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Re: My (less-then-important) personal position

On Wed, 14 Jun 2000, Eduard Bloch wrote:
> #include <hallo.h>

:) hallo

> Ben Armstrong wrote on Wed Jun 14, 2000 um 08:41:11PM:
> You got it. There are still many "typical users" that the most
> developers assume.  These people expect to buy a CD set and get all
> software that they need from these disks. They don't want to search on
> Freshmeat, Deja or ML-archives, they just want to set up a system with
> software which is included on the distribion media. And missing
> Netscape, non-free-fonts or other "free-available" apps are an
> KO-argument against Debian by these people.

I don't have any problem with that sort of user.  However, if the
goal is to get a CD set with all this stuff on it, the CD maker
already has to read every single license of every piece of non-free
software.  It's still not Debian -- it cannot be called "official
Debian".  So what's the issue having it stored off-Debian vs. on-Debian?

It seems there's a niche there.  Shouldn't it be filled by someone with a
*clear commitment* to supporting this sort of user instead of the
wishy-washy "infrastructural support" currently written into the Social
Contract?  I think this sort of end-user with these expectations would be
better served by an organization other than Debian, if what they need is
support for non-free software.

Back to the "polarized positions" view of the whole argument, there are
two directions Debian can go with non-free (other than just maintaining
the status quo).

1. embrace non-free (which will offend the "free software
   zealot" camp) or

2. reject non-free (which will alienate the "pragmatic
   non-free supporter" camp).

As long as we just maintain the status quo, forces within Debian will
always be pulling us towards one of these two poles.  I fear that if the
GR does not pass, or is not amended and passed in some more moderate form
acceptable to the majority of developers, we'll constantly be exerting
energy to keep from being dragged out of our current "middle" position
between these poles.  A statement clearly needs to be made about the
non-inclusion of non-free in Debian, because most people still don't "get
it" and think we're talking about "taking non-free out of Debian" which is
not the case since it was never part of Debian to begin with.

Now, I am a "status quo" sort of guy, really.  Not your typical
banner-waving, rally-attending, slogan-chanting activist.  I would love
for the status quo to be maintained somehow, but I also am pulled towards
the "reject non-free" pole, as it takes much more energy, as I have said,
to maintain a "neutral" position than it does to adopt one side or the
other.  And I'm basically lazy, as I've mentioned in a different context. 
Besides which, I really do believe in the superiority of free software
(not to the exclusion of non-free software, mind you -- but my position
towards non-free is one of mere tolerance, and my personal goal is for the
eventual removal of every piece of non-free software for which there is an
acceptable alternative from my network). 

Given that this issue is one that tends to polarize into these two camps
so easily, is it going to be possible for us to continue to maintain a
middle-of-the-road position as we have up until now?

> > "age of the Internet" would be any different.  Must your entire system be
> > installable off a single set of CDs?  I think by now people are used to
> Yes, it should be. I woudn't get >10MB additional packages on a slow and
> high-cost analog-modem line, which is still the case by really many people.

But they have to do that anyway if they are installing from official
Debian CD's.  And if they are not installing from official Debian CD's,
they're not getting them from Debian ...

> As mentioned before... Many people on this list should open their eyes:
> Not everyone is so envolved in Linux/Development and can supply himself
> with software he/she need. Many users depend on software distributed on
> CDs which is considered as "free" by the most people but not by Debian
> (you know what I mean, don't start another one "free beer" vs. "free
> code" discussion). I don't mean shit like KDE which should really be
> droped, not only because of the brain-dead licensing methods, but
> programs that became traditional on many Linux systems: Netscape, Fonts,
> tetex-nonfree, probably xv, even such things.

I know that for my part, I largely still have these things out of mere
laziness.  If they weren't available to me as "part of Debian" (I use the
phrase loosely to mean "in the archives" ... but there is that ambiguity
again that is so hard to maintain as neutral) to begin with, then I'd
probably happily be using free alternatives today.  Or if it really
mattered to me enough and I felt I couldn't live without them, I'd get
them from non-Debian sites and wouldn't really give it a second thought (I
do this already for Realplayer and the non-free xanim CODECS).  The
contrib type of installer wrapper, to my mind, is about as much of a
compromise to "support" non-free as Debian ever needs to make.  But then
these reflections are all about my personal attitudes towards non-free
and, admittedly, are probably different from the newbie Debian user
attitudes.  It was too long ago that I was a newbie for me to remember
what it was like, or what I felt/believed about non-free back then.

    nSLUG       http://www.nslug.ns.ca      synrg@sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
    Debian      http://www.debian.org       synrg@debian.org
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