[Dev] [Fsf-Debian] Comparison with Parabola

Michał Masłowski mtjm at mtjm.eu
Sat Aug 4 08:34:10 GMT 2012

> I'd like to know more about why Parabola GNU/Linux is endorsed by the FSF as
> a free distribution, because I think it might provide new ideas for routes
> by which Debian could be also. The reason is, Parabola has something
> somewhat analogous to [nonfree] in the form of all the Arch repositories
> ([core], [extra], [community]) and the AUR which are all not restricted to
> free software.

It doesn't.  Our [core], [extra], [community] are stripped of packages
which we change or remove and we add new packages/replacements for
removed packages to [libre].  (This doesn't apply to mips64el which
isn't interesting here, there all architecture-specific packages are
built by us so there are changes in all "stable" repos.)

> There are two ways Parabola excludes nonfree software:
>   1. Putting the [libre] repo before the Arch repos, so a lot of
> packages with free replacements are automatically superseded and
> become invisible.

The same would be done by putting them into the [core], [extra] and
[community] repos.

>   2. Maintaining the your-freedom package, which must be explicitly
> installed, which conflicts with any remaining known nonfree packages.

"must be explicitly installed" suggests that (0) it's not installed by
default, (1) nonfree packages are available in Parabola, or (2) the user
is forced to install it.  All there cases are false, except for a
package being removed (there is a notification of a conflict/replacement
on update, unlike when we stop replacing a package, leading to various

> Parabola currently does nothing about the AUR, but there is a feature
> request for dealing with it in their bug tracker.

AUR isn't a part of Parabola, the only recommendation of it I noticed is
a script that fetches a package from it, checking if it's known to be
nonfree (or depending on nonfree packages) and asks the user to check if
it's free.  I believe such a script might be ok.

> Why does the FSF endorse Parabola given the situation above where
> nonfree packages are available?

These packages aren't included in the distro and they aren't recommended
(unless you can show a specific example of this, there might be bugs).
You can install nonfree software using any distro, the availability of
external repositories with nonfree packages doesn't affect the
endorsement (as also the Fedora comment suggests and other distros on
the list).

> Is it possible for Debian to gain endorsement by using something like
> the your-freedom package (or maybe a switch in the package manager)
> which conflicts with the installation of known nonfree packages?

Having to explicitly enable nonfree or contrib seems very like a "switch
in the package manager".  Just making a default package conflicting with
all non-FSDG packages without changing some of them will probably just
make any user wanting to install a Mozilla-based program remove the
conflicting package (these show an addon list site recommending nonfree
addons, there are more examples of such packages, although I don't know
a list of them not listing many packages needing branding changes for a
derived FSDG-compatible distro).

(Ccing the Parabola development list, since this suggests the
documentation being misleading and probably other contributors
understand these issues better than me.)
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