FSF Latin America: Linux-libre turns 15!
Linux-libre turns 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
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
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.
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!
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'
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.
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
Copyright 2023 FSFLA
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entire document without royalty, provided the copyright notice, the
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Source: Planet GNU
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