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Re: [GNU-linux-libre] How do you handle references to non-free softwarei

From: Sam Geeraerts
Subject: Re: [GNU-linux-libre] How do you handle references to non-free softwarein public forums?
Date: Thu, 07 Jul 2011 23:30:53 +0200
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20101029)

Henry Jensen wrote:
On Wed, 06 Jul 2011 13:06:21 -0700 (PDT)
"Jason Self" <address@hidden> wrote:
This Guidelines are pretty good. May I use them as a blueprint?

Sure. Note that it's a collective work under GFDL, but that doesn't matter much if you're just going to use the ideas.

If I understand you correctly, references to NON-FSDG-Software should be
treated the same way as completely non-free software.

I think it depends on the context. It's important to remember that a conversation is different from a software repository. If I know that you're able and willing to do your own add-on freedom checking (or you don't use add-ons) then there's not much of a problem with suggesting you install Firefox.

I had a post like this in mind:

I objected that posting a reference to this NON-FSGD software at the
Trisquel forum is probably not a good idea, but the author of the post
said that "no one seems to have an issue" with this and "Non-FSDG
software isn't non-free software." Since no one of the Trisquel
team (I am a simple Trisquel user) responded I wasn't sure how the rest
of the free software community sees this matter.

The thread shows that ryanpablo knows that Firefox has issues, but it looks like his main reason for choosing Trisquel over Ubuntu is that he doesn't like Unity. Adrian's great response clears up some misunderstandings and tries to find out what ryanpablo wants instead of immediately giving him what he asks. I think Adrian said "no one seems to have an issue" because Kahny's earlier links to Firefox were not disapproved of. And he probably meant it as: "the issues have been explained here, IceCat 5 is not out yet, so you can use Firefox 5 for now and handle it with care". He could have expressed that better and it made sense to point out IceCat's alpha.

I would put Adrian's other comment more subtly: non-FSDG software like Firefox is very free, but not fully free. Or better yet: not fully committed to software freedom. It's certainly on the better side of the non-FSDG spectrum.

Good point. But sometime it is hard to know where to draw the line. Of
course, if someone would post a link for a proprietary software with
instructions to download and install it, it would be a clearly
violation. But goes the same for NON-FSDG software? What about the very
mentioning of NON-FSDG Software and distros? I think there is a point
where this is not controllable nor fixable. E. g. some FSDG distros are
based on NON-FSDG distros. It is only natural that the NON-FSDG distro
is mentioned several times. E. g. gNewSense has the string "ubuntu" in
almost every package file name.

Context matters. In the case of packages file names it's not an issue, IMO, because it gives credit to the project where a lot of the distro work has happened. So it's also not a problem to say "gNewSense is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian". Neither is it a problem to state facts (e.g. "GNOME is also the default desktop in Ubuntu") or opinions (e.g. "LinuxMint has nice artwork").

An example of problematic behavior is when someone refers to LinuxMint every chance she gets, no matter how relevant to the discussion. Or someone constantly pointing out the advantages of non-FSDG software over fully free alternatives.

Sam Geeraerts
gNewSense dev

P.S.: I'm not involved in the Trisquel community and I don't mean to overstep my boundaries. I just think it's an interesting case to comment on and clarify with regards to the free distro checklist.

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