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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu 9.10 Release Party - 30th October

From: MJ Ray
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu 9.10 Release Party - 30th October
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 10:52:48 +0100 (BST)

Matt Lee wrote:
> On 10/19/2009 03:21 AM, Paul Waring wrote:
> > If you believe the FSF, even Debian isn't a free software distribution
> > (rather ironic, as gNewSense is apparently based on it...)
> Debian's Social Contract does say that all software in the main
> distribution will be free software. Unfortunately, that's not always
> true in practice.

I think that should say "Debian has bugs".  Saying "that's not always
true in practice" is melodramatic poppycock.  Would you say that Emacs
claims to be a text editor but that's not always true in practice if
it crashes sometimes?  Of course not.  You'd say it had a bug.

Sometimes, those bugs have come from upstream (like the Linux ones)
and it's left the debian project with the horrible choice between
breaking the "100% free" promise and breaking the "users and free
software" promise by breaking users' systems that already work and
should work again with 100% free software pretty soon.  I'm not
completely comfortable with the explicit compromises voted through to
date, but there's also a lot of great work being done by debian
contributors to cure those bugs, like

> Debian has repeatedly made tacit or explicit
> exceptions for specific pieces of nonfree software, such as the blobs
> included in or accompanying Linux.

Yes, technically, two exceptions is "repeatedly" but that's the sort
of friend-bashing at which FSF advocates excel sometimes.  Over on
(which Matt's post was an unmarked quote from), one of the most
committed free software projects gets two paragraphs of debatable
comments, while some of the most overtly proprietary-encouraging ones
don't even get a full line of criticism.

However, FSF-blessed distributions aren't completely free software
either, usually containing unmodifiable adverts in their manuals
(sometimes advertised as "Invariant Sections") and things like that.

> We're still hopeful that there won't
> be such exceptions in the future, but we can't turn a blind eye to the
> situation as it stands today.

Why not?  You turned blind eyes when some FSF-blessed distributions
contained such silly bugs as including Acrobat Reader or Sun Java -
RMS even endorsed them in interviews as alternatives to debian IIRC.
So I suspect if FSF still backed the debian project and had a greater
involvement in checking things for free-software-ness, bugs would
still happen.

Personally, I wonder if what really annoys some FSF supporters is that
the debian project made occasional exceptions for the Linux blobs but
not the GNU Manifesto.

> Debian also provides a repository of nonfree software. According to the
> project, this software is "not part of the Debian system." We understand
> that's important for organizational reasons, but users would be
> hard-pressed to make a distinction. [...]

Hard-pressed to make a distinction, apart from the fact only free
software is on the official CDs and DVDs and configured or advertised
by the normal package managers on normal debian systems(!)

Finally, why Ubuntu launch parties make my skin crawl: Ubuntu has
taken a voluntary-sector aim-for-100%-free distribution, built a
private-sector free-and-non-free distribution and gets more love and
free marketing from free software supporters than its parent, or than
the whole-community events.

I thank the list subscribers who have already pointed it out, but
I'm surprised anyone didn't understand why it felt creepy here.

The silver lining is that most Ubuntu improvements are free software
and are/can be contributed back to the free software world.

Hope that explains,
MJ Ray (slef)  LMS developer and webmaster at     | software
www.software.coop http://mjr.towers.org.uk        |  .... co
IMO only: see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html |  .... op

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