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Re: [gnu-prog-discuss] Re: continuous builds and portability testing wit

From: Reuben Thomas
Subject: Re: [gnu-prog-discuss] Re: continuous builds and portability testing with Hydra
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 17:14:58 +0100

On 29 April 2010 16:38, Paolo Bonzini <address@hidden> wrote:
> On 04/29/2010 04:56 PM, Ludovic Courtès wrote:
>> >      It might be nice if the default nix packages list was libre, and
>> >      the special case was nonfree - as Debian and Ubuntu and others do.
>>  If nix has a non-free package list the best thing is to remove it.
> Until nix and nixpkgs become GNU software, I don't see why it should be your
> business.
> You can use and recommend nixpkgs-libre.

Agreed: there's a fine line between evangelism and narrow-mindedness.
Debian, after all, does not "recommend non-free software", as Alfred
asserts: a default Debian install includes nothing that is considered
non-free by the Debian Free Software Guidelines, with the exception of
a few kernel drivers without which common hardware will not work. (Not
to mention the fact that according to the DFSG much GNU documentation
is non-free.) Ubuntu do pretty much the same as Debian, and (with the
exception again of kernel drivers) go out of their way to point out to
users when they are installing non-free software (for example,
graphics drivers for X, and their separate "partner repository").

Mature conduct requires one to accept first, that there may be genuine
differences of opinion over what constitutes "freedom", as witness the
distinct definitions arrived at by the FSF and the Debian maintainers
(the former by dictatorial fiat; the latter, by democratic consensus),
and secondly, that people who are essentially on the same side may
disagree about the relative importance of different factors: for the
GNU project, freedom (according to their definition) is of overriding
importance; Debian take a slightly more pragmatic view in their
limited kernel exceptions from the DFSG; whereas Ubuntu aims
unashamedly at getting the largest possible number of users, arguing
that it's better to get people the practical benefits of free software
via an "impure" approach, and that more people will end up learning
about and supporting free software as a result.

I suspect that, as in many real-world endeavours, none of the above is
more or less right overall than the others, and that a mixture of
approaches is needed to promote freedom in software. The endless
tiresome jibes between the various different groups remind me of the
woeful tendency of human groups to spend as much time and energy
feuding with those most like them as with those to whom they are most
antagonistic (cf. the constant intra-religious strife between
different denominations of the major religions, especially at a local
level). Possibly because I participate more in GNU as a community,
whereas in Debian and Ubuntu my interactions are more technical, I see
more nastiness here. While insisting on the importance of freedom is
necessary to ensure that the free software message is not corrupted
(as various bandwagoneers frequently try to do), I sometimes wonder if
the evangelists go too far towards insisting on a narrow definition
that ends up making the free software community a tiring and
unpleasant place to be for those who are mostly interested in
practical benefits for humanity and less in what the Christians refer
to as "continually mortifying our corrupt affections". Certainly, the
most common reason I hear from people for disliking the FSF is a
"holier than thou" feeling they pick up. Indeed, it's what put me off
for a long time from getting directly involved myself.

The Christians have another saying: "Correct me, but with judgement";
perhaps we could use a bit of that?


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