Uruguay violates GPL by deleting root on OLPCs

John Gilmore gnu at toad.com
Wed Jul 7 15:42:28 EDT 2010

> Please explain your statement that lack of root violates GPLv3.   Couldn't
> the owner of the system insert a SD card with a developer's version of
> Linux, mount the internal drive of the XO, and tinker with the installed
> packages as root from the external OS?  Does GPLv3 expressly mention root
> access?

The laptops refuse to boot a "developer's version of Linux".  They
require a signed kernel and initrd.  Some people call this DRM;
it's definitely "TiVoization" (check Wikipedia if you don't know the term).

> I think Ubuntu disables root logins, but allows sudo access for root
> permissions.   Is that a violation of the GPLv3?

As Eben explained, the GPLv3 doesn't require root, it just requires
that you be provided all the info you need to install modified
software of your choice, in the environment in which the binaries were
shipped.  "su" is fine, if documented, and it is.


PS: Get a clue, folks.  This is bigger than OLPC.  You've been spoiled
by 50+ years of general purpose computers without cryptographic access
controls.  Four big oligopolies (Intel, Microsoft, Hollywood, and NSA)
are all trying to wipe out the general purpose computer and replace it
with one that only allows running "approved" software.  They've
jiggered the law to make it illegal to "circumvent" such controls,
even if you own the hardware and all the software is free.  All the
Apple products except the Macintosh are already this way (and they
produce more revenue for Apple than the Macintosh), and their
customers have barely noticed or complained.  It gets harder in every
generation of iPhones to jailbreak them, even if it was legal; they're
closing in on shipping products that close *all* the exploitable
holes, leaving the buyer totally at Apple's mercy.  If even the free
software community shuts up and demurs when one of our flagship
projects locks down the hardware to disallow freedom, why should *any*
evil empire delay going right ahead and screwing every consumer, every
curious questioner, and every tinkerer?

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