[Fsf-Debian] The question behind the questions [was No response?]

Mason Loring Bliss mason at blisses.org
Sat Aug 4 23:01:48 UTC 2012

On Sun, Aug 05, 2012 at 09:49:01AM +1200, Bryan Baldwin wrote:

> Which brings me back to the point I originally made. If Debian were serious
> about being a free distribution, we wouldn't be taking out our tape
> measures to figure out the minimum distance we need to put between main and
> contrib/nonfree before it makes Debian's claim to be 100% free become
> something meaningful.

Gods. You know, I'm somewhat surprised at my own personal reaction, as before
this initiative existed I tried in my small way to pursue Debian's inclusion
in the FSF free distributions list.

I've heard just enough of Bryan's sort of views to solidy my opinion.
Debian's a great operating system, and it's used by a huge number of people.
Additionally, the people working on Debian are doing the vast majority of the
work that actually makes up the content of the more popular leech

Debian is hugely successful in getting free software into peoples' hands.
This is relevant and is the case regardless of whether the organization
provides support for non-free software as an optional resource.

Support for non-free software is going to get more people to use free
software. Let's take an average Windows user with a typical laptop. We want
him to use free software, right? How is he going to feel about free software
when he can't use his wireless networking? He won't give it a second look.
If, however, he's able to use it and see the benefits of it, it's quite
possible he'll spend some time finding hardware that is fully supported by
free software next time around. But he won't get there without some help.

While this array of complaints are irrelevant to Debian, and likely the vast
majority of Debian developers and the even more numerous legions of systems
administrators running their business and organizations on Debian will never
hear about these debates, I'm still struck by the image of overwrought
zealots in an ivory tower throwing stones at the people building and
maintaining the foundation of their tower.

Let's consider that we're talking about two organizations searching to find
common ground. If we were simply trying to decide how Debian could change to
become (once again, as they were previously) acceptable to the FSF, that's
really easy. But that's not the point.

If there isn't a willingness to consider being flexible on both sides, then
we might as well go back to Debian being hugely popular and the FSF promoting
rebranding efforts like Trisquel and gNewSense.

I'm personally disappointed that we haven't had more concrete proposals from
the project leads involved in the list. I am inclined to think that there's a
lot of back-room haggling going on, and that seems distastefully opaque for
our purpose. Or maybe there's not, and the effort's not being taken seriously

Stefano: Have you got a notion of what the SPI and the Debian maintainers
might be willing to do towards separating Contrib and Non-Free more
completely from Debian? What might we use as a litmus test to get a notion of

John: What are the areas where the FSF is willing to flex to include Debian?
Or is the task really just a matter of making Debian flex until it fits the
desired definitions? Is Richard's view authoritatively representative of the
FSF's view, or is this as-yet resolved within the FSF?

We are hackers and engineers. We understand the problems before us and we can
begin charting out how we wish to tackle them any time now.

Mason Loring Bliss          mason at blisses.org          Ewige Blumenkraft!
awake ? sleep : random() & 2 ? dream : sleep; -- Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

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