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GNU and Syllable

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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 307
Location: France

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 10:17 am    Post subject: GNU and Syllable Reply with quote


I have some questions about the development of Syllable. Indeed, I looked on the site of GNU, the conditions for a system to be recognized completely free.

I wanted to know if Syllable and was entirely free under the GNU GPL. I know it is impossible to install at this time, proprietary software if I'm not mistaken.

Apparently, Syllable has no "blobs", pieces of object code, distributed without source, usually used as firmware to operate the devices. Is this correct?

I ask you all this, because Syllable is not registered on the site of GNU. As Richard Stallman speaks of free software in worldwide, it would be nice if Syllable could be recognized as 100% free system by GNU, if you see no drawback of course.

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The Knights of Syllable

Joined: 14 Sep 2007
Posts: 2207
Location: Friesland

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I met Richard in 2006 at FOSDEM and gave him a Syllable CD. He wanted to know the same thing, so we discussed it a bit.

An entirely free system according to the definition of the FSF and GNU does not contain any parts that go contrary to the Free Software definition. However, this has never been Syllable's goal. It is roughly our goal for the base system, because we want it to be isolated from any company going under or otherwise changing direction, as has happened with basically all of Syllable's spiritual predecessors: Atari, Amiga, RISC OS, OS/2, BeOS. Open Source satisfies that goal; it doesn't necessarily have to be Free Software. Second, we don't consider an operating system to be a true platform if it excludes whole classes of software from running on it. For example, the Genode framework that we tried only allows GPL compatible software to run on it, so we couldn't use it. As we say on our About page, we want Syllable to be a platform for both open and closed software. Third, we think a platform is not much good if it doesn't offer important functionality that users need. Some such functionality is closed source, or at least not Free Software, so we still want to have the option to try to support it.

We still like Free Software, but even there all sorts of shades of grey exist. We can't use the GPL license for our libraries, because it would prevent closed and other GPL incompatible software from running on Syllable. So we usually use the LGPL for libraries, but licenses such as BSD are also acceptable, even if GNU considers them non-free. OpenSSL is strictly incompatible with the GPL, so it could be argued that it can't be in a system according to the GNU definition. All Apache licensed software is incompatible with GPL 2, and they're not sure it's compatible with GPL 3, so it couldn't be used, either.

We don't want to be tied to such restrictions. We only want Syllable to be relatively safe and have a fighting chance to be successful. There have always been some parts in Syllable that don't conform to Free Software. We only try not to make the base system dependent on them, but we do want to be able to include them in Syllable distributions. OpenSSL is an example, and the LCD fonts, which are not allowed to be changed. The REBOL 3 core library is closed source, and Syllable Server has REBOL 2. The only reason there aren't more is that not much non-free software has been ported to Syllable. But if for example drivers would be ported that require closed firmware, we want to be able to include them. And several contributors of Syllable programs over the years have not released their source code.

Considering these differences of viewpoint, Richard and I decided that Syllable is not suitable for being nominated a GNU system.
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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 307
Location: France

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok thank you for that very detailed reply.

Indeed, perhaps Syllable must remain independent by providing a system for everyone. I love open source but I find the GNU conditions too restrictive and I'm not really surprised by the small numbers of systems considered truly free. That may be why Hurd is still not advanced.

Recognized or not as free by GNU, Syllable will be always good. Smile
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