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Re: why not replace individual programs?

mwooding@thecity.sfsu.edu (Miguel Wooding SF Ten.Union) wrote:
>Goswin Brederlow <goswin.brederlow@student.uni-tuebingen.de> writes:
>> All make less, some make more (like transparency). I allways wanted to
>> have a replacement thats fully free, but I can use xv for free, so why
>> bother. Thats one of the programs I would write, if non-free would
>> disapear.
>Just as I was beginning to think that I opposed the general resolution
>(not on the grounds that Debian plus non-free is more useful, but
>rather on the grounds that engagement with authors and users of
>currently non-free software encourages the spread and production of
>free software and thereby helps the free software movement), you come
>along and point out how removing non-free can be a big motivator for
>producing free software.

Only once, though. A few people will go "oh, we don't have xv any more"
and try to improve the free near-equivalents, but most will just make do
with the limited functionality that remains. And once non-free goes we
won't have that yardstick easily available to see what needs replaced:
the "freedomization task list", to quote the subject line of a
debian-legal discussion some months back.

I think people who are committed to free software will happily work on
it if you leave non-free there, simply because the fact that they need
software in non-free irritates them. I'm working on a replacement for
newsgate at the moment; I've been doing this since before this GR came
up, and I'll keep doing it whether it passes or fails. On the other
hand, if I hadn't seen newsgate in Debian's non-free section in the
first place, clearly labelled as such, I'd never have thought "hey, this
is something I can usefully replace"; I'd just have adopted the easy but
unsatisfactory workaround of dropping mailing lists into special mail
folders and reading them with mutt, rather than starting to gateway them
to local newsgroups with the relatively quick solution that was
available and then writing bits of pieces of a replacement and dropping
them in as they became ready.

If I hadn't seen that package in the Debian archive, I wouldn't have
been nearly as interested; the fact that it's in Debian suggests that
there are real people interested in its use but also interested in free
software. I don't have time to go around looking in random non-free
archives all over the world to see what could do with work.

The existence of non-free in Debian encourages people to work on free

Colin Watson                                     [cjw44@flatline.org.uk]

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