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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free

On Wed, Jun 07, 2000 at 08:30:13PM +1000, Robert Graham Merkel wrote:
> Disclaimer: I'm not a developer yet, but I'm in the new-maintainer
> queue.  I have used Debian since version 1.3.

Glad to see fresh people -- welcome aboard.

> I could pose a point-by-point rebuttal to the rationale behind 
> this resolution, but it seems to me that the assumption is 
> that making it difficult for people to use non-free software on 
> Debian will encourage people to use exclusively free software, 
> which will benefit the Free Software community.

I think you misunderstand the point of the GR.  The point is *not* to make
non-free software difficult to use.  The point is to redirect some of
Debian's official development resources away from the upkeep of non-free
packages.  Note all the qualifiers, especially "official".  Debian
developers will still be free to maintain non-free .deb packages.  Non-free
.deb packages will continue to exist.  They just wouldn't be hosted on
official Debian mirrors.  A parallel mirror network could be set up, and
the mirrors that currently opt-in to non-free could opt-in to that.  We
might need to implement the long-discussed "Origin:" or similar field in
dpkg.  A separate BTS would need to be set up for the non-free packages.
The automatic bug reporting tools might need to be made aware of these
alternative bug systems.

*All* of these changes are in fact innovations that don't have anything to
do with non-free software.  Rather, they acknowledge the success of the
Debian package format.  Look at Corel and Stormix.  We don't get their bug
reports -- where do they go?  We don't ship Corel and Stormix .debs...where
do they come from?  Obviously these are problems that have already been
solved.  We can put support for alternative sources and support networks
for .deb packages in our official tools.  Yes, it will require a little bit
of effort.

The General Resolution is not a ban on making .deb packages of non-free
software.  Such a ban could not be enforced.  The license on dpkg does not
tell you what you can and cannot package with it.

> Instead, the likely impact of this resolution is that users
> who currently need to or choose to use non-free software will use
> another distribution.  You may view this as no loss.  I disagree.

If the transition is handled well, and if there are people willing to do
the work -- if there are as many people willing to work for the continued
support of non-free .deb packages as there are to argue about this General
Resolution, then the impact on our users need not be very large at all.

> If you wish to convince people to use free software, I would venture
> that it is easier to do so once they are using Debian, rather than
> virtually force them to make the leap before they install.

Debian has always consisted only of free software.  Non-free .deb packages
have existed for a very long time, and will likely continue to exist for a
good while longer.  This General Resolution does not attempt to change
these facts at all.  A lot of people seem to be confusing .deb packages
with the Debian Project's official endorsement.  In light of the existence
other Debian-based Linux products (I can think of 3 off the top of my
head), it is irresponsible to permit this confusion to continue to exist.
If the passage of this GR helps to achieve that end, then that is good.
The present problem appears to be one of education, as many people --
especially non-developers -- expressing disagreement with the GR don't even
seem to understand what it means.

G. Branden Robinson            |
Debian GNU/Linux               |    The noble soul has reverence for itself.
branden@ecn.purdue.edu         |    -- Friedrich Nietzsche
roger.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |

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