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DRAFT for a GR proposal concerning the Sarge release

Hi everybody!

After digging through most of the current "GR consequences" thread
without seeing much of a consensus, I feel it might be necessary to
apply democracy again. If I understood Anthony right, he almost asked
for this :-) Since I do not think that this decision is appropriate
for the tech ctte, I wrote up a draft for a GR proposal.

Please note that this is just a DRAFT, not already the proposal
itself. I send it to d-devel to get some opinions and hints for
"editorial changes" (SCNR).  I want to make sure that the assumptions
and conclusions are reasonable, the language and grammar are correct,
that everybody understands it, and to put in ideas from you.


We, the Debian Developers, will aim to release Sarge as soon as
technically possible (concerning release critical bugs and the
installer) by following the current release plan[1]. We are aware of
the fact that both Woody and Sarge contain components that violate the
current Social Contract (since they are not free in the sense of the
Debian Free Software Guidelines) and the GNU General Public License;
as soon as Sarge is officially released, we promise to put all our
efforts in preparing a new stable release which will fully comply with
the current Social Contract and the GNU General Public License.

[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2004/debian-devel-announce-200403/msg00026.html


* Legal:

Both Woody and Sarge contain GFDL'ed documents and kernels containing
binary-only firmware. So regardless of the outcome of the current
discussion, either both or none violate the GPL and the SC. Since both
Woody and Testing are currently distributed by us (you can download
all packages from the web and can even buy unofficial Sarge CDs), it
does not make a legal difference whether we name a set of packages
"Sarge", "testing", or "Snoopy Doo". Also it does not make a legal
difference whether we violate the SC and DFSG with Woody or Sarge.

* Technical:

Many people pointed out that solving these issues is possible in
principle, so the promise of the Proposal can really be achieved.
According to the current progress of the installer and the announced
freeze it _seems_ possible from a purely technical view to release
Sarge with or at least in the approximate schedule of the current
release plan. Solving above issues will take much longer since they
depend on external factors (discussion with the FSF, coordination with
the kernel developers and other upstreams), and furtherly delaying the
release will not serve our users at all (who are our primary concern,
aren't they?)

* Reputational:

I know at least two guys who already abandoned Debian because the
official release is horribly old and not really usable any more on
Desktops and also on Servers.  Many people already see us as "geeks
who talk and talk and flame and philosophy, but are not able to do a
release" (just look into the discussion board[2] of a very popular
(German, sorry!) computer newsticker, but there are probably many
others in the meantime). Others just find it ridiculous why we don't
just release first and then deal with the current issue. Please note
that this does _not_ reflect my own opinion (since I think that
following SC and GPL are a much bigger concern), I just quote what I
heard and read from users. I think we should not ignore our user base

* My own opinion:

If we don't manage to get out a release after nearly two years, but
let a third year pass by, then there will not be many users left with
us who we could impress with our free and superior operating system.
Since I do not believe that it has any legal impact if we do or don't
officially release, we should do it since it will server users much
more. After that, we have enough time to fix these issues again
without being continuously pressed with RC bugs, installer debugging
and pushing pet packages into testing.

This proposal does not mean that I don't care about GPL/SC violations,
it is essentially important that we fix them, but in my opinion legal
impacts and releasing are quite orthogonal to each other.

[2] http://www.heise.de/newsticker/foren/go.shtml?list=1&hs=16&forum_id=55796

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to your comments!


Martin Pitt                 Debian GNU/Linux Developer
martin@piware.de                      mpitt@debian.org
http://www.piware.de             http://www.debian.org

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