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Linux-libre's freed-ora is now history

From: Alexandre Oliva
Subject: Linux-libre's freed-ora is now history
Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2022 22:48:31 -0300
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/26.3 (gnu/linux)

This past week, Fedora 35 was EOLed.  That was the last release tracked
by Freed-ora, so Freed-ora is now officially retired.  I'm taking the
liberty of sharing some reminiscences about this subproject.

When Freed-ora started, I had just joined the Linux-libre project, then
led by Jeff Moe out of the BLAG project.

Besides cleaning up Linux to make Linux-libre, I wanted kernel builds I
could use myself, with the same fixes and improvements that went into
Fedora, keeping with the spirit of minimal changes to make the kernel
Free Software, and GNU Free Software Distribution Guidelines compliant.

Back then, Linux carried lots more blobs than it does now, and most of
them were still binary programs disguised as sequences of numbers in
source code.

It didn't take me long to offer to maintain Freed-ora as part of the
Fedora project.  That offer was declined, which hurts me to this day,
but it taught me a valuable lesson about Fedora's alignment with
software freedom.

That was later confirmed as the License: tag in Fedora kernel RPMs
remained mislabeled for many years, ignoring an easily-fixed bug report
and misrepresenting the nature and the license of the packaged software.

The nonfree nature of these bits was only partially acknowledged when
Linux moved most of the blobs to separate files, still distributed as
part of Linux "sources."  Fedora built a single kernel source release
into several binary packages, one of which got all of these
"precompiled" binaries, whether freedom-respecting or freedom-denying,
and marked the whole set as under various licenses, which made the
package "Redistributable".

Even after Linux moved those bits out of its source distribution, into
separate repositories, a few binary-only programs under nonfree licenses
have remained disguised as sequences of numbers in "source"
distributions of the kernel Linux to this day, and it has been
acknowledged in Fedora kernel packages since 2012-09-14, commit

(Wikipedia, alas, still carries this bit of misinformation, explicitly
denying the presence of nonfree blobs in Linux.  An editor there cares
very strongly about preventing this factual correction.) :-(

At some point, Fedora representatives politely asked me to rename
Freed-ora: the name was believed to be harming Fedora's reputation of
commitment to software freedom.

It was my turn to decline: if denouncing hypocrisy and misleading claims
hurts anyone's reputation, silencing the messenger is not the cure.

I've carried that torch for much longer than it has been of any use to
me (I've long moved on from Fedora).  For years, I've sought another
maintainer to take over, and eventually committed to maintaining it till
the end of the Fedora 35 release cycle, which has just come to an end.

Thanks to Jeff Moe, for starting Linux-libre, maintaining BLAG,
entrusting me with Linux-libre, and adopting Freed-ora in BLAG.  Also,
for providing me with build machines and hosting for Linux-libre sources
and for Freed-ora builds in the early days of my involvement, already on
behalf of FSF Latin America as part of the "Be Free!" campaign.  Later
on, the FSF kindly offered us primary hosting of the project and the
subproject, Linux-libre became part of the GNU project, and Jan Prunk
kindly provided me with access to a build machine that relieved the
FSF-provided server.  Thank you all!

The Freed-ora repositories are going to remain around for a while, but
in case anyone is still using Freed-ora, I strongly recommend switching
to RPMFreedom, maintained by Jason Self (thanks!).  It doesn't track
Fedora kernel builds, but rather GNU Linux-libre's major and stable
releases, just like Freesh's .debs that he also maintains.

My Freed-ora rest in pieces ;-)

Live long in freedom, and prosper respectfully,  \\//_

Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker      
   Free Software Activist                       GNU Toolchain Engineer
Disinformation flourishes because many people care deeply about injustice
but very few check the facts.  Ask me about <>

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