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What do you win by moving things to non-free?

On Sat, Apr 16, 2005 at 09:07:58AM +1000, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 16, 2005 at 12:18:45AM +0200, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> > On Fri, Apr 15, 2005 at 09:33:00PM +0200, Wouter Verhelst wrote:
> > > Cool. Didn't know that. Then again, I've only been using MySQL since a
> > > few years, so maybe it's normal that I didn't know.
> > 
> > Which documentation did you use?
> > 
> > If you say "none ever" you won.
> > 
> > But if you used non-free documentation (in digital or printed form) 
> > imagine you wouldn't have been able to use any of this documentation.
> Probably not so lovely.  But why can people only use documentation if it's
> in Debian main?  I've been getting along fine only using the non-free MySQL
> manuals for quite some time: my brain has not exploded, and my wang hasn't
> shrivelled up.  If you have a point, I think you may need to make it more
> obvious what it is, because I'm totally failing to see what it is in your
> messages.

Let me try to explain it:

We agree that there's several software where not DFSG-free
documentation [1] is required for many usages of the software.

If I e.g. want to know what gcc option is best for my CPU, I'd currently 
use a "man gcc" or "info gcc".

Currently, this works and this documentation is shipped with gcc. But 
post-sarge this documentation will move to non-free.

Unless I want to search and use the upstream documentation locations of 
every affected software I use, I have to add non-free to my sources.list 
and take care that I install the now separate documentation packages for 
all software I use.

The second point might only be a minor nuisance for me, but the first 
one will tell me that Debian would be much less usable if I wouldn't use 

Is this wanted?

Now that there are usable free alternatives for Netscape and Acroread 
the need for users to use non-free was more and more decreasing.

With the documentation and even more the firmware issues [2] you force 
users to use non-free and force distributors to ship both a Debian 
installer that includes non-free parts and an extra CD containing parts 
of non-free or Debian will be much less usable or even uninstallable for 
many users.

There are three main points:

The Debian Social Contract sets users as a priority equally to free 
software. I don't see in this discussions about "nearly DFSG-free" [3] 
things the requirements of your users discussed. Even if the goal is 
clear, there might be better ways than the "remove this and that today 
and care about the users later" that is currently done.

And teaching people that in many cases non-free is a required component 
for them doesn't help free software. Today, you can tell a user that 
it's bad to install the binary-only nvidia drivers because they are in 
non-free - but if this user has already had to install the drivers for 
his network card and his SCSI adapter from non-free, the nvidia drivers 
will seem to be only one more package from non-free and the user will 
already have learned that it's quite common that important things are in 

Debian had a good reputation for caring about licence issues. Qt 
becoming GPL-licenced is one example where the Debian position had some 
influence on improvements. If Debian continues to get much "Debian 
anyway considers everything non-free" reputation for being more 
fundamentalistic than even RMS, less external people will seriously 
consider comments of Debian on licence problems.

What do you win by moving things to non-free?

> - Matt


[1] digitally or printed
[2] one funny thing about the firmware issue is that although Debian
    developers have spent many MB of emails on this issue, it still 
    takes only five minutes to find a dozen firmware images still
    present in the kernel sources shipped today in both sarge and sid...
[3] "nearly DFSG-free": this is not about Acroread or the nvidia modules
    that are obviously not DFSG-free - but e.g. a document with a small
    invariant section is not that far away from the DFSG


       "Is there not promise of rain?" Ling Tan asked suddenly out
        of the darkness. There had been need of rain for many days.
       "Only a promise," Lao Er said.
                                       Pearl S. Buck - Dragon Seed

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