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Re: Software in main that is throughly useless without non-free software

James Troup <james@nocrew.org> writes:

> upload his netscape-base (IIRC) to main.  The package (like tik) was
> undoubtedly DFSG free (Adam wrote it), but without netscape it served
> no useful purpose.  I think free software which depends on non-free
> software to be useful belongs in contrib.  I think this is the spirit
> of the policy manual, but it's certainly not explicitly stated there.

First, you are removing a very important distinction: You have no
control over what is on the other end of the connection.  Secondly,
"useful" is vague.  What is useful?  What if tik had a "test" mode?
It may be useful to some to learn about what it does.  The code alone
may be useful.

Back to the first point.  Perhaps I use lynx exclusively for
e-commerce, and the only sites I use are running non-free servers.
Thus, lynx is not useful without non-free software.  On the other
hand, you might disagree.  "useful" varies from person to person.

I have control over what goes on my computer.  In many cases with
client-server programming, one not only has no control over what is on 
the remote, but has no IDEA what is there.  As any first-year
networking student will tell you, the protocol used is completely
independant of any particular implementation of it (cf. OSI).

> Note: the problem here is the *exclusively* non-free nature of
> required software; if there was a free server to connect to (e.g. with
> samba, you don't _need_ to connect to a M$ server), I wouldn't have a
> problem with it being in main.

But that's not correct.  The program can start, and it can run, on a
machine with solely free software.  contrib is for things that cannot
even do that without non-free software.  You are penalizing a piece of 
free software because another piece of free software, perhaps not even 
for Unix, doesn't exist yet.  This is silly.

Let us look at other examples: ICQ, and the Linux kernel (thanks to Is 
on IRC for this second analogy).  ICQ clients are in the same boat.
They have been allowed into main.  Why?

The Linux kernel and LILO requires non-free software (PC BIOSes) to
boot.  Yet they're both in main.

Please don't reject something simply because it's from AOL.  You need
to treat everything the same, and perhaps when you try to apply your
actions universally you see the folly of them.

-- John

John Goerzen   Linux, Unix consulting & programming   jgoerzen@complete.org |
Developer, Debian GNU/Linux (Free powerful OS upgrade)       www.debian.org |
The 134,963rd digit of pi is 1.

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