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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free


I am not a Debian developer, so I have no rights in the any formal matters
relating to how Debian governs itself.  In earlier versions of
representative democracy, those without a vote were supposed to try to
convince those who _could_ vote of their (the non-voters') position.  So,
here goes; sorry it's so long:

Removing non-free would be contrary to section (4) of the Social Contract:

	4.Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software 

    	We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free-software
	community. We will place their interests first in our priorities.

I'm a user of Debian, and removing non-free would be contrary to my needs
(and those like me).  I'll explain.

First, there are some programs in non-free that I use.  I need acroread
because some .pdf docs that come to me can't currently be read properly by
gv or xpdf.  I need libforms because I can't just tell all the Windows users
around here to use LaTeX natively.  I certainly need netscape, as I need to
be able to log problems with our library automation system vendor over the
Web (and mozilla, w3m, lynx, what-have-you, won't do it).  

Now, one might say, "compile or install the programs yourself." That is well
and good, but unless I do the Debianizing, those programs are not really
part of the system.  Upgrades won't be handled nicely.  The updating of
/etc/alternatives/ will not happen without a lot of intervention.  And I
don't get paid to Debianize packages.

The "I don't get paid" part of that is not immaterial.  I've been gradually
introducing Debian boxes to our Library; I had another one scheduled to go
in this month.  In order for that to go over, I need the system to be
relatively simple to upgrade and train people on.  Debian is already a
complex system, and I'm training people who frequently have never used
anything in their lives except Windows.  They are afraid, and telling them,
"Oh, and you have to go out and get these other several packages from
another place, and do these 14 things, and then blah blah. . .," is not
going to help.  Now, this is not a matter of popularity contests, or what
have you: I've already invested the time and effort in getting Debian
accepted here.  That work is all going to be undone if this change is made:
I'll have to replace Debian with some other distro if this change gets
adopted.  If the response to that is, "We're not about bums in seats," I
say, "But I'm a user.  The SC says my needs are to be considered, too.  And,
non-free is still among those needs."  Please, let this proposal die for now. 
I am an ardent proponent of free software, and I use it -- even giving up
features I might like -- whenever I can.  But non-free still contains too
much that is too useful.

Finally, the proposal for a sort of second organization -- deb-non-free, or
whatever -- doesn't help.  Either the project will turn into the swamp that
is Red Hat's contrib/ area, or it will be tightly coupled to the Debian
project.  In the latter case, there is no practical effect of the change,
and in the former, the effect is little better than compiling from source
for inexperienced users.  

Please vote against this proposal.
Andrew Sullivan                                      Computer Services
<sullivana@bpl.on.ca>                        Burlington Public Library
+1 905 639 3611 x158                                   2331 New Street
                                   Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7R 1J4

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