[Fsf-Debian] Another approach...

Ben Finney ben+debian at benfinney.id.au
Thu Aug 9 02:28:19 UTC 2012

Bryan Baldwin <bryan at katofiad.co.nz> writes:

> 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.

You have a very good point. To make ‘contrib’ and ‘non-free’ obsolete it
is not sufficient to make a list of what is there *now* and try to
replace those over years, because in those intervening years it's very
likely that even more non-free software blobs rise to prominence, each
with a community of users who ask for it in Debian.

Given that premise – with which I agree – the most effective long-term
way to reduce the size of ‘contrib’ and ‘non-free’, with a goal of
eliminating the need for them, is to decrease the perceived need by
users for non-free software below the threshold of the inconvenience in
obtaining it.

> 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.

I'm not quite sure who the actors are in this sentence. Who would be
making the ‘.deb’, who would bring out the lashes and demands for a free

> If hardware manufacturers and developers know they can easily get
> nonfree accepted in the community, where is the incentive for them to
> release free?

This is a useful distinction. Even though non-free software is not part
of Debian, it is frequently accepted by the community.

The issue is how best to communicate to that community that, even though
by starting with Debian they have a free operating system, in installing
non-free software they thereby have a non-free operating system.

The greater challenge, as we are often painfully aware, is to get users
to care about their software freedom; but that's a rather broader goal
than this forum. It's good to keep such a goal in sight, though.

 \          “A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. |
  `\        Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in |
_o__)                       principle is always a vice.” —Thomas Paine |
Ben Finney
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