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This article's aim is to provide answers to questions often asked by users who moved to Parabola from Arch and other non-free GNU/Linux distros. It discusses issues caused by making the system completely free. For explanation on technical details of the system look at Arch FAQ.

1 Packages

1.1 Why is package X missing, even though it's available in Arch?

This usually means the package is non-free or has some other freedom-related issues. Since Parabola follows the GNU FSDG we don't include proprietary software and you can't get it from official repositories. To make sure the package was removed from Parabola because of that, you can check the blacklist:

$ grep package_name /usr/share/doc/your-freedom/blacklist.txt

1.2 How is package X different from its counterpart in Arch?

Packages are typically modified for reasons such as containing non-free parts, recommending non-free software or branding. To find out how a specific package was modified check the blacklist:

$ grep package_name /usr/share/doc/your-freedom/blacklist.txt

If you're looking for more details, you'll have to clone abslibre.git repository containing PKGBUILD files used for building packages in [libre]. Grab corresponding PKGBUILD from Arch website and just run diff on both of them.

1.3 Why do I get an error message about missing shared library or unsatisfiable dependency?

This section is regarding error messages of the following form, when starting a program:

/usr/lib/qtcreator/plugins/libQbsProjectManager.so: Cannot load library
/usr/lib/qtcreator/plugins/libQbsProjectManager.so: (libqbscore.so.1.14: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory)

... and of the following form, when installing a package or upgrading with pacman:

error: failed to prepare transaction (could not satisfy dependencies)
:: installing clang (10.0.0-2) breaks dependency 'clang=9.0.1' required by qtcreator

Most programs use external libraries which are installed on the system. Some programs will only work with the same specific version of certain libraries, which was present on the system on which they were compiled. When one of those libraries receives an upgrade in Arch, after some time it's pulled into the Parabola repo, and programs which depend on the previous version of the library may stop working. Usually, the solution is clear: to re-compile program with the new libraries installed.

The simplest way for each user to resolve the problem, is to downgrade the dependency which received an upgrade. Alternatively, you can obtain the build recipe for the broken package from the AbsLibre tree remake the package yourself with `makepkg -irs`. In either case, please notify the Parabola hackers about the issue, by opening a ticket on the issue tracker, if there is not one already, so that it can be fixed promptly for everyone.

1.4 Will non-free AUR packages be removed after migrating to Parabola?

No. Parabola doesn't support AUR in any way. After migrating to Parabola you'll have to verify any installed AUR package and manually remove the non-free ones. Since AUR packages are typically built and installed by user, you can identify them by running:

$ pacman -Qm

Some AUR packages find their way into official Parabola repository named [pcr]. If you can't find the package you need there, ask a hacker to add it to parabola, either on the "assist" mailing list or the "package request" section of the bug tracker, and they can help determine if it meets the FSDG standards.

Some user made a request for the AUR blacklist, but apparently little work was done on it. For more details look at the bug report and unfinished blacklist.

1.5 Why Parabola doesn't reuse all the AUR and Arch Linux packages that have a free software license?

Parabola is compliant with the Free System Distribution Guidelines (GNU FSDG).

The requirement of these guidelines go way beyond only requiring the distribution to be 100% free software for good reasons.

For instance:

  • Fully free Software that is only meant to install nonfree graphics drivers exist.
  • Some packages might include nonfree firmwares while the package reports a free software license.
  • Sometimes even obscure packages that don't interact with hardware can have nonfree component like a nonfree FAT implementation.

Parabola and the FSDG guidelines protect against such threats by having clear boundaries on what the distribution is supposed to do.

For instance:

  • All the packages provided by the distribution have to be free software and not push users to install nonfree software.
  • All repositories used by Parabola or its packages also have to respect the FSDG guidelines.

If there were no such boundaries, many users would be mislead as they would assume that using a 100% free software distribution would be enough not to get nonfree software from the distribution, and could end up accidentally installing nonfree software.

So for instance Parabola will not prevent users to use a web browser to download and install nonfree software. But as many web browsers have an addon repositories with both free and nonfree addons, they are patched to point to a fully free addon repository instead.

It would also be complicated to automatize that process as making a program that can understand what the goal of a package is would be complicated. It would also need to understand many files format to understand what kind of binaries are present in source code.

Even if Parabola itself is fully free software and doesn't push users toward installing nonfree software, it doesn't protect against nonfree software that is already on your computer and that is not handled by Parabola. So for instance the BIOS or UEFI of most computers are nonfree, and Parabola doesn't protect you against that. To protect against this threat, the FSF has a certification called Respects Your Freedom for certifying hardware. If you want to get such hardware, also make sure that it works with the distribution you want to use it with.

Parabola also supports multiple init systems (systemd and OpenRC) so we also need to patch PKGBUILDs to also support OpenRC when possible.

1.6 LaTeX prints out error messages about missing fonts. How can I compile my document?

Some fonts got removed from our TeX Live distribution because of freedom issues and incompatible licenses. Solution to this is to use different fonts and/or different TeX engines. For more details look at TeXLive.

1.7 How can I extract a RAR archive?

unrar command is missing in Parabola because it's non-free software. You can use bsdtar -xf command to do the job. It should be installed on your system by default because pacman depends on libarchive which provides it. Unfortunately, it cannot handle some extra features of RAR archives in which case you may have more luck with unarchiver.

1.8 Why can't I upgrade packages?

See Pacman_troubleshooting

2 Hardware

2.1 Why doesn't my Nvidia graphics work?

This may be the case if you have a recent Nvidia card. Nouveau may not support your card yet. To check if your card is supported by Nouveau, first look for a code name of your card in the output of:

$ lspci | grep VGA

Next, look at CodeNames to further decode it. Finally, you can check support for your card on FeatureMatrix.

2.2 Why doesn't my ATI/AMD graphics work at all with the radeon or amdgpu driver ?

This may be the case if you have an ATI or AMD card that is not supported yet in Linux-libre.

There is more details on the status in the Group:Hardware/research/gpu/radeon page in the Libreplanet wiki.

When the card is supported, you will be able to drive multiple displays and have native resolutions, however 3D acceleration and video decoding offload will not work. This is because a free firmware needs to be written for that to work.

2.3 Why do my Wi-Fi adapter stopped working after migration?

It's common for Wi-Fi cards to require a firmware to be loaded into the card. Many cards doesn't work at all if the firmware is missing. The firmware is often proprietary, thus we don't distribute it. It's a common case for internal Wi-Fi cards.

The usual solution to the problem is either to replace the internal card or to use an external USB Wi-Fi radio for which free firmware exists, such as:

Atheros chipset:

RTL818x chipset:

You can also search the h-node database to find Wi-Fi adapters known to work well with free software or scripts/deblob-$ver to check Wi-Fi adapters included from Wi-Fi device blacklist known to not work with free software due which contains blobs from within exploded Linux source trees. Or check Respect Your Freedom Hardware List, which contains a lot of external and internal Wi-Fi adapters that are compatible with free software.

Here a status of the various WiFi drivers and firmwares in Parabola:

Driver Availability Standard Status
ath5k PCI, PCIe, PCMCIA 2.4GHz, a/b/g
ath9k PCI, PCI-E, PCMCIA, or integrated in WiFi access point chips. 2.4GHz, 5GHz, a/b/g/n
carl9170 USB 2.4GHz, no 5GHz?, a/b/g/n
b43, b43-legacy PCI, PCI-E, PCMCMIA, or integrated in WiFi access point chips. a/b/g/n
  • Free firmware provided by linux-libre-firmware but for older chips only
  • Need to be tested with the b43 driver (maybe some kernel parameters are needed)
rtl818x, rtl8xxxu PCI, USB
  • Integrated firmware?
  • Should work fine with linux-libre
rt2400pci, rt2500pci PCI
  • Integrated firmware?
  • Should work fine with linux-libre
rt2500usb USB
  • Integrated firmware?
  • Should work fine with linux-libre
airo b
  • Integrated firmware?
  • Should work fine with linux-libre

The most tested drivers are probably the ath9k, ath9k_htc and ath5k.