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Trisquel GNU Linux, the “most Free” Gnome Distro :)

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What’s wrong with Free Software Definition?

The last 3 days, just from curiosity I made some reading (lots lots of reading) in licenses (GPL, LGPL, Apache, MIT -latest versions), I read almost the whole FSF page, plus lots of pages in Wikipedia and documentation by Fedora, Debian, Open Source Initiative(OSI), and I read some documentation about patents in software.

While FSF says that most of the Open Source software is also a Free Software, and most of the Free Software is also Open Source, so both terms are right; FSF has huge differences than OSI. FSF and so Free Software definition is a more political concept rather a pattern to fit in software.

GNU C Library (glibc) is under LGPL license. FSF is trying to justify this. Fedora includes binary blobs.  They try to justify this. Gnome is under dual license (LGPL & GPL). FSF accepts LGPL ONLY under certain circumstances.  Most of the so-called free software comes with LGPL (or a similar licenses) without fulfill FSF’s requirements.

FSF cannot accept that its original goal has failed and makes compromises just to prove that FS by definition exists. Simple example. LGPL license permits you to  link a “free” library (like glibc) with proprietary software. Proprietary Software is not ethical -according to FSF- and developers are criminals -according to RMS- but yes, the LGPL is compatible with FSF principles (by occasion!).

The bottom line is that we should’t be “fanatical” with Free Software (definition). FSF has done amazing things for open source and that is a fact.  “Thank you very much FSF” and nothing more.

I made this short introduction because some people insist to tell us to call OS by FS. But there isn’t a clear definition of FS other than the licenses. I personally consider Open Source (by OSI definition) the right way to call things.

*I’ll post all the relative links I found on the next days.

Trisquel 5.5 Brigantia

I discovered Trisquel by reading the FSF page. It was one of the nine distros that FSF accepts as free software. I was between Triesquel and gNewSense (both Ubuntu based) but I tried the first one because it was running a more custom Gnome environment and GTK3.

I thought it would be a “poor” distro, but I was wrong.  Trisquel is actually an amazing distro for people that don’t like fancy things like Gnome-Shell, Cinnamon and KDE. Also if you want to be an Open Source activist, is the right place to start :)

Trisquel ships libre-kernel 3 because “Linux, the kernel developed and distributed by Linus Torvalds et al, contains non-Free Software, i.e., software that does not respect your essential freedoms, and it induces you to install additional non-Free Software that it doesn’t contain“.

Trisquel is based on Ubuntu 11.10 and it runs Gnome 3.2 but some of its modules are in Gnome 3.0. The most impressive thing, is Gnome Control Center that is patched to includes much more applications than the original (not integrated thought) like Synaptic package manager and Gnome Tweak Tool!!

Of course it also ships Libre Office and a bunch of Media Apps, but don’t expect non-free codecs here. However it is Ubuntu, you can install them :)

Trisquel ships a Firefox browser that is named as Abrowser. I found this on a post: “Abrowser is an unbranded version of the Mozilla Firefox web browser that never recommend non-free software, so it is similar in concept to GNU IceCat/Iceweasel.

The only (noteworthy) difference is the change of the default add-ons page to Trisquel’s own, community maintained, libre version. Note, that the rebranding is necessary because of the trademarked artworks that can be used only if the modifications are approved by the Mozilla Foundation.”

No matter the strict Free Software features it includes support out of box for Facebook and some other non-os services.

To be honest I tried this just to see how bad a GNU distro would be (!!) and I wasn’t planning to post about it. But Trisquel is awesome (in its kind!) ..and is fast! If you like what you see in above screenshots and you fancy the philosophy of Free Software, you should definitely try it!

Trisquel Home Page

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  • Bastian Hougaard

    Ran Trisquel for a couple of months and it was very nice. The only thing that made me switch was the fact that the packages wasn’t always up to date. Also, to those who are curious, it is possible to install gnome-shell from the repositories – it is just not installed by default because many graphics cards does not have “free” drivers for 3D acceleration (Intel being one of the exceptions). That’s why the fallback mode has been upgraded here. Anyway, can definitely recommend Trisquel, it’s very stable.

  • renato

    You are probably confusing the concepts of Free Software and Copyleft. All software licensed under LGPL are Free Software, as well all software released under licenses as MIT and Apache. The FSF would never create a license for non free software. So, to make the things clear:
    GPL: Strong Copyleft license. All software based on GPL (derived work or linked) must be GPL.LGPL: Weak Copyleft. Can be linked with non GPL software, but all modifications to the software must be LGPL.
    The FSF recommends you always use Copyleft licenses, rather GPL, but it accepts a bunch of non-copyleft licenses like the already mentioned: MIT, Apache and MPL.
    Addendum: The Gnome project is proud to be part of Gnu project ( And I think that we owe much more than a simple thank you.

    • alex285

      I will read more, but from my understanding non-GPL software is considered free software if (conditions) according to FSF pages. These conditions are very unclear. But if we read more about the ethical aspect of free software (outside of FSF- RMS interviews and the differences between OSI and FSF) Free Software restrictions are so strict that most Free Software (by license) it isn’t Free Software by definition.

      • jjmarin

        Well, if you use binary blobs with Linux, your are not using Free Software. In fact, Blobs are not open source according to the OSI definition neither. The difference is that OSI doesn’t say nothing about it and the FSF alerts about this. If people were aware of this, maybe they didn’t buy hardware without proper free software drivers for running a GNU/Linux distro. FSF definition of Free software comes from ethics but it has practical consequences.

        I think FSF guides the Free Software movement and helps users to be aware of the risks of private software.

        About “Free Software restrictions are so strict that most Free Software (by license) it isn’t Free Software by definition” is not true. Take a look to . You will notice is pretty the same that

        • alex285

          Stallman ideas about FS are very distinct than FSF guidelines. So my point is that FS by license (FSF) is a bit different than FS by definition (Stallman). When people using “Free Software” word, I think they refer to RMS point of view and no FSF. I think all the licenses that are acceptable from OSI are also acceptable by FSF. So what is the difference?

          Fedora Project (I cannot find the link) accepts that binary blobs (under specif conditions) don’t violate the Free Software nature of Fedora distro itself. So I am curious when Fedora says it is a Free Software, they mean the FSF definition or the simplistic meaning of Free Software (Open Source)?

          Further more is Free Software an honor title that we should explicit divide from Open Source? In my opinion, we should treat OS and FS as one and the same (which they are not!).

          • jjmarin

            The use of blobs _always_ violates the concept of free software, because the availability of the source code is a necessary requirement. Fedora does an exception and permits the inclusion of blobs:


            Moreover, they accept firmware licenses that prohibit modification, reverse engineering, disassembly or decompilation. This is clearly goes against the definition of Free Software.

            As I said previously, blobs are not open source according the OSI definition. The difference is that the FSF encourages the use of complete free software solutions, but the OSI doesn’t state anything about it.

            The FSF position about GNU/Linux distributions is quite clear:


            And they recommend the distributions that follow these guidelines and they explain why they can’t recommend other distributions:


            Said that, I understand some users are obligated to use blobs in order to run GNU/Linux in their hardware, but at the same time, I think that people who care about Free Software must buy hardware from free software friendly vendors as possible.

          • alex285

            “I think that people who care about Free Software must buy hardware from free software friendly vendors as possible.” Can you please give some links on this?

          • malberts

            Have a look at ThinkPenguin [1]. They make sure all their hardware is
            fully free and runs without the need for proprietary software/blobs.


          • alex285

            There isn’t any info about Bios or Firmware on there.

          • disques

            Most distributions are made up of mostly free software. However there are certain pieces of non-free software included. They are not free software distributions by definition because they include non-free software. The open source position is that provided the non-free pieces are not under restrictive non-redistribution licenses that they can be included. You might want to interpret non-free distributions claiming to be free in one of two ways. They have a different definition of free that they use and/or they may be talking about the cost. The English language is very unclear. This is not the fault of Richard Stallman or the FSF or anybody else. This article’s author doesn’t understand the position. I can sympathise with this as it is a very complex issue. The open source distributions (even though they are made up of mostly free software) consider non-free firmware more like a piece of hardware. The problem is firmware can be updated and therefore we should get the source code for it.

            An example is many USB wireless cards have non-free firmware dependencies. The problem with this from a technical point of view is that distributions which include non-free software give users an impression that there hardware works with GNU/Linux. While it works today it likely won’t work tomorrow. With non-free software you are dependent on the authors for updates. If there is a security vulnerability (a real world example of this is Ubuntu/Oracle fiasco) and the company which released the software decides to discontinue it/or change the licensing terms for future versions you are out of luck. Ubuntu users has Java pulled from there machines because Canonical could no longer distribute updates to Oracle’s Java. Another example of this is printers. Lexmark amongst others have released non-free drivers. These have had to be downloaded (another downside is they often can’t be included in the repositories which makes “GNU/Linux” harder- it’s not GNU/Linux that is the problem- it’s the chipset manufacturers) and when Lexmark fails to support / release older versions the printer no longer works. Not to mention you also end up with very few distributions actually supported (one or two at best usually). Now Lexmark is going bye-bye. Those who have Lexmark printers won’t get ANY updates. Had these drivers been free the community would have supported them, included them in the repositories, and users could continue using the devices they purchased. There are lots of similar examples. Many wireless devices work very poorly or not at all due to restrictive non-free firmware related issues.

            The best thing users could do to improve the hardware support for GNU/Linux is to stop buying from companies which utilise these chipsets. This includes companies “supporting Linux” such as System76, LinuxCertified, ZaReason, EmperorLinux, and others. In fact there is only one company which takes freedom into account. And even if you don’t agree with the FSF definition or Stallman’s perspective on this issue there are many technical benefits to be had from pruning yourself from non-free software. Nobody likes the proprietary components even if they don’t agree with Stallman or the FSF except for the proprietary software crowd (Adobe/Microsoft/Apple/Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/etc). There is only one company that’s really fighting the fight right now. ThinkPenguin is the only company which has taken a stance against the use of chipsets (in any product) that are dependent on non-free software. ThinkPenguin’s actually getting somewhere in improving access to freedom friendly hardware too. What ThinkPenguin’s proved is free software is possible, free software is profitable, free software is better for users, and free software is easier to use. The company hasn’t cut off users from using distributions with non-free software although they DO actively encourage users to use as it’s a portal which removes information that supports distributions with non-free components/information. The company also actively supports the FSF, Trisquel, LinuxMint (a distribution which includes non-free software), and many other free software projects.

          • alex285

            Thanks about the time you dedicated on that. Yes FS is a very complex issue. I am trying to write a documented article and your comment was very help full for me.

          • rv

            Thanks a lot for this detailed, consistent and deep data.
            Best regards!

            Viva la Cultura Libre :)

    • rv

      Thanks, that was pretty much what I was thinking and desiring to say. This post is a poor sample of silliness and ignorance (specially considering the “I read a lot” declaration of the intro). The good part: Trisquel. Certainly, one of the most polished and recommendable distros that I’d ever saw. Both in the social/ethical sense and the technical, simple for standard-user.

      • rv

        Sorry for my rudeness, I apologize. I really want to share and spred this blog (Gnome is one of my favorites desktops), but I can’t do it if it is against freedom and solidarity and attacks GNU, RMS or the FSF. GNOME, after all, borned as a GNU project. Please, reconsider your position about Free Software and -at least- don’t attack it/us.

        Best regards.

        • alex285

          I am not attacking to FSF but it feels “just wrong” when people mixing software with political and ideology reasons and go aggressive to other people that just don’t want to release open. It is common sense that open source is the only way to make cheap software. Actually in many cases is the only way to make a new software. It is not about ideology, but is pretty much a common need. You can call it also as collaborative software. Historically knowledge was always open, one way or another.

          I am recognizing the part that FSF played to spread open source, but I think even without GNU we would had free software today. Saying that FSF brought free software is like saying that Apple brought tablets know what I mean.

          Of course they’re doing great job by making the licenses so we can protect our open source from companies. On the other hand close source is not bad and actually makes good in software in general, it brings competition and big investments. Always the issue was with the copyrights, but these are far beyond software.

          • rv


            yes, you’re attacking, underhand and (not very) slyly:

            «Pretty much there isn’t Free Software (FS), but we can baptize things by occasion as FS.», this is false and absurd, and the intention is attacking with a very pedestrian irony.

            «What’s wrong with Free Software Definition?», this assumes that something is wrong, when the wrongness is in the proprietary software, who steals freedom and solidarity to users and developers.

            «The last 3 days, just from curiosity I made some reading (lots lots of reading) in licenses (GPL, LGPL, Apache, MIT -latest versions), I read almost the whole FSF page, plus lots of pages in Wikipedia and documentation by Fedora, Debian, Open Source Initiative(OSI), and I read some documentation about patents in software.», this is just false and pretty childish: In 3 days you can’t read *half* of FSF’s page only.

            «GNU C Library (glibc) is under LGPL license. FSF is trying to justify this. Fedora includes binary blobs. They try to justify this.», both are perfectly explained -not ‘justified’-, and you’re again trying to be ‘smart’ on your talking. I already posted about here,

            «Most of the so-called free software comes with LGPL (or a similar licenses) without fulfill FSF’s requirements.», “most”?, you must be kidding or you really need to make (some, any) research: There is LOTS of Free Software under GPL, and when I say LOTS I mean LOTS.

            «FSF cannot accept that its original goal has failed and makes compromises just to prove that FS by definition exists.», oh, yes, because it’s extremely clear that the GNU/Linux-FreeSofwtare community is just disappearing in the air and dying quickly and silently, please, you can’t be this blind and fanatical… (!)

            «Simple example. LGPL license permits you to link a “free” library (like glibc) with proprietary software. Proprietary Software is not ethical -according to FSF- and developers are criminals -according to RMS- but yes, the LGPL is compatible with FSF principles (by occasion!).», this is -again- perfectly explained, and your intention is a mere attack or a mere sign of ignorance.

            «”Thank you very much FSF” and nothing more.», “and nothing more”?, you really need to learn some history, really.

          • alex285

            I think you do know what I mean by taking LGPL (and similar licenses) as an example. Also is a bit paradox to say that I am attacking to FSF the same time that FSF attacks every single developer that has work in a company (basically everyone) and characterize us criminals.
            I don’t know Free Software history as well as you do, but I do know what happened in USSR and China.. World would go 100 years back if someone could make proprietary code illegal. It’s proven historically and by human nature. If you can’t make profit from something, you just don’t care about it. This is totally communist act and against the rights of people for ownership of private property.
            Anyway, we just have different views, I just believe that Close Source is good, Open Source is good and they can live together. And I separate the good piece of FSF from its bad face. But in the end, people always remember the bad things :)

            Besides there isn’t one single example that proprietary software harms the open. On the contrary big commercial companies help open source.

          • rv


            I don’t have time right now, but you certainly need to read, study and learn a lot of stuff (and stop denying, by the way).

            Just a couple of comments above another guy gives a good number of “examples that proprietary software harms the open” and the freedom of users and communities. Are you forgetting or just don’t want it to get it?,

            Again: Open Source is NOT what I’m talking about, I’m talking about Free Software (as in Freedom), take a look please, and try to understand, really,

          • alex285

            Oh and something to add, the real problem isn’t if the software is open or close, but who controls the data. In any case I don’t want to be rude at you, and I don’t disagree with your points. I just don’t think that FSF model could work. And fanaticism is always bad, even when you have right.

          • rv

            FSF model has been working for decades, and is working more and more as time goes by. The number of GNU/Linux distros is increasing all the time, and most of them talk about Free Software, not just open source.
            It’s really hard to believe that I’m having to say this in a website about GNOME (a time ago, the GNU Network Object Model Environment). Please, take a look (and a read!) at the GNOME’s website itself,

            Some quotes:

            «GNOME is Free Software:», not ‘open source’ but FREE Software.

            «Freedom and community go hand in hand in GNOME. The project’s software is free to download, modify and redistribute; its communication channels and development infrastructure are visible to all. It is this freedom and openness that enables the GNOME community to exist, by allowing new contributors to take part and enabling companies to collaborate in the production of mutually beneficial technologies. GNOME is proud to be a part of the GNU Project.», and they (GNOME people) link to

            Please, I have to go right now, but you must at least understand that if this website is about GNOME you can’t be unaware of the GNOME’s philosophy itself.


            *oh, and please, study some history, really, you clearly don’t know what are you talking about when mixing stuff of USSR and China

          • alex285

            Maybe is my bad English that I can’t make my point clear. Many Gnome developers are using Apple products, Fedora is using a commercial font in their logo; these people (Gnome people) support FS but are not black and white with FS.

            FSF site is okay, but isn’t fair to refer just to this, there are also Stallman interviews and wikis. Because what I am saying is most about Stallman rather about FSF; for me FSF and Stallman is one and the same (I am just giving the credits!).

            Well, it was my mistake to bring up this topic, first because as you said I don’t know much about, and secondly because these discussions are endless.


          • rv

            These are no ‘endless discussions’, if you know the facts, the matter is simple and clear: You can support freedom and solidarity or you can attack freedom and solidarity. Then, of course, there’s a big grey-in-the-middle zone for all the circumstances where strategy or convenience makes you go left or right, but that doesn’t change the fact that RMS/FSF/GNU’s work is important, necessary, and a big fountain of reasons to be deeply and forever grateful. You started mocking about them, trying to be smarta** and ironic, and I think that’s just because you don’t know enough, or even more, you have your facts wrong. Now, as I already said: If you’re really determined to keep thinking and posting in that way, please, let me know, so I can go away from an anti-freedom/anti-solidarity website. If that’s not the case and you’re willing to reconsider your position and stop attacking FSF/GNU/RMS, then cool, because I really like and appreciate GNOME, and I really prefer to continue visiting this site.
            Best regards :)

          • rv

            Now, about this paragraph in particular: “mixing software with political” is -again- an ignorant proposition:

            You (and everybody) lives in a society, therefore, the ethical, social and political decisions are implied already (and all the time) in everything you do, consciously or unconsciously. Software is just another thing you do in/for/against society. ‘In society’ all the time, ‘for society’ when you make or help Free Software, ‘against society’ when you make or help proprietary software (or go against Free Software).

            «It is common sense that open source is the only way to make cheap software.» This is not just false, but also ludicrous: There’s plenty, LOTS of examples of cheap Free Software, because Free Software is not just a way to make cheap software, but also a way to make a more free and just and happy society for *everyone*, not just the rich or the corporations.

            Never (ever) is open source «the only way» to make a new software. You can always make new and FREE software. Always.

            And yes, it is about ideology, because you make your software free because you want to promote a better society, and when you don’t let everybody share and work with your work (what you already did using the work of other people) you’re doing an ideological decision: The decision to put your interest over and against the interest of community or society.

            «I am recognizing the part that FSF played to spread open source», are you doing this on purpose? At this point, you should perfectly understand that FSF spread FREE SOFTWARE, not “open source”. I can’t figure out if you’re doing this with bad intention or you really don’t get it, but please, stop and reconsider, I don’t want to have to mark this beautiful website for me as an ‘anti-freedom/anti-FSF/anti-gnu’ one. It shouldn’t be necessary, remember: GNOME starts as a GNU project.

            «I think even without GNU we would had free software today», saying that when you say that FSF spread ‘open source’ is just absurd. Anyway, that assumption is completely arbitrary and untestable, and there have been no other organization or movement with the impact and commitment that FSF and GNU (and RMS) had showed till today.

            They’re doing (and had done) much, very much more than “protect our open source from companies”. If you really can’t see and understand that, I think you should study some history and then try again.

            «Competition and big investments» are good only for the proprietary sector that get rich with that and the people who have money enough to buy their products. The rest of the world NEEDS freedom and solidarity. And sorry, but I’m with the rest of the world, not just with the privileged sector.

            The issue wasn’t just the copyrights, the issue was also the kind of society and liberties and rights you’re building with your elections and opinions. The society we build is the society we live on.

            If you’re really determined to keep thinking in that way, please, let me know, so I can go away from this website and stop participating in an anti-freedom/anti-solidarity activities.

            Best regards :)

  • icarolongo

    Firefox is free software, Fedora too. The problem is recommended non-free software. Firefox recommends non-free addons. Fedora include non-free firmwares and Linux have many non-free drivers e non-free firmwares. The problem is this.

  • icarolongo

    And of course, the gstreamer is free software, MP3, AVI and other are *patented*, but the implementation is free software and Trisquel works with out of box.

  • icarolongo


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  • rv

    About the LGPL, from

    The GNU Library GPL

    The GNU C library uses a special kind of copyleft called the GNU
    Library General Public License(1), which gives permission to link
    proprietary software with the library. Why make this exception?

    It is not a matter of principle; there is no principle that says
    proprietary software products are entitled to include our code. (Why
    contribute to a project predicated on refusing to share with us?)
    Using the LGPL for the C library, or for any library, is a matter of

    The C library does a generic job; every proprietary system or compiler
    comes with a C library. Therefore, to make our C library available
    only to free software would not have given free software any
    advantage—it would only have discouraged use of our library.

    One system is an exception to this: on the GNU system (and this
    includes GNU/Linux), the GNU C library is the only C library. So the
    distribution terms of the GNU C library determine whether it is
    possible to compile a proprietary program for the GNU system. There
    is no ethical reason to allow proprietary applications on the GNU
    system, but strategically it seems that disallowing them would do more
    to discourage use of the GNU system than to encourage development of
    free applications. That is why using the Library GPL is a good
    strategy for the C library.

    For other libraries, the strategic decision needs to be
    considered on a case-by-case basis. When a library does a special job
    that can help write certain kinds of programs, then releasing it under
    the GPL, limiting it to free programs only, is a way of helping other
    free software developers, giving them an advantage against proprietary

    Consider GNU Readline, a library that was developed to provide
    command-line editing for BASH. Readline is released under the
    ordinary GNU GPL, not the Library GPL. This probably does reduce the
    amount Readline is used, but that is no loss for us. Meanwhile, at
    least one useful application has been made free software specifically
    so it could use Readline, and that is a real gain for the

    Proprietary software developers have the advantages money provides;
    free software developers need to make advantages for each other. I
    hope some day we will have a large collection of GPL-covered libraries
    that have no parallel available to proprietary software, providing
    useful modules to serve as building blocks in new free software, and
    adding up to a major advantage for further free software development.

    (1) This license is now called the GNU Lesser General Public License,
    to avoid giving the idea that all libraries ought to use it.
    See Why you shouldn’t use the
    Lesser GPL for your next library for more information.

  • rv

    For everyone who really want to understand what GNU and FSF are all about, please, read a little of the history (it’s even fun and interesting),