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Re: [to all candidates] Free Software challenges and Debian role

Lucas Nussbaum <lucas@debian.org> writes:

> (I still hadn't replied to that question -- I'll do that by following-up
> on Moray's reply since I agree with most of it)

...and I'll take the easiest route, and follow up on Lucas' mail, since
I mostly agree with both of them. Sorry!

> On 12/03/13 at 17:11 +0300, Moray Allan wrote:
>> [...]
>> - End-users are moving to web applications/"the cloud".  Few of the
>> most heavily used ones are free software.  Even if they are,
>> centralised web applications remove users' ability to modify
>> software to their own needs unless they duplicate a large amount of
>> infrastructure.  And in many cases cloud services reduce users'
>> control even over their data itself, not just over the platform.  We
>> used to have trouble with the network effect of e.g. Microsoft
>> Office file formats, but free-of-charge web applications can be even
>> worse for free software, since objectors need to argue an
>> ideological point to say why they want information in another way,
>> rather than only explain that they haven't bought that piece of
>> software or that it won't work on their OS.
>> - Server users are also migrating to "the cloud".  In many cases
>> this means that their services move to sit on a non-free platform,
>> and it often reduces ease of modification even in free parts of the
>> platform.
> Note that in that case, the cloud is also a great opportunity for us,
> since most IaaS clouds users use them with free software. So the Cloud
> tends to reinforce the position of libre operating systems for server
> OS.

While the cloud is a great opportunity for us, as Moray said, quite
often, we'd sit on top of a non-free platform. I usually put this under
the same label as non-free hardware, because hardware is being replaced
by virtualization - but the setup remains fairly similar.

I'd add two more things I see as an increasing risk for free software in

One is code dumps, where the software itself may be free, but
development behind it is not, when vendors abide the letter of the
license, but not the spirit. That is something that is becoming more and
more common, and I find that very worrying. Not only because it does not
follow the spirit of free software, but because it makes it much harder
to contribute and work with the software in question. I can easily see
it alienating people, who'd otherwise become part of the larger free
software community. Not only does it not follow the spirit, I believe it
actively works against it.

The other issue I see is bundling (often patched) third-party
libraries. That is hard to untangle, makes security support a nightmare,
and has all kinds of negative side-effects. All that to make it slightly
more convenient for vendors, who never really learned how to work with
free software. (This also applies to careless find & sed forks, though
those are thankfully much rarer). There's quite a lot we could teach
them there, and the world would become a much better place.


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