How to Install GNU Icecat on Debian Wheezy

Icecat is the GNU project version of Mozilla Firefox. The main
advantage of Icecat over Firefox, and the major difference between
the two, is that Icecat codebase and ecosystem is entirely free
software while Firefox is not. Firefox reccomends non-free plugins
and add-ons, and Icecat only reccomends and distributes free

Installing Icecat
You can get the source for Icecat
from Savannah[0] and built in the usual manner.
If building from source isn’t quite your thing, the GNUzilla team
also provides built tarballs that you can easily download,
un-archive, and run. The latest version of Icecat can be
from GNU FTP[1] (make sure to get the 32bit or 64bit version,
whichever is right for your system).

You should then untar the archive

tar -xzvf path/to/archive

and then move the resulting directory to somewhere in your $PATH. On
my system, I moved the icecat-17.0.1 directory to /usr/local/bin
by executing

sudo mv icecat-17.0.1 /usr/local/bin

You will then need to `cd` to /usr/local/bin and create an
executable symlink the icecat executable.

sudo ln -s icecat-17.0.1 ./icecat

If you now execute

which icecat

the path to this newly created symlink should be printed to your
terminal. You now have a fully installed and useable Icecat on your

Adding Icecat to the Debian Alternatives System
The Debian Alternatives system allows for user configurable
‘default’ applications to use for specific functions. Using the
Alternatives system, you can easily configure which program your
system uses as an editor, a mail client, a web browser, etc. In
order to set Icecat as the browser that all links will open in,
you must add it to the Alternatives system. By executing

sudo update-alternatives –install /usr/bin/icecat x-www-browser /usr/local/bin/icecat 90

Icecat will be added the Alternatives system and set to the
highest priority. Now, all links will open in Icecat.


LibrePlanet 2013

Towards the end of March, I attended LibrePlanet 2013 in Boston,
MA. This was a weekend conference put on by the Free Software
Foundation that was all about free software and bringing together
members of the various free software communities. It was a
fantastic weekend! I attended a few talks, and a workshop/install
party, and learned a whole bunch.

Thursday evening, I met some people for dinner that I had only
ever know from IRC. Little did I realize that this was going to
the be the case all weekend!

Friday morning I explored Cambridge, Harvard’s campus, and MIT’s
campus. Then after a quick lunch, I took the T downtown to work
out of the Free Software Foundation’s office. While it was kind of
strange to putz away on my day job work from a place that would
frown on what I do for my day job, it went very well, and I met
even more people in person that I had only known from IRC.

Friday evening there was a meet-and-greet at the FSF office, where
once again, meeting IRC people in the flesh was the order of the

Saturday began the “actual” conference, and I walked to the
Harvard Science Center with much enthusiasm. After a breakfast and
some quick conversations, it was off to the talks and workshops!

One of the talks that I attended was on the recently passed MA
Right-to-Repair law. The talk was generally about the free
software that may (or may not be) in cars, and how recent
legislation is driving more people towards free software.

Another talk that I attended was on IceCat and LibreJS. IceCat is
a GNU project that is a web browser based off of Mozilla Firefox
with all of the Mozilla branded stripped out, and added privacy
features. LibreJS is a Firefox/Icecat/Iceweasel plugin that allows
users to avoid the “javascript trap” of running non-free
javascript on thier machines. These two projects are near and dear
to me as I hack on them, but it was very nice to meet my
collaborators in person.

I also attended a talk by Stefano Zacchiroli, the current Debian
Project Leader, about what the Debian Project is doing to become a
Free Software Foundation endorsed distro. This talk, and some of
the discussion afterwards were the catalyst that made me change
from my beloved Arch GNU/Linux to Debian GNU/Linux on my main

Then of course there were the Free Software Awards, preceeded by a
talk from rms (Richard M. Stallman, Founder of the GNU Project and
FSF). The talk was what I expected, and the awards were given to
deserving projects.

I also went to the workshop/install party for Replicant and
Coreboot. Replicant is an Android fork that has of the non-free
parts taken out, as well as all of the Google specific parts. The
end result is a cell phone that runs on (mostly) free
software. There are still some non-free firmware bits, but that is
almost unavoidable. The second part of this install party
pertained to Coreboot. Coreboot is a BIOS replacement that is
entirely free software. While my machine is not able to run
Coreboot, it was pretty cool to talk with one of the developers of
Coreboot and learn more about how BIOS’s actually work.

In the end, LibrePlanet 2013 was a great experience. I learned a
whole lot about various free software projects and free software
in general. I will definitely be going back next year.