[Fsf-Debian] Another approach...

Bryan Baldwin bryan at katofiad.co.nz
Thu Aug 9 00:09:51 UTC 2012

Hash: SHA1

On 08/09/2012 02:45 AM, Mason Loring Bliss wrote:
> I had a thought about a perspective that hasn't been considered as 
> yet. It's a long-term proposition but I think everyone on "both 
> sides" would agree it's absolutely the right approach.
> Briefly, my position: I have no formal affiliation with Debian, but
> I'm an enthusiastic supporter. I started using it circa 1998 after
> RMS convinced me to use Debian instead of Red Hat, when I was
> transitioning away from NetBSD. I am as associate member of the
> FSF, donate freely, try to offer guidance in the FSF IRC channels,
> and support and attend FSF events when I can. My principal interest
> is in promoting the use of free software for many tasks, with the
> general notion being that a rich collective commons offers a better
> base for the improvement of the human condition than greed-centered
> proprietary software. I have experienced more than one situation in
> my life where I observed the direct, measurable harm caused by the
> use of proprietary software.
> My proposition is as follows. The FSF and its membership shouldn't 
> complain about the Contrib and Non-Free repositories. Instead, they
> should take them as a guidebook and put their efforts into 
> obviating those repositories. The FSF should be reverse-engineering
> radio chipsets and writing free software to drive them. They should
> be improving Nouveau and Gnash until they're in fact usable. The
> FSF should be looking at all the firmware in non-free and replacing
> it with working, free software.
> The FSF is capable of significant engineering efforts. Emacs and 
> GCC are two of the more popular examples, but the FSF can also 
> point to HURD and Coreboot. The FSF provides the libc at the heart 
> of most Lignux distri- butions. FSF hackers, please make more 
> software. Focus on foundational elements - write firmware that will
> let people use their computers without relying on proprietary 
> software. If the FSF doesn't have the resources to do this, find 
> and make more hackers, and open dialogues with hardware 
> manufacturers to get them to free their firmware and drivers.
> I have no doubt at all that given good, free alternatives to the 
> proprietary software in Contrib and Non-Free, Debian will shed them
> without looking back.
> Let's actually solve the problem. I'd like for Contrib and Non-Free
> to have no compelling reason to exist.

There would have to be some sort of exit strategy in place before this
could advance the idea of a fully free Debian. We would need a
"wish-list" of sorts, to say, this is the minimum functionality we
require before considering giving up contrib and nonfree.

I trust this would have development efforts on all sides in the
community, not just FSF running along behind Debian with a scooper and
a plastic baggie at hand just in case.

I worry that this is an example of swatting mosquitoes without
draining the swamp. At any time, a proprietary program or standard
could become massively popular. Even if contrib and nonfree were empty
at that point, a .deb could be made and out would come the lashes and
demands to supply a free alternative. If hardware manufacturers and
developers know they can easily get nonfree accepted in the community,
where is the incentive for them to release free?
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