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Freedo, official mascot of Linux-libre
Freedo the penguin, mascot of the Linux-libre kernel
Linux-Libre 3.0.66-1 Boot.png
Linux-libre kernel 3.0.66-1 booting
Original author(s)Linus Torvalds et al
Developer(s)Free Software Foundation Latin America
Initial releaseFebruary 20, 2008; 14 years ago[1] (2008-02-20)
Stable release
5.16.15-gnu[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 17 March 2022; 1 day ago (17 March 2022)
Preview release
5.17-rc8-gnu[3] Edit this on Wikidata / 13 March 2022
Written inC and Assembly
Platformx64, i386, ia32, ARM (Parabola), MIPS (Debian), m68k,[4] RISC-V,[5] IBM POWER8 and above[6]
Available inEnglish

Linux-libre is a modified version of the Linux kernel that contains no binary blobs, obfuscated code, or code released under proprietary licenses.[8] In the Linux kernel, they are mostly used for proprietary firmware images. While generally redistributable, binary blobs do not give the user the freedom to audit, modify, or, consequently, redistribute their modified versions. The GNU Project keeps Linux-libre in synchronization with the mainline Linux kernel.


The Linux kernel started to include binary blobs in 1996.[9] The work to clear out the binary blobs began in 2006 with gNewSense's find-firmware and gen-kernel. This work was taken further by the BLAG Linux distribution in 2007 when deblob and Linux-libre was born.[10][11]

Linux-libre was first released by the Free Software Foundation Latin America (FSFLA), then endorsed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF)[12] as a valuable component for the totally free Linux distributions. It became a GNU package in March 2012.[13] Alexandre Oliva is the project maintainer.

Proprietary firmware removal

The GNU logo with Freedo, Linux-libre's mascot


The removal process is achieved by using a script called deblob-main.[14] This script is inspired by the one used for gNewSense. Jeff Moe made subsequent modifications to meet certain requirements for its use with the BLAG Linux and GNU distribution. There is another script called deblob-check,[15] which is used to check if a kernel source file, a patch or a compressed sources file still contains software which is suspected of being proprietary.


Aside from the primary intended effect of running a system with only free software, the practical consequences of removing device firmware that a user is not allowed to study or modify has both positive and negative effects.

Removal of device firmware can be considered an advantage for security and stability, when the firmware cannot be audited for bugs, for security problems, and for malicious operations such as backdoors, or when the firmware cannot be fixed by the Linux kernel maintainers themselves, even if they know of problems. It is possible for the entire system to be compromised by a malicious firmware, and without the ability to perform a security audit on manufacturer-provided firmware, even an innocent bug could undermine the safety of the running system.[16]

Side effects

The downside of removing proprietary firmware from the kernel is that it will cause loss of functionality of certain hardware that does not have a free software replacement available. This affects certain sound, video, TV tuner, and network (especially wireless) cards, as well as some other devices. When possible, free software replacement firmware is provided as a substitute,[17] such as the openfwwf[18] for b43, carl9170[19] and ath9k_htc[20] wireless card drivers.


The source code and precompiled packages of the deblobbed Linux kernel are available directly from the distributions which use the Linux-libre scripts. Freed-ora is a subproject which prepares and maintains RPM packages based on Fedora.[21] There are also precompiled packages for Debian[22] and derived distributions such as Ubuntu.[23]


Parabola GNU/Linux-libre uses Linux-libre as its default kernel and ship with linux-libre-tools packages.[24]

Distributions in which Linux-libre is the default kernel

Considered small distributions


Distributions that compile a free Linux kernel

These distros do not use the packaged Linux-libre but instead completely remove binary blobs from the mainline Linux kernel, to make Linux-libre. The source is then compiled and the resulting free Linux kernel is used by default in these systems:

  • Trisquel (The Linux-libre deblob script is used during its development[26][27]).


Linux-libre as an alternative kernel

Distributions in which Linux is the default kernel used and which propose Linux-libre as an alternative kernel:

See also


  1. ^ blag-announce (February 20, 2008). "[blag-devel] linux-libre". Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Index of /pub/linux-libre/freesh/dists/freesh/main/binary-m68k". Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  5. ^ "Index of /pub/linux-libre/freesh/dists/freesh/main/binary-riscv64". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  6. ^ "Index of /pub/linux-libre/freesh/dists/freesh/main/binary-ppc64el". Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "Linux-libre - Free Software Directory".
  8. ^ Free Software Foundation (2013),, retrieved 5 January 2014
  9. ^ Take your freedom back, with Linux-2.6.33-libre FSFLA, 2010.
  10. ^ Alexandre Oliva: Linux-libre and the prisoners’ dilemma FSFLA, 2009.
  11. ^ jebba: BLAG :: View topic - Linux Libre Archived October 11, 2018, at the Wayback Machine BLAG forums, 2008.
  12. ^ Free Software Foundation. "Linux (BLOB free version)". Free Software Directory. Retrieved December 6, 2011. [...] in the interest of freedom, we are providing a link to a version of the kernel in which this proprietary code has been removed so that it is entirely free software
  13. ^ Oliva, Alexandre (March 19, 2012). "GNU Linux-libre 3.3-gnu is now available" (Mailing list). info-gnu. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  14. ^ Free Software Foundation Latin America. "How it is done". Linux-libre, Free as in Freedo. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  15. ^ "fsfla - Revision 8200: /software/linux-libre/scripts". Free Software Foundation Latin America. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  16. ^ Delugré, Guillaume (November 21, 2010). Reversing the Broacom NetExtreme's Firmware(PDF). Sogeti. Archived from the original(PDF) on April 25, 2012. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  17. ^ "LinuxLibre:Devices that require non-free firmware". LibrePlanet. February 5, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  18. ^ "OpenFWWF - Open FirmWare for WiFi networks". Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  19. ^ "en:users:drivers:carl9170 [Linux Wireless]".
  20. ^ "en:users:drivers:ath9k_htc [Linux Wireless]".
  21. ^ Free Software Foundation Latin America. "Linux-libre's Freed-ora project". Retrieved December 6, 2011. Freed-ora is a sub-project that prepares and maintains 100% Free RPMs that track Fedora's non-Free kernels
  22. ^ Millan, Robert (April 23, 2009). "Linux-libre for Debian Lenny". [Debian Mailing Lists] Announcements for developers (Mailing list). Retrieved May 12, 2009. This is to announce that Debian packages of Linux-libre [...] are now available for Lenny users who want to use them [...]
  23. ^ Gündüz, Ali. "Uncle Gnufs' World Famous Home Baked Free Kernel Shoppe". Archived from the original on November 9, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  24. ^ "Parabola GNU/Linux-libre - linux-libre-tools (x86_64) - Group Details". Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  25. ^ "Porting ProteanOS to a New Platform – ProteanOS".
  26. ^ "Documentation | Trisquel GNU/Linux - Run free!".
  27. ^
  28. ^ Index of downloads,, retrieved 16 February 2017
  29. ^ Bruce Byfield (August 1, 2008). "Linux-libre project meets rocky reception". SourceForge, Inc.
  30. ^ "/gnewsense/packages-parkes/linux-2.6 : contents of debian/README.gNewSense at revision 16". Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  31. ^ Fossi, Damián (August 24, 2009). "Linux-libre: Resumen del proyecto" [Linux-libre: Project summary]. Forja (in Spanish). Archived from the original on February 24, 2010. Retrieved December 6, 2001.
  32. ^ Arch Linux (November 16, 2015). "AUR (en) linux-libre". AUR. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  33. ^ "::[FSFLA]:: GNU Linux-libre's Freed-ora project". Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  34. ^ O'Kelly, Tim (April 14, 2009). "Bug 266157". Gentoo's Bugzilla. Gentoo Linux. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  35. ^ "Linux-libre". Install Gentoo Wiki. Gentoo Linux. January 8, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  36. ^ "FreeSlack". Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  37. ^ "installation [FreeSlack Wiki]". Retrieved August 9, 2016.

External links