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Re: Bruce's rhetoric

On Fri, 14 Nov 1997, joost witteveen wrote:

> > Bruce is personally a fairly extreme proponent of free software, by the
> > GPL's definition of free. 
> Well, you are *very* wrong here. I'm positive that, with respect to
> his attitude to free software, Bruce's opinion is very close to the
> "center of mass" of all debian maintainers.

You misunderstand me.  I mean that Bruce appears to believe in the
principles of the GPL with a great deal of conviction, much more so than
the (as far as we know) vast majority of software developers working in the
computer industry.

I mean that, as far as I can tell, Bruce believes in the GPL not just as a
software license but as a software development philosophy, and that he is a
strong advocate of its use.

Some people characterize that as "extreme" or "extremist".  Fine.  I'd like
to see more of it, "extreme" labels be damned.

> There are some (3, maybe 4) very vocal maintainers that want debian
> to move away from our "free-software-only" position. But that's only
> a very, very small minority.

And I'm not part of it.

> There are also several (well, I know of 2, but we aren't as vocal) 
> maintainers that would have liked debian to be *more* free (i.e., 
> put more restrictions on the allowed licences). For example, the Debian
> Free Sofware Guidelines currently allow packages that don't allow
> modified source to be distributed (as long as we can distribute patches).
> There has never been a vote about that, but I suspect several maintainers
> disagree with Debian's (and Bruce's) stance in this respect.

I think it's underhanded to impose that kind of restriction on
redistribution, but since it can be worked around *almost* transparently, I
figure it's a battle that doesn't presently need to be fought.

> Also, you should be aware that Bruce is actually quite far away from
> the GPL's definition of free: The DSFG (approved on by all maintainers,
> but I think Bruce agrees with every point in there) allows much more
> than GPL (one exception). 

I don't gather that Bruce's opinions and the DFSG are identical.  As you
say, the GPL is a more restrictive subset of the DFSG.  One thing I *tried*
to get across in that long post is that Bruce's personal opinions need not
be those of the project as a whole.  At the same time we don't Bruce to
suppress his own convictions, which I think are in the right place.

> Please stop calling Bruce "extremist": You would run out of names to
> describe me, RMS, etc very quickly.

I put scare quotes around the term in the original post to dissociate
myself from its use, and implicity to disagree with said usage.

> Ian wants to the DSFG to move close to GPL too. So, he's more of an
> "extremist" than Bruce. How do you call Ian?

I didn't originate the use of those labels and I used them only to ridicule
them.  Sorry if that point was lost on you.  If we move closer to the GPL
that's fine with me.

> > I don't think Debian should be split into factions over this.
> This is a rediculous suggestion! Both Bruce and Ian have already
> said they very much value each other, and both think the other will
> be very well able to guide the project (it's just that they think
> they can do an even better job themselves).

I don't think, and I wasn't implying that Bruce and Ian were going to have
a schism.  The developers at large, well, that's more uncertain...though if
the minority is as small as you say, then it's not a worry.  I guess I just
overreact to every flamewar and fear a sudden mass defection of developers
which will beach us for a while.  The best thing for me to do, I know, is
become a real developer.

> You've been waching too much US Politics sleeze!
> (Well, actually, I *would* like to know how Ian sleeps with -- could
> we get a few nice Debian scandals please?)

Politics works pretty much the same way everywhere.  It's a disgusting
process that exposes all the worst parts of human nature.  Fortunately
Bruce and Ian seem to be above all that, and their differences aren't even
fundamentally ideological, they're more administrative/managerial.

> > That said, I think it's important to remember that we're not competitors of
> > Red Hat's in the strictest sense. 
> Or in any other sence for that matter.

Well, they're both Linux distributions, and when novices make up their
minds about which distribution to use, they appear to be similar solutions
to the same problem.  I started off with Slackware, but after reading about
Debian's philosophy (January 1996), switched over in less than a month.
And I've never looked back.  My geek friends know me as a staunch supporter
of Debian, largely because of its principles -- open development, free
software, etc., and I promote it whenever I get the chance, such as
teaching "Installing Linux" short courses at my University.  When I demo an
install in real time, I use Debian.

I think you're too sensitive to contrary opinions, and quite incorrectly
lumped me in with those opposing the DFSG, social contract, GPL, or what
have you.  My message was in part intended as a declaration of support for
Bruce (and Ian) and the existing course of the Debian Project.  I apologize
if that was unclear.

G. Branden Robinson                 |  Kissing girls is a goodness.  It is a
Purdue University                   |  growing closer.  It beats the hell out
branden@purdue.edu                  |  of card games.
http://www.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |  -- Robert Heinlein

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