Stefano Zacchiroli | 11 Mar 14:35 2013
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[to all candidates] Free Software challenges and Debian role

(After 4 years, I'm again on the right side of the ballot box to ask
questions... *cracking knuckles*)

All candidates seem to agree that Debian has an important role to play
in the Free Software movement at large. Good: I couldn't agree more! :)

But then, one wonders, what are the main challenges that free software
at large faces today?  For one thing, it would quite pointless to have,
say, Debian be a recognized free software "leader," if free software in
itself is declining or doomed to fail. I'm not saying I think it is the
case, but if our success is a part of free software success, we do need
to have an opinion on how free software is going, outside our Project
boundaries.

What do candidates think of this? Is free software "going well"? Is it
going to go "better" or "worse" in forthcoming years? Why?

Then, if you think free software is not at its best at present, what do
you think Debian could do to help? At a glance, Debian seems to have
always done one thing (distributing free software) and has done so
relatively well. Is that enough for current and future free software
challenges? Or should we change to better face those challenges?

Many thanks in advance for your answers,
Cheers.
--

-- 
Stefano Zacchiroli  . . . . . . .  zack <at> upsilon.cc . . . . o . . . o . o
Maître de conférences . . . . . http://upsilon.cc/zack . . . o . . . o o
Debian Project Leader . . . . . .  <at> zack on identi.ca . . o o o . . . o .
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »
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Moray Allan | 12 Mar 15:11 2013

Re: [to all candidates] Free Software challenges and Debian role

On 2013-03-11 16:35, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> But then, one wonders, what are the main challenges that free 
> software
> at large faces today? [...]
> What do candidates think of this? Is free software "going well"? Is 
> it
> going to go "better" or "worse" in forthcoming years? Why?

For me the biggest challenges for free software today that are "getting 
worse" are:

- End-users are moving to more closed hardware.  Only a small 
proportion of people carefully screen their hardware for free-software 
drivers etc. before choosing it.  In the last few years, we've been in a 
fairly good situation where installing Debian on laptops and desktops 
generally just worked.  That won't necessarily stay the case.  And for 
many tablets and phones there is already no easy way to install any free 
software base.

- End-users are moving to web applications/"the cloud".  Few of the 
most heavily used ones are free software.  Even if they are, centralised 
web applications remove users' ability to modify software to their own 
needs unless they duplicate a large amount of infrastructure.  And in 
many cases cloud services reduce users' control even over their data 
itself, not just over the platform.  We used to have trouble with the 
network effect of e.g. Microsoft Office file formats, but free-of-charge 
web applications can be even worse for free software, since objectors 
need to argue an ideological point to say why they want information in 
another way, rather than only explain that they haven't bought that 
piece of software or that it won't work on their OS.
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Lucas Nussbaum | 20 Mar 09:43 2013
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Re: [to all candidates] Free Software challenges and Debian role

(I still hadn't replied to that question -- I'll do that by following-up
on Moray's reply since I agree with most of it)

On 12/03/13 at 17:11 +0300, Moray Allan wrote:
> [...]
> 
> - End-users are moving to web applications/"the cloud".  Few of the
> most heavily used ones are free software.  Even if they are,
> centralised web applications remove users' ability to modify
> software to their own needs unless they duplicate a large amount of
> infrastructure.  And in many cases cloud services reduce users'
> control even over their data itself, not just over the platform.  We
> used to have trouble with the network effect of e.g. Microsoft
> Office file formats, but free-of-charge web applications can be even
> worse for free software, since objectors need to argue an
> ideological point to say why they want information in another way,
> rather than only explain that they haven't bought that piece of
> software or that it won't work on their OS.
> 
> - Server users are also migrating to "the cloud".  In many cases
> this means that their services move to sit on a non-free platform,
> and it often reduces ease of modification even in free parts of the
> platform.

Note that in that case, the cloud is also a great opportunity for us,
since most IaaS clouds users use them with free software. So the Cloud
tends to reinforce the position of libre operating systems for server
OS.

Which brings me to another challenge that was not mentioned by Moray:
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Gergely Nagy | 30 Mar 00:20 2013

Re: [to all candidates] Free Software challenges and Debian role

Lucas Nussbaum <lucas <at> debian.org> writes:

> (I still hadn't replied to that question -- I'll do that by following-up
> on Moray's reply since I agree with most of it)

...and I'll take the easiest route, and follow up on Lucas' mail, since
I mostly agree with both of them. Sorry!

> On 12/03/13 at 17:11 +0300, Moray Allan wrote:
>> [...]
>> 
>> - End-users are moving to web applications/"the cloud".  Few of the
>> most heavily used ones are free software.  Even if they are,
>> centralised web applications remove users' ability to modify
>> software to their own needs unless they duplicate a large amount of
>> infrastructure.  And in many cases cloud services reduce users'
>> control even over their data itself, not just over the platform.  We
>> used to have trouble with the network effect of e.g. Microsoft
>> Office file formats, but free-of-charge web applications can be even
>> worse for free software, since objectors need to argue an
>> ideological point to say why they want information in another way,
>> rather than only explain that they haven't bought that piece of
>> software or that it won't work on their OS.
>> 
>> - Server users are also migrating to "the cloud".  In many cases
>> this means that their services move to sit on a non-free platform,
>> and it often reduces ease of modification even in free parts of the
>> platform.
>
> Note that in that case, the cloud is also a great opportunity for us,
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Gmane