LTS release package repositories permanently closed for public access

We still receive a lot of questions about LTS package repository access, so here is a summary.

The motivation for the change is:

  • Multiple people (measured in hundreds) started distributing self-built LTS images with our name and artwork still intact, even though we always asked to remove or replace them to make it clear that the image was not coming from VyOS maintainers.

  • Our artwork and trademark policy is exactly the same as those of RedHat or Mozilla — except we tried to be polite about enforcing it and found that many people don’t respond at all, and we don’t want to switch to legal measures as a first response.

  • The distribution of “LTS” images with our name and artwork puts the project’s reputation at risk — people come to us for support, and if a backdoored image appears, they will also blame us because our logo and name are there.

  • Hundreds of people doing cold builds without any attempts to cache the packages put a load on the servers, and maintaining a public service takes engineers’ time and effort as well, without any benefit for the project.

  • We know at least some of the image builders were distributing them to their consulting customers but never contributed to the project in any form, which undermines the “pay for pre-built binaries” business model — the most ethical business model we could come up with.

  • Despite the fact that building VyOS images was exceptionally easy, the number of contributors remains very low. The number of contributors to LTS branches is negligible. We are happy to share LTS images and repository access with people who do contribute, but it’s painfully clear that “make it easy to contribute and lots of people will come” is not true for our project — we have 10 years of observations to confirm that.

A reminder to those who claim that closing access to prebuilt package repositories somehow makes VyOS less open-source: even the strictest licenses like GNU GPLv3 don’t require any source code to be public. They state that if you have received binaries from the vendor, you are entitled to receive the source that those exact binaries were built from — no more, no less.

We don’t owe anything to anyone who has done nothing for the project — not any more than proprietary network OS vendors do. And I wonder why those people who demand free-of-charge things from us don’t demand that from proprietary vendors who often refuse to even comply with the GPL!

We will keep improving the documentation on building VyOS from source, but it’s not a priority for us. We are also working on ways to provide access to LTS repositories to contributors.

But the rolling release is exactly as easy to build as it ever was, it’s more stable than it was ever before, and that’s all people need to start contributing. And if they are contributing, they are eligible for LTS image access through contributor subscriptions. That’s all.

My laptop and personal devices run Fedora and development builds of VyOS, if anyone is wondering. Both work well enough for me and in rare cases when they don’t, I use that to help both move forward.