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Re: non-free firmware in the linux kernel

On Wed, Jan 11, 2006 at 12:14:10PM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> Sven Luther wrote:
> >   2) there are now drivers which contains non-free firmware blobs, with
> >   explicit licence, and these are thus distributable. A quick search for
> >   fw_ revealed 159 such files in 2.6.15.
> I would like to add that I have volunteered to
> (a) assist with converting these to the request_firmware infrastructure
> (b) package the blobs for 'non-free'.  Udebs provided on request.
> I actually *did* this for tg3 (back when the firmware was undistributable,
> but before I'd noticed that).  However, all my work so far has been
> rejected by upstream for reasons which I can only call pure hostility (I
> have seen few technical reasons, and have received no response to requests
> regarding what would be an acceptable patch).  The corresponding patches
> have been removed from the Debian kernel because the kernel maintainers at
> the time did not want to maintain patches relative to upstream.  This does
> not exactly encourage me to work on other drivers.  I have since misplaced
> my tg3 work, and would have to retrieve it from an old Debian kernel
> package.  Help doing so would be appreciated :-)

Well, i hear the tg3 upstream was not at all happy about this
request_firmware, but this doesn't mean other drivers upstream will not be
sympathic to such a patch, and the situation changed upstream i believe.

Also, the debian kernel team situation may be different if we decide to go
this way.

> >   d) we go for a new GR, asking for an exception for the linux kernel, in
> >   order to still stay in main, even though the firmware is non-free,
> >   arguing that said firmware is more akin to hardware, since it replaces
> >   firmware on a prom or flash on the expansion card, and you thus lose no
> >   freedom if we distribute it, and the pain the other solutions will cause
> >   to ourselves and our users.
> If my DD application ever goes through, I would definitely vote against
> this, because the argument is completely bogus.  For an similar argument,
> "An implementation of BASIC is more akin to hardware, because it replaces
> IBM BASIC which used to be kept in ROM".  This argument might wash if the
> "firmware" was not code at all, but in the cases I know of, the "firmware"
> is in fact code for MIPS, ARM, and other ordinary CPUs which are on the
> expansion card.

Well, the difference is that we can live without a basic implementation, while
living without the kernel is more problematic :) It would be a kind of
pragmatic decision, and in line with the "user & freedom" part of the social

> > Ok, i believe this summarizes the discussion of this evening, a log of the
> > irc discussion can be found at :
> > 
> >    http://people.debian.org/~fs/firmware-irc-log.html
> You should have invited me, you know.  :-)

Well, we are now discussing things, there was only a small subset of the
kernel team there anyway, maybe it was best so, it was already tense enough
like that :)


Sven Luther

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