Re: non-free firmware
Sven Luther wrote:
> If we are going to do this, we obviously need to find out a strong framework
> how this is supposed to work, and all need to follow the same schema.
Upstream hasn't done this. I realized this need and started asking people
about an appropriate naming scheme for the files in /lib/firmware
(or /usr/lib/hotplug/firmware as it was then) and attempted to keep it.
> I heard rumors about your patch being too disruptive, and was thus rejected
> davem, we don't want that to happen.
I'll be blunt: those rumors are false, and whoever started them is slandering
For the original patch, the reasons given for rejection were the following:
(1) Either Jeff Garzik or Dave Miller (I don't remember which) wanted a
transition period when the firmware loader would fall back to a built-in
firmware copy. I was willing to write a patch which did that, but I thought
it was a bit silly. I later asked if a patch would be accepted if it did
that, but received no reply.
(2) Reasonable concerns were raised about needing firmware to be available in
order to mount /usr, creating a nasty chicken-and-egg problem. This has
mostly been addressed by the creation of /lib/firmware. Similar problems may
arise with the mounting of root, I suppose, but with the switch to
initramfs-all-the-time, these can be addressed trivially by modification of
(3) Jeff Garzik and Dave Miller didn't think that firmware loading was a good
idea at all, ever. Well, if they still think that, then they'll naturally
reject the patch, and there's nothing we can do about it.
None of these concerns has any relevance to Debian today.
Dave Miller didn't feel that the (former) non-distributable licensing of the
tg3 firmware, or indeed his own failure to put correct copyright notices on
it, mattered. I felt very strongly that it did, and perhaps he took a
dislike to me because of my stridency on that matter.
The last time I proposed a patch -- which simply separated the firmware into a
separate file, so as to make life slightly easier for Debian, and on general
tidiness grounds -- he accused me of trying to disguise my intentions, which
I certainly was not. (Come on! I'm the poster child for strident and
outspoken!) He then dropped my patch on the floor with no technical
commentary at all. He did say that he didn't see the point unless it was
combined with a full firmware loading patch; so I asked what technical
requirements would be required of a full firmware loading patch (keeping in
mind the responses earlier), and got absolute dead silence.
The only technical criticism which I have ever heard of my patch was the claim
that firmware loading should not be done, and that firmware blobs should be
compiled into the kernel. I don't consider this to be relevant commentary.
During the original period of use of the patch in Debian, I discovered that
the firmware was not only non-free but also not actually legal to distribute.
This led to some unfortunate problems because people were unable to get
copies of the loadable firmware, and I certainly don't want to repeat the
situation where the driver tries to load firmware which people can't find. I
made several efforts to contact the copyright holders without sucess (no
replies at all). I also asked Dave Miller, who claimed to know the authors,
if he could put me in contact with someone who might be able to do something
about the licensing problems, but he refused. Thankfully this has been
The patch is not very invasive at all; I actually bent over backwards to avoid
interfering with the call sequence (since request_firmware can't be called in
a spinlock, and nearly the whole tg3 driver is in a single spinlock). I have
had several people testify that it works just fine.
Again, those rumors are entirely false, so pay no attention to them.
Nathanael Nerode <email@example.com>
Make sure your vote will count.