There is free software as in free beer and then there is software that is entirely free as in freedom (libre). These distros are ready-to-use full systems whose developers have followed the Guidelines for Free Systems Distribution as put forward by the Free Software Foundation.
And as such, these distros do not accept NONFREE applications, drivers, firmware, games or documentation. The Free Software Foundation currently endorses nine different distributions as being truly free (libre). They are Ututo XS which was the first fully free distro recognized by the GNU project, BLAG Linux and GNU, Dragora GNU/Linux-Libre, Dynebolic, gNewSense, Guix System Distribution, Musix, Trisquel and Parabola GNU/Linux-libre. Today, we will take a look at Parabola GNU/Linux-libre.
Parabola is an Arch based distribution that uses only and promotes only free software (freedom to study and modify, not to be confused with freeware). In place of the generic Linux kernel, Parabola uses Linux-libre kernel instead which removes all ‘blobs’ (binary software with no source code provided) from the generic Linux kernel. The GNU Project attempts to keep Linux-libre in synchronization with the upstream development of the Linux kernel while removing any software that does not include its source code, has its source code obfuscated, or is released under proprietary licenses.
Download and install Parabola Linux
Existing users of Arch, Arch ARM, Antergos or Manjaro need not download the installation ISO as they can easily migrate their existing system to Parabola. The developers have provided a very handy guide over here to guide you in switching to Parabola. Just head over here and follow the instructions to convert the existing system into a one that is “free as in freedom”.New users are provided with ISO that can be burned to a disc or written to a USB using ‘dd’. You can download the installation ISO from here. The ISOs are available in 3 main options, the main live ISO which comes in a little less of 700MB, Talking Parabola for the blind and the visually impaired users comes with speech and braille output and then the MATE desktop ISO for those who prefer to have a desktop and some curated software out of the box which come at a whopping 2GB in size (so much for keeping it simple).
Installing Parabola is a basically a duplication of the Arch installation process and I must say is not for faint-hearted. Users are thus allowed to tailor-build their operating system to their taste with complete customization and expansion. You can go to this guide for details on setting up Parabola.
There is also an offline guide to get you started on your installation and also provide you with some basic tips to get you going in setting up your desktop operating system.
Alternatively, you can go with the MATE desktop option which comes with a Live environment allowing you to test run the distro before deciding to install or not, but then again, what is Parabola (Arch) without your choices and customization. The default wallpaper on the MATE desktop is quite terrible and you are definitely going to change that. The rest is the usual you would expect from a typical MATE desktop with a selection of some handy software like SMPlayer, MPC Media Player, Elinks, Iceweasel, AbiWord, Gnumeric, Octopi and a few others.
The MATE desktop option comes with an installation script on the desktop to get you started with your installation.
If you love Arch, you’re definitely going to love Parabola so far as you can get alternatives to all the nonfree packages you use from Arch. The experience is basically the same and if you love to tinker extensively with your system, you are in luck as all the packages will have their source code available for fiddling and all. If some of your hardware do not have libre packages available, well then it might not be for you. Much like Arch, Parabola is what you make it. There is an online guide but you should know what you are about as there is little hand-holding there. Does Parabola GNU Linux/Libre interest you? Have you tried your hands on this distro? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below.