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Re: Bug#353277: ndiswrapper in main

On Mon, Feb 27, 2006 at 05:21:56PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell BSG wrote:
> Stephen Gran <sgran@debian.org> writes:
> >> In any case, the real point here is the following statement from
> >> 2.2.2, which says that contrib is for "wrapper packages or other sorts
> >> of free accessories for non-free programs."
> >
> > Since ndiswrapper's main purpose is to create a kernel API to allow
> > drivers designed for a different API to communicate with the kernel, I
> > don't think this counts as a wrapper.  ndiswrapper does what it sets out
> > to do, whether or not any software (free or not) uses that API.
> That's curious.  It's described as a wrapper in the package name, the
> Debian package description, and the upstream webpage.
> In both cases, it is specifically documented as being for use with
> non-free software.  It's specifically said that its purpose is to deal
> with the fact that some vendors "refuse to release hardware
> specifications" and that for such hardware, users are stuck with
> non-free NDIS drivers.
> While we are trusting the package maintainer, surely we should trust
> the package maintainer to be correctly documenting the program?  
> However, if the description is incorrect, then perhaps it should be
> changed.  I don't really know, because I'm not an expert on the
> technical question here.

There are a few ways to interpret the word "wrapper". Ndiswrapper could
certainly be seen as a "wrapper" of sorts, but not in the way that
policy means. A "wrapper", as used in policy, is a script or small
executable that will set up the environment (LD_PRELOAD,
LD_LIBRARY_PATH, PATH, ...) and then run the "actual" binary.
/usr/bin/firefox on a Debian system, for example, is a wrapper in the
meaning that policy is talking about.

ndiswrapper is not.

> > No, the question is, is ndiswrapper a functionally complete program?
> Are you saying that ndiswrapper is useful all by itself, without any
> drivers at all?  I have asked this question before, but didn't get an
> answer; I really don't know.  What functions does it provide, in the
> absence of an NDIS driver?

I've given a few answers to that question in another post I just posted;
here, I'd like to add that the function anything provides is irrelevant
if you are discussing its freeness.

If someone gives me a horse, then this is a free horse (as in beer).
Yet, since I don't know how to ride a horse, I'll have to find someone
who will teach me how to do so, which may well cost money. This will
make the adventure be not free (as in beer) to me; but I could of course
also just be someone who enjoys watching horses, without riding them.
Does that make it a non-free horse?

The same reasoning can be applied to ndiswrapper's freeness (as in
speech). Ndiswrapper itself is free, and does not require the use of any
non-free software to be run. Yet, if you have no free drivers to use
ndiswrapper, it could be argued that it is not really useful. But
usefulness is something that Debian considers in deciding whether
something is free or not (why else do you think we compile KDE, GNOME,
mozilla, *and* emacs for m68k?). If it runs, can do something as
designed, then it is ok for it to go into main. Ndiswrapper complies
with those requirements.


Fun will now commence
  -- Seven Of Nine, "Ashes to Ashes", stardate 53679.4

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