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

On Fri, Apr 15, 2005 at 10:35:36PM -0400, Glenn Maynard wrote:
> > What do you win by moving things to non-free?
> You inform people that what they're using is not Free.  That's a fundamental
> purpose of non-free: to be able to make some important but non-free pieces
> available to users, while allowing users to know that some of the stuff
> they're using is non-free, if they care.
> You present some incredibly strange arguments: you're not arguing that the
> gcc manual is Free, but instead, apparently, saying "we shouldn't move non-

I'd personally consider the gcc manual being free.

But I'm attacking another point in the chain:
Is the effect of what you are doing really in the spirit behind it or 
is it counter-productive?

> free stuff to non-free because it teaches people that they need non-free
> things".  Here's a tip: it's a *good thing* to teach people that they
> still need non-free things, if it's the truth; it just might inspire
> people to create free versions, or convince the FSF to free up their works.
> That's a fundamental reason for separating non-free, and that's never changed.

What is the impression of the people you try to teach something to?

First of all note that the vast majority of Debian users did choose 
Debian for technical reasons like the stability of stable or the working 
upgrades. If a system administrator has to choose between e.g. Gentoo 
and Debian, the percentage of system administrators who understand or 
want to understand the differences between the "free software" 
definitions of the two projects will be negligible - the decision will 
be based on technical reasons and personal preferences.

Even further many Debian installations are used as a basis for non-free 
software - which is a configuration Debian has promised to support.

As an example, 14 000 computers in the administration of my home town 
will soon be based on Debian. This project will be a success for both 
the companies who got the contract and the overall public reputation of 
Linux and Debian if the resulting solution will be able to completely 
replace the current Microsoft-based solution. If the resulting solution 
will fail, this will be a major drawback in the public reputation of 
Linux. I doubt anyone will care how many percent of this solution will 
be DFSG-free.

The point when you can teach people about non-free comes later:

One day, a system administrator using Debian asks:

  Why is $foo in non-free?

Case 1: foo = nvidia binary modules
Answer: Because these modules are binary-nonly and therefore
        undebuggable for everyone except Nvidia. They give you a
        much better 3D performance, but they sometimes lead to
        kernel crashes.

Case 2: foo = some documentation
Answer: Because the document contains a invariant section in which
        the author says he dedicates this manual to his dead father.

In the first case you might have convinced a system administrator that 
non-free software has serious disadvantages.

In the second case you'll hear a loud laugher.

> Glenn Maynard



       "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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