Article published by: Leah Rowe
Date of publication: 17 July 2023
UPDATE, 27 October 2023: The Censored Libreboot and nonGeNUine Boot websites have merged into a new project, called Canoeboot. Canoeboot is a new Libreboot-endorsed spinoff project (official fork).
See: Canoeboot 20231026 release - the original article below showed a desire to work with GNU Boot, but it has now been decided that Canoeboot will be an official project of Libreboot, providing releases under the old Binary Blob Elimination Policy (instead of Libreboot’s current Binary Blob Reduction Policy).
The situation on 27 October 2023 is not much different, in substance. Please see: Canoeboot vs GNU Boot - Canoeboot will now compete with GNU Boot, rather than try to assist it; they didn’t accept Libreboot’s help anyway.
People have been waiting for me to break the silence about this. I go on about it on IRC. This article is intended to address it once and for all, officially.
I waited so long, because until recently there really wasn’t anything tangible to talk about; why talk about vaporware? Why indeed.
This doesn’t need to be an overly long post, so it won’t be. There is a fork of Libreboot, named GNU Boot, which you can find on the GNU Savannah website.
Long story short, when I saw this, I decided that I would try to help the project. More on this next:
If you want to skip the lecture, just read these first and re-visit this page (the one you’re reading now) afterwards for more context:
Or generally: https://notgnuboot.vimuser.org/ - non-GeNUine Boot website
These links, above, are for an unofficial fork of Libreboot that I have done myself, proposed for re-use by the new GNU Boot project. I am not a member of the GNU Boot project, but I do want to see it succeed.
GNU Boot? What is that, you ask me? It is a fork of Libreboot by the GNU project, but it currently does not have a website and does not have any releases of its own. My intent is to help them, and they are free - encouraged - to re-use my work, linked above.
They forked Libreboot, due to disagreement with Libreboot’s Binary Blob Reduction Policy. This is a pragmatic policy, enacted in November 2022, to increase the number of coreboot users by increasing the amount of hardware supported in Libreboot. Libreboot’s Freedom Status page describes in great detail, how that policy is implemented - the last few Libreboot releases have vastly expanded the list of hardware supported, which you can read here.
I wish GNU Boot all the best success. Truly. Although I think their project is entirely misguided (for reasons explained by modern Libreboot policy), I do think there is value in it. It provides continuity for those who wish to use something resembling the old Libreboot project; some context:
Previously, another project started by me named osboot existed - osboot, created in December 2020, ran for just under two years as a separate project, and it very much resembled what Libreboot is today.
osboot was a fork of Libreboot, that I created myself, and maintained in parallel to Libreboot. The old osboot Git repositories are still available here, archived for historical purposes: https://notabug.org/osboot
In November 2022, I shut down osboot’s website and redirected it to the Libreboot website, merging all of its documentation and additional code into Libreboot. Libreboot adopted OSBoot policy, verbatim. The Binary Blob Reduction Policy is that policy - the old Libreboot policy was declared obsolete, and abandoned - the main problem with it, and the problem with GNU Boot today which is based on it, is that it limited the amount of hardware that Libreboot could support.
OSBoot was always the superior project, and Libreboot was practically dead, so I saw nothing to lose and just did it. I merged them together.
Ordinarily, I would ignore other projects; it’s not that I’m bothered by them, it’s just that I have Libreboot, which pleases me, and therefore I have no need to worry about the others. They can sort themselves out. I work collaboratively with a few other coreboot distros; for example, I sometimes provide advice or ideas to the Heads project (a very interesting project, superior to Libreboot in many ways). I recently helped them by offering to host tarballs for them, that they use in their build system.
But that’s just the problem: when GNU Boot first launched, as a failed hostile fork of Libreboot under the same name, I observed: their code repository was based on Libreboot from late 2022, and their website based on Libreboot in late 2021. Their same-named Libreboot site was announced during LibrePlanet 2023, by this video: https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/taking-control-over-the-means-of-production-free-software-boot/ - their speaker is Denis Carikli, an early contributor to Libreboot, who you can read about here: https://libreplanet.org/2023/speakers/#6197. Denis is one of the founders of that project.
Well, now they are calling themselves GNU Boot, and it is indeed GNU, but it still has the same problem as of today: still based on very old Libreboot, and they don’t even have a website. According to Savannah, GNU Boot was created on 11 June 2023. Yet no real development, in over a month since then.
I have this itch in the back of my mind, that says: if you’re going to do something, you should do it. When someone expresses disagreement with what I say, I can respect it if it’s more than just words, which is all what they had given at the time of this article.
I value technical excellence.
Simple: I’ve decided that I want to help them. Refer to the links above, in the early section of this article. I decided recently that I’d simply make a release for them, exactly to their specifications (GNU Free System Distribution Guidelines), talking favourably about FSF/GNU, and so on. I’m in a position to do it (thus scratching the itch), so why not?
I did this release for them: https://notgnuboot.vimuser.org/news/nongenuineboot20230717.html - it’s designated non-GeNUine Boot 20230717, and I encourage them to re-use this in their project, to get off the ground. This completely leapfrogs their current development; it’s months ahead. Months. It’s 8 months ahead, since their current revision is based upon Libreboot from around ~October 2022.
The most remarkable thing of all is this: in December 2022 is when I first learned of their supposed effort. They tried to poach several Libreboot developers behind my back, but none of them were interested it seems, and one of them leaked the existence of their effort to me. I knew three months before they announced that they were going to announce something, and I reliably predicted it’d be at LibrePlanet.
The most absurd thing of that is: why did they not contact me?
The GNU people should have simply contacted me from the start. I would have helped them. I did Libreboot releases under their policies for years, and I know what I’m doing. Ideology aside, I enjoy fun technical challenges; I have a wide depth of knowledge and expertise. I offer it now, as I have today, and will continue to do so. I offer my support, in service to it, even if I would personally never use nor recommend their project. One of the purposes of today’s article is simply to tell people they exist, because I hope maybe they’ll get more devs. They use the same build system as Libreboot, so Libreboot could even merge a lot of any actual code/ideas that they produce (and they can merge our work - and I want them to do that).
There were/are more things to talk about, but I’m not really interested in writing more. Free as in freedom? Libreboot is a free software project, yet GNU propaganda says otherwise.
GNU Boot is inferior to Libreboot in every way, just as Libreboot was inferior to OSBoot before the Libreboot/OSBoot merge; since modern (post-merge) Libreboot still provides the same blob-free configurations on mainboards when that is possible, GNU Boot is also a pointless project, just as Libreboot was before I merged osboot with it, but I digress.
What more is there to say?
The non-GeNUine Boot website, and the non-GeNUine release itself, was originally named GNU Boot, but clearly marked as unofficial, with the hope that the GNU project would adapt and re-use it for their project. I did this, specifically to help them get up to date. They currently use Libreboot from about 8 months ago (late 2022), and that revision used coreboot releases from ~mid 2021.
Libreboot regularly updates to newer coreboot revisions, containing many fixes in its build system, and engages in active build system audit; GNU Boot is poorly audited. GNU Boot as of now has bugs such as: errors literally not being handled, in many critical areas of the build system, due to improper use of subshells within shell scripts (Libreboot’s build system is implemented with shell scripts), improper handling of git credentials in the coreboot build system, fam15h boards no longer compiling correct on modern Linux distros… the list goes on. All fixed, in newer Libreboot, including the recent release.
The GNU Boot people actually sent me a cease and desist email, citing trademark infringement. Amazing.
Despite the nonGeNUine Boot site having clearly stating that it’s unofficial, and not the GNU Boot project. I literally made it to help them. You know, to help them use newer Libreboot because they use old Libreboot and even older coreboot.
Anyway, I complied with their polite request and have renamed the project to non-GeNUine Boot. The release archive was re-compiled, under this new brand name and the website was re-written accordingly.
Personally, I like the new name better.
Here is a screenshot of the cease and desist request that I received, from Adrien ‘neox’ Bourmault who is a founding member of the GNU Boot project:
This, after they themselves tried to steal the name Libreboot for their fork, when they first announced themselves on 19 March 2023 at LibrePlanet, only renaming to GNU Boot months later (on 11 June 2023). Utter hypocrisy, and a great irony to boot.
I may very well send patches. If I want to.
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