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[GNU-linux-libre] Request for GFSD evaluation for ProteanOS

From: Patrick 'P. J.' McDermott
Subject: [GNU-linux-libre] Request for GFSD evaluation for ProteanOS
Date: Fri, 16 May 2014 14:59:45 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/20111114 Icedove/3.1.16


I'm the lead developer of ProteanOS [1], a BusyBox/Linux-libre
distribution for embedded systems.  I'd like to have this distribution
evaluated for inclusion in GNU's list of free system distributions.


In development since 2011-12-09, ProteanOS is an independent
distribution – not based on any other project.  Though it does draw
inspiration from others like Debian and OpenEmbedded.

Despite being designed for embedded systems, ProteanOS is a self-hosting
binary distribution.  All the packages in ProteanOS can be built within
the system using the included tools.  Instructions for this are provided
on the download page [2].

The "dev/trunk" suite of ProteanOS (which will become version 1.0 [3])
currently supports IA-32 (P6 a.k.a. i686 or later) and AMD64 systems.
It can be installed into a directory on an existing GNU/Linux(-libre) or
BusyBox/Linux(-libre) system using a tool called "miniprokit" (similar
to debootstrap of Debian and its derivatives).  A user can then use the
same tool to run a ProteanOS shell in an isolated file system
environment, set up using chroot.

ProteanOS dev/trunk has also been ported [4] to boot on one computer so
far: the Acer Aspire One AO751h netbook.  Additional architecture and
computer system ("platform") ports are expected to come soon (and
contributions are welcome).

The only difference between running ProteanOS in an isolated file system
environment and running it on hardware is the addition of a
"linux-image" binary package.  Access to supported hardware should not
be necessary for an evaluation of the distribution and its source

Currently a base ProteanOS system as installed by miniprokit takes
around 27 MiB of space (I plan to reduce that by about half soon).  With
a "build-essential-<ARCH>" package installed, the system takes 94 or 104
MiB, depending on the architecture.

All of the distribution's source packages can be installed in a
ProteanOS system by running the following command:

    # opkg info 'src-*' | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | xargs opkg install

All of the 37 source packages will be installed under </usr/src> and
will take an additional 249 MiB.


Software Freedom in ProteanOS

Software Inclusion Policy

We have a draft Software Inclusion Policy [5] that forbids the inclusion
of non-free works.  This policy is mostly an intersection of GNU's list
of free software licenses and various other standards of freedom.  There
are certain exceptions: the SIL Open Font License is considered non-free
and the GNU FDL is considered free as long as the licensed work has no
Invariant Sections (Cover Texts, however, are acceptable – this differs
from Debian's policy).  Additionally, the policy is applied equally to
all works in the distribution, "functional" or not.

Any substantive changes to this policy should be announced and discussed
on ProteanOS's development mailing list [6].  The ProteanOS project is
committed to maintaining an inclusion policy that ensures that ProteanOS
remains a distribution of only free software.


Packaging and Distribution

Source packages are prepared by their maintainers and built into binary
packages.  The resulting source and binary packages are all uploaded
into the ProteanOS package archive [7][8] for users to download with
opkg (the package manager in an existing ProteanOS system) or miniprokit
(to install ProteanOS).

Some source packages are repacked from upstream to remove files that
fail to comply with the Software Inclusion Policy.  (Currently these are
eglibc, gcc-4.7, tcl8.6, and zlib.  The linux-libre package uses source
archives deblobbed and released by the GNU Linux-libre community.)  Such
repacking is done by the packages' maintainers, before the packages are
built and uploaded.  No known non-free files are included in source or
binary packages in the package archive.

A full list of source packages can be found on the wiki [9] or directly
from the package archive [10].


Version Control Systems

Currently, all source packages in the distribution are maintained in Git
repositories [11], hosted on project infrastructure.  This is an
optional but recommended service offered to package maintainers.

To be clear, the ProteanOS system itself does not use these repositories
at all; its source and binary packages come only from the package

The current best practice in the ProteanOS project is to not include
upstream sources in version control and to instead write a ""
makefile fragment to automatically download (and repack if necessary)
source archives from upstream.  The maintainer would run this build
target to download and prepare upstream sources before building source
and binary packages.  (I plan to document this practice in the wiki at
some point, but most source packages in the distribution are examples
of its implementation.)

However, repositories for some older packages and packages whose
upstream source locations are unstable have upstream source archives in
version control.  To avoid any potential ethical or legal issues in the
future, I plan to eventually change these repositories to retrieve
source archives from upstream or a more reliable location.  Of course,
so far there are no such issues to my knowledge.


Copyright Information

Every source package is required [12] by the source package format to
include a file that contains information about the copyrights in and
licenses for the software package.  This file is installed into one of
the binary packages built from the source package, in a directory under

The longest examples of such files are those in the eglibc [13] and
busybox [14] packages.



Contact Information

ProteanOS currently has one mailing list for development.  The HTML
archives [15] include a subscription form.  The posting address is

ProteanOS also has an IRC channel: #proteanos-dev on the freenode

Any issues with the distribution may be reported via either of those
media, to me directly, and/or the the maintainer(s) of an affected


Teaching Users About Free Software

Though it's more of a legal notice than an attempt to implement the
suggestion at the end of the Guidelines for Free System Distributions,
ProteanOS's </etc/motd> file [16] includes the following notice:

    The programs included with ProteanOS BusyBox/Linux-libre are free software;
    the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
    individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

    ProteanOS BusyBox/Linux-libre comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the
    extent permitted by applicable law.



My understanding of this process is that members of this list review the
distribution in detail, ask any questions they have, and point out any
possible issues they find.  Then if there are no issues, information
about the distribution is sent to FSF staff and RMS for final approval.

Please let me know what further information I might need to provide or
if anything looks problematic.

Patrick "P. J." McDermott
Lead Developer, ProteanOS

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