Re: Bug#239952: kernel-source-2.6.4: qla2xxx contains non-freefirmware
Marco d'Itri wrote:
> On Mar 27, Nathanael Nerode <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> Tell them "Buy a system with hardware with free firmware, or use non-free
> Please show me a DVB card or a DSL modem with free firmware and I will
> buy one.
So you're forced to use non-free software in order to use certain hardware.
People have been in this position many, many times in the past. :-P With
respect to digital video broadcasting, is it even *possible* to make a free
implementation at the moment -- are the standards freely implementable?
There is no virtue in lying by claiming that something is "free software"
when it isn't, even if there is no free software substitute. That's what
Debian will be doing if it distributes non-free firmware in 'main'. Put it
in non-free and admit that it's non-free, then decide whether you care
enough to work on a free replacement.
(Incidentally, the more I hear about DSL, the more it sounds like it sucks
big time. Cable modems just act like a nice black box which you plug an
Ethernet cable into, and don't require *any* drivers for the OS, let alone
firmware downloads from a host machine -- any firmware downloads come from
the cable company. Why do DSL modems work differently?...)
>> This is a problem, though not perhaps in the way you're thinking. In the
>> long run, if more and more hardware uses OS-loaded non-free firmware,
>> you'll end up with more and more of your system running non-free
>> software. Eventually, in this nightmare scenario, all hardware will
>> require non-free code to activate, and that code will control what you
>> can do with the hardware....
> Get a clue! Most of your hardware devices already require non-free
> firmware, you just don't see this because it's in a ROM or well hidden
> in the free driver.
OK, sorry, so I had the order of events backwards in some sense; we are in
the infancy of the open-source hardware movement, and cannot currently get
a fully open-source system, of course. But it's quite conceivable that the
firmware for your CD burner, for instance, could check and reject attempts
to burn 'unauthorized' music files -- that's what I meant by "control what
you can do".
Yes, most hardware is non-free. But if it's burnt into ROM and uneditable
(really, literally, uneditable without a soldering iron), is modificaton
that important to me? No, because I can't really do it even if I have the
legal right to.
If, on the other hand, the hardware is basically a multipurpose machine, and
it's running some software which you're calling "firmware", is modification
important? Yes; modification in this case is possible but made difficult
by copyright and deliberate obfustication, and that's a case which the Free
Software movement explicitly aims to address. :-P
There is a real difference between hardware with all the firmware in ROM and
hardware which requires non-free software -- and yes, that's what firmware
which must be downloaded on every boot is, it's software. It's not 'firm'
in any sense of the word.
OK, have I said the same thing enough times to make my point?
Make sure your vote will count.