Linux-libre turns 15!
Shared from <http://www.fsfla.org/anuncio/2023-02-Linux-libre-15>
It was February 2008 when Jeff Moe announced Linux-libre, a project to share the efforts that freedom-respecting distros had to undertake to drop the nonfree bits distributed as part of the kernel Linux.
> “For fifteen years, the Linux-libre project has remained dedicated
> to providing a kernel that respects everyone’s freedom and has
> become an essential part of the free software movement. Linux-libre
> is widely used by those who value their freedom to use, study,
> change, and share software without restrictions or limitations.
> These freedoms are essential to creating a just society.”
> — Jason Self
Since around 1996, Linux has carried sourceless firmware encoded as sequences of numbers disguised as source code. UTUTO and gNewSense pioneered the efforts of removing them. Cleaning Linux up is a substantial amount of work, so the existence of Linux-libre has alleviated one of the main difficulties in maintaining GNU+Linux distros that abide by the GNU Free Software Distribution Guidelines. The Linux-libre compiled kernel distributions maintained by Jason Self, Freesh (.deb), liberRTy (low-latency .deb) and RPMFreedom (.rpm), make it easy for users of other GNU+Linux distros to take a step towards freedom when their hardware is not too user-hostile.
> “Thanks to Linux-libre, we have entirely libre GNU+Linux distros.
> Thanks to Linux-libre, people like me who are not kernel hackers can
> install one of those distros and have a computer which never runs a
> nonfree program on the CPU. (Provided we use LibreJS as well to
> — Richard Stallman
Early pieces of firmware in Linux ran peripheral devices, but some of the blobs loaded by Linux nowadays reconfigure the primary central processing units and others contain an entire operating system for the peripherals’ CPUs, including a copy of the kernel Linux itself and several other freedom-depriving programs!
After years of our denouncing the social, technical, and legal risks out of Linux’s misbehavior, most of the blobs got moved to separate files, still part of the kernel Linux, and then to separate packages, which mitigates some of the legal risks, but the problem keeps growing: more and more devices depend on nonfree firmware and thus remain under exclusive and proprietary control by their suppliers.
For 27 years, the nonfree versions of Linux have shown that tolerating blobs and making it easy for users to install and accept them makes users increasingly dependent on user-hostile, blob-requiring devices for their computing. Refusing to give these devices’ suppliers what they wish, namely your money and control over your computing, is more likely to succeed at changing their practices if more users refuse.
If you’re the kind of software freedom supporter who demands respect for your freedom, keep on enjoying the instant gratification that GNU Linux-libre affords you, and supporting (or being!) those who refurbish old computers and build new ones to respect our autonomy.
However, if you’re of the kind for whom last-generation computers are hard to resist, even though you’d prefer if they were more respectful of your freedom, you may wish to consider a delayed gratification challenge: if you and your friends resist hostile computers now, you may get more respectful ones later, for yourselves and for all of us; if you don’t, the next generations will likely be even more hostile. Are you up for the challenge?
Present and Future
GNU Linux-libre releases are currently prepared with scripts that automate the cleaning-up and part of the verification. For each upstream major and stable release, we run the scripts, updating them as needed, and publish them, along with the cleaning-up logs and the cleaned-up sources, in a git repository. Each source release is an independent tag, as in, there are no branches for cleaned-up sources. This is so we can quickly retract releases if freedom bugs are found.
We have plans to change the cleaning-up process and the repository structure in the future: we’re (slowly) preparing to move to a rewritten git repository, in which, for each commit in upstream Linux main and stable repositories, there will be a corresponding cleaned-up commit in ours. Undesirable bits are going to be cleaned up at the commit corresponding to the one in which upstream introduced or modified them, and other modifications will be checked and integrated unchanged, mirroring the upstream commit graph, with “git replace” mappings for individual commits and, perhaps, also for cleaned-up files.
This is expected to enable us to track upstream development very closely, to get stable and major releases out nearly instantly and often automatically and to enable Linux developers to clone our freed repository instead of our upstream to write and test their changes. The same techniques used to create the cleaned-up repository can be used to fix freedom bugs in it.
Jason Self has made several beautiful pictures of his version of Freedo, our light-blue penguin mascot, and we’ve used them for our recent releases.
Marking the beginning of the week in which we celebrate 15 years of Linux-libre, we had the pleasure of publishing a major release, 6.2-gnu, codenamed “la quinceañera”, with a picture of Freedo dressed up for the occasion: <https://www.fsfla.org/pipermail/linux-libre/2023-February/003502.html>
But there’s more! He also made a commemorative black-and-white wallpaper with classic Freedo, also dressed up for the occasion. Check them out, and feel free to tune the colors to your liking! <https://linux-libre.fsfla.org/#news>
He also modeled a 3D Freedo in Blender, and we’re looking for someone who could 3D-print it and get it to the FSF office in time for the LibrePlanet conference. Rumor has it that Richard Stallman is going to auction it off to raise funds for the FSF! Can you help?
About GNU Linux-libre
GNU Linux-libre is a GNU package maintained by Alexandre Oliva, on behalf of FSFLA, and by Jason Self. It releases cleaned-up versions of Linux, suitable for use in distributions that comply with the Free Software Distribution Guidelines published by the GNU project, and by users who wish to run Free versions of Linux on their GNU systems. The project offers cleaning-up scripts, Free sources, binaries for some GNU+Linux distributions, and artwork with GNU and the Linux-libre mascot: Freedo, the clean, Free and user-friendly light-blue penguin. Visit our web site and Be Free!
About the GNU Operating System and Linux
Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a Free Software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only
operating system developed specifically for the sake of users’ freedom: <http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html>
In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it Free Software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete Free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without non-Free Software. This combination is the GNU+Linux system: <http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html>
Free Software Foundation Latin America joined in 2005 the international FSF network, previously formed by Free Software Foundations in the United States, in Europe and in India. These sister organizations work in their corresponding geographies towards promoting the same Free Software ideals and defending the same freedoms for software users and developers, working locally but cooperating globally.
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