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Re: Debian GNU/w32, may ready to be started?


On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 11:39:34PM +0100, Robert Millan wrote:

> Florian Weimer writes:
> > Has RMS accepted "GNU/w32"?  I guess he won't like it...

> I don't think RMS will pronounce about the name for the port
> of Debian and GNU software to cygwin. And it'd be very unlikely
> that the FSF opposes to the port. The GNU folks are currently
> supporting the run of GNU software on M$ platforms.

> For example: they ported GCC to DOS and win32, they sell precompiled
> GNU software for windows, and books on the same subject, etc.

Nevertheless, it would be wise to seek formal approval before using the
FSF trademark in this manner.  RMS is opposed to the use of /any/
non-free software, and your rationalization that there are free
implementations of the Win32 APIs does not change the fact that the
primary goal of such a port would be to provide a GNU environment on top
of the Microsoft proprietary operating system.  RMS might not approve of

> It was Menucc1 (the main person working on it that time) who declared the
> name to be 'w32'. There were lots of complains about personnal likes,
> and a few complains about legal problems.

> Names with legal problems were discarded, and it was obvious that a
> consensus based on personal liking was impossible... unless of course
> a votation is made. Although I'm not a Debian Developer, thus without right
> to vote, i don't have any problem in a votation on the name for the
> cygwin port to be made.

> Please go forward with it if you feel that 'w32' is an ugly name: propose a
> votation
> and explain your reasons to Mark Paulus <mpaulus78@earthlink.net>, who's
> working on a base system with 'w32' as a name at the moment.

> If you find any legal problem with building software for the
> cygwin/wine/linux-gnu
> platform, composed entirely of free software, please explain it here.

Has anyone considered that there may also be legal problems with calling
this port 'Debian'?  The Debian name is also a registered trademark,
that cannot be used without the approval of the owner (in this case SPI,
who will normally listen to the Debian developers as a whole).  I
recognize the advantages of a dpkg-based system for cygwin, and think
it's an interesting idea that will benefit many people who can't
necessarily choose the OS of their computer; but even so, I have
misgivings about using the Debian name on such a port.  If the non-free
archive is not part of Debian, should a port built on a non-free kernel
be called 'Debian'?  After all, unless all the compiling for this port
will be done using Wine and gcc, you effectively will have an entire
port with build-dependencies on non-free software.

It may be appropriate to call for a GR to see whether Debian wants their
name to be used on this port.[1]

> And I don't find it absurd. Using wine is a desirable alternative for
> porters who
> want to help on the GNU/w32 port but don't like using nonfree platforms
> to accomplish it.

A developer could help /create/ such a port without using non-free
software, but who would ever /use/ the port except in conjunction with
non-free software?  As I've alluded above, this is only a
rationalization, and anyone who objects to the use of non-free software
per se will not be swayed by your argument.

> As a free software advocate, I'd prefer windows users to use our free
> applications
> than all the crappy nonfree software that is present for the windows
> platform.

> since some people will surely keep on windows for a lot of time, why not
> competing with windows nonfree applications on their own terrain?

Here is the question: are we helping people become more free by making
good software (Debian) available to them on top of a non-free OS
(Windows), than if they had to make a conscious choice between one or
the other?  I don't believe we are; I believe that making it more
convenient for people to go on paying Microsoft for their operating
systems will only hurt us all in the long run.

> And most of the windows users i've spoken to wouldn't migrate to a free
> platform without the following accomplishments:

> - full binary compatibility
> - driver support for every hardware device in the market

Then they are fools, and Debian isn't for them anyway.  Any sane person
only cares about driver support for the hardware devices that they
personally own.  I'm perfectly content to leave the crazy people you
described to the mercies of Microsoft.  Still, there have been occasions
when I, as a Linux user, have had to use Windows; in those situations,
I've found cygwin to be a very useful toolkit, and I know other Linux
users who agree.  This is the one saving grace of a Debian port to
Win32, and the one reason I don't insist that work on such a project
should stop.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

[1] Constitution Nazis: I'm going from memory, so if this would /not/ be 
an appropriate course of action, bludgeon away.

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