I recently emailed the Gentoo PR team, voicing my concerns about the
amount of non-free software within Gentoo. I got an interesting response
from Sebastian Pipping, who said that while Gentoo is all about choice,
including the choice to install non-free software, the project is
interested in making it easy for people to run a 100% free system,
should they choose that path.
I found out about the license filtering feature in the dev version of
portage, and used it to remove all the non-free software from my
system. However, it wasn't a perfect experience. Based on what Sebastian
had to say, and my own experience using it, I have a few suggestions.
1) Not all of the licenses are completely accurate. For example, the
Linux kernels are listed as soley GPL-2, yet they contain blobs of
non-free firmware. Perhaps a general-purpose "not-free" license could be
appended to such packages. This would only affect people who choose to
use the feature. It could be minused from the FSF-APPROVED group for
Also relating to this, what is freedist? The package app-text/dos2unix
lists 'freedist' as its license, and /usr/portage/licenses/freedist says
only "Freely Distributable". Several other packages do this, and I'm
sure it's not correct. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the dos2unix
package is from http://www.thefreecountry.com/tofrodos/, which clearly
says its GPLv2. Packages like this could be looked into and fixed.
2) There are no free versions of the kernel in the main tree. The Latin
American FSF maintains blob-free kernels at
http://www.linux-libre.fsfla.org/pub/linux-libre/releases/. They could
be added alongside the official vanilla ebuilds.
3) Some free software packages bring in non-free optional dependencies
by default. For example, media-gfx/imagemagick brings in
media-fonts/corefonts. As suggested by Sebastian, a free profile could be
created, that changes these defaults, to reduce the hassle of
maintaining a free system. Again, this would only affect users who
choose to use that profile.
4) Using something like ACCEPT_LICENSES="-* @FSF-APPROVED" is a good
start, but its quite a hassle to keep checking all the licenses. One
annoyance is packages like sys-devel/gcc. gcc has the libgcc license,
which is just GPLv2+, with some extra permissions granted. Although it's
important to make such a distinction, these extra freedoms are
irrelevant to license filtering.
I suppose the only feasible way to fix this would be to expand the
license groups in /usr/portage/profiles/license_groups. Would it cause
any problems if they were quite large?
Another option might be to introduce an optional IS_FREE="yes/no" option
to the ebuild files, which could override the other license settings.
5) Documentation on how to set up and maintain a fully free system could
To summarize, my general idea is to fix some licensing issues, introduce
the libre kernels and have a 100% free profile that would create the
least possible amount of hassle for anyone using it. This in turn would
make Gentoo more accessible to the free software community, without
affecting people that don't use the profile.
This is my first post here, so I apologize if it's misdirected. I'm not
sure if I'd really be able to help much on the technical side, but if
this garners any cooperation, I'll gladly help out with anything I can.
If someone could point me in the right direction, I'd be very grateful.