Proposal: Revision of policy surrounding 3rd party and non-free software

Christian Schaller cschalle at
Wed Jan 22 15:44:00 UTC 2014

----- Original Message -----
> From: "Robyn Bergeron" <rbergero at>
> To: "Fedora community advisory board" <advisory-board at>
> Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 2:37:49 PM
> Subject: Re: Proposal: Revision of policy surrounding 3rd party and non-free	software
> ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Christian Schaller" <cschalle at>
> > To: "Fedora community advisory board"
> > <advisory-board at>
> > Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 2:20:07 AM
> > Subject: Re: Proposal: Revision of policy surrounding 3rd party and
> > non-free	software
> > 
> > Ok, I seen this issue raised a few times now about the NVidia driver and
> > the
> > Fedora kernel update policy.
> > 
> > We are well aware that there are challenges here, Josh Boyer who is the
> > lead
> > Fedora kernel developer
> > is part of the Fedora Workstation Working Group and inside Red Hat I manage
> > among other things the graphics team
> > who maintains and develops things like Nouveau, but at the same time the
> > same
> > team works with Nvidia dealing
> > with issues encountered by common customers of Red Hat and NVidia. So
> > between
> > Josh and Red Hat graphics team
> > I hope you can trust that we have the right people on board to find a
> > solution if a solution is possible.
> > 
> > The goal of the Workstation Working group, and I am sure that is something
> > we
> > share with the other working groups, is
> > to make a high quality product. That includes identifying potential issues
> > and figuring out how to solve them. Figuring
> > out the binary driver issue is one of the harder ones and I can easily see
> > it
> > taking a long time to resolve, or maybe we
> > will never find a solution. But please lets not make 'Its to hard, lets not
> > even try' the new Fedora slogan.
> I'm certainly not of the opinion that we shouldn't ever change anything. The
> three-products proposal is change; I also suspect some policies may change
> in line with each working group's preferences, workflow, etc. I think it's
> an important step for Fedora, and one that will result in providing a more
> tailored experience for each use case. And it's also going to be hard - so I
> think to say that "everyone is saying no because they're scared it's too
> hard," is unfair. I am pretty sure that that work, along with the
> infrastructure changes we'll need to support the new workflow, and the
> automation/testing work that many are putting significant and amazing effort
> into will be incredibly difficult - but is absolutely key to our ability to
> actually deliver 3 things that are at the same level of quality as the one
> product we have now, and I really believe that, done right and over time,
> will result in far higher levels of quality, far better testing coverage,
> than the "one product" world we just started the journey away from with the
> release of F20.
> Some people in this thread are point-blank saying "no,"; others may be saying
> "no," or "no, it's too hard (or impossible)" with regards to some of the
> technical details here. Many responses are some combination of both, though
> I suspect some may be presenting the combo as "no on principle, and just in
> case anyone wants to argue with that, here's technical reasons why it is
> hard or impossible, which render any arguing about the principle as
> pointless effort anyway."
> Those arguing on principle - that Fedora's foundation of Freedom simply
> prohibits this - are generally not naive. I don't think anyone believes that
> "Freedom" is easy; many of the "Features, First" things that we do as part
> of Fedora development that *increase freedom" by providing open source
> alternatives are technically difficult, and sometimes even controversial,
> but we do them *precisely* because Freedom, the advancement of free
> software, is something we believe in as a project.
> So I don't think it's a matter of people saying it's too hard. If nothing
> else - I think it can probably be construed that those saying "no" are
> actually saying, "I'd rather do things the hard way."
> But when you say, "please lets not make 'Its to hard, lets not even try' the
> new Fedora slogan" - I think that slogan is exactly how people are
> perceiving this proposal. "Freedom is too hard, so let's not even try."

Well first of all I object to making this into a question about being for or against
freedom. I don't think anyone on either side of this debate is against freedom.

The real question is if the current policies which has been tried for many years 
now, is still the best way to promote freedom.

> As I stated previously - I'm not against change. I'm not even against finding
> a reasonable workaround to this particular issue or against debating it, I'm
> open to many things. But I do feel as though this solution in particular is
> a bit of "giving up" in some way on its own.
> In other mails in this thread, other solutions for enabling a better
> experience for the workstation user were cited by Bill and others; as I
> pointed out, some of these didn't directly impact the project's core
> principles as written today. Some of these, as mentioned, require more
> effort than others. You kindly pointed out your ability as a manager to
> redirect/reallocate resources; has the working group considered, rather than
> selecting by "effort required," which improvements/changes might have the
> most impact in terms of improving things to the ends of gaining users? And
> then redirecting work efforts done by those whom you can redirect towards
> solving those problems?

This is what we are doing, this is 1 item of out many in the workstation PRD.
I don't believe that this or any other proposal is a magic bullet here, if
we succeed or not will depend on the combined effect of a range of efforts
we are doing around the workstation. I believe this is an important aspect of
those changes, but just because it is the only one being discussed here on this
list doesn't mean it is the only thing we are loking at.

> For example: While I completely love and appreciate the efforts of those
> working in Fedora's QA team - I think we always have room to continuously
> improve the quality of the distribution. Effort in improving our automation,
> build system, moving towards gating changes and updates based on passing
> tests, and automating the testing of as much of our release criteria as
> possible not only frees up QA time to further test things which can't be as
> easily automated, and reduces their resource strain in the face of a 3-way
> product split - but can also improve the overall quality of the product(s),
> resulting in a better experience for those who *already* use Fedora, a
> better reputation, a better experience for those trying it out and whom we
> would love to keep on Fedora.


> Giving up Freedom feels like a solution of "the last resort." While I get
> that this solution is easier to *implement* than others on the table - I
> don't know that "it's the easiest" should necessitate a rewrite of
> everything that defines the Fedora Project before seeing how other, at least
> net-neutral changes can impact the usage of Fedora. I really would prefer to
> implement other solutions first that are more along the lines of "it can
> only stay the same or go up from here" instead of those which may gain users
> at the expense of existing users, contributors, reputation, branding. (Or
> find a solution to this particular problem that is more in line with our
> existing values.)

I once again disagree on the characterization of this being about giving up 
Freedom. You have of course a subjective right to feel that way, but it is
not an objective fact. I also object to the claim that we included this item
because it's the easiest. In fact we included it well knowing that it would actually be 
one of the hardest to accomplish, not from a technical perspective, but due to the
political process that would come with it, as this mailing list thread is proof of.

In fact one could argue that you are the one choosing the easiest solution here,
feeling that navigating through the last 10 years of Fedora politics and policies 
is to hard, so instead suggesting we just focus on some easier pickings in the hope
they will be enough on their own.

I think everyone here wants Fedora to succeed both in terms of being a good solution 
for our individual contributors and for it to be something that Red Hat derives enough
value from to continue its investment in the project. We might not agree on the details
or agree on what it will take to succeed or if it is even possible to equally satisfy 
every one of our constituents, but lets stop assuming sinister motives or accuse people
of being against freedom, just because they don't share our exact idea about what provides
the most freedom.


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