moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - Printable Version
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moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - aeymxq - 20-11-2018

i'm relatively new to linux, and only recently came across the controversy surrounding systemd (i'm running arch btw). my first experience with linux as a teenager was with ubuntu, but i quickly migrated to slackware because its og status appealed to me. it seems like the controversy surrounding systemd is fairly nitpicky, more based on unix philosophy than any actual questions of performance, but i am down with that philosophy. knowing that systemd breaks fundamental tenets of unix design does turn me off--admittedly, because i am fairly ignorant, without good reason.

reading about systemd lead me to read about gnu / free software, which is obviously a concept that i was familiar with, but didn't properly understand. after watching a few interviews with RMS, even disregarding computers--we share very similar political ideologies, and the philosophy of "free software as in free" is actually more relevant to me than whether or not something is posix compliant. that latter concept is specific to programming, and as a baby, amateur programmer whose IRL background is in philosophy and marxist politics, it is more abstract than the gnu ideology.

let me first say that my machine is a thinkpad x1c (5th gen.), so there are blobs and intel MEs and yadda yadda which make it so that i can't actually run libreboot--you may be able to tell that my understanding is getting hazy. however, with that exception in mind, i am now thinking of switching from arch to a gentoo-based system. i know that gentoo is not officially endorsed by gnu, and RMS explicitly says that he doesn't like it, but afaict it's possible to install gentoo with completely free software.

at this point i'm fairly committed to installing gentoo because i know that it will be extremely educational, and i have not really approached linux / programming in any kind of systematic way. that said, all of the knowledge i've acquired through installing and ricing my arch system really strokes my brain in a deeply pleasurable way. maybe it's just because i'm new to this discipline and it's easy to really get off on things when you're new, but based on how easy it is for me to spend hours figuring something out about my system VS. how difficult it is for me to spend hours writing a philosophy essay makes me think that i was actually born to be a computer guy...but whatever, i digress.

i apologize for the long, rambly post. the general questions i put to you are something like: how much do you think it actually matters to run completely GPL-compliant software? should i expect a significant loss of performance / usability of my computer?

also, does it make any sense to try to set up a fully liberated linux system when i am prohibited from completely breaking free because of my computer's processor?

if anyone wants to share their experience installing gentoo using only free software, i'm very interested to hear. if anyone wants to encourage me to switch to gentoo as an educational experience, i could use that too.

thanks for reading!

p.s. i'm going to post this on reddit because idk how active this forum actually is, apologies if that's disrespectful.

RE: moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - jkl - 20-11-2018

Tried a real Unix?

RE: moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - z3bra - 20-11-2018

Running GPL licenced software will not impact your perfs. GPL is only a licence!
It might affect your computer as a while though, as "free" software sometimes means reverse engineered drivers, that might lack some features for example.

RE: moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - venam - 21-11-2018

(20-11-2018, 01:48 PM)aeymxq Wrote: how much do you think it actually matters to run completely GPL-compliant software? should i expect a significant loss of performance / usability of my computer?
Depends your interests in the matter. If you're a company it depends on the way you are hoping to monetize your software. Lots of companies now are focusing on releasing open source and selling add-ons that are paid or support. Other big corporations are also starting to enter the loop releasing libraries and frameworks as open source in the hope that it would be developers and entrepreneurs that take the lead to build the softwares that will attract people to their platforms.

As z3bra said, GPL is one among many licenses and the license itself has nothing to do with what the actual performance or usability is.

(20-11-2018, 01:48 PM)aeymxq Wrote: also, does it make any sense to try to set up a fully liberated linux system when i am prohibited from completely breaking free because of my computer's processor?

Depends on what you want to achieve. In my opinion going this extreme doesn't lead anywhere. If you're having uncertainty about your choices because they aren't 100%, full proof, fitted to beautiful ideals then you're in for a much bigger ride than that. Reality is much harder, try a balance of having the software you really want with a copyleft license and others without. My personal take on this is comparing it with anything else in life, do I want to have the full manufacturing details of how to build anything, probably only if I want to build or modify the thing myself.

Quote:Tried a real Unix?
Are there actually any Unix accredited platform that is fully open source?

RE: moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - jkl - 21-11-2018

I disagree with the assumption that the GPL would not say anything about software quality. I find most GPL-licensed applications to be a mess, so statistically it does.

Quote:Are there actually any Unix accredited platform that is fully open source?

illumos (= OpenSolaris) is a fully open source SysV UNIX. Distributions of it may or may not contain GPL-licensed software, but the GNU userland is not quite as mandatory as it is on the Linux kernel. aeymxq won't be able to run Linux (which is GPL-licensed) with no GPL attached anyway.

RE: moving towards a completely "free" (gentoo) system - grah - 24-02-2019

Running a fully free Gentoo system is relatively simple, but whether or not you'll notice a performance hit depends on how well your hardware is supported without blobs like z3bra said. For me the main hit was my GPU, I could only use the vesa driver IIRC. If you can run a completely free system without any major performance hit I don't see why you wouldn't.

To build a fully free Gentoo system you'll need to add ACCEPT_LICENSE="-* @FREE" to your make.conf, you may also want to add USE="bindist". You'll also need to either patch whichever kernel your using (the patches and instructions are here: or use the ck-sources with the deblob USE flag set. There used to be hardened-sources which also had the deblob USE flag but support has been dropped AFAIK.

There's a disclaimer on the Gentoo wiki license group page that says:
We are programmers, not lawyers. Our evaluation if a particular license is a free software license is only a guideline for Gentoo developers and users. It is not a legal statement. There is also no guarantee that a particular LICENSE variable in an ebuild reflects reality. So don‘t rely on it, but check the license that is included with the package itself.

In regards to your BIOS and CPU not being 100% free, if this is something you really care about take steps in that direction or maybe purchase parts that are free when you can afford to. Don't get discouraged because you can't have it all right away, do the best you can with what you have.

I wouldn't recommend switching to Gentoo for an educational experience. I'd say start with Slackware and then move to CRUX when you understand how to configure a kernel. The Gentoo wiki is great for learning how to configure and compile a kernel.

Pretty much any distro can be turned completely free, some are harder than others. If your goal is to have a completely free system start with one that is. I'd probably recommend Parabola seeing as your coming from Arch, or Debian because if your hardware isn't supported without firmware you can easily salvage the install. If I were you and had a thinkpad I'd run OpenBSD.