Meritorious or Masochistic?

I’ve chosen to post this in OT rather than the Other Distros section, because despite my two following links being for a specific distro, it’s not that distro per se that interests me, but rather the underlying philosophy.

Reading through those two articles & gleaning just how comparatively ancient key parts of the distro are, presumably due to being a small team & a large labour needed to “purify” everything, i simply can’t shake the feeling that people who choose to go down this path [not just Stallmanesque Devs but also Stallmanesque users] might be contemporary tech equivalents of hair-shirters & self-flagellants.

I love using Linux for many reasons, principled, pragmatic & aesthetic. However at the end of the day, it has to let me actually DO stuff, & with as little friction as possible. It seems likely to me that to use one of these puritanical distros would imperil or even obstruct that core requirement.

Do any of you here actively use one of these distros? Am i quite incorrect in my interpretation?

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I’ve never actively used one; just checked them out a couple of times. There are some libre distros like PureOS and Parabola that are better at keeping up to date with kernel and software.

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Linux is all about freedom of choice. There are MANY distros which do NOT suit my needs (fancy?). The same is true of WMs and DEs. Nonetheless the beauty of choice is wonderful. Even with these many, many choices I seem forced into making trade-offs. These days, I’m mostly using dwm on manjaro or vanilla arch. It was not always such.

I have tried Trisequel in the past… but I find anything based on *buntu to be unacceptable (with the possible exception of LinuxMint). Again, just another set of trade-offs.

But then, what do I know…


It lost me once I read “Ubuntu based”.

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As a counter-point you may find this of interest… Devuan based libre OS.

I use Debian and that does actually conform to the FSF’s definition of a “free” (as in speech) operating system as long as the (non-official) contrib & non-free components of the repositories are not used.

However I do use those components:

~$ vrms
                Non-free packages installed on E485

amd64-microcode                     Processor microcode firmware for AMD CPUs
firmware-amd-graphics               Binary firmware for AMD/ATI graphics chips
firmware-iwlwifi                    Binary firmware for Intel Wireless cards
icc-profiles                        ICC color profiles for use with color profile aware so
steam                               Valve's Steam digital software delivery system

                Contrib packages installed on E485

game-data-packager                  Installer for game data files
game-data-packager-runtime          Launcher for proprietary games
quake2                              classic science-fiction-themed first person shooter
yamagi-quake2                       enhanced version of id Software's Quake II - client
yamagi-quake2-core                  enhanced version of id Software's Quake II - non-GUI p

  5 non-free packages, 0.2% of 2871 installed packages.
  5 contrib packages, 0.2% of 2871 installed packages.

10 packages in total out of 2871 (!) installed isn’t bad but please don’t tell RMS :grin:

Free (as in speech) software is actually a pragmatic stance — how do you know that the non-free software isn’t stuffed full of malware? If it wasn’t surely they would show us the source code, no?

And restrictive copyleft licensing (ie, the GPL) forces companies to feed back improvements to any open source code they use:

But unfortunately the reality of the situation is that all three of the graphics card manufacturers now require non-free firmware for full performace, both AMD & Intel processors require non-free µcode to prevent them breaking and almost all wireless cards need non-free firmware to work at all. Bastards.

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Not quite sure where this remark comes from – what did i say in my OP that implied in any way i favour that possibility? All i was interested in was whether the severely Stallmanesque distros & components [& thus users] might be sacrificing everyday low-friction usability over perceived policy purity.

Because from your quoted text it appears my own philosophy was unclear [or even dubious], i’ll simply say that whilst my use of Arch, Archies, Debian & Debianista [but not under any circumstance any Buntus] distros don’t comply to the strictures of Stallman, i remain extremely happy in my choice as representing a good balance of pragmatism & purity… & i am happy to place trust in my safety via the standard repo packages being known [by community inspection] to be either safe or safe enough for me.

That i am not using one of the stripped-to-the-skeleton kernels, nor equivalent network managers etc, does not philosophically bother me, nor does it make me feel like a sell-out. Hell, before discovering Linux in late 2013 i was a >2 decade windozer, hence every single day in Nixtopia since then simply feels gorgeously liberating for me!

To put it another way, having never used one of these [what i consider] “severe” distros, i simply wondered if users of them experience certain tasks & activities that are either difficult or maybe even impossible [compared to, eg, an Arch or Debian user], as a direct result of their distro [& hence software] choices? Hence my sarcastic allusion to them possibly being


It’s not so much the distro - it’s the hardware. As HOAS pointed out, the big three graphics cards vendors require nonfree firmware for full performance. So if you’re a gamer, you’re kind of stuck.

Yeah, yet another reason i’m happy to be !=gamer, & exist simply with my ordinary plain garden-variety Graphics: Device-1: Intel Xeon E3-1200 v3/4th Gen Core Processor Integrated Graphics :ok_woman:

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It was just a general observation for your consideration, sorry if I was unclear.

In most cases they would sacrifice any advanced graphics capabilities (or any graphics at all for some cards) and any wireless functionality along with stability for some (most) processor types. Stuff like Steam would also not be possible.

Perhaps try one of the official Debian live images to give you an idea, they don’t contain any non-free software or firmware at all (just like the distributions mentioned in your OP).

Neither the packagers nor the community can verify that any of the non-free packages are “safe” because they can’t view the source code.

Yes you are — the Arch kernel is de-blobbed, they supply the firmware in a separate package:

There are no non-free network management solutions that I am aware of.

As I mentioned above the advanced graphics facilities of most recent graphics cards and any wireless functionality would be lost, along with CPU stability. But these are because of a lack of firmware and the elephant in the room that the “purist” distributions don’t talk about is the fact that any devices that do not load their non-free firmware from the operating system have it implanted at the point of production instead so using a “purist” distribution does *not* mean that the machine is blob-free.


We seem to be at cross-purposes here. I shall bow out now. Thanks anyway.