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Re: Proposal: Keep non-free

On Tue, Feb 24, 2004 at 02:45:14PM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> On 2004-02-24 13:48:22 +0000 Sven Luther <sven.luther@wanadoo.fr> 
> wrote:
> >MJ Ray wrote: 
> >>It does not really seem healthy for the Debian operating system 
> >>development 
> >>to use its facilities to help develop software that cannot be part 
> >>of the 
> >>Debian operating system.
> >Oh ? Please tell me how it is a health problem for Debian ? What are 
> >the
> >symptoms of the disease, and how is it related to the non-free area ?
> Maybe "health" is not the best word, as it's anthropomorphising 
> Debian. It hates that.


> Running right through the project is the aim that "Debian is a free 
> operating system (OS) for your computer" yet we use directly 
> project-related resources to give better support to some pieces of 
> non-free software than we do to non-Debian-packaged free software. I 
> believe this situation is unjust, inconsistent, or, if you prefer, an 
> unhealthy attitude. The project works against itself and those its 
> website says it strongly supports.

Yeah, but i think it is not a health problem, not a dissease, at worst a
mild disconfort. I guess it is not even noticeable.

> >>>Third, it allows us to establish productive relationships with 
> >>>>upstream
> >>>authors of non-free software, which gives the free software 
> >>>community
> >>>an effective channel for communicating their needs and desires.
> >>This seems almost entirely independent of non-free being in the
> >Thus speaks the one who doesn't care about non-free, without even 
> >caring
> >to hear the experience of the non-free packagers who repeteadedly
> >claimed the contrary here.
> That's unfair, unjustified and largely incorrect. As you should 
> remember from our past discussions, I care about non-free and would 
> like to see more things in it be freed or replaced. I hear your 
> anecdotes, but no-one has anything better than vague sentiments on 

Err, my anecdotes are first hand experience. So, i think it is rather
more than vague sentiments.

> this. Can anyone show the magic non-free archive effect exists and is 
> stronger than for a third-party non-free package? The light in the 
> darkness you describe may be an oncoming train rather than the sun you 
> claim, for all I know. In god we trust: all others should bring data.

Well, i am both the maintainer of actual software in non-free, and of
software that was previously in non-free and is now in main, and i can
assure you that my interaction with upstream had a part in it, and that
upstream respects me for it and for my packaging skill. Sure, this is
not the relationship of all maintainers with their upstream, but it is
with me. And i am not sure i would have cared all that much if said
package was not in non-free. This is also a point you are missing. The
motivation of non-free packagers.

A debian packager of non-free stuff cares about the package, and since
he is a debian maintainer, he adheres to the ideal and wants its stuff
out of non-free if possible. He is in interaction with upstream about
this, and know when it is time to push for it or when it is not.

Now, a packager of a random third party repository, i doubt he will care
about debian all that much, and will have no benefit in having the
package freed, even worse, it will be a loose for him maybe.

Now, you will say, maybe he is also a DD in his own right ? But in that
case we loose again, since the time lost for the overhead of doing the
alternative repo is time lost which would most assuredly have gone into

> >[...] documentation and other kind of data (is the bible text in
> >main really modifiable ?
> Surely the bible text is in the public domain by now?

But modifiable ? That would be heresy, i think, and it is not copyright
law that is going on here.

> >and what about the whole lot of GFDL documentation)
> No-one claims it is free software, so I don't think there's much 
> question there.

The question is, once we decide it is non-free, and we have to remove it
from main, where will it go, and if we decide to keep it in main despite
its non-freeness, then what about other non-free documentation we are
going to kick from the non-free archive ? Especially the ocaml-docs i
care about ? 

> >and naturally binary only driver, where one could argue
> >that the ultimate source is not the source in itself but the full
> >hardware specs, which are often available only with an NDA, and even
> >then, often incomplete.
> Yes, these sort of NDAs are always a problem. The problems are at 
> least as bad as the symptoms. Why accomodate the symptoms?

Because i want to run kick-ass 3D on my debian box ? Because i want to
use the cheap ADSL pci modem i have in my box ? What are the alternative
for those ? Run windows ? 

> >>I suspect people often install non-free through ignorance and habit.
> >They install them, because there is no free alternative.
> Recent work analysing non-free makes me think this could be a minority 
> case. I should cross-reference the non-free alternatives list with the 
> popcon output.

Yeah, sure, but it is only a minority now, i tell you i see a trend for
more and more non-free drivers. What will be our position to those. And
even now, it is only a minority because the majority of non-free drivers
are not packaged.

> If you support removal when there is a free alternative, it sounds 
> like a weaker form of the Suffield drop GR would get your support. How 

That is what i have been telling since the begining. We have to see
non-free on a case by case basis, not on a shot first, ask later as the
non-free removal people suggest. The alternative archive is a myth too,
an excuse to get ride of it. You know how it goes in the free/open
source world, the only thing that count is those that are implemented,
and if you want something, move your ass and work on it.

But for that, we don't really need a GR or changing anything, it can
even be done with aj's proposal. We need someone or a group of someone
who fills bug report against non-free packages, and follow or orients
alternative free project. It is a matter of people actually following
this and doing the work, not something you will solve with
administrative constraints.

> to word it, though? I can't think of a way that avoids the "when 
> alternatives exist" condition problem I mentioned in other emails, 
> though.

There is no need of a new wording. Just point out the case where
alternative exists, and by all mean, let's remove them.

> >>>By contrast there is not, to the best of my knowledge, any evidence 
> >>>>at all
> >>>to support the claims that supporting non-free costs as anything 
> >>>>notable.
> >>
> >>Then, the sides are equal, at best. However, your rationale is not 
> >>presenting the case against the motion, so I would not expect it to 
> >>include 
> >>that evidence, but the absence of evidence for your proposal is 
> >>unusual.
> >
> >blah blah blah.
> Yes, I think that's an equivalently meaningful restatement of the 
> original point! I do not expect the proposer of a GR to put the case 
> against their proposal. Claiming there is no case against it seems 
> pretty null.

Well, the non-free removal proponent have thus far failed to give any
kind of valid rationale, so i rather think there is no meaningfull case
against it.

> >>>The costs in manpower are also fairly
> >>>small: all the ongoing support is a freebie from supporting 
> >>>software >in
> >>If nothing else, do ftpmasters have to check uploads, as with other 
> >>packages?
> >Naturally they do. But i guess this would be not more work than 
> >checking
> >the uploads of someone trying to sneak in one of those packages into
> >main.
> So, there is still some extra work for each package in non-free and 
> not just "freebie". The OP exaggerated.

Well, wrong, there is extra work for _new_ packages in non-free.

> >Because the whole lot of installed debian machines doesn't represent a
> >potential market even enough to pay these hardware manufacturers
> >employee time needed to follow the release of the specs and such 
> >things.
> >Or so they say at least. Please step back in reality.
> Careful. Spec releasing and relicensing may be the simplest routes, 
> but they are not the only ones.

Yeah, sure, please go ahead, and reverse engineer the nvidia hardware,
then i and others would be glad to write a driver for it. A, wait, this
will assuredly end in some black helicopter squad showing up at your
home, and putting you in jail for IP thieving, i forgot.

> >>This Great Unanswered Question is the core of that debate: would the 
> >>maintainers of an alternative non-free framework be already active 
> >>Debian 
> >>developers or not?
> >Yes, naturally, or else, they would be persons who would otherwise 
> >have
> >become one.
> I disagree, as you already know, but I think it is the core question.

See my response to it above.

> >>There could be another benefit to removing non-free: developers 
> >>would need 
> >>to accept that the Debian project is not the only source for Debian 
> >>packages and actually resolve some of the third-party package 
> >>support 
> >>matters, like Origin and Bugs, and enabling something like 
> >>apt-checksigs as 
> >>default.
> >Third party packages are evil, this is what the whole rpm situation 
> >has
> >showed us.
> Now who has stepped out of reality? Third party packages will always 
> exist and we should manage them better. The "rpm situation" may 
> describe what happens when you don't manage them as well as possible. 
> So far the "debian situation" is that third-party packages are 
> discouraged by some (many?) developers. That won't work forever.

Yeah. But this third party discouragement is one of the strenght of
debian, and its seal of quality too. If you want to go beyond that, then
you start having loads of problems.

> >>What approaches "the discussion is over" is not really a healthy 
> >>position 
> >>statement. Reading the docs, I'm also not sure that such a position 
> >>statement is non-null.
> >You don't like it, because you fear you will loose it, and would 
> >prefer
> >and endless discussion than a resolution in your disfavor.
> No, I don't like it, but because it doesn't seem to matter whether I 
> "win" or not. It looks like a complete waste of time and I think it 
> may be an attempt to irritate developers with unnecessary voting about 
> non-free.

Well, the problem is, if the keep non-free proponent win, it will not
matter at all, but if the remove non-free proponent win, then it will
matter, as our users will suffer from it, and more to the point, the
maintainer of non-free software (myself among them) will suffer, and by
transitivity, the debian project as a whole will suffer from it.

> >Anyway, sure, someone can propose a let's remove non-free resolution
> >later on again, but at least we can be out of it for now, and
> >concentrate on real work, instead of endlessly hearing the same
> >complaints.
> Does the proposal do that any better than the Suffield drop GR not 
> passing?

I think not. It is just a keep the status quo thingy. But it would at
least guarantee a certain time delay before we have to discuss about
this again. And it certainly wins over Further Discussion, which is
something i really would not like to have, nor you, it seems.


Sven Luther

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