I know I can check the currently installed non-free software with the following command (assuming aptitude is FOSS):

aptitude search '?installed (?section(restricted) | ?section(multiverse))'

And I can remove the "restricted" and "multiverse" sources (and not add any PPA's) to keep that list empty. I'm assuming from this point, whenever I apt install something, that something is either in the allowed sources or it is not found.

Is this enough? Does this make sure all software I'm running (in Ubuntu) is open-source?


2 Answers 2


vrms (Virtual Richard M. Stallman) to the rescue:
Virtual Richard M. Stallman

sudo apt install vrms

and you'll get something like:

      Non-free packages installed on computer-name

app-shortname1                    Application long name 1
app-shortname2                    Application long name 2
app-shortname3                    Application long name 3

       Contrib packages installed on computer-name

app-contrib1                      Application Contrib Name 1

  3 non-free packages, 0.4% of 2381 installed packages.
  1 contrib packages, 0.1% of 2381 installed packages.

that will ensure you do / do not have any proprietary software installed.

Note: CPU firmware patches are non-free but absolutely needed to protect you from some processor flaws and their ilks, so don't go overboard! ;-)

  • 14
    Intel's Intellectual property: CPUs are still closed source except RISC-V. @PublicVoid and as you're a new user: If one of the answers solved your problem, don't forget to click the grey at the left of its text, which means Yes, this answer is the most useful of all! ;-)
    – Fabby
    Nov 17, 2018 at 19:01
  • 7
    No, you'd have to buy an entire new computer with another CPU and supporting chipsets: it would not be an Intel system any more. Give it a few more years until someone in Taiwan starts building Risc-V processors for a rock bottom price @PublicVoid
    – Fabby
    Nov 17, 2018 at 19:16
  • 3
    Hi! Could you explain what *contrib" means? Is a contrib package not open source?
    – Matt Ellen
    Nov 18, 2018 at 1:11
  • 3
    @Fabby: Not just future. Skylake has had at least 1 correctness problem before Meltdown/Spectre that required a microcode update to fix. (Disabling the use of the IDQ as a 64-entry loop buffer (LSD = Loop Stream Detector) because of rare corner cases with inserting (or failing to insert) merging uops for partial registers. Erratum SKL150. See hothardware.com/news/…. See also some low-level microbenchmarks / perf-counter results before the fix Nov 18, 2018 at 13:06
  • 9
    I ran vrms and it failed to report Chrome, among others. So, it's not entirely reliable. Nov 20, 2018 at 9:37

If you're keen on having only Free Software (although you used the term Open Source) on your computer, you may want to consider installing Ubuntu with the "Free Software Only" option. You can find out more over at this question.

Free software only option


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