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Re: Proposal - non-free software removal

> > It seems that every couple years people get it in to their head that
> > Debian should only support that which is DFSG and actively renounce
> > everything else.
> That is a frank distortion of what John's GR says.  John's GR leaves
> intact the language in the Social Contract that says:
>   We will support our users who develop and run non-free software on
>   Debian, but we will never make the system depend on an item of non-free
>   software.

That's a reasonable expectation.  Anything "non-free" should be optional.
If that's the resolution, I'll support it; however it seems that people
want to go well beyond this and ban non-free altogether.  That, I'm against.

> This is not an "active renunciation" of anything.  It is an
> acknowledgement that it is not Debian's mission to distribute things
> that are not Free Software.
> > It's fine to support free software and encourage people to use it, but
> > bashing those that disagree with you has never been a particularly
> > good way to accomplish those results.
> I agree.  Calling people "bigots"[1] and "zealots"[2] is
> counterproductive.
> > Let the unbelievers walk with you and hopefully convert them along the
> > path.
> It appears that this approach has been unsuccessful[3]; over time,
> Debian has distributed more and more non-free software.

I'm not sure if that is a fair assessment or not.  You have to take in
to account that Debian is distributing far more software in general.  Is
the _percentage_ of non-free going up?  And even if it is... That's okay
with me.  I think people should have the right to choose the copyright
they want.  We should try nicely to persuade them, and then let them
run their own way within the restrictions placed upon them.  It harms
us not and give us a "hey, they're not so bad after all" type reputation.

> > Dropping non-free would not help Debian.  Most users and few companies
> > are really concerned with the copyright on the packages they use as
> > long as they get the job done.
> I assume you mean that most users are *not* really concerned with the
> copyright on the packages?

Yup!  <sheepish grin>  I saw that not long after I'd sent it.  Oh well.

> At any rate, the state of the world today requires that Debian itself be
> concerned with copyrights and such if we are to be able to meaningfully
> promote "Free Software" as our Social Contract says we will.

I think concern is okay, as is placing restrictions on how non-free is
made available.  To do away with it altogether is a mistake, in my opinion.
There's just too much useful stuff in there and since the primary part
of Debian isn't too different from any other Linux distribution, one big
negative differentiating feature is all that would be needed to drive away
some users.

> Even if our users aren't.

The customer is always right.  It sucks, but it's the way things are.  I'd
love to punish some of my customers for this for many of the stupid things
they ask for, but they pay my salary and I've come to enjoy having something
to eat at supper time.

> In fact, that we have Debian "main" makes it *possible* for a lot of our
> users to be less concerned with licensing than they otherwise would be.
> They are certain freedoms that they can take more or less for granted
> (though no sane lawyer would advise them to), because we do the hard
> work of attempting to ensure that packages in main are licensed freely.

A sane lawyer?  Surely you're joking!  ;-)

And I applaud Debian for this work.

> > If you remove those things from Debian, then those users will soon go
> > to a distribution that gives them what they want.
> What if no distribution *does* give them whay they want?  What if they
> have to get non-free packages from some third party?  Will they
> uninstall Debian just out of spite, and either do without the non-free
> software entirely, or retrieve it themselves?

"If you don't please the customer, someone else will."  No, I'm sure they
won't uninstall it out of spite.  The reality of the situation, though,
is that some distribution somewhere will make this kind of software
available.  We're in a competitive market, which is something I find
kinda ironic considering that there is no money to be made.  It's a matter
of pride, I guess.  "Look how many users we have..."

> > Now, some people will say "Good Riddence" to them, but that's akin to
> > cutting off your nose to spite your face.
> *IF* such users actually impede our ability to promote Free Software
> (which is a priority of ours, as our Social Contract states), then being
> "rid" of such users would not necessarily be determental to us.

It may not be detrimental when it comes to promoting free software, but
is is detrimential in other ways.  For example, if I try to find software
not directly supported by Debian, it isn't too often that .deb files
are available.  There's always a .rpm, and it seems Alien has covered
all the packages I've tried to convert to date, but I sure don't have
any warm-fuzzies doing that.  Moments like those make me consider switching.
Now, those users who are looking for software outside of Debian main are
also likely to be the same folk who would use non-free (that seems a
reasonable link to me, anyway) so losing them would also reduce the need
for others to include .deb next to .rpm files.  In the end, people like
me have more moments of doubt about whether I'm using the right distribution.

Even if you don't agree with the example, I think you can see how there
are more consequences to consider.

> While I am not sure that it is true that users of the Debian non-free
> section of the archive do actually have this impact, it is a possibility
> that you seem to be completely ignoring.

Perhaps I am.  My personal priority is more for a solid and well-rounded
distribution with all the software any user could ever want to use.  To
accomplish that, you need as large a software base as possible.  So, in
that way, my personal feelings and the stated role of Debian differ
somewhat.  I do not seem them as mutually exclusive, though.

> > Don't let personal biases keep from making the best possible product
> > for your customers.
> I agree.  Debian should not let personal biases stop us from creating
> the best possible product that is 100% Free Software, as point one of
> the Debian Social Contract directs us to do.

Here's where we differ.  I don't think the best possible product would be
100% free software.  Try for it, yes.  But don't sacrifice functionality
for idealism.  But as I said, that's my opinion and differs somewhat from
Debian's stated goal.

> > We've already got enough fanatacism in the world today; we don't need
> > it here.
> Aside from a bit of emotionalism, mostly restricted to charges of
> "bigotry" and "zealotry" (see above) on the part of opponents of the GR,
> I haven't seen anything approaching fanaticism.
> I have seen a concern with a mission creep, and a concern with people not
> understanding what Debian stands for.
> > I've had people bitch at me because I have packages that are
> > not GPL.  Indeed!  They're in the public domain!  (Which, for those who
> > aren't familiar with it, is even more "free" than the GPL.)
> What have those people to do with the proponents of this General
> Resolution?  Is everyone who has ever disagreed with you or something
> you've done involved in a vast, monolithic conspiracy to upset you?

It's not the disagreement.  It's the fanaticism of the mail!  I hate
being preached to, and it's made worse when people don't really understand
what they're saying.  There's no conspiricy, just some narrow mindedness.

                                  ( bcwhite@pobox.com )

                  Lottery: a tax on people who are bad at math

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