Finnix and GPL compliance

Finnix is an open source product; it is comprised of many pieces of software under a variety of open source licenses, and the "glue" that holds everything in Finnix together is GPLv2, so the distribution itself is considered to be GPLv2 for convenience sake.

However, very little source is actually released by Finnix itself. The kernel sources and all Finnix-specific packages are available at, but the majority of software included with Finnix is released binary-only. Believe it or not, this is done deliberately. Finnix is based on Debian, which has a long history of fastidious license reviews and source retention. The official line is "if you need sources, for 99% of the software in Finnix, Debian has already done the work for you".

However, that does not release Finnix from legal obligations. As detailed on the Legal page, Finnix complies with section 3(b) of the GPLv2, which requires a direct offer of source upon request if source is not provided directly with binaries. However, again, Debian does such a good job at source/licensing that nobody has yet to invoke this throughout Finnix's 11 year (and counting) history.

This method was chosen for practicality, not to avoid doing work. Indeed, it still takes a lot of work to prepare a Finnix release from a source compliance perspective. Years ago I wrote software called damngpl (name chosen with tongue firmly in cheek) to manage the various methods of making sure sources for all software in the Finnix userland are accounted for. The result is, for each Finnix release, a separate unreleased ISO of all sources for that release. (Finnix 102's source ISO was exactly 600 MiB, for example. By comparison, the released x86 binary CD was 114 MiB, and the PowerPC CD was 116 MiB.) These source ISOs are kept safe in several locations, and ready to be offered if needed.

All this leads to what I originally wanted to announce. While I had been doing this since Finnix 86.0's release in 2005, the original release of Finnix, 0.03 from 2000, did not have a source ISO available. Section 3(b) of the GPLv2 specifies that the written offer is valid for three years, but this is generally interpreted as from when the corresponding binaries are last offered from the releasing party. And Finnix 0.03 is actually still being released today (it is being distributed by the official mirror network).

Finnix 0.03 was based upon Red Hat Linux 6.1, and amazingly, The Internet does lose memory. (As blogged about last year, several of Finnix's own public releases, mostly pre-releases, are presumed lost.) Red Hat Linux 6.1 sources were hard to find, and updates to RHL 6.1 were even harder. But in the end, I was able to collect SRPMs for every single package in Finnix 0.03. So now Finnix is able to account for sources for every piece of software in each of its 18 releases in its 11 year history.

PowerPC distributions

Finnix has had PowerPC support for over 5 years now, and is frequently mentioned by PowerPC Linux enthusiasts. Part of the reason is while PowerPC is well supported in the Linux kernel, sadly very few distributions support PowerPC any more. Finnix is one of only two PowerPC LiveCDs, and IMHO the most popular (the other is GeeXboX, a graphical multimedia LiveCD). As for installable distributions, very few support more architectures than 32/64-bit x86 these days.

So I decided to make a list of Linux distributions with PowerPC support. I took the list at and weeded out errors, distros that are no longer active, distros that are active but no longer have PowerPC support, etc.

Vine Linux (a Japanese language distro) was on this list when I compiled it a few weeks ago. But since then Vine 6.0 was released with no PowerPC support, and the release notes make no mention of its removal.

Finnix at DEFCON 19

I was at DEFCON 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada last week, with Finnix stickers and CDs in tow. And I gave away a lot of stickers, approximately 150. Enough that when I got back, I heard from multiple people who had been at the conference and saw other people who had Finnix stickers on their bag, laptop, etc.

Of course, you can also receive free Finnix stickers through a variety of methods. The self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) method has been pretty successful since I launched it earlier this year, and I send out SASE stickers a few times per month. Monetary donations help support Finnix and will also receive free stickers as a thank you.