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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free

[Disclaimer: I'm still in the new-maintainer queue.]

John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org> wrote:
>Manoj Srivastava <srivasta@debian.org> writes:
>>  	Interesting. But whether it is the ``point'' or not, it would
>>  make non-free software more inaccessible, and harder for users t get;
>>  it won't have pointers on the Debian web pages, it shall not be
>>  available to satisfy dependencies in DFSG packages, and, most critical of
>DFSG packages already cannot depend on non-free osftware or they can't
>go in main.


>>  	You assume that the value added by Debian is worthless; but it
>>  is not so. Removing non-free would indeed make the software that
>>  currently resides in Debian harder to get, and worse maintained. 
>Add a line to sources.list.

OK, this seems to be the most common suggestion. So if everyone does
this - in fact, if it becomes practically standard to advise Debian
users to do this when they ask for non-free software, as they will do as
things stand now, with great frequency - where is the difference? If
this non-free archive is associated, in people's minds, with Debian, as
it would be if people were being told that all the non-free stuff they
used to use from Debian was now there, then where is the difference?

It won't change people's perceptions for the better: those who use
non-free stuff will still have this archive of packaged non-free
software (as you and others keep repeating), so they won't be encouraged
towards free software any more than if the default sources.list and that
in /usr/share/doc/apt/examples just pointed to main. (Newbies won't know
to put non-free in there any more than they'll know to put some other
line in there.) Those who use and develop free software but are turned
off by the politics of free software will be turned off us even more,
despite our technical merits. And, if those developers packaging
non-free software go off and do it on a separate system, you send out a
strong and (knowing people like Slashdot) well-publicized message of a
split project - split between "must be entirely free" and "support
non-free while people still need it" - which, if I'm reading your stance
correctly, is exactly the kind of split signal you want to avoid!

This proposal will filter away vast amounts of extra resources from
where they should be going, and I don't see how it will improve the
perception of Debian in the way you want, nor how it will help free
software. In the future, I think it will be appropriate, when we've won
enough battles that the majority of Debian users don't feel the *need*
to install non-free software. I believe, and sincerely hope, that this
will happen; things are so much better now for free software users than
they were not that far in the past. But please, let us not cause
needless inconvenience for the many, many Debian users who still need
and use the software we distribute from non-free, and for the developers
who feel the need to give of their time to support those users, in order
to put across a political message about our commitment to free software
that is already known to those who care and will only alienate those who

>My proposal did not say that the BTS or our lists could not be used
>for non-free software maintenance.

Thank you for clarifying this; I'd got the opposite impression from
reading this discussion. Is it then safe to assume that the status quo
here will be preserved under this proposal? For how long?

And, if it *is* to be preserved, then is your proposal self-consistent?

Colin Watson                                     [cjw44@flatline.org.uk]

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