What’s In a Name (Volume: Whatever)

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently slammed Debian over a variety of issues, the most amusing being his ignorance over Mozilla’s license and the way certain parties, Debian in this instance, handle Mozilla’s license issues.

The clueless one wrote:

I, for example, find it more than almost stupid beyond my powers of description that Debian’s free software political correctness has them renaming Firefox to IceWeasel, Thunderbird to Icedove, and Seamonkey to Iceape. But, OK, while this will mean that Debian’s Mozilla programs will forever more be not as up to date as all other distributions’ versions, this is petty anti-stuff.

There are two issues at play here. The first issue is Mozilla’s trademark requirements and their distribution requirements. These policies don’t allow modified versions of their trademarked programs to be called by their names. The modified versions can still be launched via the usual commands — firefox, thunderbird, etc. — but they have to be “rebranded” with respect to logos and trademarks to comply with Mozilla’s odd licensing requirements.

The second issue is the mistake SJV-N makes in suggesting that “Debian’s Mozilla programs will forever more be not as up to date as all other distributions’ versions.” That isn’t true at all, unless users are installing older versions from older (stable) repositories. The rebranded versions work the same way as the original Mozilla versions do, including auto-updating.

I use a GTK-1 version of Firefox called Bon Echo. It can’t be labeled as Firefox because it was compiled against GTK-1 instead of GTK-2. It uses all the same extensions I’d use if I were using the GTK-2 version from Mozilla. It even updates itself automatically via Mozilla.

The only thing more stupid than SJV-N’s “powers” of description appears to be his rush to judgment over renaming due to license requirements and over version control. Not to mention the phrase “petty anti-stuff” when he most likely meant “penny-ante stuff.” But pointing that out to him might be penny-ante.

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