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Re: YaST licence

On Wed, Dec 05, 2001 at 03:28:21AM +0100, Kurt Garloff wrote:

(sorry for the late answer, I was very busy, and then plainly forgot I
 had a reply "to do" here.)

> We got an idea of a better world. One where people have a life free
> from arbitrary restrictions put onto them by someone who provides
> something they want to have.

> That's the idea.

> If you look at it from a software perspective, this will lead to
> some approach with people sharing thoughts, ideas and, thus,
> software.

> If you look at reality, people, unfortunately, have to woory a lot
> about how to get along in their lige

> How do you spread the ideal best?
> By just telling the ideas you have very clearly?
> By telling it in a way people can understand?
> By adapting their way of thinking and argueing within their system?
> By using their system to be successful in order to prove the superiority?
> By using their system to get stronger and stronger until we win?

> I just wonder where "corrupting the message" starts?

Reading what I wrote again, I must say I have been too extremistic in
my wording. Obviously, SuSE is not the safeguard of the spirit of free
software. What I wanted to express is that the image of the free
software community they show to newcomers is _not_ the one I want
those newcomers to see.

If "using their system to get stronger until we win" includes doing
some of the stuff we think is unethical, this is corrupting the
message, and on the long term will play against us. If you are
advocating for something, but yourself do what you are advocating
against, you lose all credibility.

If "using their system to be successful in order to prove the
superiority" includes shipping non-free software yourself wrote, this
is corrupting the message.

If you want to dismantle their system because it is bad, you won't
show them your system is better by using their system! Quite the
contrary, you give the "other" side arguments: Look, even the
supporters of free software are writing and shipping non-free
software! You show them their system is better, because you yourself
feel the need to use it.

Now, I understand that SuSE employees and shareholders have to eat and
feed their family _now_, today and not in the long term. But this is
not a valid argument to justify unethical business practices.

Sugar plantations in the US south did loose revenue when slavery was
ablished. This does not mean abolishing slavery was not the right
thing to do. (I'm not saying that non-free software is as bad as
slavery. Slavery is just an example of restricting the other's freedom
that has deep economic consequences)

SuSE sends very mixed messages. They are clearly not on the "parasite"
site like Caldera ("We just take all this gratis software, package it
and try to leverage per-seat license revenue on it") because they
really contribute to development.  I believe they employ kernel
hackers, I know they employ X hackers, etc. But they make compromises
"We must eat, thus we do free software, too", thus inherently
expressing the opinion that is is OK. The threat they (in my opinion)
for this very reason pose to the understanding of our core ideas and
opinions by the general publicum is much more subtle and thus much
more dangerous.

I used the word corrupting, because to a newcomer, SuSE can very well
appear as a strongly free software-supporting company, one example of
"ethically pure" business. "SuSE does it, does it must be OK to do it"
(software restricted to non-commercial distribution) is the reasoning
I fear.

> You're not gonna tell me that it's about yes or not being able to
> make money from the work of others, are you? It's about the
> direction to go!

It is about ethics. And an action taken in order to go in one
direction, but that in essence is opposite to that direction is a
misguided step that will in fine work against that direction:

I'm repeating myself, but you can not be credible in saying you want
free software on the long term if you create non-free software
yourself. Maybe SuSE's intentions are pure, they see this commercial
redistribution restriction as a temporary compromise needed in the
current world, but I'm deeply convinced that the way they do it works
against the final goal, that the net result of their actions will be
negative, wether that's what they wanted or not.

> Do we want to reach the majority of people? Evebn if they might not
> be able to grasp the full message? Do we want to give them a way to
> help us? Or do we exclude them, restricting us to elitarian circle
> of people who can shift their way of thinking far enough away from
> the current mainstream?

I fail to see how writing only free software would restrict ourselves
to the elitarian circle. Cf Redhat.

> I think both is necessary, and that's why I both appreciate the
> existence and the approach of Debian and SuSE.

The very argument you need YaST to be non-free to protect your revenue
source is subject to debate:

And the Redhat approach? Redhat is profitable, aren't they? Each and
every bit of software they write that goes in their GNU/Linux
distribution is free software. Yes, this has lead to some other
commercial distributions (like Mandrake) being a spin-off of
Redhat. Maybe Redhat has lost revenue due to Mandrake being able just
to fork Redhat. But they still are profitable.

Additionally, I really don't think the _political_ choices made by
Debian restrict it to an elite. Some _technical_ choices do, like not
having ls aliased to 'ls --color=auto' automatically by default, no ll
alias by default, no lesspipe magic by default for gzipped files and
man files, etc.

> I do not think that one approach would be successful. Either you
> offer strange compormises to thos who have quite sone way behind
> them already or you are never able to reach people beyond a small
> circle.

I really don't think giving a non-free configuration front-end
enlarges the audience of your distribution. While I somewhat agree
with your general points, I do not agree at all that they apply to the
YaST licensing issue.

You may need "strange compromises" but definitely not writing non-free
software for the distribution you are doing.

Just my two philosophical nano-cents ;-)

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