[Fsf-Debian] few arguments to FSF

Adam Bolte abolte at systemsaviour.com
Fri Aug 10 10:09:55 UTC 2012

On Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 11:23:41AM +0200, Paul van der Vlis wrote:
> Op 10-08-12 05:04, Dmitry Smirnov schreef:
> In this case there is enough information, but not everybody will easy
> find it. I would look here at the "driver plugin" column:
> http://hplipopensource.com/hplip-web/supported_devices/laserjet.html
> And here: http://www.openprinting.org/printers/
> On both places there is enough information about this printer. But this
> not always the case!

There will always be early adopters, and will always be hardware for niche
markets where no such information is available. I can't see this situation
going away any time soon, as somebody always has to be the first one to buy
something and try running/adapting free software.

> What I would advice, when you have a little money: buy another printer,
> test it, sell this one second hand.

That's not alway an option. Not everyone lives somewhere where hardware
replacements are both affordable and readily available. Sometimes you have to
deal with what you've been given.

> Yes, but only because you bought wrong hardware ;-)

I'm not comfortable with the idea that any hardware not supported by free
software should be thrown out, if it can work with free software 99%+. Sure
it's not good from a freedom POV and should be avoided wherever possible, but
in situations where the alternative is to throw it out, it's potentially very

It's also very difficult to be 100% sure of *all* the components in any device
- particularly when it's not possible to test hardware with a LiveCD or some
such in advance. Previously I would just build my own desktop machine from
whatever parts I think would play nice, however laptops and tablets don't give
you such flexibility. In many cases, there is no way to know which chipset a
particular laptop will have. The model names can be identical but use
different hardware in different countries or for different revisions... no
hardware database is ever going to fully resolve such issues. 

> For me flash is important. It's the only closed source software I use on
> my PC.

You're saying that Flash is important, but some non-free driver that's
required to use a machine isn't? I can't agree with you there.

> I think we can get rid of contrib and non-free by moving it to something
> else. Something we can trust. The same as we have now but not under the
> name "Debian" anymore.
> But it's only a little step and not the real solution because then we
> still need nonfree.org then. But it makes more clear that Debian is
> about free software.

If it's just a matter of changing:

deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian wheezy contrib non-free

to say:

deb http://ftp.nonfree.org/debian wheezy contrib non-free

I don't think it is all that much of an improvement - not as long as the
Debian project plays any part in it. And I do believe that the Debian project
will need to be doing the right thing by the FSF for endorsement - and not
just the distribution. There will perhaps need to be that level of trust that
the distribution will not change its views down the road.

To take this to the extreme, if Microsoft released a 100% free software
distribution tomorrow (while still pushing proprietary software for everything
else), I think the FSF would be reluctant to recommend that distribution also.

> The real solution must come from alternatives for things like flash,
> good information, and hardware what's tested with free drivers.

There are alternatives. Most probably, these would be a lot better today if
more people cared about them - and more people would care about them if more
people actually used them.

But I disagree it's always possible (or at least practical) to buy hardware
(assuming you are the one doing the buying) that you know for a fact will with
100% with free software - not until manufacturers and/or local stores readily
publicly commit to the cause. In many situations, the best you can do is make
an educated guess.

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