I was present at the 2004 GUADEC (GNOME Users and Developers Europen
Conference) in order to represent Debian on the GNOME advisory board (at
the request of the DPL) and to talk to companies active in the Linux
desktop community. Several things were brought up several times by
1) Many people use or have used Debian in the past and respect Debian to
a surprising extent. There are some disagreements with respect to
individual DFSG judgements, but the general principal of aiming for an
entirely free distribution is seen as a good thing.
2) People believe that our release cycle is (a) too long and (b) not
predictable enough. Part of this is due to the contrast with GNOME's
6-monthly time-based releases.
3) The way the DFSG is currently interpreted by debian-legal is not
obvious to an outsider, and some interpretations are felt to be
excessively extreme. Some companies feel that various licenses were
genuine efforts to be DFSG free, but the discussion that followed their
release was sufficiently confrontational to reduce any desire to fix any
It's been suggested that the combination of 2 and 3 has led to us
missing several opportunities for wider deployment, and they're probably
issues we should look at in the future.
More positively, the feeling is that the quality of our packaging is
good. We're actively engaged with upstream and doing a fairly good job
of pushing significant patches back, and there's a general perception of
us as good community players. This is largely thanks to the efforts of
the Debian GNOME team, who have done a great job of improving our
I raised two main issues at the meeting itself:
1) The use of copyright law in an attempt to protect trademarks. This is
potentially going to be an issue for us, as it leads to artwork that we
can't distribute in main. This is also less than ideal for upstream
projects, as it reduces the level of branding and general market
awareness. However, if we want to make any significant argument here, it
seems likely that we need the ability to make a solid legal argument as
to why copyright law is the wrong way of handling this.
2) The possibility that GNOME's adoptation of Java as an application
development language would result in software depending on a closed
JDK.The consensus appears to be that GNOME will never ship code that
can't be run with free Java implementations.
As things currently stand, it looks reasonably likely that we will be
the first major distribution to ship with Mono 1.0 and surrounding
libraries. This gives us an opportunity to be seen as a good development
environment for the GNOME platform - however, to be able to take
advantage of this, we are likely to have to reduce time between releases
and make our approach to licenses clearer.
Matthew Garrett | email@example.com