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Re: What's the status of sourceless live linux distros?

From: threeseas
Subject: Re: What's the status of sourceless live linux distros?
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 03:27:06 GMT
User-agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 0.7.1 (X11/20040626)

Martin Guy wrote:
Hi all!
   I'd like to ask what people think/what we can do about a new kind
of GPL breach.
   I keep running into bootable Linux CD and floppy distros where the
creators have simply taken a load of binaries, sometimes from all over
the place, cobbled together a bootable Unix filesystem, made an ISO
image (or floppy) out of it, and then annouced it as a free software
   The result is that it is almost impossible to modify or extend the
resulting systems or to fix bugs in them, simply because there is no
source tree from which the binary-only distro is produced.
   Some Live CDs (e.g. Linux Bootable Business Card) started out this
way, but have since refounded their work on source with a building
tool, but others, if they reply at all, just basically say "I went and
got the source code from the original authors and built
XXnameXofXdistroXdeletedXX - you can do the same".

   Things are worse than they seem.
   Apart from being a breach of the GPL (since without the specific
source and build tools, which don't exist, you can't modify the things
in any useful way), the developers themselves end up with an
increasingly unmaintainable distro, of which the worst example I have
seen is dynebolic. With this one, the selection of programs that work
for you depends on which precise processor you happen to have. Needed
libraries or help systems are missing for some parts of some programs,
and a C compiler is not included, so the odds of even being able to
find a compatibile compiling environment to inject new or fixed
binaries into it are vanishingly small.
   I recently overheard a non-technical friend saying in conversation
"Linux doesn't work on AMD processors" - it turned out that dynebolic
had been distributed on a magazine cover in the UK, and that it
doesn't work on his particular top-end AMD processor, but the
conclusion he had drawn was that "Linux doesn't work on AMD", and even
an expert can't get the source and "make world" for Pentium-MMX or
whatever because the source does not exist.  Even the authors don't
remember what libraries were required for what programs.

Another sourceless distro is EucaristOS (the openMosix node on a
floppy) where the "source" is just an unpacked version of the binary
Unix tree that's on the floppy, without so much as the kernel config
supplied, but I expect there are many more out there.

Is there anything we can do about these pervertions of free software? I have had only silence or (ultimately) deathwishes from the distro
authors that I have contacted about this problem.  Would someone from
FSF or GNU like to comment?


What a wonderful fabrication. if you are an MS cronie.

So long as the source code is made available, perhaps thru a web link(s) then there is no breach of gpl (if this is the only license you are refering to). On smaller distros, perhaps designed to work on small systems, then it is not reasonable to bloat the distro to the point of being useless.

Ah, perhaps that is what you are trying to say? That small distros are not legal... Damn linux and freesoftware spreading everywhere.. right?

What about non-freesoftware being included in some distros?

I belive the key error you are making is the idea that a distro is one application and under one license and one source code that includes a compiler, etc..

To give you an idea of reality, I installed knoppix 3.4 on an older laptop that has its limitations. But I wanted to run the eric3 python IDE which requires numerious packages to be installed, including the python dev package. All of these are not included in the single live CD distro. So what!!!!

This laptop having only just over 4 gigs of HD space and ram going over the specs of the laptop (96 spec max but 192meg installed and accessable) now has all the required packages to run eric3 and I also discovered it now has QT Designer installed as a side effect.

Now to really understand this, some of this software has dual licenses, free or GPL (or GPL compatable) and fee based license, depending on teh system/os you are using it on. I'm using it on linux so its free, but if I were using it on Windows, then I would have to pay a license fee.

From what you are claiming, this distribution is illegal because it doesn't include all teh source, not all under one license, etc...

I further suspect that any distro that is problemmatic enough, as you suggest, to be questioned regarding its license adhearance, than it is probably not a serious distro to begin with. Where limited use is more to the nature of it, sorta a demo distro.

Ask yourself, what do you want to run? one of these questionable distros or one that has some stability and expandability ease included?

Then again, if you are a developer, you may find some of these, in your terms... questionable distros, very useful for further dev, of which you probably already have a dev system.

I probably actually have a few distros fitting your complaint, but I got them out of curiousity mostly.

I'm also a supporter of another FOSS OS project, but mostly not under the GPL.... is the source and compile tools included? No! not really at this time as its in teh development stage. But such tools are eitehr available, should one be interested, or being worked on or yet to be worked on. see

Sooooo, as to this complaint you have.... just because most of teh software may be under the gpl, doesn't mean the glue tools and scripts are, or even exist. Just because glue tools don't exist, doesn't mean it can't, and wasn't done manually.

So if the compilation of a distro is done manually.... its illegal?

That must be the sourcelessness you speak of.

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