drop or keep non-free - from users viewpoint
I'm using Debian GNU/Linux now for 3 years as my only Operating System and
i have read almost the complete discussion here about non-free.
I think it could be useful to read the view of a normal user about this
issue because i think the discussion is sometime at a high level of
rhetoric words and not on the level which relate to the normal users.
First what i don't really understand is, at one point people says non-free
isn't part of the Debian OS (that's what also says the Debian SC) but at
the other hand some people argue that Debian have to provide the user
non-free programs if they need it. But how can Debian provide this
software to there user if it isn't part of the Debian OS?
Now how the situation looks from a user viewpoint. I think for the most
user non-free is part of the Debian OS. Let me explain why:
Ask in normal Debian or GNU/Linux forums how does a normal Debian OS
source.list looks. The main answer will be:
deb ftp:... main contrib non-free
Now look deeper in the Debian OS. If i install Debian, the installer asked
me if i want to include non-free in my source-list. If the Debian OS have
no non-free, why the installer asked me about? Than i install some
packages and apt-get suggested me non-free software, why? I think the
whole discussion about this is a lot "rhetoric blabla" if you can suggest
or recommend non-free packages or not. If Debian don't provide non-free
Software and also says it will be a "100% free Operating System" than it
shouldn't recommend or suggest the user non-free packages.
Than i try to find some package from the Debian OS in the Package database
on the Debian homepage, and what i see? The database searches by default
also in the non-free archive!
Look at all these point and tell me, without just "rhetoric blabla", why a
user should think that non-free isn't part of the Debian OS? I think there
are no arguments on the realistic level of users which fits the reality
how non-free packages are treated at the moment.
Now how does this encourage people to use more ore less non-free software:
I have seen a lot Debian user (i am also in the past) which just install
every packet which is recommend or suggested just to have all installed
which is in any form part of the software i have originally installed.
Even if i will never use this feature just to know that i can do
everything which is possible with the software package. This leads people
to non-free software, even if they don't really need it, Debian shouldn't
encourage people to install non-free software. Also a lot of people
install programs like the adobe acrobat-reader just because they know him
from there last operating system or from school, business, what ever... I
have explained why most people think non-free es part of the Debian OS and
why the most user have non-free in there source-list, so they just see
that there is an acrobat-reader so they installed it. They don't even
think about it, that there is also other alternatives which are free and
fit there needs too. If they wouldn't find by default this non-free
program they would maybe search for "pdf viewer" and would find the free
alternatives which fit there needs.
Another example would be mpg123 vs. mpg321. Many Debian user recommend you
mpg123 if you ask for a console mpg-player, so the most people wouldn't
think about it and install it although there would be a free replacement
There would be more examples but i think that is enough to show you the
arguments. I just think that if an "apt-get install a_non-free_program"
would say "no package available" the user would search for a package which
does something simular and maybe find someone. I think that's the right
way, because so Debian leads the user to free Software and not to non-free
Often i read the argument that Debian have to help people to use there
computer, with free and non-free Software. But how far does this help
goes? I think Debian GNU/Linux is an open and free operation system
everyone can study it and insert new features or programs whether free or
non-free. Everyone can learn how to build a Debian package, so it's free
to everyone to build Debian package from non-free programs. I think that's
more than enough help, which you can become from a operating system which
goal is Free Software and not non-free software!
One last point: I have read that DD which also packages non-free programs
think that if Debian drops non-free they would need more time for there
non-free package and for the (maybe) new infrastructure. This is maybe
true or not. But i think if you define the goal of Debian to create an
100% free operating system thats not a problem for Debian.
If there is no non-free, than you are a DD if you work on the Debian OS
which is only free Software. If you want also package non-free packages no
one can and will stop you doing this. But this will nothing have to do
with your job as DD. There will be people which create non-free packages
in there spare-time which aren't DD's and there will be people which
create non-free packages in there spare-time which are DD's. But that
would be no subject for Debian, Debian would provides a free operating
system. And if you build in your spare-time non-free packages, or drive
bicycle or go swimming or... that has nothing to do with the Debian
Project or your job as DD.
At the end i would say: I as Debian user would be glade if Debian drops
non-free and would be the first real 100% free operating system. But also
if not, just think about my first paragraph (why people think that
non-free is part of Debian) and try to draw an better line between
non-free and main.
Just some thought's from a normal Debian user about this discussion. Maybe
you will find it useful or interesting.