Fully Free - What does it mean?
As you can read already on the start page, ConnochaetOS is a completely free GNU/Linux distribution. ConnochaetOS follows this principle very closely.
Free software is software that grants the user four freedoms.
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
We believe that this freedoms are essential for using a computer, to be in control of the computer. Otherwise, if you use a program which is not free, the program controls you. We call such programs non-free software or proprietary software.
There are cases where the software itself is free, but it recommends to install non-free software. The software in ConnochaetOS does not include such programs. We either replaced them or modified them, so that this issues are resolved.
There are other terms for free software: “Software Libre”, “FOSS”, “FLOSS” and “Open Source” to name a few. We prefer the original term “free software”, since other terms, such as “Open Source”, have been abused by companies, which propagate their proprietary software as “open” but in reality it was just a marketing trick. At a close look their software was non-free as any other proprietary software. But we recognize that some people are using “open source” and other terms but are meaning the same thing.
Hardware, firmware and drivers
Unfortunately, several vendors still keep parts or all of the firmware closed and ship their hardware only with proprietary and/or binary software. The customer gets an unknown piece of software on the PC without having any insight what this piece is actually doing and without having the chance to modify it - even if there is a severe well-known security problem.
To avoid these problems, one should check the availability of free software components before you buy any hardware for your machine. At http://www.h-node.com/ you will find a growing database of hardware which is known to work with completely free system.
The Linux kernel, as provided by Linux Torvalds, includes some non-free firmware blobs. ConnochaetOS provides a kernel without those blobs. The kernel provided by the default installation used to be the GNU Linux-Libre kernel from http://www.fsfla.org/ikiwiki/selibre/linux-libre/, which doesn't include non-free blobs or code and refuses to load non-free firmware, even if it is installed in the system.
Beginning with ConnochaetOS 14.2 we will provide our own blob-free Linux kernel using the de-blobbing mechanism from Debian GNU/Linux, which is much less intrusive but nevertheless equally free, see this statement from the Free Software Foundation. However, this kernel will load non-free firmware if it is installed on the system. We will not provide this firmware nor suggest to install it. But we recognize that there are cases, where hardware doesn't function without this firmware and replacing it is not an option. We think that in this cases using a free system with a distinct selected firmware blob - which must be installed by the user on purpose - is better than using a complete non-free system or a system which doesn't care about freedom at all.