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pfe1223
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jebba,
How much of a difference exists between the gnewsense kernel and the vanilla kernel? What advantages would there be? Is the current gnewsense kernel the same as the LTS Ubuntu kernel? Fedora, it seems, is pretty strict when it comes to free code, however does it bother you that gnewsense is based on Ubuntu which is dependent upon closed source applications like Launchpad?

scott
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 3:14 am    Post subject: Re: 70k: Requests here! Reply with quote

jebba wrote:
scott wrote:
If hardening BLAG


This would quite kick ass.


OK, I'm more a security geek than a kernel hacker, but I'm on the mailing list now, and will start trying to get up to speed on the less familiar issues involved (eliminating non-free driver code safely, picking the perfect components for a "generic" kernel, etc.).

scott
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pfe1223 wrote:
Jebba,
How much of a difference exists between the gnewsense kernel and the vanilla kernel? What advantages would there be? Is the current gnewsense kernel the same as the LTS Ubuntu kernel? Fedora, it seems, is pretty strict when it comes to free code, however does it bother you that gnewsense is based on Ubuntu which is dependent upon closed source applications like Launchpad?


While Jebba sleeps, I'll try to answer that a little, and let him correct my blunders when he gets up.

The vanilla kernel is pretty clean of proprietary stuff, but some hardware is unsupported unless you add encumbered code or binary blobs. Some network cards, sound cards, video cards, and a few disk controllers. Debian began allowing such code/blobs, and that was carried into the Ubuntu kernel, where more encumbered code/blobs were added. Although LTS is about as full of non-free code as any other Ubuntu kernel, gnewsense was based on LTS because it was relatively bugless, slow to change, and would be around for a long time.

The differences between the LTS kernel and the gnewsense kernel are fairly large. The differences between the gnewsense kernel and a vanilla kernel are smaller. The Fedora kernel is also clean of blobs (I have heard, haven't inspected it all yet myself), and *may* be clean of non-free code, although their guidelines do not require that -- only that it be open source. Good article on the subject here: http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;394009746;fp;4194304;fpid;1

I think that the biggest differences in choosing a starting kernel are: general level of bugginess, how much proprietary junk has to be removed, and how long it will be around & supported. Vanilla is arguably buggiest, but is pretty clean of non-free stuff. FC is a little less buggy, but might have some non-free, open source code. Ubuntu is pretty bug-free, but needs massive cleanup. Gnewsense is as bug-free as Ubuntu, but may have thrown out some babies with the proprietary bathwater. I have no knowledge at all of what changes in policy at Fedora (or elsewhere) might be in store, so no guarantees that anything I've said will be true in 6 months. I'm probably hopelessly out of touch.

Because the 2.6 kernel seems destined to constant change, I suppose there is an argument for sticking with the (stable) 2.6.16 branch, or even with 2.4. Support for some bleeding-edge hardware wouldn't be there, and 2.4 would be a little slower, particularly on multiprocessor systems, but those things might not matter in the Blag context.

But I loathe technological politics, so happily leave those cans of worms to others to resolve.

pfe1223
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott,

Thanks for the info. What you said more or less coincided with what I believed to be true. However, Fedora prides themselves on being more free than Debian, and I guess that is due to the wireless dirver stuff. I know that these blobs in Debian were (still are?) cause for concern. I believe that they will still be included in Etch, but that serious discussions will take place for the next release (Lenny). I prefer stable and secure, and that is why I wanted to know about LTS and gnewsense. Once again, thanks for the info.

jebba
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gnewsense says there are binary blobs in the vanilla kernel too. Fedora tries to stay as close to the vanilla kernel as they can.
scott
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some blobs in the vanilla kernel, and, strangely enough, they are not things that would really be missed. I can understand how a significant number of people might mind the absence of an nVidia or ATI driver (since those use blobs), which are included in Ubuntu, but the ones you find in the vanilla kernel are things like device drivers for Korg 1212 sound cards. I've never even seen one of those.

The full list of drivers pulled by gnewsense can be found here, a number of those can be found in the vanilla kernel, as well as Debian/Ubuntu: http://svn.gnewsense.svnhopper.net/gnewsense/builder/trunk/firmware/firmware-removed

In the case of the FC kernel, which I *believe* has been fairly well sanitized, it would seem that few, if any, changes would be needed. There may or may not be proprietary, open-source code, but AFAIK nobody has looked into it deeply enough to be 100% sure one way or the other. I suppose I could go down gnewsense's list, see which of those files still exist in FC, and look to verify whether or not they contain any signs of being tainted.

But then again, I have no idea whether there's any wish to stay with the FC kernel, or, if so, whether 2.4, 2.6.16 stable or 2.6 semi-stable would be preferred. But I'll happily proceed if a squeaky-clean FC basis seems attractive, and if we know what kernel path (2.4, 2.6.16, or 2.6) people want to support.

noldrin
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would BLAG be able to just repackaged the gNewSense kernel?
jebba
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing to note with gnewsense's list of bad files is that they aren't necessarily bad in the vanilla kernel, just bad once they passed through ubuntu's hands.

I think the best approach would be to look at the gnewsense list of bad files and compare it against a vanilla kernel to see which files really are bad upstream. Then a separate patch would have to be made for each one... That's the hardwork part that gnewsense somehow apparently doesn't do. I'm still not entirely sure how they build their kernel...

I'd very much like to be using the latest kernel releases, not go back to 2.6.16.x so we can support more newer devices.

noldrin wrote:
Would BLAG be able to just repackaged the gNewSense kernel?


If it was a vanilla kernel + gnewsense patches, we could work from that. But they have taken some approach I don't quite understand that to me appears to not make it very usable outside the project.

-Jeff

scott
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

123 driver files were eliminated by gnewsense, 69 of those are present in the vanilla kernel. I looked at several (in the vanilla kernel source) to see how bad they looked, and about 3/4 of those would clearly qualify as blobs: the entire files were huge structs full of hex.

The remainder looked more ambiguous. If there are a few hundred lines of code, and one 32-element hex structure, is it a blob? I wouldn't think of it as such, but others might disagree.

I'll start looking at how hard it is to remove them without breaking anything.

jebba
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scott wrote:
The remainder looked more ambiguous. If there are a few hundred lines of code, and one 32-element hex structure, is it a blob? I wouldn't think of it as such, but others might disagree.


When I looked at this a month ago a couple similar files like that surprised me. I was like "wtf? why remove that?" I think the difference was that the particular source file in ubuntu and vanilla were different--ubuntu had added the blob. So in this case we'd actually support more hardware than gnewsense in that we'd use the free vanilla module instead of banishing it altogether.

noldrin
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jebba wrote:
I'd very much like to be using the latest kernel releases, not go back to 2.6.16.x so we can support more newer devices.


Personally I'm looking forward to the new kernel low power features that would be included in FC7, especially for my laptop.

dylan
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We could replace XMMS with Banshee.

Also, I'd like to see a PPC port of Blag done for people I know who have Macs and want them to be free.

scott
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

noldrin wrote:
jebba wrote:
I'd very much like to be using the latest kernel releases, not go back to 2.6.16.x so we can support more newer devices.


Personally I'm looking forward to the new kernel low power features that would be included in FC7, especially for my laptop.


I compared the FC kernel source to the vanilla kernel source, and they appear to be identical (same 69 files from the gNewSense list) in terms of blob content, so there's nothing very compelling to be found in terms of argument in favour of (or against) either one. Will be looking over the Debian and gNewSense source trees next to see what I can see.

jebba
PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dylan wrote:
We could replace XMMS with Banshee.


Banshee uses both mono and helix. What a frightening combination. No thanks.

http://bugzilla.blagblagblag.org/show_bug.cgi?id=784

scott
PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, I picked Brian Brazil's brain a little bit, and think I can de-blob the vanilla/Fedora kernel easily enough. I'll leave the security patches off for now, so that people can have a chance to test the de-blobbed kernel without any added variables.

Any preference between the latest Fedora and the latest vanilla as a starting point?

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