Comment on "Nine Attitude Problems in Free and Open Source Software"

Sam Liddicott sam at
Fri Oct 24 06:30:53 UTC 2008

To add some context.

I use nvidious drivers but have been an FSF member for years.

If I cut off non-free drivers and non-free blobs then I reduce my influence over those I'm bringing to free software and their progress may cease until another compromiser comes along.

Me and they will necessarily have a slow journey.
Stallman could have written gcc in assembler but he felt it worth using another non-free compiler as a compromise.

(At work we are now buying machines with ATI video cards, to support AMD's open source move even though these specific cards have closed source drvers)

I don't mind if who considers me an enemy who cares about popularity and not freedom, I know I'm bringing people in as fast as they can come.


-----Original Message-----
From: Noah Slater <nslater at>
Sent: 24 October 2008 04:19
To: Yavor Doganov <yavor at>
Cc: discussion at
Subject: Re: Comment on "Nine Attitude Problems in Free and Open Source	Software"

On Fri, Oct 24, 2008 at 02:50:19AM +0300, Yavor Doganov wrote:
> > An organisation can "care for freedom" or popularity in shades of
> > grey,
> Yes, I agree.  The second name for this is "double standards".

The standards are only double if you lump yours in with theirs.

Don't you see? There is only contradiction from your point of view.

>From Debian's point of view there is none.

You cannot assign your value system onto someone else and then judge the
rationality of their behaviour based on that. This clearly makes no sense.

> > Note that I quoted "care for freedom" as this implicitly judges
> > Debian and Ubuntu from YOUR ethical position,
> Of course!  During my all conscious life, I have always evaluated
> things from MY ethical position.

I am not expecting you to evaluate things under any other premise.

You have your value system and I expect you to judge things by that. Similarly I
have my value system, and perhaps my email address might indicate to you that it
is not too dissimilar to yours.

My real problem here, and this is not levelled at you directly, I respect the
work you do for the Free Software movement and for The GNU Project. My real
problem is with intolerance towards other people's perspectives.

It is one thing to say:

  "Distributing non-free device drivers is bad, please don't do that."

And it is another thing to say:

  "Because you distribute non-free device drivers, you are the enemy."

Is it not best to tolerate differences in opinions? To work towards furthering
your goals? Not to alienating the very people who may share, and may be working
towards those very goals?

> If it doesn't, you feel unconformatble so you can either (1) don't do it; (2)
> tweak your ethical principles.  The latter is what's happening with Debian,
> and to the community at large.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, things change. Organisations
have a tendency to change in response. This is entirely natural.

Is it not Richard Stallman who blindly criticises networked service, and by
definition, the Web at large, primarily because he does not understand it? Was
this an explicit part of the original Free Software movement, or is he
responding to the changing climate?

Admittedly, this is an unfair example. I appreciate that Richard does not
represent the entire Free Software movement. In fact, Mako Hill and others are
making an extremely valiant effort to address these very issues.

For more information, see:

> > I consider it reasonable to shorten this to the assertion that
> > Ubuntu cares about popularity more than Debian does.
> I agree, mostly.  I also think that Ubuntu cares more about popularity
> and less about freedom, although the result is really the same.  Both
> distros do not teach users to value their freedom.

Again, you are making a false dilemma.

  The informal fallacy of false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the
  either-or fallacy, or bifurcation) involves a situation in which only two
  alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options. Closely
  related are failing to consider a range of options and the tendency to think
  in extremes, called black-and-white thinking.

                                          -- Wikipedia, False dilemma

Cannot Debian teach users about freedom, simply because they also provide means
for installing non-free software? Must things be so black and white?

> > You are not considering that Debian may share a different value
> > system from you,
> I am considering this very deeply, in fact.  For years.  That's my
> personal ethical dillema with Debian.

You are free to have an ethical problem with Debian, I would not deny you
that. To turn around and l

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