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April 22nd, 2017

Libreboot Wants Back Into GNU

The Libreboot saga isn’t over yet. Now the project wants back into GNU.

Libreboot logo

Early this morning, Libreboot’s lead developer Leah Rowe posted a notice to the project’s website and a much longer post to the project’s subreddit, indicating that she would like to submit (or resubmit, it’s not clear how that would work at this point) the project to “rejoin the GNU Project.”

The project had been a part of GNU from May 14 through September 15 of last year, at which time Ms. Rowe very publicly removed the project from GNU while making allegations of misdeeds by both GNU and the Free Software Foundation. Earlier this month, Rowe admitted that she had been dealing with personal issues at the time and had overreacted. The project also indicated that it had reorganized and that Rowe was no longer in full control.

The discussion on Reddit is to determine whether Rowe has community support to pursue her decision to attempt to rejoin GNU.

“Before I make this decision, as a result of democratic decision making in Libreboot nowadays, I need to see a lack of overall opposition from other maintainers (willingness to remain in the project after joining GNU, means that there is no meaningful opposition), and a substantial level of support by the public. The purpose of this Reddit thread is precisely to gauge public support for this decision, and based on that, whether to proceed. This is different than before, and reflects Libreboot’s new democratic style of decision making. It will only be done with community approval.”

Rowe also admits that “Libreboot should have never left GNU.”

The Libreboot project produces free, open source and blob-free software to replace proprietary BIOS firmware.

At this time, it’s not clear whether the GNU project would be open to having Libreboot rejoin. So far, the replies on Reddit have mostly been in support of the project seeking to return to GNU.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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36 comments to Libreboot Wants Back Into GNU

  • InvisibleInk

    If you rage-quit anything you shouldn’t ever come begging to be taken back.

  • Me

    @InvisibleInk Are you aiming to *validate* rage-quitting? Because never apologizing and never coming back is the same as standing by the rage-quit. Isn’t it healthier and more mature to get over yourself and own-up to rage-quitting being a bad thing?

  • InvisibleInk

    Not attempting to validate, just suggesting it should be pointless to be expected to be taken back.

    AND no rage-quitter SHOULD be taken back, let alone should they ever expect to be considered to be taken back.

    Of course, it might be fun to watch them grovel a bit before lowering the hammer…

  • JfD

    @InvisibleInk Yes, they shouldn’t *expect* to be taken back, but I see no harm in asking, especially if the collaboration could potentially lead to a greater good. But yes, a true apology is offered without conditions.

    To humble yourself and to ask for forgiveness when you know you’ve done wrong is virtuous, as is to forgive somebody who has spat in your face. Grudge-holding & vindictiveness are habits that ultimately damage the grudge-bearer more than anybody else, so even if you’re not into hippy, selfless, the-community-is-more-important-than-the-individual kind of thinking, it’s in one’s personal interest to eventually overcome these regressive traits.

    As for if gnu should take them back, I think if the apology is sincere and gnu & libreboot both believe it’d be mutually beneficial, then why not go for it? Many great things would have never been accomplished, many important lessons would have never been learned if it weren’t for second chances.

  • tracyanne

    @InvisibleInk

    >>>>If you rage-quit anything you shouldn’t ever come begging to be taken back.

    Why not? I think it would take a great deal of courage to “come begging”, after such a public meltdown, and it is something, in the case of an individual, one is unlikely to do unless one is genuinely repentant or, in the case of an organisation, the organisational structure has changed.

    From what I have read, the meltdown appears to have been because of personal issues, rather than malicious ones, and the organisation structure has changed.

    I see no reason why they should not re apply for membership of GNU. It also seems reasonable to me that GNU would probably, at least, consider their application.

  • AC

    I think the FSF would be wise to say no.

    She is fishing for leverage and control over the FSF. When shrieking and name-calling didn’t work, she stomped off.

    No sane person would have anything to do with her, or anyone like her. These people are nothing but destructive.

  • Mike

    @AC

    “These people”? It’s hard to take that in any sense that doesn’t paint you in a negative light.

    Reading her proposal for community feedback it would seem your speculation that “She is fishing for leverage and control over the FSF.” is pretty unlikely, even if joining GNU somehow made that happen, which doesn’t even seem plausible.

    Here’s an edit made to the proposal on the project’s subreddit which undermines your claim:

    “In response to public feedback, I would like to make it clear that I am indeed stepping down as leader of the LIbreboot project. I am still working on improvements to Libreboot, including new hardware ports, but I am no longer the “face” of Libreboot and I no longer handle PR. I am simply a developer.

    The only reason that I am handling public relations in this case, and handling Libreboot’s possible re-entry GNU myself, is because I feel that since it was me who caused all the damage by taking Libreboot out of GNU, that the onus of responsibility lies on me to fix the damage that I caused, to re-build the broken relations and to bring Libreboot back into focus so that it can resume working on many important technological changes for the community, so that more libre hardware becomes available in the future. It would be unfair to leave this responsibility to other Libreboot maintainers, just as it was unfair of me in the past to place the burden on those people when Libreboot left GNU.”

  • Hunkah

    What I don’t understand is… who cares? I thought this was all “FREE SOFTWARE”. Libreboot doesn’t need GNU, GNU needs Libreboot. For GNU to be a full OS, it needs a bootloader. So why not just use Libreboot, and give credit to Libreboot for it’s contribution. If a project is supposed to be free, then it should be “free to use”. All this insanity is why we have people saying GNU/Linux. Free software should be free. If I start a project, and I wanted to include someone else’s work, I should have the freedom to do so, right? Or is all that FSF just bullcrap?

    Quote from the FSF site “Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.”

    I might need to rub my eyes and look again, but I don’t see why GNU has to control anything here.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    > I thought this was all “FREE SOFTWARE”.

    It is.

    > Libreboot doesn’t need GNU, GNU needs Libreboot.

    From the subreddit proposal: By joining GNU, Libreboot gets increased visibility which helps attract developers, plus the potential to use FSF funds for maintainence and development.

    > For GNU to be a full OS, it needs a bootloader.

    Libreboot isn’t a bootloader. GNU already has GRUB for that (You did know that GRUB is part of GNU, right?) Libreboot is a BIOS/UEFI replacement.

    > So why not just use Libreboot, and give credit to Libreboot for it’s contribution.

    Nothing wrong with that, but it is orthogonal to the issue of Libreboot joing the GNU project.

    > I might need to rub my eyes and look again, but I don’t see why GNU has to control anything here.

    It isn’t about control. You should try looking again, without the anti-FSF glasses.

  • Nonya

    The apology and proposed return needs to be closely looked at. If its mutually beneficial, and there is reasonable confidence that things will work out well, why not allow them back. I can see being cautious though.

  • Hunkah

    @Mike.

    My anti-FSF glasses comes directly from Richard Stallman demanding that Linux be called GNU/Linux. That is NOT freedom.

    Put it this way, if I started any project or business, and decided to call my project after another project, the owner of that project would flip out. Let’s use an example. Microsoft/puppets. My project is an operating system that I’ve called puppets. You can bet that Microsoft would be suing my ass the second they found out.

    Linux is an Operating System project that was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 (I’m sure you’ve heard of it). Linus’ project is not controlled by GNU, it is not a part of GNU, it has no say in how it is developed, it has no affiliation with GNU in any way. Linux is 100% controlled and maintained by Linus and the people that help develop it. For Richard to even remotely suggest that Linux be called GNU/Linux means that Richard himself doesn’t believe in the freedom he preaches. If I started any project, and someone demanded that I name my project after them, I would laugh in their face. It’s MY project. It is controlled by me and me alone.

    So my anti-FSF is because they’re full of shit, or full of themselves. Take your pick. You can’t have it both ways. Either you believe that anyone can fork your projects and include them in other software your you don’t.

  • @Hunkah Your argument is apples and oranges. The desktop operating system commonly called “Linux” is a combination of the Linux kernel and the GNU stack, which contains much of the functionality of both desktop and server Linux – the bash shell for instance. Stallman has a point with his desire for the GNU Project, which outdates Linux, to receive recognition for this. There would be no desktop Linux is not for GNU.

  • skelband

    > My anti-FSF glasses comes directly from Richard Stallman demanding that Linux be called GNU/Linux. That is NOT freedom.

    Of course it’s freedom. RMS can insist all he wants. Nobody is forced to abide by his preference. I’ve not heard of any threats attached to his assertion.

    Freedom and very strongly held beliefs are entirely compatible.

  • Mike

    It’s clear from Hunkah’s statment that “Linux is an Operating System project that was created by Linus Torvalds” that he doesn’t understand.

    1) Linux isn’t an operating system.

    2) Stallman isn’t suggesting the Linux kernel project be renamed.

    3) “Linux Distros” are individual operating systems, mostly (but not always) based on a Linux kernel and mostly (but not always) a GNU userland. GNU makes up a large portion of the most common distros. Stallman would like these conglomerations to be called GNU/Linux distros instead of simply “Linux” to give credit to all the developers that helped make these free operating systems. You are certainly free to ignore him. He isn’t impinging on anyone’s freedom in even the slightest way.

    4) Have a look at the list of GNU packages and see if there’s anything you recognize in there that you think of as being “Linux”:

    https://www.gnu.org/software/

  • Mailing

    I agree with Hunkah about a lot of this. People idolize RMS as if he cured cancer.

    The fact is, if he didn’t start GNU, somebody else would have.

    RMS didn’t single handedly create all software under GNU. Take libreboot for example, a project completely maintained by other people. If you’ve read some of the comments on the libreboot web site, GNU takes over projects and makes it impossible for the maintainers to continue being the head of the project.

    Some of you need to take off your pro-RMS glasses. The man isn’t a saint.

  • Mike

    @Mailing

    *facepalm*

    > The fact is, if he didn’t start GNU, somebody else would have.

    The actual fact is:
    He did. What you have stated isn’t a fact, it is an opinion.

    > RMS didn’t single handedly create all software under GNU.

    Of course he didn’t. He also hasn’t suggested people call distros ‘Stallman/Linux’ either. GNU/Linux gives credit to the many GNU developers.

    > Take libreboot for example, a project completely maintained by other people. If you’ve read some of the comments on the libreboot web site, GNU takes over projects and makes it impossible for the maintainers to continue being the head of the project.

    You picked a comically bad example to make a case with. Read the story you’ve commented on, and read the Libreboot proposal on their subreddit.

    > Some of you need to take off your pro-RMS glasses. The man isn’t a saint.

    Strawman argument. Who said he is? I don’t know him personally and I definitely don’t always agree with him, but blind hatred (of Stallman or the FSF) born from misinterpretations and/or complete ignorance of the facts is no way to approach anything in life if you don’t want to be perceived as a complete wackadoodle.

  • Hunkah

    I personally don’t hate Stallman. Do I think he’s a prick? Yeah. I think the license he has created is amazing. I think that the GPL is his crown jewel. However, if you expect me to believe that someone else wouldn’t have started a movement like this, then it’s you who are blind.

    Everything I have ever done in my life I have gotten zero recognition for. I have always done everything for the greater good of everyone. Do I get all pissy when I don’t get recognition? No.

    Look, you guys can suck on the teet of RMS, I refuse to believe he’s this religious icon that he makes himself out to be. …and the toga-wearing followers are worse.

  • Not seeing my post so I’m going to try again; sorry if this double-posts.

    @Hunkah:
    > My anti-FSF glasses comes directly from Richard Stallman demanding that Linux be called GNU/Linux. That is NOT freedom.

    If you can point to an instance where Stallman has suggested that people should be *forced* to use the phrase “GNU/Linux”, and that the power of the state should be used to compel compliance, then you’re right, that’s not freedom.

    Short of that, no dude, it’s a *request*. He’s not saying you should be *legally prohibited* from calling the OS “Linux”, he’s just *asking that you not*.

    > Linux is an Operating System project

    No, it’s a kernel.

    I suspect that you know all this and are just trolling.

    @Mailing:
    > I agree with Hunkah about a lot of this.

    …I’m also pretty sure that you are both the same person.

    …you know what, though, so far this has been the *least* horrifying derailment of a libreboot/GNU thread I’ve seen here, so hey, at least it’s got that going for it.

    Getting back on-topic: I think @Mike’s post (April 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm) does a pretty good job summarizing the issue here: if Leah Rowe is stepping down as project lead, then I’m not seeing a downside to the GNU accepting Libreboot back into the fold. I can understand @InvisibleInk’s argument that GNU (and others) should be wary of dealing with Rowe given her past erratic behavior, but it sounds like they *won’t* be dealing with Rowe, they’ll be dealing with new leadership and a committee.

    They’ve still got every right to say “no thanks”, though.

  • Hunkah

    Two people believing the same thing doesn’t make them the same person. Having someone agree with me on this point is rare, agreed. (Thanks) I know of at least two other people in the world that agree with me. I’ve seen their posts in other forums.

    Libreboot had a whole write up on what is wrong with GNU and I totally believe it. They’ve since taken that information down, I’m guessing because they’ve lost a lot of financial support. Which would make sense, and probably why they’re backtracking now.

    Anyway, whatever. I am not going to respond to anything else. I’ve said what I wanted to say.

  • > Two people believing the same thing doesn’t make them the same person.

    I notice that you took the time to deny that part of my post but not the part immediately before it where I said that you’re pretending not to know basic facts about Linux and free software just to troll.

    > Anyway, whatever. I am not going to respond to anything else. I’ve said what I wanted to say.

    Stop, don’t, come back.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    > “I refuse to believe he’s this religious icon that he makes himself out to be. …and the toga-wearing followers are worse.”

    You’re delusional. I’ve seen a lot of speeches by Richard Stallman and I’ve never seen any instance of him promoting himself as a religious icon. Link or you are just making crap up…oh, right. You are making crap up. I forgot.

    People who think Stallman makes good points regarding Software Freedom don’t think of him this way either. I know a lot them and yet the only people who think Stallman is some kind of religious figure are the nuts who dislike him without even being able to articulate why. Case in point…

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    > “Anyway, whatever. I am not going to respond to anything else. I’ve said what I wanted to say.”

    …and yet what you said made no sense, was full of technical inaccuracies and misconceptions. No defense for the indefensible eh?

  • Mailing

    Ha! Mike and Thad, You have the exact same format to your posts.

    I never even thought about you being the same person until you made it obvious.

  • Mike

    @Mailing/Hunkah

    I don’t play with sock puppets. The only thing that matters is the content of your argument.

    Try refuting anything I’ve said, or backing up anything you’ve said.

    Good luck doing the impossible. Your ignorance astounds.

  • @Mailing: Click my name. It’s a link. It goes to my blog, which has a photo of me right up at the top. If you poke around a bit, you’ll find me using e-mail-style quoting at least as far back as 1997. “Thad” is my real name.

    Points for the projection — a sockpuppet calling me a sockpuppet; nice touch — but nah, dude, I’m not Mike and I don’t know him. Gotta say he makes a fair point here, though; your choice to try and make this about him and me instead of actually defending any of the nonsense you’ve spouted is a classic distraction technique, and not a very good one.

    I disagree with him on one thing, though: I don’t think you’re ignorant. I don’t think you could possibly *be* as ignorant as you’re pretending to be; I think you’re saying a bunch of stupid things that you know aren’t true, just to get attention.

  • Mike

    @Thad,

    > “I don’t think you’re ignorant. I don’t think you could possibly *be* as ignorant as you’re pretending to be; I think you’re saying a bunch of stupid things that you know aren’t true, just to get attention.”

    I disagree. I think the act of pretending to be that stupid implies a person really is that stupid. Troll or legitimate moron, it makes no difference to me. Failing/Chunkah couldn’t argue its way out of a wet paper bag.

  • Mailing

    I would argue. I just don’t see the point in trying to convince anyone that clearly doesn’t want to look at intent or personality. Which are two really large components to this argument. Richard Stallman is considered to be famous, his words carry weight, he’s not a nobody like me. So when he says something people become passionate about the things he says. The only responses to what I say are a few self-important nobodies thinking that I care what they think.

  • @Mailing: “I would argue, but [some excuse for not doing it]” is an even more weak-sauce distraction technique than your “Mike and Thad are the same person!” routine.

    You’ve got nothin’. I don’t even care if you admit it, but it’d be nice if you’d slink away now.

  • Mike

    @Failing/Chunkah

    > “The only responses to what I say are a few self-important nobodies thinking that I care what they think.”

    Bzzzt. WRONG. Try again without the strawman.

    I absolutely DO NOT care what you think…if you do at all.

    I do care when people spout off things as facts that clearly aren’t. There are no alternative facts.

  • Hunkah

    I keep getting notifications that you guys are still going on about this.

    Here’s my argument, again… GNU is supposed to be free software. No strings. Right? To make a demand, request, whatever (semantics), you are not behaving in a way that promotes freedom. Mailing makes a valid point about him being famous. But I’ll let him/her argue his/her own point.

    Libreboot is an example of what I am talking about. Stallman did not create all the software under GNU, all of the independent projects that get sucked under the GNU umbrella are then claimed as though they belong to GNU. (again do as I say not as I do). There was a huge write up about this on the Libreboot site that is now gone. It basically said that you lose control of your project when it becomes a part of GNU. So where is the libreboot/GNU? Doesn’t exist. Why? Because Stallman doesn’t believe in giving credit to anyone but GNU.

  • Hunkah

    I’ve watched many videos where Stallman gets awards or recognition and he just “spits” in the face of the people that are giving him the award. He’s honestly a despicable person.

    Like I said, the GPL is amazing. It allows everyone to build and leapfrog each other. It allows us all to grow and build and be better. I just can’t get past his personality or his stupidity about GNU.

  • > To make a demand, request, whatever (semantics), you are not behaving in a way that promotes freedom.

    An argument is a series of connected statements intended to establish a proposition. It isn’t just contradiction.

    There’s no contradiction in saying “You’re free to do this, but I would prefer it if you didn’t.” For example, you’re free to say stupid shit on an Internet comments section, but I really wish you’d stop. (Weren’t you supposed to be leaving?)

    > Libreboot is an example of what I am talking about. Stallman did not create all the software under GNU, all of the independent projects that get sucked under the GNU umbrella are then claimed as though they belong to GNU.

    That’s because they do, Hunkah. If your project joins the GNU, that means you’ve assigned copyright to GNU. You’re free to fork it back (because of the GPL), or to ask for the return of the copyright (which GNU granted in Libreboot’s case). But if your software is part of the GNU Project, it’s owned by GNU.

    Stallman is not the GNU; he founded it, but it’s an organization of which he is one of the leaders, not the sole proprietor.

    “There was a huge write up about this on the Libreboot site that is now gone.”

    So, just to review: your only source is a deleted post whose author herself has now recanted and apologized for.

    “So where is the libreboot/GNU? Doesn’t exist. Why? Because Stallman doesn’t believe in giving credit to anyone but GNU.”

    Contributors are credited — in comments, in commits, on project sites, etc. It’s true that contributing to GNU requires copyright assignment; that’s not about credit, it’s about the work having a single copyright holder to make certain decisions easier. (For example, if a work of software has dozens of developers and split copyright, and some of those developers want to change the license, every single developer has to agree.) You can agree or disagree with this approach (Linux does just fine without copyright assignment), but it doesn’t sound like you understand it.

    “I’ve watched many videos where Stallman gets awards or recognition and he just “spits” in the face of the people that are giving him the award. He’s honestly a despicable person.”

    Once again you fail to cite a source, but that’s neither here nor there. You’re shifting the goalposts from criticizing Stallman’s ethics to criticizing his personality. When the facts aren’t on your side, you fall back to criticizing his attitude.

    Which, honestly, is where you should have started in the first damn place. Stallman can be a pretty abrasive and strident guy; it’s perfectly understandable if he rubs you the wrong way.

    But why didn’t you just *say* that instead of making up a bunch of BS? “Asking me to call a thing by a name violates my freedom! You all think he’s a saint!” Instead of gibbering like an idiot, you could have just said “You know, I think the guy’s kind of a jerk” and, well, I can’t speak for anybody else here, but I certainly wouldn’t have disagreed with you.

  • Mike

    @Hunkah

    Yawn. So you said all you came to say, and then came back to make the same bad arguments all over again.

    Let me help you. Here’s an example of what a valid criticism of the FSF might look like:

    ——
    Invariant sections of the GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License) are NOT free and should not be tolerated by anyone writing free software, especially an organization with the stated goals of the FSF. Debian was prescient enough to realize this license presents an incompatibility with the DFSG.
    ——

    I would agree with you on that. But how could I when I am obviously a fanatical Stallman follower in a toga?

  • Hunkah

    I love you guys. You make me not want to kill myself anymore.

  • InvisibleInk

    I Found one! A Richard Stallman fanatical lover.

    http://i.imgur.com/oE7YHZA.jpg

  • tracyanne

    Well this thread turned into, a very boring “Much Ado About Nothing”, rather quickly. I think I prefer the original by Shakespeare.