[sf-lug] "Educating Tux: case studies of Linux...and "Purity"

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Tue Mar 11 21:22:12 PDT 2008

Mark Weisler wrote:
> On Tuesday 11 March 2008 18:29:48 Christian Einfeldt wrote:
>> hi
>> On Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 3:54 PM, Asheesh Laroia <asheesh at asheesh.org> wrote:
>>> Yes, but he objects to your use of the term FOSS to describe something
>>> that isn't entirely FOSS.  Not to your actions, simply to your words.
>>  I understand, but what is a more appropriate term?  This is, after all,
>> the San Francisco _Linux_ Users Group, not the San Francisco GNU/Linux
>> Users Group.  This list varies widely in its use of "Free Software" and
>> "Open Source Software" and Linux and GNU/Linux and FOSS, etc.
>> So if flash is let's say 2 MB and the overall Ubuntu distro, which is on
>> the boxes that we all (including Rick) installed during the March 1
>> installfest, and if the size of the image before installing is 700 MB, then
>> Flash constitutes 0.2% of the packages on the boxes that SF-LUG is giving
>> out via the school.
> Richard Stallman visited the Bay Area about a year ago and on 24 February 2007 
> visited CABAL and the Moen household. We prepared for the visit by installing 
> the Ututo Linux distribution on a computer at the Moen's because that was the 
> distro Richard used at the time on his laptop (and perhaps still does). I 
> asked about this distro and learned that it was, as I understand it, 100 
> percent free and open software and contained no proprietary software. Thus, 
> it might be considered pure free, open source software. I think it fair to 
> say that rms would pay attention to whether many or any components of a 
> system that he wold choose are proprietary.
> http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=ututo for more information where 
> it is claimed, "Ututo is based exclusively on Free/Libre Software."
> IIRC this might have been the only distro that, in February 2007, was purely 
> free software.
Ah, but what about the BIOS? Does that fall under hardware, software, or 
firmware? There's the whole argument for using LinuxBIOS (now called 
coreboot http://www.coreboot.org/Welcome_to_coreboot) :-) instead of the 
proprietary stuff that comes on most machines. Would a box with 
gNewSense and proprietary BIOS still be a FOSS box?

My experience has been that outside of the FOSS community, the "real 
worlders" are way too behind the curve to care what percentage is FOSS 
and what's proprietary. Most of my students don't show any remorse for 
using "stolen" software. They just find me and my silly ideas amusing. 
As far as they are concerned, XP is just as free as Ubuntu in spite of 
my going into freedom vs beer argument.


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

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