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Re: What about a non-free compiler? (Re: new port: debian-win32. when ?)

Eray Ozkural <erayo@cs.bilkent.edu.tr> wrote:
>Imagine that someone purchases a compiler that generates
>executables much better optimized using IPA and all other
>tricks that an expensive non-free compiler would pull. Now,
>the compiler is non-free, not even distributable, but
>assume that the packages are compilable under a free compiler
>say gcc/g++ beside the non-free compiler. Would it be okay
>to distribute package binaries generated with the non-free compiler?
>My guess is that it would be okay, even better. What
>do you think? If there is a compiler that does a better
>job than gcc, I'd like to try binaries done with that.
>It may sound a bit contradictory with Debian's status
>at first, for instance Debian doesn't use a commercial
>search engine at the home page. But assume that the non-free
>alternative is so much better, and a free alternative won't
>be here for a long time, and the non-free component
>doesn't have to be included in the distribution. Nor does
>any build operation depend on it. Then what?

We shouldn't be distributing package binaries with Debian that are
compiled with some commercial tool not available to others. If both I
and the package distributor have current versions of the relevant
development packages, I must be able to compile the sources myself and
arrive at exactly the same result. Anything else makes it difficult,
sometimes impossible, to adequately test fixes that I may want to
contribute back to the package, and I think this is unacceptable.

For instance, what if your expensive non-free, non-distributable
compiler had a bug? It's not uncommon: I have an outstanding bug against
gcc right now for compiling one of my unofficial packages wrongly. If
you leave your users in a position where they find it difficult to tell
whether their binary is crashing because of a bug in the source or a bug
in the compiler, or where they can't test for themselves if a patch
they've written and painstakingly tested under the freely distributed
development tools is going to break when you compile it, then ultimately
you're only decreasing the quality of the distribution.

Of course, nobody's stopping you trying out non-free, non-distributable
compilers for yourself, but let's not start using them to build
distributed Debian packages.

Colin Watson                                           [cjw44@cam.ac.uk]

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