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Re: Discussion - non-free software removal

On Thu, Nov 14, 2002 at 12:07:23AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 14, 2002 at 12:15:32PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > On Wed, Nov 13, 2002 at 06:09:55PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > > Non-free certainly costs *something*, even just at a concrete,
> > > shoveling-bits-around level.  What *is* that cost?
> > Given contrib, nothing.
> That has to be incorrect; it is impossible that the marginal cost of
> non-free is zero, though it certainly may be very small.

Well, you have to type "non-free" in a few places. That'd make it less
than the cost of just about any given mail to a mailing list.

> > It's just as easy to maintain three components as
> > two.
> I'm not talking about human, intellectual labor.  I'm talking about
> network traffic and disk sectors.

You should be: human, intellectual labour is the most costly and limited of
our resources.

> > In unimportant aspects like disk space it costs something like
> > 2GB for contrib and non-free, or about 2% of the size of the main
> > archive. Presumably the BTS is something similar, but it'd be more effort
> > to find out than I've ever had to put in to support non-free on the BTS.
> > I'd expect CPU usage and similar things to also be proportional to the
> > number of packages, and also be 2 or 3%.
> You're the second person today (the other was Josip Rodin) whose done
> statistical analysis that refused to consider non-free separately from
> contrib.  Why?  

Why not? It makes the costs look larger, which is the appropriate direction
for the error to go in, no? They're about the same size though, in all the
directions I could measure, within maybe a 10% margin.

To put it another way, in terms of disk space and bandwidth the cost
of non-free is the same as that of two days' updates to unstable. The
combined cost of contrib *and* non-free in those terms is about three
days' updates to unstable. (On average. On big days, a single day's
updates uses more space and bandwidth than non-free in its entirety)

> > Personally, I've never had been worried by someone failing to cope with
> > Debian distributing non-free software, so I'd rate the educational and
> > political costs at zero too, but presumably other people's mileage have
> > varied, and they can present some sort of repeatable analysis to back
> > up their estimates of the problems that causes?
> It's difficult to measure the impact of user confusion or charges of
> hypocrisy.  

Doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Surely if user confusion is common
enough to be worth worrying about, a list of messages in debian-user or
debian-mentors should be easy to come up with? Or a list of comments
on slashdot? Or something independently verifiable? How about giving
everyone the credit of assuming that they'll be able to understand
the flaws in any statistics or evidence you gather, and won't leap to
unjustified conclusions unnecessarily?

> > non-free software pays its own way by putting a smile on Herbert's face
> > when he plays whichever games he listed,
> Do the frowns it presumably puts on other developers' face count for
> nothing?

No one's required to expend effort on it, except to answer a single
question on installs, so no, I don't really think so.

> > and when Kevin can advocate Debian more effectively due to its
> > existance.
> What about those who could advocate Debian more effectively due to its
> absence?  

They can point users to main easily enough; and if they're truly
obsessive can construct a mirror without non-free trivially easily,
for the same effect.

> > Considering how little it costs, it doesn't take much to pay its way.
> You seem to be disregarding the opportunity costs of keeping it around.

I'm yet to see any direct evidence of them -- even anecdotal -- and my
personal experience leads me to think that there aren't any, certainly
none that aren't outweighed by the benefits of having non-free readily


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

 ``If you don't do it now, you'll be one year older when you do.''

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