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Re: Inconsistencies in our approach

>That's an overly-expansive view of software.  You would include 
>anything that is digital in that description -- audio CDs, DVD movies, 
>off-air TV signals,
(actually, off-air TV signals are partly analogue, FYI...)

>books on disk, etc.  I find it very hard to quantify 
>Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as software, even if it was recorded 
Oh, but a *recording* of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony could be considered 
software.  Software, as opposed to hardware, which the CD player is.

>digitally, given that the invention of software postdated its 
>composition by a LONG time -- 
Just because the word 'software' was coined quite recently doesn't mean 
that it can't refer to things older than that.  Similarly, the word 
'hardware' is a relatively recent coinage, but is applied to things 
which predate civilization.

>I see it as fallacious reasoning to conclude that anything that is 
>binary is software.  If I use some sort of binary "Morse code" to send 
>a message manually, why is it more of software than if I use the real 
>Morse code?
OK, forget about binary.  I'm having trouble coming up with the words 
which specify precisely what I mean.  "Software is that stuff which 
isn't hardware (but lives on it)."  That's what I'm getting at, 
and is basically the origin of the term, anyway.

>> >  Would it benefit Free Software?
>> Yep.  It would help promote the movement to have genuninely free manuals 
>> for those pieces of software; manuals which could be integrated into 
>> programs, used as help text, freely lifted from, etc.
>I agree that this is good.  But how does it promote Free Software to 
>strip manuals from Free programs?
Separating non-free manuals out of Debian promotes the free-manuals movement.  
As I said above.  And I consider that to be an essential part of the 
Free Software movement.  

(Also, Debian users expect to have a certain collection of rights for 
stuff distributed in 'main', and it is letting down Debian's users for 
that to be false.  But that's an 'our users' argument rather than
a 'free software' argument.)

You could also ask:
How does it promote Free Software to strip out almost-free software?
How does it promote Free Software to strip out non-free fonts?

The answers are precisely the same.  It promotes the movement.  It 
promotes the distinction between Free Software and non-free software.

If you consider that answer invalid, then non-free (but freely 
redistributable) X-Windows and TeX fonts should be reinstated in main 
(since users wouldn't 'benefit' from their removal).  Similarly, 
non-commercial-use-only software would belong in 'main'.

Hope my thoughts and arguments help someone.  I release the text into 
the public domain.  :-)

Nathanael Nerode  <neroden at gcc.gnu.org>

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