openSUSE free or not?

Is openSUSE free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation? Is it true that real free software are only those which include no proprietary programs?
From Wikipedia: gNewSense is considered by the Free Software Foundation to be a true GNU/Linux distribution.
From other sources, I’ve found that very very few distros meet the criteria for being completely Free. Can anyone shed some light on this?

The FSF are ideological in their definition of “free software” so according to them, very few distros will meet their requirements. Nevertheless, openSUSE and others are “free software” and comply with the terms of the GPL (v2/v3) though they also offer “freeware” (not to be confused with “free software”) which may be proprietary, like Adobe Reader and Flash

There is no “false” GNU/Linux distro around. Every distro that uses the GNU bits (coreutils/gcc/findutils/etc) as a base is a GNU Linux distro. The FSF are just too ideological in such cases

Real free software is a software that completely complies with a free software license, be it GPL, BSD or MIT, Apache, etc. 99% of openSUSE does so with the GPL, only the few bits it offers doesn’t so I don’t see a good reason not to call it a free software distro

Precisely. Well said, although with strong opinions being held on this matter, this probably should have gone into the “Soapbox” section. :slight_smile:

To the original poster: I say it doesn’t matter. True GNU™ types can’t seem to accept that F/OSS did NOT take off and grow in popularity because of their extremely restrictive license. (GNU and the GPL have been around for decades.) F/OSS has become popular as new licenses, which permit the authors to make money while still providing the source code, have become predominant.

Just look at the most popular F/OSS software: Mozilla and OpenOffice, for example – neither of which is GPL.

GNU’s vision is for a future where all software is completely free, completely redistributable and totally unencumbered. While that’s a lofty goal, it’s just not practical in a real world where people need to eat and pay bills. Richard Stallman correctly argues that people can charge for software under the GPL, but ignores simple economic realities: after it has been sold that one time, it can be redistributed infinitely with no further income to the original author.

Sure, it annoys me that hardware manufacturers want to keep their inner workings secret. It irritates me that I have to use “binary blob” drivers to make my video work at max performance, for example. But as Linus Torvalds himself as pointed out, that’s their choice. End users will vote on whether that’s the right decision.

True GNU™ types would love for all of us just to stop using anything that’s not 100% GPL-licensed. I use what works. Adobe provides a good example: in my job, I have a lot of technical data in PDF form. None of the available free PDF readers (and I’ve tried them all) is anywhere near as good as Acrobat Reader. Frankly, I’m very glad that they offer that as a free download, and that they’ve published enough of the spec for PDF files that people can roll their own, if they like. But if I choose to use the clearly superior Acrobat Reader, I am not the least bit interested in the whinings and finger-pointing from the Bearded Priests of the Revolution at the GNU Foundation, who feel like I’ve somehow betrayed “the movement.”

Can you tell this is something I feel strongly about? :slight_smile:

As a matter of fact, you won’t find any of the “big” distributions on that list, even when shipping a “vanilla” kernel (in the sense of not adding any out of tree modules with proprietary licenses) the distribution is not “free” any longer according to the guidelines of the FSF.

When having to name “big” distributions which have a very strict policy regarding non-OSS software in their standard distribution then my personal list would be

  1. Fedora
  • most strict, there is no official “non-oss” or “non-free” repository at all
  1. openSUSE
  • no official repos containing patent encumbered stuff like mp3 and others (like in fedora)

  • no “non-oss” stuff in the main distribution, however there is a “non-oss” repos hosted on the official servers (which has to be activated by the user)

  1. Debian

“What, debian “less free” than openSUSE?”

Well, you can get “libmad0” and other stuff from official repos.

Debian – Details of package libmad0 in lenny

For openSUSE you will need a third party repo (Packman), so that’s why…

— big gap —

  1. Ubuntu/Mandriva/*Buntu Clones which are more liberal on including “unfree” software into official repos.

The FSF point of view works great for the hardcore developer type that wants (or needs) the source code to everything and would love nothing more than tinker with existing apps and write some of their own. Some Linux users fit that bill, and so their wants/needs are met through distros such as gNewSense.

However, for most of the rest of us, we want a “free” OS that “just works” out of the box. We are “free” from restrictive EULA’s that pretty much state that you are only “renting” the OS for a set period of time. openSUSE is a worry-free Operating System that gives us the freedom of choice.

You’re right. gNewSense just seems… a bit too ‘religious’ to me… gNewSense’s philosophy implies that many functions are removed - just for the sake of being ultra-free.
Who cares if 2% part of the OS we’re using isn’t completely ‘free’? It’s still free to a large extent, doesn’t have a rock-hard EULA, and is community-driven.
Anyway, I mustn’t say any more or some gNewSense users might feel offended.

There are always fanatics in all OSes… Amiga fanatics, BeOS fanatics, Mac fanatics, Linux fanatics, Windows fanatics, BSD and Solaris fanatics. It often delivers great lulz and flamewars, which can be highly amusing, unfortunately also highly unproductive. Most of them are so out of touch with the reality, that this alone delivers the lulz :wink:

I have to emphasize on one point here.

Even if they are not used by a lot of people and even if they might look “funny” for some people, such distributions serve an important purpose by showing where there is still a lack of completely free alternatives.

Yes, I am using a non-free wireless card (Intel 5300AGN, driver “iwlagn” = 100% free, firmware = binary only), yes I am using a non-free driver for my graphics card (nvidia Geforce 9600MT), but I am also aware of the fact, that closed source components very often cause trouble as they are developed outside the extremely fast moving stuff in mainline, consequently having (in most cases) longer “response times” until a problem gets fixed.

At least for the graphics card driver, I surely will switch to a free alternative (nouveau) the moment it gets usable (even if it still might lack some of the features or be a little slower than the prorietary one), I did this before (fglrx vs. radeon) and it served me well (especially regarding stability issues).

A switch to a “completely free” alternative of the iwlagn-driver is very unlikely, the driver itself is free and already in the mainline kernel, intel is very actively involved into linux development, still there is this binary only firmware which could be faulty or insecure and only intel is able to fix problems there and not only I would be glad if they could open up in that direction, too.

On Wed, 2009-09-23 at 10:26 +0000, BrownieCat wrote:
> Is openSUSE free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation? Is
> it true that real free software are only those which include no
> proprietary programs?
> From Wikipedia: gNewSense is considered by the Free Software Foundation
> to be a true GNU/Linux distribution.
> From other sources, I’ve found that very very few distros meet the
> criteria for being completely Free. Can anyone shed some light on this?

>From the standpoint of licensing, there was a time when SUSE
Professional included some non-free proprietary pieces.

openSUSE broke out the non-OSS stuff. So you can get openSUSE with just
OSS software… then it’s your choice if you want to add the non-OSS
parts to it.

FSF is weird. Sometimes not very consistent. About the only way to be
truly consistent with FSF is to make sure ALL of your distro is purely
under some kind of GPL… and now, FSF probably will only accept GPLv3
(which means NO Linux can be accepted).

So… if I can speak for FSF (which I cannot), I’d say unless everything
is GPLv3, then it’s not truly free according to the FSF.

I also find this statement quite a bit odd:

gNewSense is considered by the Free Software Foundation to be a true GNU/Linux distribution.

How do they (FSF) define a “true” distribution of GNU/Linux?

And why do they speak for one part (Linux) which in contrast to maybe GNU is not part of their project?

It might be a “true” (unchanged) GNU distribution, but certainly is not a “true” Linux distribution as it does not fully distribute Linux but actually removes parts of the “Linux distribution”, parts which are considered to be “non-free” to GNU standards (which in most/all cases will certainly be correct) but are still part of “Linux”.

If this “true” is only present in Wikipedia, then it’s maybe just a little too much “artistic freedom” for an article in an encyclopedia.


OK, WP screwed that one up.


That’s right :slight_smile: I can’t think why they waste so much time arguing, arguing, arguing over their OSes as if they were religions. Sure, I’m a Linux lover too, and I don’t like MS-Windows rise to the top, but still…

Anything refined so much that it becomes impossibly restricted is not such a good thing. The FSF I think are going down that road.

In fact, if they were commenting on a windows system being totally Microsoft based this would be an untrueth too! Doesn’t M$ need drivers not supplied by them but by manufacturers instead to get the whole thing functioning? Do we not then have to add software not always from M$ to be more productive?

So back to the basics, Free to use, Freedom of choice, Full power to make it work your own way, ans Stability to get the job done.:\

Actually, I quoted the Wikipedia statement wrong. It read: (word-to-word)

“The Free Software Foundation considers gNewSense to be a fully free software GNU/Linux.”

Sorry for the ‘true’. :slight_smile: I was trying to remember the article from heart when I wrote that. I’ll be more careful in future.

Because to some people it really is a religion and some of them are full with hatred towards an OS, platform or company. Check out Roy Schestowitz and his boycott novell site | Truth about Novell, Mono, Moonlight, Silverlight and secret Novell pact with Microsoft.

That guy is obsessed, spreads FUD and conspiracy theories and I don’t think he realizes that he does more harm than good to the whole community, not just to SUSE or Novell (not that they care what he has to say). He’s been committed to this ever since Novell made the deal with MS and I don’t think he sleeps much, the zombie, just so he can deliver next to you the latest in conspiracy, FUD and lies and twisted theories

Reg: If you want to join the FSF, you’d have to really hate Microsoft.

Brian: I do!

Reg: Yeah? How much?

Brian: A lot!

Reg: Right. You’re in. Listen, the only people we hate more than Microsoft are…

Sound familiar?

I do realize this thread is a bit old however I didn’t see anyone point out what the FSF’s guidelines are. Here is a link to their Free System Distribution Guidelines page on Guidelines for Free System Distributions - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation

It would be interesting to know from the opensuse user base group which never buys the software but simply downloads current versions and makes copies, would you still use opensuse if you had to buy every copy? Or would you move away from opensuse and go with a totally free version? opensuse is great, but how much is it worth to you?

I purchased the install package for 10.1, 11.0 and 11.3. With 11.4, I switched to downloading, because my experience is that it takes a couple of weeks to purchase the install DVD.

If I had to pay, sure, I would revert to the older style - pay for the software, but then keep that version for as long as it is supported (and maybe a bit longer).

Rather than imposing on the users, openSUSE allows users to make their own choices by clearly labelling what software is OSS and what is not. The fact that much of the openSUSE ecosystem does not conform to the FSF guidelines is a result of user choice and not of decisions made by SUSE or openSUSE as such.

SUSE has always been free in the sense that it used to be issued free after a period of selling a distribution commercially; openSUSE was deliverately set up as a community distribution - so the question of buying SUSE or openSUSE has never really risen unless you want support - in which case you are buying support, not SUSE or openSUSE.

Right, and if you look on the they give reasons why they don’t officially endorse the major Linux distros (Explaining Why We Don’t Endorse Other Systems - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation) and when it comes to openSUSE the only thing they state is “openSUSE offers its users access to a repository of nonfree software. This is an instance of how “open” is weaker than “free”.” For me, I feel I can compromise on this point that they make… And if I am okay with that then, in my eyes, openSUSE IS Free Software (No matter what the FSF say)!