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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free

On Wed, Jun 07, 2000 at 10:31:41AM -0400, Branden Robinson wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 07, 2000 at 10:58:53PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > > I support my analogy by asserting that Debian is not a general store.  We
> > > don't sell everything.  In fact, we can't.
> > We're not? We don't?
> Uh, I'm sure nobody will have any trouble thinking of some fairly prominent
> pieces of software in the world that Debian does not -- and cannot legally
> -- distribute.

Maybe general stores in America are different, but I've never had any
trouble thinking of prominent products that stores over here don't
> > Sure, we don't stock some speciality items that we just can't get,
> I "can get" quite a few pieces of software that I could technically package
> for Debian (albeit crudely), and yet which would land me in court if
> attempted to distribute normally as a package.

A general store could do the same via the blackmarket, or spending more
money than it can afford too. Generally you'll find they don't.

> > Obviously, I'm not so convinced. Debian specifically says that some
> > people have to eat unhealthy foods, and they should go right ahead and
> > do it. They should try making their diet in general healthy, but if you
> > really really have to have pork and grits every now and then, we won't
> > chastise you for it. I don't think a health food store would do any of
> > that, at least not up-front.
> Nothing in the GR says that Debian will chastise its users for using
> non-free software. 

Maybe I don't go to enough health food shops, but I'd be surprised if
they didn't chastise you for eating very fatty or sugary delicacies. That
Debian does exactly the opposite (by recognising your need for non-free
software, and at least currently, supporting you in any way we can)
seems to indicate that the health food analogy isn't actually all that

> Most of the rest of your digression on the food analogy seems solely to be
> sarcasm, so I'll skip it.

Actually, there wasn't an ounce of sarcasm in that section.

> > > Interestingly, [for point 5], all word of future commitments vanishes, and
> > > we are left with descriptions of the status quo.  Whether these constitute
> > > promises is left as an excercise for the reader [...]
> > Arguing that they're not written as promises when they're specifically
> > part of our `social contract' seems pretty weasely to me.
> A brave assertion.


Hmmm. Nope. I'm pretty sure that's how it seems to me. Yup. I definitely
think it's pretty weasely. Why, if I keep going at this rate, I might
one day even know my own mind.

>   5. We Will Support Programs That Don't Meet Our Free-Software Standards
> So?  Why doesn't it read like that?

I don't know. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was to indicate that it
was a consequence of the above mentions.

If it's so unequal to the rest of the document, why did it get included
at all?

> > > 9) We will place [the interests of our users and the free-software
> > > community] first in our priorities.
> > 13.5) We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of programs
> >       that don't conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
> > One of John's rationale points was, I think, intended to imply this
> > isn't correct any longer: they don't need netscape, or acrobat, or
> > anything anymore. Perhaps it isn't. I don't agree, and I suspect most
> > people here don't either, by the mere fact that most of us probably
> > still use non-free software.
> The rationales are not submitted for seconds, or a vote, or for any kind of
> ratification.  How about sticking to the proposed GR?

That's right. Don't think about the issues. You can discuss the wording,
and any spelling mistakes, but if there aren't any spelling mistakes, the
proposal must be accepted! Muahahahaha.

Why *shouldn't* I discuss the rationale?

If the rationale isn't rational, why even consider the proposal?

> > It is, however, in the language of a promise, as Branden said above.
> As a matter of fact, I didn't say that.  I said:

You said that the future tense was the usual language for a promise to
be written in.

> > and indeed, that's the step the social contract takes. If one of those
> > assumptions changes (in particular, if our users decide they don't care
> > about non-free software at all), then sure, it's appropriate to change
> > the conclusion too.
> So the social contract should not be immutable... well, that distinguishes
> your position from some of the opponents of the proposed GR.
> You cite the wishes of our users as one criterion for change.  Are there
> any others?

Before we should change the Social Contract, we must [0] ensure that
it isn't to the detriment of either our users, or the free software

Personally, I'm willing to take on faith that the free software
community's opinion to be at least moderately favourable in this instance.

> > But even though we didn't ignore that line, did we reduce the utility of
> > Debian? No, we drew the line, and *kept* Debian's usefulness.
> How foolish of me to not notice that Debian's usefulness will be utterly
> destroyed by passage of this GR.

Huh? Add an "at the same level" if you insist.

> > So what, then, is this precedent?
> The very fact that we didn't write section 5 as I first hypothesized above.

That's a complete non-sequitur. Changing the tense of some words on some
page on a web site alone doesn't affect the utility of Debian supported
software in the slightest.

Does it? If so, how?

If not, where is this precedent that Debian has, in the past, sacrificed
the utility of the distribution (inclusive of the add-on packages in
contrib and non-free)?

> Most people seem to recognize the existing section 5 as a balance between
> competing interests.  Will the time ever come to review that balance?  Has
> nothing changed in the past 4-5 years?

This is the second June in a row we've reviewed it. See


I've no doubt we'll review it again in the future, world without end.

> > > > and thus would marginalize us into a non entity.
> > > This does not follow.  Giving up some of a substance, like "market share"
> > > is not the same thing as giving up all of it.  Furthermore, I do not think
> > > you can even prove this assertion except retrospectively.  We do not
> > > collect statistics on our users, so it is difficult to make quantitative
> > > stataments about the demography of Debian users in general, let alone
> > > perform longitudnal analysis.
> > But we do collect statistics on our users: 
> > 	http://www.debian.org/~apenwarr/popcon/
> Are these statistics strong enough to be used for making policy decisions
> of any sort? 

No. Are they better than just listening to Joe Raving Lunatic's best
guesses? I think so.

> The population base is self-selected.  Furthermore, the figures you present
> are at best a fraction of Debian *developers* let alone Debian users.  

Indeed, it's self selected towards those people most involved in Debian,
one would suspect. One would further suspect that those people are
generally more inclined to use free software wherever possible. That is,
one would suspect that the samples would be biassed towards less use of
non-free software rather than more.

The sample was 728 machines. There are around 560 home directories
on master.

> How much faith are you willing to put in these numbers?  

I'm willing to put more faith in some numbers whose source I know and
understand than in your vague and gratuitous rhetoric, I'm pretty sure.

> > I am fundamentally opposed to dropping software --- even non-free
> > software --- to satisfy a political whim, when that software is useful,
> > has been packaged to work within Debian and is legally redistributable.
> To characterize it as a "whim" is a belittling attack.  Replace "whim" with
> "principle".  Would you then say the same thing?

Aha! It's a trick question! No I wouldn't be saying the same thing because
then I'd be saying "I am fundamentally opposed to dropping software to
satisfy a political *principle*, when that software is useful, has been
packaged to work within Debian and is legally redistributable." Which
would be different!

You can happily delete the "to satisfy a political whim" if you like,
and just leave "for any reason" implicit. Actually, that's not entirely
true: I'm not fundamentally opposed to removing a package for technical
reasons (100MB arch-specific debs, for example, perhaps).

> > And for what? To change our stance from "we recognise non-free software
> > exists, that it's sometimes necessary, and we'll help" to "we don't want
> > to hear about it, go somewhere else"?
> Of course, how silly of me to overlook the words "we don't want to hear
> about it, go somewhere else" in John's proposal.

Ah, my bad, so our response when people ask is just complete stony

> > To save a a measely gigabyte or two of disk space when the distribution
> > increases by twice that each year?
> Ask Jason, he's the one who had to shut down the mirror on samosa because
> the disk was out of room.

So we get to put off having to purchase extra disk space for six months.
This buys us what, exactly?

I await with curiousity your response to what exactly will happen with
contrib/, by the way.


[0] must in the sense that it'd be dishonourable not too, not in the
    sense that we're constitutionally or legally required to.

Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG encrypted mail preferred.

  ``We reject: kings, presidents, and voting.
                 We believe in: rough consensus and working code.''
                                      -- Dave Clark

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