HyperBola Linux Ditches Linux, Goes All-In BSD

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The Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre operating system has, or had, strict guidelines for what software is allowed in its Arch Linux based distribution. Only stable versions of truly free software were allowed. The HyperBola Linux developers just announced that they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and re-starting from scratch with OpenBSD as a basis for an entirely new operating system called HyperbolaBSD. The developers cite the Linux kernel's adoption of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), use of the Rust programming language and forced adoption of features in common GNU/Linux components like PulseAudio and systemd as reasons for abandoning Linux and the ecosystem around it.

written by 윤채경 (Yoon Chae-kyung). published 2012-12-24last edited 2019-12-26

What's a HyperBola anwyay?

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This is what Hyperbola 0.3 "Milky Way"s live image looks like.

HyperBola's "Frequently Asked Questions" page describes the Arch Linux based free software only distribution as:

"a long-term support distribution based on Arch GNU/Linux plus stability and security from Debian GNU/Linux. It isn't a rolling release distribution like Arch because Hyperbola is using Arch snapshots for its versions and Parabola blacklist as base to keep it 100% libre. Also Hyperbola is using Debian patches, therefore all packages are being stabilized with improvements through its development."

Hyperbola FAQ, December 23rd, 2019

HyperBola Linux is essentially Arch Linux without non-free user-violating packages and some Debian security patches on top. No proprietary software like unrar and the binary blob drivers for Nvidia graphics cards is allowed. Free software advocate Richard Stallman would likely approve of its existing Linux-based distribution.

It appears that the developers of HyperBola believe the direction Linux and its ecosystem is heading is increasingly conflicting with its strict "must respect your freedom policy" to the point where they have decided to give up on Linux and move to a OpenBSD base. The shocking announcement published on December 21st, 2019, list several perceived problems free software users should pay attention to.

The Problems With Linux

Freebsd-beastie.png

The HyperBola developers cite "Linux kernel forcing adaption of DRM, including HDCP" as one of the main reason they are turning their back on Linus Torvalds and his Linux kernel.

"High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection", developed by Intel, is a user-restricting defective by design system designed to prevent "protected" content from being used on "unauthorized devices". It is, by design, incompatible with the free software spirit.

The specific objection put forth by the The HyperBola developers refers to the work done by Google's Sean Paul and Intel's Ramalingam C on the kernel's "High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection" (HDCP) stack (drivers/gpu/drm/drm_hdcp.c) and the Intel iGPU support for it in kernel source file drivers/gpu/drm/i915/display/intel_hdcp.c as well as the AMD support for HDCP in the folder drivers/gpu/drm/amd/display/ which, interestingly, only lists AMD as Authors: of that code. A close-up inspection fo the kernel's git changelog for amd/display/modules/hdcp/hdcp.c reveals that Bhawanpreet Lakha authored the offensive code. AMDs Harry Wentland reviewed it and AMDs Alex Deucher committed it.

Linux Kernel 5.5 will have a new option called DRM_AMD_DC_HDCP for the AMD GPU display driver which is described as "Enable HDCP support in DC". Intel has had a kernel driver available under "Misc" called INTEL_MEI_HDCP for quite some time. It is described as "Enables the ME FW services required for HDCP2.2 support through 915 display driver of Intel." There's also HDCP support in the Qualcomm MSM display driver for ARM SOCs.

It is tempting to point out that it's quite possible to just say no to the kernel's HDCP-related options. Resistance is, for now, far from futile. End-users who compile their own kernel and distribution providers are free to choose if they want to enable the objectionable code.

The second objection HyperBolas developers point to is the Linux kernel's potential adoption of the Rust programming language. Second-in-charge of the Linux kernel, Greg Kroah-Hartman, has indicated to josh of LWN that:

"he'd be willing to accept a framework in the kernel for writing drivers in Rust, as long as 1) for now it wasn't enabled by default (even if you did "make allyesconfig") so that people don't *need* Rust to build the kernel, and 2) it shows real benefits beyond writing C, such as safe wrappers for kernel APIs."

LWN, published August 29th, 2019

Those statements do not automatically mean a) that such a Rust framework exists today - it doesn't or b) that Linus Torvalds would accept anything but C into the kernel driver regardless of his second-in-command's opinion.

The third objection against the Linux kernel is more general:

"Linux kernel being written without security and in mind."

Announcing HyperbolaBSD Roadmap, December 21st, 2019

In bullet summary, the objections are:

  • The Linux Kernel has optional support for HDCP.
  • There is a chance that a Rust framework for drivers, if one is written, could be accepted into the Linux kernel
  • The "Linux kernel (is) being written without security and in mind"

You are free to do your own judgements on the validity of these claims/objections. It is a very personal choice.

The Problems With GNU's Userspace

"Many GNU userspace and core utils are all forcing adaption of features without build time options to disable them. E.g. (PulseAudio / systemd / Rust / Java as forced dependencies)"

Announcing HyperbolaBSD Roadmap, December 21st, 2019

Non-optional dependencies in PulseAudio and systemd are a concern. One solution would be to uses ALSA's dmix or something else instead of PulseAudio. For those who are unfamiliar with PulseAudio: It sits between the applications and the kernel's ALSA audio sub-system. It provides features like per-application volume control. It or something like it is required if you want to play audio on one machine using the outputs on another machine on the local network. It's absolutely not required to send audio from a music player on a machine to locally conneted speakers.

systemd is also not required to build a GNU/Linux distribution. OpenRC, used by Gentoo Linux and Alpine Linux, is one alternative and there are others. It's possible to avoid both systemd and pulseaudio without going full BSD.

It's Over, HyperBola Linux Is Dead

All future version of HyperBola will be based on OpenBSD's userspace. They are, in effect, abandoning everything they've built so far and re-starting from scratch with an OpenBSD fork.

It's a change choice. It is, of course, theirs to make.

The five people outside of its developers who are using HyperBola Linux will be pleased to learn that the current "Milky Way" relelase will be supported until 2022.

The Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre operating system, soon to be named HyperBolaBSD, has a homepage at hyperbola.info and that's where you find their HyperbolaBSD Roadmap announcement.

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Anonymous user #1

8 months ago
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Hyperbola? Whatever happened to Parabola-Linux?
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Anonymous user #2

8 months ago
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parabola and hyperbola are different distros
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Anonymous user #3

7 months ago
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"The five people outside of its developers who are using HyperBola Linux ..." A person who feels the need to express this kind (or any kind) of derogatory information is clearly emotionally immature, which is no surprise, seen the fact that the governing elites strongly encourage this as way to constantly prove the populace's inadequacy to rule themselves (i.e.: democracy does not and can not actually truly exist). The general population's lack of relevant general knowledge and of willpower only reinforce the convictions of the ruling elites regarding their "right" to own or control the planet and everyone on it.
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Anonymous user #4

3 months ago
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Found one of the hyperbola users ;D
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Anonymous user #2

2 months ago
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Reading this article was sorely disappointed by the underhanded swipe at the Hyperbola distro in the last sentence of said article- in bold yet - hmm. I'm just one of many searching for a gnu/linux distro, attempting to make a informed choice, wading thru the glut of distros available - Often the entire purpose of each just to provide it's own tweaked desktop with no concern around streamlining the o/s, security or privacy. Researching to choose - is how I ended up here, reading this article/tho really with the articles inclusion of the last sentence it looks like the purpose was just to ridicule the distro. I follow gnu/linux news, use gnu/linux- rarely. Have arrived at the conclusion that the overwhelming amount of distros out there are forked shoots - that don't offer much new- but like to promote their pretty flashy bloated desktops. That systemd as a personal choice - will not be mine. Too many distros come bundled with a lot of useless stuff - like google browser, or geoclue2, all the crap bloat, one hopes to escape by switching to a gnu/linux o/s and break from MS. Might as well go to windows10. Hyperbola is one of the few distros that has not included that bloat and attempted to make firefox less of the bloated, tracking browser it has become- as to Trackers - Shut down geo, pocket etc. Anyways anything the writer of this article had to say about Hyperbola and what and why it was moving to a different init, purposely in the closing sentence was obviously just an excuse to take a swipe at them and attempt to ridicule the distro. I've taken the time to learn how to cli install it, liked it. Along with continuing to try other distros out there. But guess the author/commentors of this article figure it made them look like big guys. This is everything that is wrong with the Linux Commuinity. I am sorry to see how limited the availability has become for distros offering true freedom , privacy , etc. How bout supporting these people rather than sitting on the sidelines taking childish swipes. Is this author (and Commentors) actively involved in creating a distro that will protect users privacy, be streamlined and have continued support, updates and be bloat free. To do the research around the linux kernel and the changes that have been happening (or not as the case may be) and what those changes truly mean? There are very few distros available that truly support user freedom and privacy. In the past there were more. Why was it necessary to attempt to undermine this one. Through the years these types of choices/distro's have become rarer. I count myself lucky there are still some available. I would rather support their efforts then undermine them and am looking forward to their BSD based distros when it is released - and will be trying it. As an addendum - no Im not part of their project. Not a user. Nor someone who normally bothers to comment. But between this article and the comments to it - it's leaves a bad taste, which appears to be the intention. I am an individual who has installed way too many distros in an attempt to find one that I want to stay with. Have been researching kernels , inits, privacy, security, browsers, package managers. Along with Gnu/Linux history. In that search Hyperbola was in top of my list, but even if it wasn't I would be unimpressed by this articles closing sentence and wonder why the author felt the need for the ridicule in the closing sentence for any distro.
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