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Re: [gNewSense-users] Re: Debian kernel cleanup

From: Sam Geeraerts
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] Re: Debian kernel cleanup
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 20:50:31 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla-Thunderbird (X11/20080509)

Yavor Doganov wrote:
Thanks for the followup.  I think Robert followed the chunks in the
linux-libre deblob script rather than exploring the whole source
himself.  This is already done in gNS, I should have noticed that.

Sam Geeraerts wrote:
But it shows that there are/were some problems with the freedom
verification process.

The {K,P}VF process is fundamentally broken (not the specific process
in gNewSense, I'm talking in general).  The solution is to
develop/maintain packages natively rather than performing the
daunting, humiliating, and error-prone task of cleaning the non-free
parts that should never be in the original upstream packages in the
first place.

For the Linux kernel specifically, I think that all fully free distros
should unite around linux-libre.  The linux-libre project should
provide a freed linux tarball which free distributions should use as
"genuine upstream" tarball, rather than deploying custom deblob
scripts and variations.

All "KVF"-capable and aware people should check and track the pristine upstream version, adding and enhancing the deblob script
(that is supposed to generate a free tarball) accordingly for the
common benefit of all free distros.

I agree that problems should be fixed upstream. However, our freedom verification process is not meant to check just the kernel, it's meant to check the whole distro. gNewSense is also meant to be user-friendly, which is provided for by Ubuntu (you may disagree, but that is the general feeling).

So we could take all software directly from the original upstream source, verify and patch it and then try to wrangle, patch and package it all up into a sensible, working, secure, integrated, user-friendly desktop distribution.

Or we could take the most popular distro on the block, do some rough chopping of sections that are known to have a lot of non-free software in them and go through the rest with a fine comb. There may be more non-free code to remove, but probably not an order of magnitude more. It would still be just a fraction of the total amount of code, so checking would take only marginally longer. Assuming that the error ratio for the PFV is the same with more non-free code, there would be a bit more non-free code left in the distro. But on the other hand, almost all contributors would be concentrating on freedom verification, so the non-free code that does get removed, would be removed more quickly.

I certainly wouldn't mind distros working closer together on freedom issues. Whenever there's a bug found in gNewSense, we get the opinion of only a handful of people, with varying levels of knowledge in legal and technical areas. I remember that we did not reach a consensus about spca drivers in linux-ubuntu-modules, so an additional perspective on such matters would be welcome.

The Linux kernel would be a logical area for colaboration. If it is practical to work from a common clean kernel (I don't know how that works out with Debian/Ubuntu-specific patches), then it sounds like a good idea. Have you informed other distros of this?

Btw, I believe some kernel developers are making work of separating out the blobs, so there will probably be less need for the deblob script in the future.

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