Debian, Philosophy, and People

Given the recent brouhaha in Debian, and General Resolution regarding Lenny’s Release policy as it relates to Firmware and Debian’s Social Contract, which has led to the resignation of Manoj Srivastava from the position of Secretary for the Debian Project, I’m reminded of the following passage from Gordon Dickson’s Tactics of Mistakes (part of Dickson’s Childe Cycle, in which he tells the story of the rise of the Dorsai):

“No,” said Cletus. “I’m trying to explain to you why I’d never make an Exotic. In your calmness in the face of possible torture and the need to kill yourself, you were showing a particular form of ruthlessness. It was ruthlessness toward yourself—but that’s only the back side of the coin. You Exotics are essentially ruthless toward all men, because you’re philosophers, and by and large, philosophers are ruthless people.”

“Cletus!” Mondar shook his head. “Do you realize what you’re saying?”

“Of course,” said Cletus, quietly. “And you realize it as well as I do. The immediate teaching of philosophers may be gentle, but the theory behind their teaching is without compunction—and that’s why so much bloodshed and misery has always attended the paths of their followers, who claim to live by those teachings. More blood’s been spilled by the militant adherents of prophets of change than by any other group of people down through the history of man.”

The conflict between idealism and pragmatism is a very old one in the Free and Open Source Software Movement. At one end of the spectrum stands Richard Stallman, who has never compromised on issues regarding his vision of Software Freedom. Standing at various distances from this idealistic pole are various members of the Open Source Community. For example, in the mid-1990’s, I used to give presentations about Linux using Microsoft Powerpoint. There were those in the audience that would give me grief about using a non-free program such as MS Powerpoint, but my response was that I saw no difference between driving a car which had non-free firmware and using a non-free slide presentation program. I would prefer to use free office suite, but at the time, nothing approached the usability of Powerpoint, and while dual-booting into Windows was a pain, I could do a better job using Powerpoint than other tools, and I refused to handcap myself just to salve the sensibilities of those who felt very strongly about Free Software and who viewed the use of all non-Free Software as an ultimate evil that must be stamped out at all costs.

It is the notion of Free Software as a philosophy, with no compromises, which has been the source of many of the disputes inside Debian. Consider, if you will, the first clause of the Debian Social Contract:

Debian will remain 100% free

We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is free in the document entitled The Debian Free Software Guidelines. We promise that the Debian system and all its components will be free according to these guidelines. We will support people who create or use both free and non-free works on Debian. We will never make the system require the use of a non-free component.

This clause has in it no room for compromise. Note the use of words such as “100% free” and “never make the system require the use of a non-free component” (emphasis mine). In addition, the Debian Social Contract tends to be interpreted by Computer Programmers, who view such imperatives as constraints that must never be violated, under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, the real world is rarely so cut-and-dried. Even the most basic injunctions, such as “Thou shalt not kill” have exceptions. Few people might agree with claims made by the U.S. Republican Party that the war in Iraq qualified as a Just War as defined by Thomas Aquinas, but rather more people might agree that the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler would be considered justifiable. And most people would probably agree most of the actions undertaken by the Allied Soldiers on World War II battlefields that involved killing other soldiers would be considered a valid exception to the moral (and for those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, biblical) injunction, “Thou shalt not kill“.

As another example, consider the novel and musical Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo. One of the key themes of this story is whether or not “Thou shalt not steal” is an absolute or not. Ultimately, the police inspector Javert, who lived his whole life asserting that law (untempered by mercy, or any other human considerations) was more important than all else, drowns himself in the Seine when he realizes that his life’s fundamental organizing principle was at odds with what was ultimately the Right Thing To Do.

So if even the sixth and eighth commandments admit to exceptions, why is it that some Debian developers approach the first clause of the Debian Social Contract with a take-no-prisoners, no-exceptions policy? Especially given the fourth clause of the Debian Social contract:

Our priorities are our users and free software

We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free software community. We will place their interests first in our priorities. We will support the needs of our users for operation in many different kinds of computing environments. We will not object to non-free works that are intended to be used on Debian systems, or attempt to charge a fee to people who create or use such works. We will allow others to create distributions containing both the Debian system and other works, without any fee from us. In furtherance of these goals, we will provide an integrated system of high-quality materials with no legal restrictions that would prevent such uses of the system.

This clause does not have the same sort of absolutist words as the first clause, so many Debian Developers have held that the “needs of the users” is defined by “100% free software”.   Others have not agreed with this interpretation — but regardless of how “needs of the users” should be interpreted, the fact of the matter is, injuctions such as “Thou shalt not kill” are just as absolute — and yet in the real world, we recognize that there are exceptions to such absolutes, apparently unyielding claims on our behavior.

I personally believe that “100% free software” is a wonderful aspirational goal, but in particular with regards to standards documents and firmware, there are other considerations that should be taken into account.   People of good will may disagree about what those exceptions should be, but I think one thing that we should consider as even higher priority and with a greater claim on how we behave is the needs of our users and fellow developers as people.   For those who claim Christianity as their religious tradition, Jesus once stated,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Even for those who do not claim Christianity as their religious tradition, most moral and ethical frameworks have some variant on the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  I would consider, for example, that the Golden Rule is at least a high priority claim on my behavior as the notion of free speech, and in many cases, it would be a higher priority claim.  The recent controversy surrounding Josselin Mouette was started precisely because Joss has taken a something which is a good thing, namely Free Speech, and relegated it to a principle more important than all else, and claiming that any restraint on such a notion was equivalent to censorship.

I think the same thing is true for free software, although it is a subtler trap.  Philosophical claims than “100% free software” as most important consideration is dangerously close to treating Free Software as the Object of Ultimate Concern — or in religious terms, idolotry.  For those who are religious, it’s clear why this is a bad thing; for those who aren’t — if you are unwilling to worship a supernatural being, you may want to very carefully consider whether you are willing to take a philosophical construct and raise it to a position of commanding your highest allegiance to all else, including how you treat other people.

Ultimately, I consider people to be more important than computers, hardware or software.  So over time, while I may have had some disagreements with how Mark Shuttleworth has run Canonical Software and Ubuntu (but hey, he’s the multimillionaire, and I’m not), I have to give him props for Ubuntu’s Code of Conduct.  If Debian Developer took the some kind of Code of Conduct at least as seriously as the Social Contract, I think interactions between Debian Developers would be far more efficient, and in the end the project would be far more successful.   This may, however, require lessening the importance of philosophical constructs such as Free Speech and Free Software, and perhaps becoming more pragmatic and more considerate towards one another.

82 thoughts on “Debian, Philosophy, and People

  1. I agree with your last paragraph, except that it seems to be suggesting that this bad atmosphere is to blame on those who are committed to freedom.

    I’m committed to freedom, and I’m not ruthless. I’m capable of compromise. I’ve been personally insulted several times on the course of this discussion (check -vote archives), and this was uncalled for.

    This atmosphere sucks, and I appreciate your interest in fixing it, but please do not blame freedom for it. If it’s an imperative for you to blame someone, blame the blob providers: Intel, etc, you know the names.

  2. I don’t know why people want Debian to be compromised. There are a thousand other Linux distributions. If you don’t think freedom is all that important you can find what you need somewhere else. Let Debian be what made it great.

  3. @51: Scott,

    You seem to assume that what “made Debian Great” was unreasoning, uncompromising adherence to Free Software. Certainly the FSF hasn’t thought so; Debian isn’t listed on its list of blessed distributions, probably because of the existence of the non-free. It’s just unfortunate that in the past couple of years, with the revision of the Debian Social Contract, things have gone badly out of balance.

  4. (Wonderful Billy Joel lyrics.) Funny how, in the Western Hemisphere, arguments over principle tend to bog down into irreconcilable either/or unbudgables. In the East, values are recognized to be relative. A guy who’s a lazy slob puts on his least dirty shirt one morning and goes out to find work as a used car salesman. Everybody applauds. But if Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi had suddenly announced, “I’m heading for Delhi to get my share on rice futures,” everybody would have said, “This person has fallen.” Values are relative, but directional. The key is whether an action is expansive or contractive. The best choice, considered in that light, is usually clear. We may not be Gandhis today, but we can steer in that direction. Absolute freedom may not be possible, but we can make things work for people without compromising the highest value, of keeping expansive attitudes that help everyone grow.

    By the way, as a complete Linux noob who just endured two days of attempts to install Etch and Lenny on a newly built box with standard hardware – and failed – I’m not inclined to believe that the thinking behind Debian is expansive. Linux Mint, on the other hand, is (well, relatively) a dream – it nice also, because Clem’s attitude expansive.

  5. p.s. The example of the lazy slob is from a wonderful book on values, Out of the Labyrinth: For Those Who Want to Believe, But Can’t, by J. Donald Walters, Crystal Clarity Publishers (www.crystalclarity.com).

  6. I agree with much of what Karl Fogel wrote there, but the debian project has largely missed that boat and most books are silent on how to reform cess-pit discussion lists into useful ones.

    On whether freedom requires giving people the tools to install obnoxious-EULA stuff – when I’ve mentioned that, I’ve been asked whether the freedom to sell oneself into slavery is a freedom worth having. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that.

  7. I just wanted to comment quickly on a theme. It’s been suggested that helping others may be a “higher moral imperative” then “adherence to a philosophical ideal”. Well, I’d posit that you cannot approach a higher moral imperative without having a firm adherence to philosophical ideals.

    That mooted, including spooky-closed binary blobs flies in the face of decades of advice telling careless computer users to refrain from installing anything form an untrusted source. How is this different? Oh, because it does some favors?

    Different day, same BS.

    Thanks for playing ;)

  8. @58 Machiner,

    You shouldn’t install anything even in source form, from an untrusted source, unless you personally audit it yourself. As far as “spooky binary blobs from an untrusted source”, they come from the device manufacturer and if you don’t trust the hardware manufacturer, you have other problems. For example, I’ve heard it said that the Chinese Communists want to be able to create their own CPU’s because they don’t trust CPU’s from Intel — after all, who’s to say whether or not in exchange for a few billion dollars from the US government, there isn’t secret “spooky” microcode embedded in the CPU that could be use to compromise their military secrets. Ultimately, we have to trust the device manufacturers, whether the firmware is burned into ROM that can’t be changed, flashed onto FLASH which can be updated if you run the appropriate proprietary program, or provided as microcode which is uploaded to the device when the OS boots. So the primary thing is, firmware isn’t from an untrusted source. If you don’t trust the firmware that comes from an open source OS, then compare it bit-for-bit against the version that is available from the device manufacturer’s web site; but while you are it it, you had better also fully audit OSS source code looking for security vulnerabilities, either placed their inadvertently by mistake, or deliberately with malice aforethought.

  9. Interesting post. Only one thing wish to mention: When Linux in general and Debian in particular will be able to provide outstanding hardware support, then I will agree that Debian and Linux should remain free from “contaminating” proprietary software.
    Unfortunately, that is (not yet) the case. New hardware is continuously invented and produced, so that free- software or free-drivers for that new hardware may not be available at the begining. What can we do? Do not buy new hardware? Do not buy hardware which is not supported by free software/drivers? Very hard to avoid; It cannot be the solution.
    Developers will always be in the catch-me-if-you-can game with hardware makers who do not release their drivers or do not produce software for Linux. All is a sorry state of things. Maybe in the long term, as people has suggested, every proprietary software should be replaced with free-software. We need more active developers? Yes, and we need to be patient too.

  10. Debian is free to go whichever way it determines. It is all about free choice. However, they cannot complain when users and developers go elsewhere and Debian gets left behind. All this dithering and indecision is not good for users and the community.

    Debian is in decline and I foresee a day when a few self-righteous will still be using it and the rest of the world will have moved on to something else. Debian is fossilizing itself, but they cannot see it.

    Freedom cannot exist in isolation of people or it loses its meaning. If you have no users then your principles become hollow. If your policy pushes people away and it is based on being social then there is a problem.

    There is no such thing as absolute freedom. One person’s freedom frequently infringes on another’s rights and when you impose your vision of freedom on another it is no longer freedom, but fascism.

    I am not a Debian user, but if I was I would resent the paternalism and uncompromising devotion to a cause. This also explains why I have used Debian based distros for years, but never used Debian itself. I have been on their forums and cannot handle the attitude. For me and most others, Linux is not a cause but something that enables us to be more productive and to enjoy our hobby.

    I love the idea of diversity and users get what the deserve because they are free to shop around. Debian users are no different. If they don’t like the direction then they can move on. It isn’t a democracy. Users cannot change anything when they have no say. Their only recourse is to leave, if they don’t like it.

    The only thing that can change Debian is that ah-ha moment when they see that their social contract is meaningless without users. I am not urging anyone to leave. I am only saying that you either like it or leave it as they leave you no other choice.

  11. @tytso: I am saying that freeness of the software is *the best prerequisite* for technical etc.excellence, not that it *automatically leads* to those. Please, let’s make the difference. The NVidia proprietary drivers work better than the free ones, but if they were free, they would become quickly even better. Am I right?… And if I am, isn’t this a lesson from your own experience?

    Also, don’t mistake the folks that go to OSCons etc. for the entire community. It would be akin to mistaking the folks in FSF for the entire community.

    @LinuxCanuck: Debian got where it is thanks to its social contract. It existed, grew and flourished, and became the base for more than 50% (by usage) of the existing Linux distros. It is not like this social contract leads it to oblivion. It looks to me like the perfectly opposite.

  12. How about settling for five 9’s? Just please install my NVIDIA driver!!!

    Why is Mandriva 2008 the only distro I know of that does this? How may people out there have become Linux-haters forever because they were never able to install NVIDIA’s drivers???

  13. 1. I tried to install Debian GNU/Linux 4.0r6 on my computer, the screen just went blank after rebooting — that is “100% Free Software” . .

    2. I tried the rescue mode, edited the blacklist file (blacklist intel_agp), it worked! –that is “99% Free Software” ..

    3. Am i a debian user or tree top philosopher?

  14. @63: Just please install my NVIDIA driver!!!

    Raven,

    Unfortunately, drivers are a slightly different kettle of fish compared to firmware modules. Drivers run in the same address space as the kernel, which means that pointer bugs can cause random memory corruptions which result in extremely hard to debug kernel problems. In fact NVIDIA drivers have the dubious honor of being single-handedly responsible for the Linux kernel “taint” flags; unfortunately, buggy Nvidia drivers corrupted kernel memory resulting in completely unrelated kernel subsystems malfunctioning, and kernel developers wasted a huge amount of time tracking down bugs that could not be reproduced once the kernel was rebooted without the NVIDIA driver being loaded. Since no source code was available for NVIDIA’s driver, it was never possible to debug the problem past that point. As a result, if a proprietary driver such as Nvidia’s is ever loaded into the kernel, a “taint” flag is set, and many kernel developers will refuse to debug a “tainted” kernel since they have better things to do with their time.

    Firmware, since it runs on a different CPU than the driver, has a completely different set of concerns. Firmware drivers have a very clearly defined abstraction layer through which they interact with the OS, and since they run on a completely different CPU, it is highly unlikely they can cause the sort of problems that kernel developers have experienced with Nvdia drivers in the past. As a result, given that open source drivers are available for Intel and ATI video cards, many users will chose to avoid Nvidia hardware not just because of software freedom issues, but due to practical reliability issues.

  15. Just how many of you her are using Debian? If you are not then you don’t know what you are talking bout.

  16. It seems to me, Mr Ts’o, that by your last post #66 you have answered your own questions. You need only substitute ‘Debian’ for ‘kernel’ and ‘firmware’ for ‘drivers’. Debian is an OS and DDs have to worry about the system functioning well as a *whole*. So if user X reports bug Y or requests feature Z that is related to proprietary firmware being present, his reports are likely to be ignored, since, as you yourself point out, the devs have better things to do with their time. It’s not a matter of trusting or not the hardware manufacturers either, I would like to remind you of Linus’s “many eyes” quote. So the distinction between drivers and firmware becomes artificial when we are talking about an operating system and not *just* the kernel. In this respect, firmware can be debugged and, perhaps more importantly, *improved*, like any other piece of software, except for the simplest of cases.
    I respect the work you have done for the kernel and I am sure you are well aware of the facts I mention, but I believe that you working for the kernel exclusively clouds your judgment, a perfectly natural consequence. In the end I can not see why else would you disagree with Debian’s *goal* of being a 100% free distro. This is also Ubuntu’s goal; as Mr Shuttleworth has stated the inclusion of the non-free components are currently considered as bugs. It is Fedora’s goal too. The only difference between the distros being their varying degrees of tolerance. It’s not about ideology either, but about the *very real* problems that the presence of binary blobs imply.

  17. @68:

    Here’s the fundamental difference. Firmware runs in a different address space than kernel drivers. Let me repeat that, since you obviously didn’t get read my earlier comment #66 very carefully. Firmware runs in a different address space than kernel drivers. Indeed, it runs on a separate CPU completely separated from the kernel.

    This makes a world of difference, for two reasons. First of all, it restricts the interfaces between the peripheral containing the firmware and the OS; normally firmware implements a very well documented abstraction which is fixed in time, and which the device driver can depend upon. Secondly, if there is a bug in the firmware it might cause the peripheral to lock up, perhaps requiring a reset before the peripheral is once again sane, but it won’t crash the rest of the system; it can’t, because it’s running in a different address space, and on a separate CPU from the host CPU.

    The reality is any system you buy has lots of embedded firmware. Your hard drive has embedded, proprietary firmware; your wireless card has firmware; your video card/chipset has firmware. In some cases, the firmware is permanently burned into ROM; in some cases, it is stored on flash memory; in some cases, it is loaded by the device driver as a binary blob. How it is delievered to the peripheral’s controller doesn’t really matter; it’s still proprietary software. And you know what? Most hardware works just fine. So we have empirical evidence that the quality control for firmware is actually pretty good. And that actually makes sense, because the execution environment for firmware is usually quite limited, and given that it implements a what is normally a well-defined, restricted abstraction interface, and given that it can’t depend on any kernel services (again, because it lives in its own address space, and it runs on a separate CPU), testing said firmware is much easier than a binary driver which has to be linked into a Linux kernel, whose interfaces are constantly changing, and where bugs in said binary driver can cause the kernel to crash in completely different subsystems than the one which had the bug.

    We don’t have to worry about a bug in a wireless firmware leading to a strange filesystem bug, the way that we have to worry about a memory pointer bug in a Nvidia driver leading to a strange filesystem or VM bug. That’s the difference.

  18. Would you ask permission of Toyota or Ford so you could change tires, add a sunroof, replace your transmission?

    Software is a commodity. Vendor and consumer are blurring into one.

    Provide the free parts on the disc. Allow people to download an addon set of drivers. In fact my laptop came that way. Winders on one CD, HP drivers on another.

  19. Toyota and Ford are not required to make cars which can be modified in any way desired by their owners. Some things can not be modified without jeopardizing their “street legal” status, for example. They may also choose to make things lighter or more streamlined that also have the side effect that they can’t be easily opened up without destroying the inside guts of some sub-assembly. The latter case is also true for some of the Apple ipods, and the former case is also true for various radio transceivers, where it is illegal in many countries to make or sell radios which can be too easily modified to violate local radio regulations that might jam fire or police transmissions.

    That being said, sometimes people are willing to buy a big car that guzzles more gasoline because it’s easier to service and hack the car. There’s nothing like a big old-fashioned American gas-guzzler with so much space in the engine compartment so you can stand inside it while working on the carburetor. But you do trade off various things, like being able to park in tiny spaces especially in the city, and terrible gas mileage.

    In other products, the tradeoffs may not exist, or they may not matter a lot. I really don’t care about 1200 frames per second playing Doom; heck, I don’t play Doom at all — so I’ll take the video card with open source drivers with decent (but not great) 3D performance over the ones with top-notch 3D performance, but with crappy proprietary drivers that have a rich and storied history of wild pointer bugs that corrupt the kernel causing strange and wondrous crashes in unrelated portiosn of the Linux kernel.

    But in terms of closed-source firmware, as long as a component, such as a wireless card, or an ethernet controller, or a SCSI controller, does what they are spec’ed to do, I really don’t care whether or not I can personally hack the firmware of a wireless card or an ethernet controller. Just as I don’t require that nuts and bolts to be hackable, or expect that I be able to modify the internals of a 7400 TTL NAND chip, I consider various computer peripherals as things which are not interesting for me to hack. So at least for me, firmware is fundamentally different than requiring open source drivers which runs in the Linux kernel address space. Similarly, since I’m not interested in being able to hack my internal combustion engine, a new-fangled engine with fuel injection controlled by a closed-source firmware which if tampered with, would very likely make them far worse in terms of polluting the atmosphere. A 1950’s era car surrounded with two tons of heavy iron is much easier to hack, and was never designed with pollution control in mind, so messing with it isn’t a problem. But that’s not a car which interests me at all, although I know at least one or two people who would prefer that.

  20. I use the nvidia drivers. I compile them from the provided source and I even (heavens no) force compiled them to run on Xen. Nothing would have stopped me from modifying and sharing the mod if necessary.

    I wasn’t talking about feasibility of changing a Toyota. I was talking about asking permission.

    You bring up two straw men. It’s silly to say that you can’t modify a car to the point it is no longer street legal. You can’t modify gnometris to the point it intentionally steals passwords either. And whether a car is less efficient because it is hackable, that’s a purely historical issue.

    Also the mods I mentioned are entirely routine non-street-legal-disqualifying. There are routine modifications in source code which will begin to push against the copyright, patent, and trademark barrier, perhaps not eliminiating them but making them a bit more rational.

    The inventiveness and self-motivation in this age is almost nil. I would think we would be encouraging a change in that trend.

    I use what works. Everything I put out, save for le job, is GPL’d. If I have the source code for a permission crippled product I will hack it and distribute the hack. I’ll call my lawyer before distributing the source code (depending on how it was acquired).

  21. @72: dihymo,

    I use the nvidia drivers. I compile them from the provided source and I even (heavens no) force compiled them to run on Xen. Nothing would have stopped me from modifying and sharing the mod if necessary.

    As long as you don’t try to modify the binary portions of the drivers, that may be true. The moment you try to modify the binary portion of the Nvidia driver, perhaps to fix a bug that crashes your machine and perhaps causes disk corruption (such bugs have existed before) you are not allowed to redistribute the modified component, per the Nvidia Software License. Heck, if you find out there is a wild pointer bug in the binary portion of the driver, you are not permitted per the Nvidia Software License to even debug the problem, since that would almost certainly fall into the reverse engineering prohibitions. (“Customer may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the SOFTWARE.”)

    That’s why I recommend people NOT use the Nvidia drivers. It has been buggy in the past, and if it’s buggy in the binary drivers — no one but Nvidia can legally help you. So in that way, it’s precisely like Ford not allowing anyone other than the dealership fix your car.

    I’m less worried about (for example) the proprietary firmware/software in my television, ipod, laser printer, or the engine controller in my car, because they are devices with their own fixed abstractions. If it doesn’t work, I can file a warranty claim; it’s not like a bug in the firmware inside my HP Laserjet 2200 can someone reach across the parallel cable or ethernet cable and cause my system to crash. Hence, I don’t care very much about having source access to the firmware inside my HP LaserJet 2200. I do care very much about having source access to the video driver that is inside my Linux kernel, since if it has bugs, it *can* screw up my kernel. And fortunately, there are many alternatives to Nvidia available on the market which do make available the source code for their kernel drivers for their video cards.

  22. There are many industries other than gaming that are dependent on Direct Rendering being operative. That sink-state of Mesa Indirect makes people’s hard work display badly and is no doubt a significant source of lost opportunities for linux. Last year’s ACM SIGGRAPH conference just illustrates how bad things are with graphics on linux. There were two sessions going on at about the same time. One was an OpenGL birds-of-a-feather meeting where there was all sorts of talk about decreasing compatibility, and at the other session NVIDIA was showing-off their live ray-tracing (where it sounds like their driver is in control the recursion depth)!

  23. We use Debian because we want a free OS. If we wanted lots of non-free stuff we wouldn’t use Debian.

    If some people want a Debian-like OS with binary drivers and other non-free stuff, you can always create your own distribution or join one of the many other distros that exist.

    Please don’t argue about including non-free stuff in Debian, because it’s not going to happen, and shouldn’t happen. Debian exists to be purely free.

  24. I’m still trying to find out what happened with my vote. I have a very ancient PGP (not GPG) key registered in the keyring and apparently support for it has broken. I need to upgrade my key. Its probably because its an RSA key back from when that was still acceptable practice.

  25. I agree with NSK 100%. I’ve switched from Windows XP about a year ago, the main reason being the “dirty games” played by Microsoft and the main compelling reason being the writings of Richard Stallman. And I’ve just recently switched to Debian from openSUse, the main reason being again non-technological, namely the “tainted” business model of Novell and its growing loss of respect for the Freedom in Software. The thing I like the most in Debian is precisely its social contract, its community, and its respect of Software Freedom. It is only fair that we freedom purists have a distro we can relate to. I live in an ex-communist country and let me assure you: there is no such thing as “half-freedom”. People who are willing to forfeit freedom for a purely technological convenience deserve neither.

  26. And I’ve just recently switched to Debian from openSUse, the main reason being again non-technological, namely the “tainted” business model of Novell and its growing loss of respect for the Freedom in Software. The thing I like the most in Debian is precisely its social contract, its community, and its respect of Software Freedom

  27. I’ve read most of the comments on this post and thought about posting my idea too. I’m a rather new user of FOSS and I don’t use it because it is Free and Open Source I use it because it’s the most stable stack of software that I got to run on a machine with around zero maintenance after an install(this changes with newer hardware but after it gets stable it stays that way) it has a piece of mind, and “the best things out there is for Free” that is correct about Linux. Even though the proprietary OSes sell they aren’t that much good in design and efficiency when compared with Linux. May be this is because the kernel devs have much more passion towards the development of Linux, not money. If anything is made just for money that won’t end up as the best, it’d only be a mere money making unit — it won’t be safe, and even developers will turn their back to the end-user’s requests if that doesn’t make more money for them. That’s why the prop software ideology is not working for everyone now, no company listens to what we want…if it makes more money they would but most things end when we buy stuff from the shelf. IF and ONLY if the prop. companies fixed everything with their software at right time, most people would not try to fix it by their selves in first place! That is something that will never happen so for the betterment of software we have to settle at something in between of giving away everything that someone makes for free(as in beer) and as in freedom and trying to sell every copy of a binary(a lot of money from a single compile :P).

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