Fully Free PureOS Alternatives With Newer Software


#1

Given the risks of running PureOS Byzantium, I thought it might be helpful to discuss other ways to use exclusively free software on Librem laptops without being stuck with the older software in PureOS Amber.

  • Fedora: Aside from the blobs in the Linux kernel itself, Fedora does not ship proprietary software in its repositories. If you install the Linux-libre kernel provided by the FSF LA and the freed-ora-freedom package, you can enjoy a free system with more current software than is available for Byzantium. Note: GNOME Online Accounts does ask if you want to activate various non-free cloud services during the initial setup, and GNOME Software asks if you want to enable non-free third-party repos when first run.
  • elementaryOS: If you stick to the default elementary apps and those available in AppCenter, you won’t find any proprietary software. But you do still have blobs in the Linux kernel. To remove them, try out Jason Self’s Linux-libre APT repository. My understanding is that this repo does not contain a package comparable to freed-ora-freedom, so you will have to remove any remaining proprietary firmware yourself and make sure you don’t install any proprietary software from Ubuntu’s repos.
  • Ubuntu: Canonical’s Alan Pope has highlighted a little-known “free software only” install option for Ubuntu. You could also go with Jason Self’s APT repository linked above. Ubuntu in general recommends all kinds of proprietary software in its repos and in the Snap store, but you can avoid all of this if you make the effort.
  • Parabola: Parabola is Arch Linux with the Linux-libre kernel pre-installed and proprietary software removed from the repos. That means Parabola is a bleeding edge rolling release, but it’s one intended to be this way by design rather than as a testing bed. As a FSF-endorsed distro, you don’t have to worry about about any closed source code unless you install third-party sources yourself.

The FSF provides a list of endorsed distros, but many are outdated. Do people know of ways to configure other distros to use them in a fully-free manner?


#2

Gentoo, with ACCEPT_LICENSE=-* @FREE (which is now the default), fits the FSF definitions, and can be kept fully up to date.


#3

For people who want to keep the stability of PureOS Amber, but they also want recent versions of software (like LibreOffice and Firefox), a good option is to install software from Debian’s buster-backports repo.


#4

I mostly use elementaryOS and I like their workflow, not having to click save or even not having a save button should be mandatory for phones. My current hardware requires proprietary firmware but it wasn’t hard to get it installed on GrayOS (PureOS + blobs).

But depending on what software you want to keep up-to-date then people could install the Flatpak or Snap version. If the developer maintains the package then it should stay current.

I have no idea how to configure other distros to be fully-free.