refute any of its points.

                          @fouric’s post went a bit ad-hominem regarding “software engineers” vs. “artists”

                          Nor is there any ad-hominem contained in the comment, and certainly nothing around my differentiation between “software engineers” and “artists” - nowhere did I make any personal attack on your “character or motivations”, or “appeal to the emotions rather than to logic or reason”, as a quick online search reveals for the phrase “ad-hominem”.

                          I smiled about it as my post probably hit a nerve somewhere.

                          If you want to refute any of the points I made, you’re welcome to do it. However, if you just want to try to arouse anger and smile when you do so, I’ll ask you to stop responding to my posts, especially with a two-word dismissal that doesn’t address any of my arguments.

                          I would never call myself a “software engineer”

                          …then it should be even more clear that my post was not a personal attack or ad-hominem against you. “You keep using that word…”

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                    How does the suckless philosophy interact with feature flags?

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                      Suckless would say you should only have features you use, and instead of feature flags you have optionally-applied patches

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                  What are the implications for security? A process that makes frequent calls into self-modified code seems like it could have some exciting vulnerabilities.

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                    They call mprotect to mark the code writable, do the writes, then mark them unwritable again. So, mixed bag.

                    There’s a small window of time where an arbitrary write-what-where bug could just write arbitrary machine code directly instead of having do all the complicated stuff with ROP.

                    It may be relatively easy for an attacker to open that window repeatedly by exercising some part of your code that flips a feature flag. (That tracing=1 example seems kinda scary.)

                    This technique will break down if you have anything like SELinux or AppArmor strictly enforcing a W^X policy, so you’ll have to turn that rule off for it to work at all.

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                      Won’t work on iOS either — it prevents apps from marking pages executable at all.

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                    I was about to comment that this sounded reminiscent of the Linux kernel’s tracepoint/static_key mechanism, but then saw that the resemblance is not entirely coincidental.