[Arm-netbook] Debian GNU/Linux, nonfree software, and FSF's free distros list

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Oct 16 12:48:38 BST 2016

On Sunday 16. October 2016 12.14.11 Philip Hands wrote:
> The fact that some of the "libre" OSs base themselves on Ubuntu strikes
> me as particularly deranged, given that Ubuntu is actually a step
> further away from what they want, but there you go.

I did find it rather odd that Trisquel had switched to using Ubuntu as their 
base rather than Debian: it makes wider architecture support a real problem 
because Ubuntu has narrowed its own support, presumably dropping non-
lucrative/non-enterprise architectures, meaning that one presumably has to 
reactivate other architectures in Ubuntu to propagate and access the necessary 
content. I imagine that they also need to do a lot more filtering and 
rebuilding on what Ubuntu provides than they would had they stuck with Debian, 
but I didn't follow the decisions around them switching from one to the other.

I don't want to get into arguments about popularity, compromises, and so on, 
but I have an observation to make. If there were a more conservative base for 
Debian, meaning that certain controversial or unwanted content would be 
excluded in those base packages, then the derivatives wanting to preserve that 
conservatism would have an easier task branching out in their own direction, 
and it would probably even help the greater Debian distribution in terms of 
managing and maintaining the archive. I think that's what people are looking 
for from Debian.

I've looked into various libre distributions (as anyone reading this list 
might have noticed), and it is an annoyance that while considering how one 
might bootstrap one of the non-Debian-derived libre distributions on other 
architectures, Debian has supported such architectures all along. It really 
should be a matter of selectively obtaining packages already built by Debian 
and no more. Instead, it seems like auditing is still required, and this 
appears to be the time-consuming part. That said, I'm still familiarising 
myself with things like gNewSense, so I could be wrong, I suppose.


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