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Slackware has the two usual problems: there's no clear policy about what software can be included, and nonfree blobs are included in Linux, the kernel. It also ships with the nonfree image-viewing program xv. Of course, with no firm policy in place, there might be other nonfree software included that we missed.
Is it true ? Is there still xv in the new versions ? And isn't there a policy for free software, like debian social contract ?
For the kernel, you are free to install the linux-libre version on your slackware.
I didn't want to troll about the meaning of "free" or "open" (in my opinion, their use are clumsy most of the time), but this kind of uppity affirmation tarnishes in my opinion the meaning of freedom and despises linux communities.
Even the way they proselytize their values (great ones in itself by the way) by making meaningless exclusions (Gentoo isn't free because "Gentoo makes it easy to install a number of nonfree programs through its primary package system." 16 words to exclude a distribution... ignoring the fact that you can put ACCEPT_LICENSE="-* @FREE" in make.conf).
Well, perhaps BSD people were right, linux, GPL, etc., that's not free software...
Unless you're a Free Software Bible-Thumping Zealot, take Stallman and the GNU organization with a grain of salt.
All Linux based operating systems as well as most Solaris, BSD, Illumos, and various other variant UNIX kernel operating systems are "free software". You can download just about all of them free of charge and use them as you wish.
What they term as free software is really termed, "free open source software" or FOSS.
Non-Free software, or Closed Source software, can be free software, but it's true label is "free to use closed source software". Stallman gripes about this all the time. Nothing new.
Depending on the software license of the author it was written under, if no conflicts exist between the versions of the GNU, GPL, BSD, MIT, etc. open source licenses a lot of free software is under, or in the case of the CDDL license which isn't GNU/GPL compatible and up to the distribution completely at their digression (usually this is kept to BSD, Solaris, and Illumos only distributions due to the BSD and Solaris licenses), any distribution of a UNIX or UNIX-like system that is free to download, install, and use can include what is dubbed free or non-free software as they see fit.
In reality if, for example, Patrick wanted to add in closed source drivers in an /extra directory on the install CD such as the Broadcom-STA, Nvidia, or ATI drivers, he could very well do so. No one can stop him because the Nvidia license, ATI license, and Broadcom licenses allow for redistribution as long as a profit isn't being made directly off their software.
XV is technically Shareware but it also has a free to download source that anyone can download, build, and repackage. All you are doing is buying the user license, registering it, and contributing to the author, and John allows free distribution of the shareware source.
Stallman's arguments are well founded, but realistically any operating system regardless if it's Linux, Mac, UNIX, or Windows can have both free and non-free software running equally alongside shareware and retailware as long as all licenses are met and agreed upon by the "End User".
vharishankar, your article is interesting (particularly the diagram), but I don't agree fully with your conclusion (no reconciliation). Perhaps there will be some reconciliations (between transparency and communitisation) between these two ideologies with "open movements", like open hardware, knowledge, data, government, etc.).
In fact, I think that the expression free software is very clouded. The software isn't free (people are). Have you already seen a free hammer, a free car or a free tool ?
You can dance around your computer and pray for its freedom... It'll change nothing. Or perhaps the consideration of your relatives about your linux beliefs.
The software gives freedom to users, and not inversely ; but users can only give openness to their softwares. So open software for a free use, that's the way ?
Another example of contradiction, in my opinion.
RMS uses a lemote yeelong because he can run it "with 100% free software even at the BIOS level". He thought about freedom. Okay... But is the promotion of a chinese computer directly linked with the chinese government (a big supporter of freedom...) through the Chinese Institute of Computing Technology compatible with this kind of 100% freedom ?
An ethical contradiction is sometimes the worst.
In theory, Stallman is right with his views on free software. In practice, I need to use a handful of proprietary packages to make my Linux system fully work (wireless, graphics, ...), even if Richard Stallman frowns upon them.
And the rest of us are entitled to have our own opinions on the validity of those standards.
You are indeed, the two are not mutually exclusive.
I'm simply trying to highlight that no one should read the FSF or GNU sites' infamous distro list and let that influence their choice of distro.
Many of the "non compliances", or whatever they're called, are minor - for example Debian cannot be listed because they provide easy access to non-free software. Despite the fact that a standard Debian install comes with no non free software at all, unless the user chooses to add the repos, it can't be listed on the GNU site because Debian apparently make it easily available and direct users towards it. It's worth noting that most of the non-free software in Debian* is kernel firmware for hardware devices. Personally I think firmware is the lesser of two evils when the user is choosing between a FOSS OS and a proprietary one. If someone has to install a few kB of blob to get their wireless working and use a FOSS OS, then it's a small sacrifice to make. Deliberately making it difficult, or impossible, for them to find and install the blobs just seems wrong on so many levels.
*Debian claim that the contrib and non-free repos are not part of Debian, yet they are hosted on their servers and packaged, maintained and tracked just as any other Debian package - so you could say RMS has a point.
The free radeon driver is a good example - without the non-free microcode from AMD/ATI it's not much use. The alternative is fglrx which is non-free or fbdev or vesa...
I can't see many distros sacrificing useability simply to get listed at GNU/FSF.
Despite this I do agree with RMS about half the time...
I use working Software. Slackware fits that catagory. As do other distros. As far as what is free and what is not, I really don't care, as long as it works. I have no problem with dowlnloading and installing nVidia drivers, Broadcom drivers, etc. I've even paid for some Linux Software, and distros. I've Bought SuSE and Mandrake. As long as it works for me I'm fine with it.