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Re: Self-Introduction: Stanton Finley



On Wed, 2005-08-17 at 00:02 -0600, Stanton Finley wrote:

> I must admit being a bit overwhelmed trying to find some direction among
> the maze of links from the wiki about the docs to bugzilla about the
> docs to docs about the docs and the docs themselves. I'm sure that this
> initial confusion will clarify itself in my mind as I assimilate the
> structure and logical process from which this project has evolved and is
> evolving.

This is the truth.  We don't mean to be confusing, but it happens that
way around here now.  We'd love to simplify the presentation of our
processes.

Have you seen this page?

http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/DocsProject/NewWriters

You might also consider asking for help from a mentor:

http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Mentors

> As is the case I'm sure for millions of potential Fedora users I
> approached Linux from the Microsoft milieu. My initial question was
> "where's the manual"? This naivety was soon replaced with paradigm
> shifting realization that there is no (single) manual and that one must
> rely upon the community.

The double-edged sword of FLOSS.  It's free for you to do anything you
need!  Unfortunately, no one has done everything you need. :)

> The frustration that led to my own writings (most recently at
> http://stanton-finley.net/fedora_core_4_installation_notes.html)
> continues to motivate my desire to see the emergence of a body of Fedora
> documentation that is parallel in quality to the OS itself. Fedora Core
> is the class act of today's Linux OS distributions and its documentation
> should be nothing less.

I fully agree.  This is why our documentation has to be treated with the
same level of responsibility as the rest of the distribution source
code.

I've seen that page before, it has certainly grown.

If you want to use it as source material for some formal Fedora
documentation, that could work fine.  As I explain below, the content
you publish through Fedora directly can't tell how to infringe on any
patents or violate any laws such as the DMCA.

> I appreciate that the formal body of Fedora documentation must conform
> to the founding philosophy to "build a complete, general purpose
> operating system exclusively from open source software". My current
> quandary is that like most real-world Fedora users I actually do not use
> exclusively free and open-source software on my Fedora box. I play
> patent-encumbered MP3s and watch videos which use proprietary codecs. I
> have RealPlayer and Sun Java installed and use the nVidia driver for
> graphics acceleration.

This is a paradox.  Cognitive dissonance.  We're humans, we're used to
living this way.  "Denial is not a river in Egypt."

Unfortunately, you'll have to live with it.  The first condition is not
changing anytime soon (ever, I hope), and the second condition is
something we can only affect by deciding when enough proprietary codecs
are enough.

> So how do we create the documentation which the "real-world" user is
> actually clamoring for? How do we accommodate and reconcile the free
> software model with the need for a single-source all encompassing Fedora
> Core "manual" in which the user can find the answer to his
> fedoraforum.org style questions. How do I play MP3s on Fedora? How to I
> watch the movie trailers at http://www.apple.com/trailers/ on Fedora?
> How do I install Azureus for bittorrent on Fedora and configure it to
> use the Sun Java JRE?

GIYF.  Seriously.  This is stuff we just cannot touch.

> I dual boot Microsoft Windows XP and Fedora Core 4 on my home computer.
> Having purchased Windows and Windows software I already bought the
> licenses to listen to MP3s and watch divX encoded movies. So why can I
> not turn to a subset of Fedora Docs that tells me how to use these on my
> Fedora installation with the disclaimer that this documentation is
> written "for parties who own or believe they own licenses for such
> software". It is actually this kind of documentation which I would like
> to contribute. I believe that until Fedora can provide this class of
> documentation for it's potential users its user base will be constricted
> and compromised as other Linux based OSs find ways of circumventing the
> patent-encumbered and non-open-source issues in their user
> documentation.

My glib response is, thank goodness we have lawyers to protect us from
ourselves.  The decision about how to discuss patent and DMCA encumbered
issues was made for us by our counselors, who surely will continue to
give the same advice after the Fedora Foundation is created.

This all has to do with what Fedora can distribute and information it
can disseminate.  As you point out, an end-user can be a perfectly
legitimate user of these technologies.  We just cannot help them get
there.

I don't want to turn away well-meaning contributors, but we cannot use
the kind of documentation you describe.  There are many forums that are
more than happy to provide solutions and packages of all interesting
sorts.  We have to stay true to our mission.

What we *can* do is be consistent in our message, and we can link to
sites such as fedorafaq.org and fedoraforum.org, that may contain such
information or link to such information.  

Here's the bottom line:  we should not be settling for technologies that
go against our project ideals.  One reason we "need" these codecs is
because we haven't all abandoned MP3 in favor of OGG.

  "Fedora - starving patent attorneys since 2003"
  "Fedora - free for ever"
  "Fedora - codec patents?  we don't need no stinking codec patents?"

It is a stated purpose of the Fedora Project to create and include such
technologies, where they are needed, out of entirely open source
components.  We need to put our energy and music collections in that
direction, and not settle for MP3 because it is easy.  Because it was
included in Windows.

I hope this message doesn't turn you away.  I've been accused of
arrogance around these issues, and I suppose I take a high-and-mighty
tone.  But we are discussing nothing short of our fundamental freedoms,
whether to have and use open formats, or just not be jailed for DMCA
violations. :)

- Karsten
-- 
Karsten Wade, RHCE * Sr. Tech Writer * http://people.redhat.com/kwade/
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                       Red Hat SELinux Guide
http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/enterprise/RHEL-4-Manual/selinux-guide/

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