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Re: Steam for Linux? No thanks.

Dear Vincent,

On Sat, 16 Feb 2013 15:44:00 Vincent Cheng wrote:
> All right, let me play devil's advocate here...

I hope you're doing this not just because it entertains you.... ;)

> > 
> > Flash is bad enough indeed but there is a big difference: Steam was
> > created for the only purpose -- enforcing DRM. Flash may or may not be
> > used for evil while Steam was designed for evil.
> I disagree strongly with this statement here. Steam was not created
> for the sake of enforcing DRM; Steam is merely a distribution channel
> to make it easier for game devs to market their games to a wider
> audience, and DRM facilitates that (in a twisted way).

What makes you think that development of sophisticated and redundant 
distribution system for game binaries was justified by anything else but 
facilitation of DRM and centralised control over distribution?

Can you support your statement with facts? I don't see how your argument is 
better than mine -- you've just said "no it's not".

> Devs are not
> forced to bundle DRM with their games when distributing them, and

How about publisher? If Steam is the only way to distribute the game it could 
be better not distributed it at all, like any other proprietary source-less 

> there are a number of (single-player) games available where you only
> need Steam to fetch the game, but run it standalone afterwards; in
> essence, becoming a package manager.

I'd like to fetch the game in source form with license allowing me to backup 
and re-distribute it. When Steam dies what will happen with all the games that 
people won't be able to install any more? There are more problems like 
connectivity, access control etc...

> Also, I hate it when people decree that some piece of software is
> "evil". "Evil" is in the eye of the beholder and is entirely
> subjective.

I'm sorry that my choice of words makes you feel "hate". I'm expressing my 
position to the extent of my eloquence or shall I say to the lack of it.

Subjectivity is a basis of human understanding. I think I understand the issue 
well enough to express my strong opinion about it.

There is no such thing as objective thinking. Great thinkers are flexible to 
change their bias in response to arguments or evidence.

> I'm not saying that I *like* DRM, but if you want to make
> a convincing argument against Steam, I would recommend relying on
> facts to support your argument, e.g. the arguments that Cesare brought
> up (licensing and U.S. export laws), which may actually be blockers to
> getting Steam in Debian.

You've missed the whole point of my argument. I was trying to say that there 
is no good of having Steam in non-free but only harm. I think that by 
packaging Steam and making it easily available to our users we're supporting 
the practice of distributing source-less proprietary content that's better not 
distributed at all. I'm saying that we should oppose DRM-like distribution as 
unnecessary and harmful. It is not the lack of factual arguments but an 
ethical issue.

> > Besides Flash is not for *installing* applications. Using Flash for
> > accessing multimedia content is certainly not nearly as bad as
> > gigantic-Steam-backdoor.
> It can be argued that both Flash and Steam are just distribution
> platforms. Although Flash is much more effective at distributing
> security holes than multimedia content, IMHO.

Thank you saying something against Flash and Steam. :)

That's right Flash have many issues but Steam has even greater potential for 
harm as it is meant to store data and untrusted executables.

> >> > Besides through Steam they are distributing proprietary content that
> >> > is most likely is not suitable for non-free as well.
> >> 
> >> This content does not come with a package, it will be downloaded by
> >> user.
> > 
> > We do not want to help our users to download such content.
> While I'm not inclined to actively promote something like Steam, I
> think this is a bit too broad of a statement. In this particular case
> I'm inclined to take a more pragmatic stance and suggest that
> providing Steam in non-free is better than having Debian users trying
> to install the .deb packages that upstream provides (intended for
> Ubuntu), and then breaking their system when trying to install
> Ubuntu's eglibc.

I'm convinced that we shall not be scared into packaging by the idea that 
someone might ruin their system by install non-native package.
There should be better argument for packaging than this.

Debian as project will benefit if maintainers will refrain from packaging 
something not useful (to say the least) or even potentially harmful to our 

If one wants to package something unethical, there should be a strong case for 
it. Steam in its current form will probably never have convincing 
justification for packaging -- after all it is just an entertainment thing and 
people can certainly live without it.

> >> 
> >> Should I remind you about point 5 in Debian Social Contract?
> > 
> > Please don't use Social Contract against me.
> > Have you ever thought what it was written for?
> Uhmm, what? The Social Contract specifically acknowledges that there
> exists "Works that do not meet our free software standards", and that
> Debian provides the convenience of contrib and non-free for users who
> understand the implications of using non-free software, but still
> choose to do so. Why is Steam being singled out and made exempt from
> this?

I'm sure you understand that there are things that *can* go to non-free but 
don't belong there. This is not about exceptions. There is a mail list about 
non-free and FSF collaboration [1] where the idea that we already have too 
many unneeded packages in non-free was expressed many times.

[1]: http://lists.alioth.debian.org/mailman/listinfo/fsf-collab-discuss

Besides that we don't have to have Steam in non-free and that we don't have a 
strong case for its packaging there are far-reaching consequences coming from 
such distribution systems that are far beyond anything that we ever had in 

My point is that we should be careful.

> > Besides by packaging Steam you're supporting the very thing we should be
> > fighting against.
> I dislike DRM, but I acknowledge that it's not going away anytime soon
> and I see reason in picking a lesser evil, i.e. enticing users to move
> away from entirely closed-source platforms and operating systems to a
> partially open one (i.e. where the platform is open, but some
> applications are not). I suppose that's the pragmatist in me speaking
> again.

We should avoid temptation to promote free platform with non-free.
The agenda to use non-free to promote anything is no different from using non-
free for profit "just because you can".

Let's say we're against violence, so we won't use violence unless we 
absolutely have to. But what if violence can help us to pragmatically 
"convince" more people to our side? While it can be true it is also true that 
by resorting to violence we loose the very ground we stand for.

If you dislike DRM but instead of opposing it you help it to spread, it's not 
pragmatism. It's hypocrisy...

> >> > We should be fighting against DRM whenever we can. I encourage you to
> >> > read more about DRM and consider joining FSF campaingn against DRM.
> >> > 
> >> > See also
> >> > 
> >> >         https://www.fsf.org/campaigns/drm.html
> >> >         https://www.eff.org/issues/drm
> >> >         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management
> >> 
> >> Thanks, I am aware of this problem. Have you also read an article [1]?
> >> 
> >> [1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/nonfree-games.html
> > 
> > Packaging some non-free games that are "not-for-sale" is on my TODO list.
> > But non-free has its limits and Steam should not be part of it.
> What limits does non-free have? Why, as you say again, should Steam be
> exempt from it? Factual, convincing arguments instead of mere rhetoric
> here, please.

How can I support with facts the idea that packaging Steam is worse than just 
ignoring it? In a way my arguments are rhetoric and there is nothing wrong it.

How about you read fsf-collab-discuss and find many inspiring arguments to 
avoid malicious software in general?

Is common sense is not "factual" or "convincing" enough for you?

> > 
> > Less concerned people may stick to Ubuntu or other distros with
> > little/less respect for ethics.
> Errr, no. Ubuntu also has a clear separation in their repositories
> amongst free vs non-free software (main + universe vs. restricted +
> multiverse), and AFAIK they do abide by the DFSG, with the exception
> that they consider GFDL to be "free enough". Granted, there are some
> corner cases where there are disagreements between Ubuntu and our
> ftpmasters (first thing that comes to mind is the Ubuntu font family).

Do you feel that Ubuntu have to be protected from accusations?
Historically they demonstrated certain lack of commitment -- this is just one 
of the recent examples:


And here is more:


I could easily quote even more but perhaps that's already becoming an off-

> I hope I'm not reading too much into this statement (sorry if I am),
> but this has a distinct "holier than thou" feel.
> And that concludes my rant for today...

That was a great rant, thank you. :)

 Dmitry Smirnov
 GPG key : 4096R/53968D1B

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