GNU/Linux and freedom: non-free software hidden in your GNU/Linux distribution

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Software

Most people with an interest in software freedom will turn to GNU/Linux as their operating system of choice. Few realize however, that the vast majority of GNU/Linux distros are not entirely free. Imagine migrating away from Windows, only to find that by installing GNU/Linux you are accepting a restrictive Microsoft license!

Many distros promote the use of proprietary software, knowingly show incorrect licenses, and attempt to hide the problem under the guise of an ‘option of freedom’. When the majority of developers of a collection of software don’t care about freedom, neither will their users. Non-free distros make almost no attempts to inform their userbases of the importance of freedom, even though they wouldn’t exist without it. I will discuss how the option of freedom is an unacceptable solution, and propose some real fixes.

The problem

I’ve been using GNU/Linux for over 5 years, but I’ve only recently discovered just how much non-free software my distro contains. I decided to search through my system and remove everything that was non-free, and there was quite a lot that I removed.

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I do not agree! I use Linux

I do not agree!

I use Linux since a decade now, and I can say that there is no way to use only open-source applications. Well ... you may be able to leave with strictly open-source Linux distribution, but you will not be able to enjoy such a one.

I can't contest, that in some cases, there are perfectly good open-source alternatives, but unfortunately in other cases you are totally dependent on closed-source but free to use/redistribute applications or code.

As for Mandriva highlighting PowerPack and ONE instead of FREE, excuse me, but if you were a company living on the money payed by your customers, wouldn't you promote the payed stuff first and let the free one at the end? It's a little bit confusing, but it's logical. In order to have a Mandriva FREE version, they have to invest man power which comes with a price which has to be payed by the ones who buy the commercial version. I'm OK with this.

Now, let's get back to closed-source programs & code. As long as hardware vendors will not offer their specifications publicly, closed-source drivers will be needed. And I can't see any opennes coming soon at this front. Hardware vendors want to protect their values, the secrets of their hardware. That's why they prefer to write tonnes of drivers for different operating systems instead of just publishing some specifications. That's how business is, and as long as you will have to pay for your hardware, most of it will be closed for some degree.

Conclusion: Even if I don't like this situation, I consider that it has nothing to do with promoting open-source. This is the way the IT industry lives, and you can't escape everything ... except if you invent and build your own computer and OS ... good luck.

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