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pterjan's diary


  Ubuntu image and reality regarding freedom

Few months ago, someone asked how he could do a Debian netinstall over wifi with only first CD [fr] and there I learnt that Ubuntu CD could as it contains the proprietary firmware. I did not know that Ubuntu CD contained non free stuff so I asked several users and I was told that it also installs proprietary nVidia drivers. I was quite surprised as I know some "integrists" who give Ubuntu to beginners, so I think they are not aware of this.

Today a co-worker did not believe me regarding this point so I had a look into the 5.10 and 6.06 CD contents. I had the good surprise to see that some proprietary stuff had disappeared :

5.10 :
6.06 :

So I posted the good news on LinuxFR [fr] and there someone posted a comment [fr] regarding ipw2x00 frimware that I could not find on the CD. If I could not find it, it is for a very simple reason, the proprietary firmware are not in pool/restricted/, they are included in linux-image-2.6.15-23-686_2.6.15-23.39_i386.deb, the main kernel package. So, every people installing Ubuntu gets some proprietary software into his computer !

What is shocking me is not that Ubuntu is a non-free distribution, forcing all of its users to install non-free software. What is shocking me is that almost nobody knows it and a lot of people install or offer Ubuntu thinking it is free software ! I wonder how did Ubuntu people manage to keep that so confidential, I don't even find this information in the numerous Ubuntu vs Debian trolls...

Update : I have read more on Ubuntu website and found a page stating Ubuntu is an entirely open source operating system built around the Linux kernel which is false as drdsl is binary only app, and some other page where things are written more carrefully. The page about licencing tell All of the application software installed by default is Free Software. which is true if they consider firmware as data and not as software (even if I think it is). Regarding the data (they list firmware in it), they say The Ubuntu community will make decisions on the inclusion of these works on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that these works do not restrict our ability to make Ubuntu available free of charge, and that Ubuntu remains redistributable by you so nothing about freedom...

Today's TSUKKOMI(Total: 16) [Add a TSUKKOMI]
  Zero_Dogg (2006-06-09 23:13)

Great post, I'll be posting myself about the "free software" distro of ubuntu...when I get around to it :o

  Ju. (2006-06-11 23:41)

You could find more informations about Main here :<br><br><br><<The licences for software applications in main must be free, but main may also may contain binary firmware and selected fonts that cannot be modified without permission from their authors. In all cases redistribution is unencumbered.>>

  Olivier Blin (2006-06-12 12:02)

Well, drdsl is a software application, and its license is certainly not free...

  pterjan (2006-06-12 13:13)

Yes but you can install without drdsl while I don't think you can install without linux-image :)

  Terr (2006-06-16 12:00)

Firmware cannot be GPL since if you modifi it you could violate the max power per square meter or transmit in reserved freqs and expose people to damage an security risks so firmware is not GPL.

  pterjan (2006-06-16 12:14)

This is out of topic. I don't discuss the fact this software is not Free, or that the CD includes not Free software but the fact that it is inside the kernel package that all the users get installed (and can't remove).<br>The issue is that everywhere Ubuntu is seen as Free Software but do not looks concerned by freedom !

  Terr (2006-06-16 12:18)

You are out of topic.

  pterjan (2006-06-16 12:25)

That's difficult when that's me who defined the topic...

  Quique (2006-06-16 14:45)

As far as I see, Ubuntu doesn't include any propietary software in `main'. The non-free software is in `restricted'.<br><br>AFAIK, the drivers in the kernel-image are actually free software. It's only the firmware that it's non-free, something that the page pointed by Ju warns about.<br><br>Should the firmware be considered as software? I don't know. I believe the Linus' tree also includes binary blobs, doesn't it?

  Misc (2006-07-24 17:13)

It seems that RMS share your concern, according to this photo :

  midi gratis os mirins (2006-09-22 00:16) midi gratis os mirins midi gratis os mirins

  Klik (2006-10-06 09:04)

Well, not true exactly. Firmware isn't software, but this is a point on which we will never get agreed, so let's skip it and move to facts.<br><br>linux-restricted doesn't provide nvidia driver at all. If you install it and if you try 'modprobe nvidia' you'll get "FATAL: Module nvidia not found." since there is no nvidia module. Please note that kernel module is installed when it's modprobed, not when it's on the disk.<br><br>Package that installs nvidia module is nvidia-glx, which isn't on CD and therefor can't be installed during installation. Users that say it does are unaware of driver they use or liers.<br><br>drdsl is on CD, but it's not installed by default. Let me remind you, GPL allows that. This package is used only when ADSL connection for installation is needed, and user has AVM DSL/ISDN controller. This is used *only* when needed, not always.

  batterie 9 (2006-10-19 11:00) batterie 9 batterie 9

  kwalo (2006-10-23 13:07)

"It seems that RMS share your concern, according to this photo :"<br><br>RMS's opinion is about shipping restricted modules on Ubuntu CD, not about firmware.<br><br>The firmware itself cannot be open source. See

  Brynster (2006-10-23 14:41)

Hmm so let me get this straight. You don't like Ubuntu so your bashing it for trying to make life simpler for Linux Newbies. Geez you 733T H4x0rz power users make me sick thinking that linux is just for you and only you can possible say whats good and proper and whats evil. Why don't you go and do something creative such as right an open source driver for nvidia cards or for the broadcom wifi chipset or anything else where the only "real" alternative solution is a propriety driver, rather than publishing a diatribe of dribble about something you have NO control over. <br><br>Ubuntu is doing a great job of introducing newbies to Linux. Something Debian, Slackware, Gentoo <insert other distie of choice here> need as i know to many people whom would run and hide at the thought of rolling there own kernal or compiling from scource to get software. I know as i was one of those people a few months ago. Also i have to ask in your free nirvana type existance what video card are you running and do you use the awful Mesa or Nv drivers that are free and open? (no disrepect intended to either developing parties i know its not an easey task you have taken on freely)

  Nam (2007-12-07 00:16)

Cant understand