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Re: Etch timeline is unrealistic because non-free firmware is NOT being dealt with

On Aug 8, 2006, at 4:04 AM, Joseph Neal wrote:
Why do you think people use debian?  It's not the most up to date
distro or the most stable (damn close though).  Historically
it's been the most free however.

Hunh.  What's more stable?

Although I admire the Social Contract a great deal, and I very much like Debian's policy on free software, that's *not* primarily why I use it.

I use it mostly for the following reasons, in no particular order:

* Variety of packages. If I want something, Debian probably has it, or at least something that will do the job I have in mind.

* Much, *much* better package management systems than SuSE/Red Hat

* Packages that don't pull in everything-and-the-kitchen-sink as dependencies (SuSE, I'm lookin' at you)

* Ability to do a *small* installation--I work largely with Debian on S/390 systems; usually there are a LOT of these running on a single piece of hardware under z/VM, and I want to keep the footprints of the individual guests small. SuSE won't even install on the S/390 without 256M RAM and 4.5 GB disk, I think. I can run a useful Debian guest in 24M/400M, and a single-purpose one with less than 200MB of disk space.

* Ability to install the system without a graphical interface. I'm working from rural Canada over a satellite link; OK throughput but AWFUL latency. SuSE pretty much requires you to use VNC to install Linux/390; that's immensely more painful than an ssh + ncurses interface when you have 600ms minimum latency.

* And--and this one *does* touch on its being free software--you don't have to pay to play. SuSE and RH do let you get their S/390 distros for free, but in order to apply service you need a support contract to get to the sites that host the service packs[*]. The support contracts, while reasonable for mainframe software, are pretty painful if you're a mainframe user who doesn't necessarily care about using Linux as such, but who wants services that it's easier to provide with Linux. That's really the market I'm targeting with my Debian appliances--we give away prepackaged Debian virtual machines (for use under z/VM on s390) which generally provide one service, and that you can install more or less as a black box with little prior knowledge of Linux. I can get a stable platform--with frequent security updates--to use as my baseline when developing these things, and then we can sell support for these single-function appliances for very cheap compared to what you'd pay RH or SuSE for Linux support.

I use debian because I see free
software as ethical software. From my POV, putting non-free modules
into the kernel without labeling them as such is not unlike putting
pork in a kosher sausage.  It's a betrayal of trust.

I'm afraid you'd be screwing your users either way.

IMHO you should stick to what makes debian unique, the uncompromising
commitment to only distributing under open licenses. Users who find
their hardware unsupported can go elsewhere.  Open source zealots who
want their software pure have debian.

I don't consider myself an Open Source Zealot. "Purity" doesn't interest me a lot. On the other hand, being confident that I *can* redistribute whatever tools I installed via apt from main to make my appliance work, that's a very nice feature.

My position on non-free firmware is that distributing it certainly seems, to my untrained eye, to violate the Social Contract, and this needs to be addressed somehow, whether by dropping support for those devices, amending the Contract, or seeking a temporary waiver (or something else I haven't seen proposed or thought of). I *don't* think it's a good idea to just ignore it and hope no one notices there's a problem. And I don't have enough knowledge of the issues to clearly favor one alternative over the others.


[*] Presumably, once the GPL or other Free-Software-Licensed stuff was factored out and identified, other people could make it available, but no one actually does. Probably because if you care enough about running Linux on a mainframe that you want a vendor- supported Linux environment (my company, among others, will sell you support for Debian, but of course this doesn't come from the vendor), the support costs do not seem particularly onerous.

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