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Re: Discussion - non-free software removal



John Goerzen wrote:
> Let me lay out some possible long-term benefits.  I am no

Thanks for the explanation. As I mentioned, I agree with your point, I
just haven't seen the balance be in favor of your proposal.

> Non-free could be maintained by people that are not regular Debian
> developers.  This can benefit us in several ways.  First, people that *are*

Possibly. But, I don't think non-Debian developers have the skills to
maintain it. Also, from my reading, I suspect enough Debian developers
care about non-free that it will be they who maintain it.

> regular Debian developers can focus on the core of the project.  Second,
> people that are genuinely interested in the non-free software could maintain
> it, and could well do a better job of it than we are doing now.  (Ie,
> Netscape could put maintain a non-free .deb directly.)  Finally, our

Also possibly, but I think it is well-maintained now. Though I maybe
overly pessimistic, I just don't think Netscape or any other company
will likely spend time or money on supporting Debian.

> better way to spend our energies.  We should make our distribution
> hospitable to all software, but that doesn't mean that we have to distribute
> all software outselves.

I agree, we don't have to distribute all software ourselves, but it
certainly makes things more convenience for our users and developers.

> Yet even if you disagree with me about the long-term benefits, there is
> still one important reason that we should not be distributing non-free
> software: because we should do what is *right*.  Debian has many times done
> things for that reason.  We have taken much abuse from our users for our
> position on KDE, for instance.  We have refused to ship an operating system
> with Netscape when almost everyone else does.  We have refused to let profit
> dictate when we are ready to release.

I agree there are benefits with your proposoal and I agree with having
strong principles and doing what is "right" by them. 

> Debian is the only major Free Software distribution out there.  If we do not
> tend to what is right, there is nobody else that will.

It's all in how you define right. 

> I believe in Free Software.  It is what makes Debian great.  And I believe
> that it will keep us great.  But we have to draw the line.  And I believe
> that the correct place to draw that line is at a different location today
> than it was when the Social Contract was drafted.

I share your belief about free software and Debian's greatness. I also
think that having non-free supported by Debian's mirrors and
infrastrructure contributes to Debian's value.

> Free Software in Debian has expanded dramatically, and the real need for
> non-free is not as strong as it once was.  Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped
> non-free from gaining support and packages.

I agree the need is not as great, but that doesn't mean that non-free
packages have lost value or that the need has ceased.

>  We need to part ways with proprietary software.  Debian is about Free
> Software, not proprietary software, and the Right Thing (TM) is to be about
> Free Software.

I agree that Debian is about Free Software and that excites me. I also
agree that, in general, removing sections from a project, makes that
project's focus more sharp and clear. However, I don't that projects
with focus more narrow and simple are necessarily better than projects
with more broad objectives.

As for defining the "Right Thing", that depends if your want a on a
smaller, sharper focus or a more broad, potentially more useful focus.
(I'm reminded of the debate between the Scheme language proponents who
value their small, philosophically pure langauge and the folks who use
the much larger Common Lisp with a diverse hodgepodge of language
features).

Thanks for your time explaining what you perceive as the benefits of
your proposal. While I appreciate your support of a more pure approach
to free software, I'll vote pragmatically on the benefit of retaining
the existing infrastructure for non-free. (I also use Common Lisp
rather than Scheme.)

-- 
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