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[H-source-users] generalize (or eliminate) the distros white-list

From: bill-auger
Subject: [H-source-users] generalize (or eliminate) the distros white-list
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2021 13:34:12 -0400

my main criticism of the distros white-list, is that
"distros-by-release" is not the most informative categorization;
and that there is no reason for the client to discriminate,
based on one specific server's white-list

it seems to me that the kernel is the only significant factor
which determines if some hardware "works with free software"
(which the website shows generically for all entries) (ie: that
really means: "works with _this_ libre kernel") - IIRC, all
client hardware entries carry the kernel and version
information; so distro information reduces to analytics or trivia

here are some good reasons to push this concern out of the
source code, or to remove the distros white-list entirely (an
empty or missing white-list file, could simply default to:

* the website already presents the question as: "does it work
  with free software?" (not: "does it work with my distro?") -
  WRT the EOL distros issue: even hardware entries which were
  orphaned by a deleted EOL distro, would (forever into the
  future) show: "does it work with free software? YES"

* if some hardware works on any release of linux-libre or the
  debian linux, it would most likely work on any other distro,
  using those same kernels

* if some hardware works on any release of foo-distro, it is most
  likely to work on all later releases - i doubt if linux-libre
  or debian would let any useful libre drivers be dropped

* if for some reason, some hardware does not work on some release
  of foo-distro, that would be most likely because linux-libre or
  debian has dropped the kernel module; and it will not work OOTB
  on any distro + that kernel - regardless, it can be made to
  work on that release of foo-distro (or any other), simply by
  using a previous kernel, which still has the module - again,
  this is very unlikely to happen; but by the time it affects any
  LTS distro, it would have already affected all other distros
  which offer foo-kernel as the only kernel option

* the distro name is even less informative for distros with
  multiple kernel options; because one of the kernels may
  support some hardware, while the other kernel may not - how
  to represent that in the DB or on the GUI? - for example,
  guix+linux-libre vs guix+hurd - there is probably only a single
  bool for "works with guix"? - what happens when another client
  submits a contradictory report on the same release of the
  singular 'guix' distro - the only other way to capture that
  information, would be to treat guix as two distros:
  'guix+linux-libre' and 'guix+hurd' - 'guix+linux-libre' would
  probably support all of the same hardware as 'parabola'; and
  'guix+hurd' would probably support all of the same hardware as
  'debian+hurd' - the fixation on distros actually equates to a
  loss of information in this way

* hypothetically, i suppose that very little of importance would
  be lost if the entire distros table were deleted - it could be
  replaced with a table on the website, listing which distros use
  foo-kernel and which use bar-kernel

those points are already implicit for rolling distros - to
present a device as: "tested with parabola + linux-libre vN",
indicates nothing significant beyond "tested with linux-libre vN"
- the latter, being more general, is more informative; because
the result is probably accurate for any distro using that
kernel, and probably future releases of that kernel as well

likewise, "works with trisquel-N + linux-libre v N", indicates
nothing significant beyond "works with linux-libre v N"; which
ideally (contingent upon healthy user participation), would
already have been verified years prior, when that kernel was
current on one of the rolling distros - in practice, for most
hardware, compatibility with LTS distros can be predicted years
in advance, knowing only which kernel version it would use, and
if it supports that hardware on _any_ distro

i am not familiar with the code yet - does anyone know, if or
how are conflicting entries handled now? - is there any attempt
to collect/correlate multiple records for the same device, into
a device-specific value/probability or a single boolean for:
"works with free software (at least one known kernel version)"?
- or does each client hardware record have it own independent
(possibly conflicting) "it works with free software (for me)"

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