An open letter to the debian community
I love Debian, I use Debian, I administer Debian at my
school. Why do I use Debian? Because my school uses it. Why does my
school use it? Because they didn't like the GUIness of RedHat, and
Slackware is just too much of a hassle. Plus, they were drawn to apt-get.
Debian is a wonderful development model. Anyone can
contribute to it. There isn't a large administrative hierarchy, the user
base is the developers, the testers, and the end users. The bug
reports are open to everyone. And everything must be Free Software,
Free Software in the sense that it must be both open source, and
modifiable. Open sourced program FooBarX, which doesn't allow modified
binaries, is placed in non-free, for the user to download, but it's not
part of the standard distribution. Program FooBarZ is closed source,
binaries only, it's not part of Debian.
So what's wrong with this? Debian is supposed to be a
completely open source operating system, where everything adheres to
the Debian free software guidelines. This is an operating system where
I could replace every instance of Debian with foobar, and sell it for
three thousand bucks a copy. And doesn't non-free have all those open
source/closed binary packages, and all the packages under actual
patents? And isn't a 4k script that I apt-get, which downloads and
installs netscape for me in Debian friendly directories, just as good
as including the 17 meg binary on the CD?
No it's not.
Take this hypothetical conversation:
Okay, I've just installed Debian/GNU Linux (Don't forget the GNU!), it
only took me 3 hours to get through all those cryptic installation
questions. now where's my full featured web browser?
<Well, either you've got small broken browsers (arena, gozilla),
or a broken version of Netscape called Mozilla.
Isn't Netscape available for Linux?
<I>Yes, but it's not Free, so you need to download it. </I><BR>
Now, can I edit my MS Office docs?
You might be able to look at them, but definitely not edit them!
What about this StarOffice thing I keep hearing about? <
That's a 50 meg download.
And WordPerfect 8?
25 meg download.
I want to hear sound, I just type sndconfig, like in RedHat? <BR>
No, we don't include the sound modules, you'll need to
recompile the kernel by hand.
What's a kernel? Whatever, when can I start editing graphics
for my web site?
Well, GIMP is the greatest piece of software ever, but it
doesn't include GIF & TIFF support in Debian, so you'll need to
download GIMP-nonfree. But after all, we're on a holy war to burn all
GIFS anyway, use PNGs and JPEGS.
Where's KDE? My friend at work uses it, it's so nice and easy. <BR>
You see, the QT widget set wasn't under a Free license, so we
yanked it, but now it's under a Free license, but we still have issues
with KDE, so you'll have to use GNOME.
And my TNT2/VOODOO3/G400 will work under this X thing right?
Get the picture? Here's approximatley 150 megs of downloads so far (kernel
sources + KDE + QT + SO51 + WP8 + X335). Add on top of this the lack
of a packaged, up-to-date system, (Even Slackware is up to kernel 2.2.12, X335, with KDE and GNOME, compared to Debian, this is light years ahead) with a recent version of X, or
a recent kernel, and you begin to wonder why people are still using
Debian. It's simple -- because we're a bunch of techno-snobs. Debian's
hard to use, and we like it that way. We'll leave it to Corel to make
Debian easy. We don't WANT everyday users. We like Debian the way it
is. We like feeling superior, adhering to a higher standard of Free,
and the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from whizzing around a cryptic
console in front of a newbie.
Lately I've been thinking about forking Debian, into DWA,
meaning Debian Without Attitude. We'll drop the attitude, and the
pretenses, about what Free means, and get licensing deals with Corel,
Netscape, and Sun, to include Wordperfect, Communicator, and
Staroffice. We'll make the install process less cryptic, include
non-free on the CD and forget the Debian philosophy, that the only
way to learn is by doing it the hard way.
I'm going to get flamed for this. I know it. We don't want to
think we're techno-snobs. We want to think our distribution is
superior. We want to leave out KDE. We don't want Joe Blow to start
with Debian, if he's not man enough to face up to Debian, he can go
buy, ("Ha! Buy!", we Debian snobs say) Red Hat.
Stuyvesant HS Sophmore