Discussion:
Preinstall slightly modified Debian on laptops for sale
(too old to reply)
Kumar Appaiah
2017-12-07 12:27:34 UTC
Permalink
Dear Debian Legal,

I am working with a team that is working on a low-cost laptop that
would be GNU/Linux based. When it comes to choice of distribution that
would be preinstalled on the laptop, Debian is among them. In this
context, please let me know the following:

- Do I need someone's permission to sell the laptop with Debian
GNU/Linux preinstalled?

- Since the laptop is Cherry Trail based, some extra drivers and
modules are needed for sound and wifi, thereby requiring a custom
kernel. If I bundle a custom kernel (with legally freely
redistributable files), can I still go ahead and redistribute this
custom version without permission? Note that this is the only
modification to stock "stretch".

Thanks.

Kumar
--
It's now the GNU Emacs of all terminal emulators.
-- Linus Torvalds, regarding the fact that Linux started off as a terminal emulator
Ian Jackson
2017-12-07 12:53:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kumar Appaiah
Dear Debian Legal,
Firstly, you need to know that this mailing list is for discussion
etc. and is not empowered to make decisions on behalf of Debian, or on
behalf of the copyrightholders of the software in Debian.

Also, I am not a lawyer and I am definitely not your lawyer.

So what I say is in an effort to be helpful, but you remain solely
responsible for whatever you do, even if my advice below turns out to
be wrong.
Post by Kumar Appaiah
I am working with a team that is working on a low-cost laptop that
would be GNU/Linux based. When it comes to choice of distribution that
would be preinstalled on the laptop, Debian is among them. In this
- Do I need someone's permission to sell the laptop with Debian
GNU/Linux preinstalled?
No, you don't.

But there is a question about branding: if you want to mention Debian
in your advertising, which you probably do want to, you should read
the Debian trademark policy:
https://www.debian.org/trademark
Post by Kumar Appaiah
- Since the laptop is Cherry Trail based, some extra drivers and
modules are needed for sound and wifi, thereby requiring a custom
kernel. If I bundle a custom kernel (with legally freely
redistributable files), can I still go ahead and redistribute this
custom version without permission? Note that this is the only
modification to stock "stretch".
If the drivers are Free Software with a Linux-kernel-compatible
licence (freely _modifiable_ under the terms of the GNU GPL2, not
merely freely redistributable) then there is no problem.

If the drivers are not Free Software (for example, the "source code"
is obfuscated, or the drivers are supplied only as binary .ko files)
then that is forbiddden by the licence of Linux.

But there are a couple of other things that might give concern about
this approach: firstly, what about security support ? Bugs in the
Linux kernel are frequently discovered. Your users will need to get
those security updates. Maintaining your own version of the kernel,
and distributing updates to it, is going to be a lot of work for you.

Does a Debian backports kernel not meet the needs of this hardware ?
Or maybe a kernel from Debian testing (aka "buster", the release
currently in preparation) ?

Your users would probably be better-served by a preconfiguration which
uses a kernel from Debian, even perhaps one which is not yet
officially released by Debian, than if you try to roll your own.
(This should be done by appropriate apt configuration, so that when
Debian provides new kernels, the user gets them automatically.)

Although Debian doesn't formally give security support for all of
these kernels, in practice they would probably get updated faster than
you would mananage if you had to do it yourselves.

Ian.
--
Ian Jackson <***@chiark.greenend.org.uk> These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address @fyvzl.net or @evade.org.uk, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.
Ian Jackson
2017-12-07 12:56:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kumar Appaiah
I am working with a team that is working on a low-cost laptop that
would be GNU/Linux based. When it comes to choice of distribution that
would be preinstalled on the laptop, Debian is among them. In this
I should say that the legal aspects of my answer are not specific to
Debian.

And it remains that your users would be better off with a kernel from
their distro, whatever that distro is.

Ian.
--
Ian Jackson <***@chiark.greenend.org.uk> These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address @fyvzl.net or @evade.org.uk, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.
Kumar Appaiah
2017-12-07 14:36:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Jackson
Post by Kumar Appaiah
I am working with a team that is working on a low-cost laptop that
would be GNU/Linux based. When it comes to choice of distribution that
would be preinstalled on the laptop, Debian is among them. In this
I should say that the legal aspects of my answer are not specific to
Debian.
And it remains that your users would be better off with a kernel from
their distro, whatever that distro is.
Thanks for the perspectives, Ian. I guess that we would have to
maintain the kernel separately till this becomes upstream. I will
figure out the other aspects at my end.

Kumar
--
Linux is obsolete
(Andrew Tanenbaum)
Ian Jackson
2017-12-11 14:55:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kumar Appaiah
Post by Ian Jackson
And it remains that your users would be better off with a kernel from
their distro, whatever that distro is.
Thanks for the perspectives, Ian. I guess that we would have to
maintain the kernel separately till this becomes upstream. I will
figure out the other aspects at my end.
Good luck.

As a practical matter, if you do end up maintaining your own kernel,
you will probably find that the same kernel can be used for many
different Debian derivatives. (If you are really lucky you'll find
that some Debian derivative already has a useful kernel and you can
supply the Debian userland with that distro's kernel, until Debian
gets the relevant drivers.)

Ian.
--
Ian Jackson <***@chiark.greenend.org.uk> These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address @fyvzl.net or @evade.org.uk, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.
Paul Wise
2017-12-07 13:06:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kumar Appaiah
I am working with a team that is working on a low-cost laptop that
would be GNU/Linux based. When it comes to choice of distribution that
would be preinstalled on the laptop, Debian is among them.
When that happens, please ensure you get added to our list of preinstallers:

https://www.debian.org/distrib/pre-installed
--
bye,
pabs

https://wiki.debian.org/PaulWise
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