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Re: Clarifications

On Wed, Jun 07, 2000 at 07:08:06PM -0500, John Goerzen wrote:
> 1. Debian GNU/Linux does not inlucde non-free and never has.  My
> proposed General Resolution will have no effect on the distribution.
> This bears repeating.  This GR will have NO EFFECT on the distribution.

Which is a cute item of wordplay that comes about everytime this issue
is raised.

Yes, Debian's distribution is "main" and only that. No non-free software
is part of that distribution (in spite of some Suggest-ions).

What Debian *does* do is support non-free software and provide
infrastructure for it. And that is exactly what this proposal intends to

It's this support for non-free software people want to continue, because
they (we, I) think that it's valuable, in major part because it makes the
free part of our distribution more useful, and in lesser part because,
at least IMHO, it gives us more leverage to improve free software.

You've already seen a number of users (not developers) get angsty enough
on this issue to comment, and even promise to change distributions if
non-free is removed: that seems to me like good evidence that a number of
people agree that non-free software is a useful addition. You've seen a
number of the proposal's seconds argue that non-free software will still
be accessible for people to use it: that also seems evidence that people
recognise the utility of non-free software.

Personally, I think Debian's about making the most useful distribution
out there. As we're all supporters of free software, we're confident
that in the long term, free software will be much more maintainable and
useful and popular (since it can be modified and sold, respectively).

I'm getting offtrack for the point I want to make though.

The social contract says "We have created the "contrib" and "non-free"
areas in our FTP archive for [non-free and related] software". What it
doesn't say, but what we've managed to do, is give non-free and contrib
software pride of placing next to main. This makes it hard to see the
distinction we're drawing (we distribute non-free software but it's
not our *distribution*, well except non-free is a distribution, but
it's not the *distribution* if you know what I mean...). We then go and
worry about it's release-critical bugs, and issue security announcements
about software there and... and, well, the distinction seems to get lost
a little.

Considering non-free and contrib as simple add-ons to the distribution
might bear some fruit. We already have other add-ons to the distribution,
namely project/experimental and project/orphaned. There are a couple of
external add-ons to Debian too: Helix's GNOME debs, and the IPv6-ized
debs at ftp.ipv6.nl come to mind.

So one possibility would be something like:

			slink/ main/
			potato/ main/
			woody/ main/

This has the nice feature that while we still support and provide
infrastructure for non-free and contrib, we would no longer be treating
it even remotely similar to our released distribution. ie, while we will
still be supporting our users, we will be clearly putting the interests
of the free software community first. It will also make it easier for
contrib/ and non-free/ to be ignored: they don't have to be addressed
any more than experimental/ is right now.

One problem with this layout is that contrib and non-free software would
tend to depend on packages in unstable, which can be inconvenient for our
users (and is why we put contrib and non-free next to main during hamm's
update to libc6). So an alternative, might be:


This would reduce contrib and non-free to just being an extra add-on CD
to the main Debian distribution, and bundle it with a lot of other buggy
software of questionable value. That doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.

It also gives us an excuse to have little kindof-experimental areas that
we don't have to feel committed to supporting forever. This is helpful
for things like IPv6 updates, or for the unofficial Gnome staging area
back in the slink days. It would have the potential to make existing
extra Apt sources that much more useful and maintainable due to our
existing infrastructure (dinstall, GPG signature checks, the BTS, the
mirror network), and make Debian that much more convenient and useful.

I'll happily admit that I'm confusing a couple of issues here:
changing the namespace for contrib and non-free won't automatically make
add-ons/ipv6 possible or easy to maintain, and removing non-free won't
make add-ons/ipv6 impossible either.

Let me put this yet another way: I'm in complete support of reducing
non-free and contrib to second-citizen status, and making it equal with
all the other semi-useful apt sources out there, but only if all the
other apt sources are raised to a similar level of utility as contrib
and non-free at the moment.

> 11. My proposal does not ban the use of BTS, mailinglists, or other
> Debian infrastructure -- short of actually distributing the software
> -- from being used for the continued maintenance of non-free software.

Huh? That's insane. Both from a political point of view (``we provide
infrastructure'') and from a techincal one: the BTS is dependent on the
archive to know which packages are maintained by whom. It's useless for
packages we don't distribute.


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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