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Re: Lost Trust

Marek Habersack <grendel@debian.org> writes:
> On Mon, May 31, 2004 at 08:26:10PM -0800, D. Starner scribbled:
> > And you'd be willing to sacrifice the whole "free as beer" thing? I guess
> > it's all in being flexible.
> Sacrifice what? 

The whole "free as beer" thing. Because we could probably include AutoCad in
the distribution; but it would mean no longer being able to distribute
Debian for free. But, as you say,

> It's not a sacrifice, it's a compromise. 

And compromising can lead you to a position where you've given away everything
of value for trinkets, and your back is to the wall.

> Extremism is always
> evil, no matter what. 

A more extremist statement would be hard to find.

> How is "including non-free software until a free
> replacement is read" sacrificing anything? 

For one, there is no such thing as a free replacement. There is no program
that can replace WordStar 2.0, that will run in its space, with its features
and read its files perfectly.

Secondly, this goes beyond firmware. I've been around Debian since Hamm, and
there's been no question that non-free software does not go in Debian. Period.
We've argued points about what exactly free is, and what software is, but
never has that basic principle been doubt.

> TIsn't "freedom" being free
> to chose _whatever_ you want? If you choose wrong, then you can be punished,
> but you are still FREE to make that choice. 

Not to argue the fine details of freedom, but how does Debian have anything 
to do with that? If you want AutoCad or Netscape or the JDK on your system,
you can install it without it being in Debian. And part of that Social Contract,
that in its broad outlines hasn't been questioned since I've been in Debian,
is that we support your ability to do so; we support the LSB, for example.

> The FSF/GNU preachers more often
> than not try to force THEIR notion of freedom on everybody else, denying the
> right of the others to have their own views and opinions on that matter.

And look at all the people who have been burned at the stake for disagreeing
with them, and all the people they've executed.

The only way they "deny" anyone anything is by offering programs with strings
on them _that only come into effect if you want to do things that would otherwise
violate copyright law._ They aren't forcing anyone by talking.

> So, let me ask you - if CodeWeavers developed
> support for AutoCAD, then oferred Debian the right to distribute a special
> edition of crossover office with it and somebody created debs to install
> AutoCAD - would you agree to include it in Debian? I would.

Again, I've been around Debian for 5 years, and the consensus has always
been that those would go into contrib or nonfree. That's part of the things
that separate Debian from other distributions.

> It's quite a different matter, isn't it? It's the commercial world where
> people compete for money - the free software movement should not have such a
> problem, and yet...

Why is it that simple? People in the commerical world often create programs because 
they think they can do better than the current leader, and they don't think the
current leader is going to improve in the direction they want. That's the same 
reason that many people create a new program in the free software world. OpenOffice
is not a lean mean word-processor; so Abiword is written.
> But as pointed out above, the fragmentation of
> the commercial software is justified (and it's the company's problem if
> their software doesn't bring profits), whereas it is not justified by any
> economical reasons for the free software movement.

Economical reasons aren't the end all and be all of everything. Try 
psychological ones.

> > 800 megs and constantly swapping? Sure wouldn't run on my machine. That's
> Well, so? Are you sure it cannot be improved?

Yes, I am. The OpenOffice people are building a Microsoft Word-replacement,
and have no interest in producing a smaller version. The only way to make
a small OO would be to fork the project.
> The extent embraces common goals (say, an MS Word doc importer, or an excel
> importer) and that's where there would be cooperation (for example, of
> course). 

And for all your complaints, that is exactly what they are doing. They _do_
share importers.

> Nothing makes me think so. All I'm saying is that X11 is a huge chunk of
> software with a relatively small group of developers who understand it and
> contribute to it. If you slice the group to three smaller pieces, the
> development of _each_ of the forks slows down, thus hurting the community.

But it doesn't hurt the community, because there's no scenario where everyone
would have stayed working on one. 

> > But let's go farther. Look at all of the Linux distributions. Isn't Debian
> > just a waste of valuable energy and human resources?
> Of course not. You've just given the example of creative cooperation and
> competition. 

And so the fork that you are supporting is good. Isn't that convienent.

> Linux distros are focused on software _distribution_ mainly,
> but they _all_ share the same software (in 99%), they contribute patches,
> fix bugs - all together.

And, gee, that's exactly what the three branches of X usually do.

Debian has apt, dpkg, dselect, linda, lintian and thousands of install
and removal scripts, all written only for Debian. That's a huge amount
of code. Arguably, all the code shared just means that it's all the more
pointless to fork so many tasks. 

> How does the complexity of GCC, the Linux and *BSD kernels, X11 relate to
> that? They were all developed in time that is either equal or shorter to
> their commercial counterparts.

Not really. GCC is almost twenty years old. X is thirty, IIRC. X was and
still is a commerical program in many ways.

> ArchiCAD, in its initial form, was developed by 5
> people IIRC, in about 16 months (my memory might be failing, but I think it
> was something like that). 

6 and 2/3 man-years? Most of the free software projects that have that
type of man-power have funding, or are massively decentralizable, or
much older than 16 months.

The other problem is that kernels and compilers are programs written 
by computer people for computer people, and everyone with a degree 
in computers has studied the internals of both. They're easy to patch
because people know how they should work, and they're easy to improve
becuase the programmers know what is expected and desired in the 
program. CAD programs don't have the personal interest to programmers,
nor they as well-understood by the average programmer.

> > That's what we have non-free for. 
> Which the extremists are opposing.

And you, being an extremist yourself, point to their behavior to excuse
your own. There was a proposal for removing non-free, it was voted
down by a large margin, it's now a moot point. 
> The world is changing, people have to adjust
> to it - and being flexible doesn't mean betraying the ideals. 

It depends on how you change the ideals. It must be done carefully
and thoughtfully and justified to those who expect to know about the

> I wanted to
> avoid that, but let me give you an example from the "real world". The
> Catholic Church. 

And most people never change thier ideals much. The reason why the Catholic
Church has different ideals now is because the people with the old ideals
died, and new ones, with slightly different ideals took over.

> And sticking stiffly to today's (right) ideals is a straight
> way to becoming a stiff extremist tomorrow 

But you hold the conservative position; you're the one holding to
yesterday's right ideals, and ignoring the fact that the world

And sometimes extremists are important and useful. Maybe they aren't
ever going to be followed to the tittle, but what they say will be
heard and considered and factored into what other people do and how
the future is shaped. Blaze a path in the darkness, and even if the
people don't follow in your footsteps, they know the darkness can be
> > We have a sensible compromise; it's called non-free.
> Again, which is actively being opposed to.

I don't see it being active. The proposal was floated, it was shot down,
the proposers have let it lie. This seems to be just a justifictation
for you.
> Ethics? What does GPL/DFSG have to do with ethics? Are you implying that I, by
> releasing my software under MPL or BSD, am not ethical? 

Where the hell did that come from? I never mentioned the *#%!^ GPL. The MPL
and BSD are perfectly good DFSG license, and even if they weren't, it would
only be a breach of ethics if you promised something Free.
> So, if I'm understanding you well - you are saying that there should NEVER
> be changes to DFSG and the Social Contract (for instance) no matter what
> happens? 

No. I'm saying that the changes to the DFSG should be done with deliberation
and openness, that we shouldn't silently change the rules because it's convienant
for us to do so. The DFSG and Social Contract are things that bind us together
as a organization and their principles should be respected. 
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