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Debian

The LDP and Debian 279

Posted by michael
from the documentation-always-a-weak-spot dept.
Guylhem writes: "The former LDP license was the first license used for our documentation. While we are now recommending the GNU FDL and the OPL 1 without options A or B, many documents are still licensed under the LDPL. David Merril, our Collection Coordinator, noticed that the LDPL is "not free" according to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. We have to get in touch with the authors as soon as possible or 2/3 of the LDP document collection will be removed from the base Debian distribution because the code freeze is happening in 2 days. Maybe some of the LDP unreachable authors are reading slashdot and could take 1 minute to submit an updated document licensed under the FDL or OPL v1 -A -B ? Another solution is to find volunteers to rewrite from scratch the concerned documents."
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The LDP and Debian

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  • am I the only one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:32PM (#2665638)
    who is *so tired* of hearing about how some free license is sublty not free enough for somebody else's purposes? This self-important bullshit ought to stop: It's not a big deal, get back to hacking code.
    • I wholeheartedly agree. I'm quite pleased with my Debian distribution but I'm also tired of the RMS-like stubborness in regards to licensing and such. If this stuff continues I may move off to a different distribution (my friend says Slackware is shipping with 2.4 kernels!....hehehe).

      While I'm not overly concerned about the docs not being on the medium, perhaps there are those who are installing at a single-computer home without access to the internet. This "conform to our license or else get booted from the dist" is extreme.
    • by ajs (35943) <ajsNO@SPAMajs.com> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:45PM (#2665721) Homepage Journal
      I find it interesting that this would be modded up.

      "This self-important bullshit ought to stop"

      You are making an assumption about the purpose of Debian. You assume that it's about providing you with a new release. It is not. Debian as a project is about producing a free software operating system. If 1/2 of that definition is not met by 2/3 of the documentation, then it should be of major concern (to at least 1/3 of the team ;)

      It's not a big deal, get back to hacking code

      And what code do you hack? I'm getting rather tired of self-important Slashdot posters who feel that these slackers should go back in the kitchen and bake some pie. We, the coders of various open source and/or free software applications write the code for our own reasons. If you don't like the code or don't feel that it's up to your standards/schedules, then don't use it. We'll be just as happy either way.

      I would have a lot more sympathy for your comments if you spent any time acknowledging that these folks have provided you with an awful lot of benefit because they're fanatics who will waste hours/days/years of their lives for the good of the free software cause.
      • by sphealey (2855) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:56PM (#2665798)
        You are making an assumption about the purpose of Debian. You assume that it's about providing you with a new release. It is not. Debian as a project is about producing a free software operating system. If 1/2 of that definition is not met by 2/3 of the documentation, then it should be of major concern (to at least 1/3 of the team ;)
        OK, I can buy that. Given that statement, however, is waiting until two days before a frozen release date (but wait: I thought the purpose was not to provide new releases) the best time to start auditing for free-ness of the documentation?

        sPh

      • thank you (Score:5, Interesting)

        by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:15PM (#2665895)
        And what code do you hack? I'm getting rather tired of self-important Slashdot posters who feel that these slackers should go back in the kitchen and bake some pie. We, the coders of various open source and/or free software applications write the code for our own reasons. If you don't like the code or don't feel that it's up to your standards/schedules, then don't use it. We'll be just as happy either way.

        Thank you.

        As one who uses debian (testing + some unstable packages compiled from source) at both work and home extensively I, for one, appreciate all that the debian developers do, and the fact that they are so precise (some might say pedantic) about software and documentation licenses. In this way I, as a system administrator, have a very easy time keeping my employer compliant to any and all licenses. Come audit time, that is a very nice feeling indeed.

        So yes, we who work in the real world with Free Software, Open Source, and commercial products in fact benefit very directly and very immediately from such vigilence, and I for one appreciate it greatly.

        Yes, catching this faux pas earlier in the release cycle would have been nice, but for whatever reason that did not happen. Oh well. So the packages move from main to non-free. They're still available if they're really needed, but for those of us in commercial environments using GNU/Linux for something other than hobbiest tinkering such distinctions are well founded and important, and having that explicit division between free (as in freedom) and non-free (as in restricted in some significant fashion) is immensly helpful, even critical.
  • by Syberghost (10557) <syberghostNO@SPAMsyberghost.com> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:35PM (#2665650) Homepage
    Would they really use a code freeze as an excuse for putting out a release with the majority of it's documentation removed?

    Surely not. I would think the intelligent thing to do would be to set a seperate freeze date for the documentation.
    • by Guylhem (161858) <(ten.mehlyug) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:55PM (#2666238) Homepage
      I will do my best for our documentation not to be removed from the "free" section during this freeze. 3 years ago, we did draft the LDPL "non free" with a purpose: most of our authors did want it that way! Documentation is not software.

      Moreover, there was no really free documentation license. Now we have 2 of them which please most of our authors. Fine. Let's move forward.

      Your solution (requesting an exception, or a different code freeze date) is the last resort.

      I would feel better if the authors did accept the license change. I will contact each one of them - if most of them change the license, I don't think debian would have a problem granting us a separate code-freeze date while we fix the remaining documents.

      Else I would welcome any volunteer to join the LDP and rewrite the documents.

      Guylhem P. Aznar
      LDP coordinator
      • "Documentation is not software."

        I fail to see any significant difference.

        Similarities:

        • Both require the producer to have a special skill set.
        • Both have the same distribution cost (virtually zero) for duplication of the purely electronic form of the product.
        • Both require a significant amount of work for the creation of the product.
        • Both endeavours are such that multiple people can collaborate on them.
        • Both products are in fields that have a large market of non-free products.
        • Both are descriptions of how to perform a task.

        Differences:

        • One's parsed by a computer. One's parsed by a machine.
        • The area of the written word doesn't have a high-profile equivilant to the Free Software Foundation.
        • Documentation is less likely to scratch a personal itch.
    • by gorgon (12965) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:38PM (#2666639) Homepage Journal
      LDP documentation is not the majority of Debian documentation. The majority of Debian documentation is from individual third party software packages (XFree, perl, etc.). Another large source of documentation is debian specific documentation - the installation manual, the policy manual, etc. While, it would be annoying to lose big chunks of the LDP to non-free, its not really that big of deal, especially since its all available online.
    • Has anyone looked at the LDP recently? Its a nunch of articles by different people that mostly seems to be written in about 1997. There doesn't seem to be any kind of uniform style guidelines, people keep talking about thier favourite Linux distribution versus the LSB (which all Linux documentation should be written for) and many commonly unnecessary tasks - like getting modelines for yoru monitor (everything made in the last few years can be DCC probled) and manually entering in DNS servers for yoru modem connection (that's almost never necessary these days - every consumer ISP I know of who uses modems sends such information as part of PPP negotiations). The LDP expect new users to unecessarily rcecompile their kernel (nto even just a single module, their entire kernel) at every chance, and doesn't focus on security as much as modern documentation.

      The LDP is a poor quality pile of poo. Why not include the NHFs if they meet the DFSG?

      And would anyone care to clarify whether these docs meet the OSD or FSF freedoms list? I don't know anybody (including muy Debian using friends) who cares much about the DFSG compared to the OSD and FSF freedoms.
      • Oh God, I've been infected with the IRC virus. Damnit.

      • I cordially invite you to help fix the problems you see, or shut the hell up.

        It's all very well to say "[t]he LDP is a poor quality pile of poo". We have some documents that probably deserve that fragrant description. But we also publish works good enough for O'Reilly to publish them.

        My time spent in the service of the LDP is time spent for *you*, all the Linux users. Our authors don't get paid for their work, and neither does the staff. All we expect is to feel good about what we've accomplished at the end of the day, get an occasional thanks, and maybe the odd beer after a LUG meeting. ;-) Not much to ask for the time I've donated. Instead, you whine that it's not good enough? I mean really. I work my ass off for *this*?

        The NHF's are often very good, and in many cases better for the newbie user, their audience. The LDP is oriented more toward the system administrator and power user. That's not because we decided to be that, but because that's who is writing. I applaud their work. It isn't a competition.

        Then again, there are subjects covered on the LDP that would never make it into a NHF.

        Want more end-user docs? Fine, send them in. We'll publish them.

        David Merrill
        LDP Collection Coordinator
        • I cordially invite you to help fix the problems you see, or shut the hell up.

          FYI, I'm thinking of taking over the X, XTerm, XDCMP and font deuglification howtos, depending on how easy Docbook is to learn (I'm currently dealing with Latex, and from all indications DocBook is favourably less hellish, so it looks like a goer).

          However, I reject the notion that just because something is made avaliable for free all criticism is invalid, especially constructive cricism like the above. Bug reports and suggestions for improvement are contributions. Furthermore that authors of many open source projects compare themselves favourably to proprietary ones, shouldn't other people be able to do the same and draw their own conclusions? Thanksyou for your contribution, but I'll make my own mind up, thank you very much.

          The NHF's are often very good, and in many cases better for the newbie user, their audience. The LDP is oriented more toward the system administrator and power user.

          The NHF also seems to have more of a security focus than the LSB, and is centainly more up to date. In that sense it appears much more applicable to administrators than the LDP.

          Regardless, thankyou for your thoughtful and polite response

  • Do a majority of open source software users actually pay attention to the licenses of the software packages they utilize? I use a lot of GPL applications yet I have never really sat down an actually read the entire GPL. However, I do understand that if I do violate the GPL, I have to put up with Richard Stallman breathing down my neck. Not appealing idea! Am I alone in a crowd? Does everyone read the software license?
    • As far as I understand, just using the application is no problem, and you really don't need to be concerned with the license other than knowing it exists. You DO need to pay close attention to the license if you are planning on modifying/releasing any of the source code for the GPL applications.
    • Yes (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by wiredog (43288)
      I do. Some of the licenses for proprietary software are laughworthy. The MS Word license used to, and maybe still does, contain a line that went something like "This software is not to be used for operation of nuclear power plants".
      • Re:Yes (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Ledge (24267)
        Thats phrase is pretty much boilerplate for non-mission critical commercial software I think. the StarOffice license contains the same line. I think it also makes reference to usage in lifesaving devices and medical equipment as well.
    • Do a majority of open source software users actually pay attention to the licenses of the software packages they utilize?

      You don't need to read the GPL, or even agree to it, if you are just using GPL software, it's only when you copy software do you need a licence from the original copyright owner.

      From the GPL:
      5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
    • With a free license, you don't need to read it. The point of a free software license is that all it does is remove certain copyright restrictions from you. So, if you just use the software, and don't redistribute or modify it, there is no need to read the license as the use is subject to normal copyright law.

      In theory, you don't even have to agree to the license, i.e. you can decide to be subject to normal copyright restriction instead. The GPL explicitly offers you this possibility:

      "You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License."

      I think not having to worry about license issues if you just use the software is one of the biggest advantages of free software for non-developers. I also believe it is a good thing that Debian insists on 100% free software, because it makes sure that by just installing and using the software on as many computers as you like you will never violate any copyrights. I am however not so happy to see that Debian decides to enforce this policy two days before feature freeze...

    • Actually, you've only got a problem if you redistribute the code in question, modified or not, and do not comply with the GPL.

      But, even in this case, the FSF (RMS himself probably wouldn't get involved), if it holds the copyright on the code, would most likely just ask you to comply.

      The worst I've seen is explicit withdrawl of permission by the FSF (on FSF copyright code) to use the code until someone is assigned from within the offender's organization to receive GPL training from the FSF.

      Finally, the FSF does not drag your name through the mud, as it were, if you make an honest mistake.

      And yes, I speak with some degree of authority on the by RMS to a former employer's developers.

      • Sorry, that last sentence should have read:

        And yes, I speak with some degree of authority on the subject, having arranged a lecture by RMS to a former employer's developers on the subject of GPL compliance.

    • Do a majority of proprietary software users actually pay attention to the licenses of the software packages they utilize?

      If they did, I'd think we'd have a lot more converts to free software.

      Hmm...here are some choice excepts from the Windows EULA:

      "If the SOFTWARE PRODUCT is not accompanied by a new computer system or computer system component, you may not use or copy the SOFTWARE PRODUCT."

      "The SOFTWARE PRODUCT may not be installed, accessed, displayed, run, shared or used concurrently on or from different computers, including a workstation, terminal or other digital electronic device ("Devices") ."

      "If the SOFTWARE PRODUCT is Windows 98, you may additionally ... and (ii) permit a maximum of five (5) COMPUTERS to connect to the single COMPUTER running the SOFTWARE PRODUCT solely to access the Internet using the "Internet Connection Sharing" feature of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT. You may not allow these connected COMPUTERS to use any other components of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT, nor to invoke application sharing as described below. The five (5) connection maximum includes any indirect connections made through software or hardware which pools or aggregates connections."

      "Processor Limitation - The SOFTWARE PRODUCT may be used by no more than the maximum number of processors of the COMPUTER indicated at the top of this EULA." (Note: I see no number at the top of the EULA which I got from c:\windows\help\license.txt -- also this is a violation of RMS's freedom 0, the ability to use the software in any way)

      "You may not rent, lease or lend the SOFTWARE PRODUCT."

      "Termination. Without prejudice to any other rights, Manufacturer or MS may terminate this EULA if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of this EULA. In such event, you must destroy all copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT and all of its component parts."

      Here's another question, do a majority of the users of proprietary software actually agree to all of the EULA when they click "I Agree" ? What about the majority of free software users?
      • Do a majority of proprietary software users actually pay attention to the licenses of the software packages they utilize?

        Of course not. If I read it, there's a meeting of the minds and it's a contract.

        If I don't, in non-UCITA states there's no contract.
    • I'm concerned about the long-term reliability of the software I use, and that depends on the license. Does the copyright belong to a company, such that it might choose to close the software later (as Lutris did with Enhydra [slashdot.org])? If the copyright does belong to a company, does the company have a track record of trustworthiness (unlike Lutris)? In the worst case, am I allowed to fork off a version of my own?

      Of course, any product that fails to satisfy that last criterion is neither free software by the FSF definition [fsf.org] nor open-source software by the OSI definition [opensource.org]. However, there are plenty of packages that claim to be "free" or "open" and in fact are not. (Consider Sun's SCSL [sun.com], used for Java, or SSH's read-only licenses [ssh.com], used for ssh.)

      In short, the question I ask myself when evaluating a piece of software is "Will this seemingly free software fuck me over in the future?" If I used Debian, I'd have an easy answer to that question, without having to check each package myself.*

      *In fact, I don't use Debian, because I prefer RPM and the BSD ports as package formats, but that's another story.

    • I actually read the GPL before I started using Linux regularly (maybe even before I installed it at all; this was ages ago) -- I think it was when I was trying an early version of Cygwin out, and the installer popped the GPL up. I normally clicked right through the license agreements, but I read this one, because the first few lines were totally different from any license I'd seen before.

      I remember being extremely amused at the cleverness of the GPL. I still am, in fact. Good hack, that.

      Daniel
  • Glory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JohnHegarty (453016) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:41PM (#2665690) Homepage
    "Another solution is to find volunteers to rewrite from scratch the concerned documents"

    Nothing like the glory of writing the help files. Its the most visisble part of any program ... and easier to explain to your mother than kernel hacking.
  • by mindstrm (20013)
    Documentation is not Software.. so why does it have to follow the free software guidelines?
  • I'm probably missing something obvious but I see no conflict between the Debian policy and old LDP license. The license grants the right to freely distribute the original and none of the restrictions it has for derived works conflict with the Debian policy.

    What am I missing?

    • by mindstrm (20013) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:48PM (#2665738)
      It requires derived works to be labeled as such, and credit to the original authors be given, and several other things along those lines.

      Now.. those are all fair, and nice.. but are in conflict with the 'free software' guidelines.

      I still maintian, though, Documentation is not Software... and to treat it by the same standards is wrong.
      • Does anyone else see any irony behind the fact that the GPL doesn't require derived works to credit the original authors, yet RMS wants GNU plastered all over everything that rubs shoulders with the license?
        • Yes, I see the irony.. however.

          RMS wants GNU plastered on everything that is part of the GNU project, not everything that uses the gpl. In fact, I believe you CAN'T call something 'GNU myproject' unless the rights are handed over to the FSF.
          • In fact, I believe you CAN'T call something 'GNU myproject' unless the rights are handed over to the FSF.

            Well, there is at least one well-known project doing exactly this: Gnuplot.

            Gnuplot has been existing for ages, but it is not part of the GNU project, it is not distributed under the GPL, and as of now it does not qualify as Free Software. See section 1.3 of the Gnuplot FAQ [www.ucc.ie].

        • GNU hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Deven (13090) <deven@ties.org> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:11PM (#2665874) Homepage
          Somehow I doubt RMS sees the irony. I wrote a short piece about this back on March 31, 1999: Why "GNU/Linux" is a Misnomer [ties.org] In the 2.5 years since then, the FSF still has not released a GNU distribution, relying instead on the Debian project to do what they won't.

          Given that "The GNU Project" doesn't credit the X Window System anywhere in its name, RMS has no moral high ground to stand on when he demands that all Linux-based systems be referred to as "GNU/Linux" systems.

          It's doubly ironic that the older BSD license was incompatible with the GPL specifically because of the so-called "advertising clause" that requires credit be given for the BSD-licensed software.

          Isn't it funny how RMS feels it isn't necessary to credit BSD or X Windows, yet demands such credit for the GNU project? It's disingenuous hypocrisy, through and through. If someone makes a free software distribution, they should be able to call it anything they want, whether "GNU", "Linux", "BSD" or anything else is included in the name.

          After all, wasn't this all supposed to be about freedom? I guess that doesn't include the freedom to choose the name...
          • Re:GNU hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rupert (28001)
            All my Linux boxes have GNU software on them. Not all have X. Why would I credit X with being part of the system when it often isn't?

            If you have a Linux system with no GNU software on it, call it Linux, and even RMS will have to admit you are right.
            • So I assume that you credit it when it is? What about all the other non-GNU software which you undoubtedly run?
          • Re:GNU hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

            by j7953 (457666)

            The point about GNU/Linux is not to demand credit. The point is simply that the system is called GNU, and its kernel is called Linux. You don't call OS X "Darwin", do you? Technically, GNU/Linux is simply the correct term. That's all. If you prefer to call the system Linux, simply ignore RMS.

        • Does anyone else see any irony behind the fact that the GPL doesn't require derived works to credit the original authors,

          BS! You can't go willy-nilly removing copyright statements from GPL code-- and if I'm not mistaken that would constitute crediting the original authors. The only way you can possibly take someone's name off a package is to modify the package so completely that no portion of the remaining code is from that author. Even so, the ethical thing to do is leave their name in the relevant places. After all, the derived work in some way depends on the original work for its form and function and it doesn't hurt you to leave it attributed.
    1. When did documentation become software?
    2. I just read the LDP. Seems fairly reasonable to me. Contains a lot of requests so a publisher can get up-to-date documents, make sure that it is known what has been modified in the document and contains a lgpl-like clause so other documentation in a published work doesn't fall under the LDP. Why isn't it "free" enough?
    3. Under the Appendicies, the only one I see a potential problem with is B. But that requires the author specifically state that the document cannot be modified without consent. Why not go after just these documents instead of this mad scramble?

    Guess it's time to hunt down some links about this.
    • Re:Questions (Score:5, Informative)

      by lupercalia (310569) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:22PM (#2665938) Homepage
      I can see where this is confusing. What has happened is that there have been several versions of the LDP License, and also a sample "boilerplate" license listed in our manifesto [linuxdoc.org].

      Some of them are Free, some are Non-Free.

      We are doing our best to get as many documents licensed to suit Debian guidelines as we can. However, the LDP is not a Free project, and we do not require a Free license. We DO want to keep our documents in Debian as much as we possibly can, so I am asking the LDP authors to consider seriously a relicensing in order to do that. I'm not forcing anyone to do anything. Allegations to the contrary just show you didn't bother to read the announcement.

      Now if I may be permitted a micro-rant...

      I'm a volunteer just like the other LDP volunteers, and I give lots of my time trying to create and improve the documentation you all count on. I'm doing my best to deal appropriately with a difficult situation, and I'd appreciate receiving some support for that rather than endless flames and gripes over things I'm not even doing.

      And Flower, that isn't directed at you. :-)

      David Merrill
      LDP Collection Coordinator
  • Am I missing something? Or does this sound to anyone else like it would have been noticed before? (Especially among the Debian crowd?)

    Also, this isn't something to stop the code freeze for? I thought code freezes were done to get everything in order for releasing the next version. Clearly, not everything is ready, so it would make sense to me not to freeze the code...
    an updated version without documentation wouldn't be much of an updated version!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:48PM (#2665742)
    So if I want to write a OPE with the DLP or FOL, under option 2a or 17f of the GRL, will the ODP tell me I'm SOL? I want to make sure that FOE and OAF are OAL, otherwise the project might be APO. Just making sure.
  • over documentation's License? Sheesh.

    How 'bout just more documentation. Has the man page entry for logout been written yet?

    • Sure, sounds good. Shall I list you on the "documents in progress" list?

      Seriously, though, we welcome contributors. Not only are there gaps in documentation, but there are documents needing new maintainers. Please read the announcement, or join our discussion list at lists.linuxdoc.org [linuxdoc.org] and help us out. We would all love for the LDP to be better than it is, but we rely on all of you to make it happen. We are a small coordinating group, and we need authors to help write the documentation.

      David Merrill
      LDP Collection Coordinator
    • On Debian, it returns Bash's builtins(1) manpage.
  • I hate licensing.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cesaro (78578)
    I know I'm being completely unreasonable, but wouldn't it be grand to stop dealing with so much legal mumbo-jumbo and lining the pockets of scores of lawyers who end up making bucks off of licensing disputes?

    Is human and corporate morality so lacking that we REALLY need this stuff? I don't do much with licensing myself and if I start to I hope to god it isn't as bad as it seems. If someone is only asking for credit, and not giving them a bad name, is it really violated that often? I mean, I present my source code, and just say "Use it, if you change it or want to distribute it let me know." I think that should be more than sufficient. This licensing crap just seems like it is merely a leading indicator of our complete inability to regulate ourselves on a personal and ethical level.

    Perhaps it's just me dreaming about a non-defunct human race, but step back for a second and take a moment to realize how pitiful this truly is.
    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:24PM (#2665952) Homepage Journal

      Yes, I hate licensing too. In fact, that's one of the reasons that I like Debian GNU/Linux. Those folks are fanatic about licensing issues so that I don't have to be. This LDP thing is actually a good example of this. There is no way that any of the LDP authors are going to come after Debian. Especially since Debian itself isn't breaking the rules set forth in the LDP. They are moving the documentation into non-free because they want to alert potential documentation developers that you can't change these documents and distribute the changes without changing the name of the document. That's a pretty tiny nit to pick, but to them it's important.

      Which means that if I limit myself to the main part of the Debian distribution I can rest assured that I can happily change the source code to anything I see and still distribute those changes (I might be required to distribute source as well, but that's another story).

  • As an author (Score:4, Informative)

    by coyote-san (38515) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:00PM (#2665816)
    As an author of several documents, with several more in the pipeline, I find myself remarkably unmoved by this self-inflicted crisis even though I use Debian myself.

    The problem is that Debian is quickly becoming just as bad as Microsoft in terms of insisting that everyone play the games by their rules, freezing out everyone else. Wanting to keep the core distribution "pure" is one thing, but the zealots are clearly driving out the pragmatists. I'm getting *real* tired of reinventing tools to get around artifical constraints, and if it weren't for apt I would have switched distros long ago.

    Now they suddenly announce that since 2/3 of LDP does not satisfy their definition of "free," they're going to drop them. Not move them into "non-free," drop them outright. The only way to avoid this is for authors to drop everything else in their life to make these changes.

    And, rubbing salt in this wound, this question was clearly written by one of the persons responsible for dropping these documents. Yet he doesn't feel the need to actually provide a link to a list of the documents in question. We're clearly supposed to waste even more time trying to track down that list on the Debian site because this guy can't be bothered to provide the link in his message.

    The message is clear: the volunteer authors are stupid (choosing the 'wrong' license, even though it was the best available at the time, and then not rushing to change it immediately once the Debian gods spoke from on high), and we don't even deserve the courtesy of having a list prepared that we can quickly check.

    I'm real motivated to check my licenses now. Let me pencil it in - 2PM, December 5, 2184. Unless it's really urgent, in which case I'll just add a quick clause prohibiting its distribution within a Debian package and force this into a moot issue.
    • Re:As an author (Score:5, Informative)

      by lupercalia (310569) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:14PM (#2665893) Homepage
      Sorry, you're incorrect. They are being moved into non-free, not being dropped.

      David Merrill,
      LDP Collection Coordinator
      • It's been said 1000 times: non-free is NOT part of Debian. So, in effect, it IS being dropped.
    • While this will in no way jeapardize (sp?) my use of Debian, I must say that I agree with many of your points. Moving the docs to non-free should be nearly trivial. This helps users the most. And because of what I've gotten out of Debian, I thought about helping to write the docs. But clicking on the links in the /. story, I saw no list of the docs in question. So, how am I to help?

      Further, if I were the author of some old docs, how would I know if my docs were not in compliance?

      Seems that there are some better ways to get through this tempest in a teapot.
      • That's a good idea, gmhowell. At this time we don't have such a list compiled, although I will get to work on compiling one. If you check on the LDP site, www.linuxdoc.org [linuxdoc.org], I should have it up soon.

        Thanks for the good idea.

        Anyone who has an immediate concern can find us on #linuxdoc on irc.openprojects.net. I'd be happy to help you out any way I can.

        David Merrill
        LDP Collection Coordinator
        • Re:As an author (Score:5, Informative)

          by lupercalia (310569) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:43PM (#2666110) Homepage
          There is now a list of the documents which are not GFDL or OPL on the LDP website [linuxdoc.org].

          I know that some of these are free, not non-free, but I wanted to get the preliminary list up, especially now that this is a SlashDot story. This list is a list of all documents where the license isn't GFDL or OPL, or public domain (only a few LDP documents are under other free licenses).

          Also, it doesn't show documents relicensed in the last few days.

          Thanks again for the good idea.

          David Merrill
          LDP Collection Coordinator
    • Re:As an author (Score:3, Insightful)

      by return 42 (459012)
      Oh, my God, what a troll. Let's take it a bit at a time.

      The problem is that Debian is quickly becoming just as bad as Microsoft in terms of insisting that everyone play the games by their rules, freezing out everyone else.

      Um, no. They insist that they play by their own rules. What anyone else does is their business. Perhaps you are confusing Debian with RMS?

      Now they suddenly announce that since 2/3 of LDP does not satisfy their definition of "free," they're going to drop them. Not move them into "non-free," drop them outright.

      Where did you read that? They're not dropping them. They're moving them from "main" to "non-free". They'll be just as available as they ever were. Debian even keeps blatantly non-free stuff like Netscape on their servers. Debian developers perenially argue whether they should dump non-free for the sake of purity and/or to save space and maintainer effort. So far the users have won every time.

      The only way to avoid this is for authors to drop everything else in their life to make these changes.

      Well, yes, it will certainly take a great deal of time and effort on the part of the authors to change their licenses. Maybe as much as an hour. The only reason there's any hurry is that woody-base will be frozen in a few days. The timing is unfortunate, but considering the importance of the docs, and the fact that docs don't impact other software, I will venture to predict that the Debian maintainers will be generous in letting docs back into main after the freeze as the licenses are fixed.

      And, rubbing salt in this wound, this question was clearly written by one of the persons responsible for dropping these documents. Yet he doesn't feel the need to actually provide a link to a list of the documents in question. We're clearly supposed to waste even more time trying to track down that list on the Debian site because this guy can't be bothered to provide the link in his message.

      The list doesn't exist yet. LDP is working on it.

      I should also point out that Debian did not instigate this. No one at Debian had noticed the license issue till David Merrill pointed it out to them. If you don't like the fact that they then acted in accordance with Debian policy, perhaps you're using the wrong distribution.

  • I tried, oh yes I did. I understand their position on freedom, but everything they do is so knee jerk and spasmatic they they hurt their position rather than help it. I imagine that the documents included in previous distributions were under the same questionable licenses? Why not deal with the issues in a thoughtful and controlled manner, rather than say "you have three days to correct this or we pull the plug?" Wow. Debian sounds friendly. Debian sounds understanding. Debian sounds like a distribution that I want to use.

    Well good for the zealots. Good for the radicals. Good for the people that want to do the right thing. I'll just go on using my usable and friendly distributions, like SuSE.

    Honestly, Debian has always held appeal for me. I just can't get beyond the chest tumping, the politics, and the general sense of rabid fanaticism that pervades the project.

    One argument I've heard is that I can go get the projects and packages that I want and weren't included. But please, I'm tired of installing a distribution, then installing 10 or 20 new packages on top of that.

    Enough rambling. I have important things to do now. Like drink. And moderate. But all in moderaton.

  • by brassman (112558) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:25PM (#2665955) Homepage
    Ouch. Someone once came to my modest how-to [handsononhowto.com] site, then sent me a screed worthy of RMS demanding that I contribute it to the LDP. I went there, found out that in order to do so I would have to learn LinuxDoc or SGML, and promptly lost all interest.

    It's a pity; I think I have a knack for creating usable documentation (and it's safer than asking me to write kernel patches, anyway); but that's one flaming hoop too many to jump through.

    • Ditto. Half my college education consisted of technical writing courses. User manuals, business plans, development documents, deliverable lists, etc. I thought I could write some documentation to help people out, since I'm a pretty crappy programmer and really like good documentation. I go to check out the LDP, with the same results as you.

      And now someone's going to attack me for not supporting the movement and giving up and selling out and being lazy. Come on, you LDP drones. What's wrong with plain text or man pages or html? Bring on the flames.
    • by lupercalia (310569) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @05:31PM (#2667752) Homepage
      There is a reason for this. It's not arbitrary. DocBook lets us produce multiple outputs from pdf to html to RTF. You can extract OMF from it. It's easily integratable into ScrollKeeper.

      And while we do expect documents in our collection to be in DocBook, preferably, we know DocBook can be challenging to learn. So we use LinuxDoc as the point-of-entry. It is a simple DTD, about as complex as HTML if not simpler. It is not so high a hurdle.

      Also, we provide volunteers to convert your document. You can send it in html or text, we'll convert it, and you maintain it from there. Perhaps you weren't aware of that.

      In short, we do everything we can to make getting involved as easy as possible. You don't see people complaining about having to write kernel code in C, do you? "Drat it, why can't they use Python?" Comparatively, we're pretty easy. ;-)
  • by Overfiend (35917) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:32PM (#2665997) Homepage

    Personally, I wouldn't lose any sleep if the LDP documents were granted a temporary reprieve from their DFSG problems long enough to get into woody. It also won't bother me if 2/3 of them have to go into non-free. The documentation will be available to those who want it, either way.

    But I see more than little irony in all the hysterical chest-thumping going on in the replies to this message from people who admit they haven't even read the DFSG, or even the GPL, and then bitch about Debian's "hysterical chest-thumping", of which I can find none. David Merrill and Colin Watson have been perfectly civil with each other and everyone else on this issue. Whatever crisis there is here is being manufactured, Katz-like, by armchair developers who don't appear to have any notion of the practical matters behind operating a free software project. Both Colin and David have this understanding, which is probably why they don't have a problem with each other.

    Get caught up on the issues, first, mmmkay? The DFSG wasn't sprung on people last week. It's been around for years. So has the OSD. So has the FSF's definition of free software. People who need a slashdot story to bring the fact that free licenses permit modification to their attention don't get any sympathy from me.

    What happened in this situation was clearly just misfortune. Neither the LDP documentation maintainer or the Debian package maintainer were aware of this situation until recently. Maybe they should have, but that's spilt milk. The simple truth is that Debian didn't schedule its freeze to screw the LDP. And, having watched the situation develop on the debian-legal list, I don't think the LDP will get screwed. Everybody with an actual stake in this who has spoken up wants to make this work. Some folks just used a bad license for their documentation. That's too bad. You live and you learn. You either relicense it or you don't. Debian will continue to welcome freely licensed documentation with open arms.

    You know, for the life of me I can't imagine why anyone would want the freedom to modify technical documentation. It's not like software ever changes, right? I mean, none of us own any books on computers or software that say things like "Second Edition" or "Third Edition", right? And certainly such fundamental, landmark works as The Art of Computer Programming have never required the scarcest revision, let alone a rewrite to switch from MIX to MMIX...right?

  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:40PM (#2666084) Homepage

    IMO, the LDP license is much better than the one Debian wants to use. There is a good reason why changes to the documentation should make it back to the original authors, so they can update their documents. Documentation isn't software. When someone makes a change to software somewhere, and has to update the documentation, the corrosponding changes should be made at the LDP. I shouldn't have to worry if the "Apache Howto" at the LDP website is no longer valid, because somebody at RedHat modified the wording of a "DocumentRoot" to "DocumentStart". According to the LDP license, if someone makes a change like this and documents it (in the RH docs), the change should be forwarded onto the LDP, so they can update/add to theirs, so everyone knows whats going on. This is not the case with the proposed Debian license. People can make changes willy-nlly, and the LDP docs get all out of sync. i think this is ridiculous, and I encourage all LDP authors to not change anything. If the Debian fanatics insist on it, let them write their own docs.

    • Amen!!! If I had any mod points, you would have them.

      The single most important thing for documentation is to be accurate. If people don't keep in touch about changes made, then all it means is that everything will get out of sync.
  • Why push a major release out the door sans 2/3 of the documetation rather than wait a week or two to get the authors' okay and send everything out at once?

    Barring that, send the doc out two weeks after the distribution. Two weeks from now, the enduser can update his or her documentation by opening a shell and typing "apt-get upgrade". Why is this becoming a major ideological flamewar? Am I missing something here?
  • The LDP boilerplate license reads (in part):

    Copyright (c) 2000 by John Doe (change to your name)

    Please freely copy and distribute (sell or give away) this document in any format. It's requested that corrections and/or comments be fowarded to the document maintainer. You may create a derivative work and distribute it provided that you:

    1. Send your derivative work (in the most suitable format such as sgml) to the LDP (Linux Documentation Project) or the like for posting on the Internet. If not the LDP, then let the LDP know where it is available.

    The problem with this is that it doesn't distinguish between creating and distributing derived works. As is, the license requires you to send any derived works, even those created in the privacy of your own home and not distributed to anyone else, to the LDP.
  • by Arandir (19206) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:05PM (#2666331) Homepage Journal
    The FDL ain't free either. It's quite ironic that Debian wants to convert LDP docs to FDL docs because the former doesn't meet the Debian definition of Free. Well the latter doesn't either. If it wasn't for the fact that the FDL came from GNU, Debian would reject it in a heartbeat.

    According the the FSF's four freedoms, the OSI Open Source Definition, and the Debian guidelines, any license that allows immutable sections in the body of a work cannot be Free. Geez.

    Of course, documentation should not follow the same rules as software. The root problem is that Debian needs separate guidelines for docs than they do for software. Both LDP and FDL (as well as "copy this at your leisure" licenses) should be allowed.
    • by lupercalia (310569) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:28PM (#2666530) Homepage
      The LDP has had to throw away, yes THROW AWAY documents that became outdated, when the maintainer could not be contacted. And believe me, that was painful to do.

      That is a strong argument in favor of allowing derived versions, not just free distribution. The benefit of licenses which permit derivative versions is that it improves the odds the document will continue to live and be improved as long as it is useful.

      David Merrill
      LDP Collection Coordinator
    • GPL also has an immutable section, though they don't call it that. It's the file called COPYING, and that little piece at the start of the code that says that you have to include it in each subsequent version. (I.e., a GPL program must remain a GPL program.)
  • by Burdell (228580) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @02:34PM (#2666584)
    Are they going to drop the text of the GNU General Public License? I quote:
    GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE

    Version 2, June 1991
    Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
    59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA
    Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
    of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    No modification is allowed at all. According to the Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org] (which they are now applying to ALL included works, not just software), they require that modifications are allowed.

    If they drop the text of the license, then they'd have to drop every package licensed under the GPL (as the license requires including a copy of the license).

  • by cjwatson (224090) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @03:03PM (#2666840) Homepage

    I'm the maintainer of the Debian packages containing the English-language HOWTOs distributed by the Linux Documentation Project.

    A few days ago, during a discussion we were having about other things, David Merrill brought it to my attention that many of the LDP documents didn't belong in our main distribution. With the evidence in front of me, it was hard for me not to agree, and, once I knew of the problem, I felt bound to do something about it.

    The timing, of course, was unfortunate, coming as it did so close to the woody freeze. Yes, I should have noticed it earlier, but to be honest I've been kind of busy writing code and fixing bugs [debian.org] in the three months or so since I've been working on Debian's HOWTO packages. I certainly wouldn't have planned it this way; the situation now leaves me with less than three weeks to implement a bunch of code to parse the LDP database [linuxdoc.org] and to split the packages up, which is definitely not something I enjoy doing at the end of a release cycle, so we aren't doing this for our own amusement.

    Personally, I am extremely disappointed that much of the doc-linux packages will have to become doc-linux-non-free-html and doc-linux-non-free-text. I didn't become the doc-linux maintainer with the intention of removing documentation from the standard installation! I'll be doing my best to ensure that any documents that we start being able to distribute in main are moved back into main as soon as possible, including submitting updates for point releases of woody and persuading the release manager to include them. I'll also be checking by hand as many of the documents in non-free as I can just in case they really are free. The two days mentioned in the story, incidentally, are when the relevant part of the freeze starts, not when it ends, so the notice that's been given to authors isn't quite so ridiculously short as it sounds. Any documents that get relicensed in the next month and a bit will be included in main for woody, and it wouldn't surprise me if that deadline could be allowed to slip a bit.

    I find it fascinating that lots of people seem to think that Debian is somehow beating its chest, stirring trouble, or being generally obnoxious. This is simply not true. First of all, we're reacting to concerns from the LDP, and secondly all the conversations I've had with LDP people, especially David Merrill, have been very civil and friendly. (Incidentally, David, if you're reading this, I owe you a drink of your choice.)

    If you'd like to see where this discussion started, try the thread about this [debian.org] on debian-legal. Although David's original mail to me wasn't sent to that mailing list, I think the linked article quotes everything important.

    I wish David and the LDP volunteers all the best, and I dearly hope that the current situation will be temporary.

    • Everything was chugging along nicely, when David uncovered a concern. His conscience tugged at his mind and heart, and he reported it to you. That's fine, and in a strictly moral sense it was the right thing to do. However, look at the trouble it has caused. Do you doubt that you'll be able to resolve most of the license issues? Do you think that moving everything to non-free then back to free is going to be non-trivial or fun (you've already answered that one)? Perhaps taking a more ambiguous, more practical stance would have been the better path. The easier path. There are times where we should stand up for what we believe in, and fight to preserve our ethics and morals. There are times where we benefit so much more from keeping those ethics and morals in our sight, but taking a gentler path (yet less certain path) to the final goal. Just because you lose one battle, it doesn't mean that you will lose the war.

      Having said all of that, and having called you a bunch of fools, let me say how much I admire the people who write, document, and maintain free software. Thanks for your effort helping to make Linux what it is today.
    • Pshaw! Facts? On a /. board? You gotta be kidding!

      (and I note, with some sad humor, that your post is still at the default 2, while a post describing your actions as "cutting off your nose to spite your face" as at 5.....Insightful)

      Daniel
    • (adding to what I wrote before, I guess)

      I find it fascinating that lots of people seem to think that Debian is somehow beating its chest, stirring trouble, or being generally obnoxious.

      I don't know if you read /. much, Chris, but this is par for the course. People prefer attacking straw men -- they don't fight back nearly as much.

      And hatred, or at least distrust, of RMS and Debian runs fairly high here as well as most other Internet venues I've seen. You probably know the caricature, judging from your comments. If you don't, reading a few of the posts will give you a feel for it. It doesn't help that some of the more..uh..immature Debian *users* hang out here. [1]

      Luckily, being in good graces with /. posters was not the reason I became involved with Debian, so I can remain mostly calm while reading a board such as this one. I've even managed to restrain myself from angrily shooting down every stupid comment here. (the 2-minute time limit is helping :) )

      One thing I've always wondered is whether Slashdot is just being Slashdot, or whether the world at large despises us as well. But my impression is that this is limited to online discussion groups, which are in any event the Jerry Springer of the technical world.

      (sorry, not in a good mood right now. I can't *always* keep my cool reading /., but it's a good exercise..)

      Daniel

      [1] if the shoe fits, wear it.
  • I once read a piece about the move of the Debian packages' documentation from /usr/doc to /usr/share/doc . It was said that the transfer would require altering of thousands of packages. (Here, thousands is to be taken literally.) In the end I believe they came up with some kind of symlink hack to resolve the problem of altering all these packages.

    Just for the figure, I wonder exactly how much documentation we are talking about now.

    (P.S.: FP w.o. whining about what licences Debian should accept!! ;-))))
  • A system based on the 'freedom of information' wants to drop a bunch of HOWTO documents because it doesnt meet their idea of freedom.

    Can you get anymore fascist and ironic?

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