Do 100% open source linux distro's exist? i.e. distros which contain absolutely no closed source components anywhere at all? Apparently distros like Ubuntu contains bits and pieces which are closed source.

Please note, I am not asking for 100% free software based linux distribution, I am specifically asking for 100% open source linux distributions, distributions which have absolutely nothing within them which is closed source.

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    @oshirowanen "I get the feeling freeSoftware can include closed source software which is free". No. This statement is incorrect. "closed source software" cannot be free software, according to the standard definitions. Also, the "open source" definitions and "free software" definitions are also very similar, to the extent that I am not aware of any functional differences between them. I just prefer to use the free software defns, because they are more standard, and I prefer the term free software. – Faheem Mitha Feb 23 '14 at 15:53
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    @oshirowanen That's not free software according to the standard defns of the FSF and Debian. Think "free as in freedom". Read gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html please. Pay particular note to the list of the 4 essential freedoms. – Faheem Mitha Feb 23 '14 at 15:56
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    Money has nothing to do with it, you can have free (as in speech) software that is not free (as in beer) and vice versa. – terdon Feb 23 '14 at 16:03
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    So just to clarify, to comply with the FSF guidelines, you cannot include closed sourced anything? – oshirowanen Feb 23 '14 at 16:09
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To be clear, I'm using criteria that are usually termed as Free Software Guidelines. The two major versions of this that exist, which are very similar to be the point of being virtually indistinguishable, are the Debian and the FSF definitions.

Here is the FSF take on this. There is room for disagreement. Personally, Debian is plenty free enough for me.

Here is the FSF take on why certain distributions are not free, including Debian. At this point, the FSF problem with Debian is that it mentions/suggests non-free software, for example during the installation process. Also, it includes a non-free archive of software.

In any case, by the terms of the question, Debian should be free enough. You don't have to use the non-free components - they are clearly separated from the main (free) software archive.

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  • I fail to see any hints in your links that Debian is using closed source components. – Marco Feb 23 '14 at 15:46
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    @Marco Depends on your definition of "using closed source components". One could argue (I wouldn't) that including a non-free archive on Debian servers constitutes "use". – Faheem Mitha Feb 23 '14 at 15:46
  • The OP asked for “open source”, not for “Free Software” according to the FSF definitions. – Marco Feb 23 '14 at 15:49
  • @Marco yes, I clarified my answer. I'm using free software guidelines. If you want to vote me down for that, feel free. :-) – Faheem Mitha Feb 23 '14 at 15:52
  • @Marco, does such a thing even exist? GNU is based on Free Software principles, so seemingly it would have to be a non-GNU distro. Maybe Android fits the bill. – Graeme Feb 23 '14 at 16:37

Fedora has among its guidelines that nothing that can't be redistributed in source without legal restrictions (in the US, mainly because it is an US based distribution) is allowed. The exceptions to this are firmware for devices that the vendor allows to distribute freely, mostly distributed by/with the kernel. This is stuff that doesn't run on your principal CPU at all, it is taken as part of the device that is loaded at runtime.

Most Linux distributions have similar rules, partly for legal reasons. Ubuntu does distribute stuff that is covered by patents in the US, as it lives in another jurisdiction they can get away with it (but in principle the user could be sued over it...). And some time back there were import/export troubles to/from the US with a range of cryptography software, forcing different packages depending on your residence.

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