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Re: Summary: binary firmware in the kernel

At Sat, 3 Apr 2004 09:06:37 +1000,
Herbert Xu wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 02, 2004 at 03:48:27AM +0200, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> > Let me try to summarize the different opinions in this thread:
> > 
> > 1. a 300 kB binary firmware is DFSG-free
> > 
> > 2. binary firmware must go to non-free
> > this implies that the installer will no longer be able to install Debian 
> > on several computers
> > 
> > 3. acknowledge that binary firmware is required, and make an
> >    exception for it
> > 
> > Please correct me if an important opinion is missing.
> I think you missed the view that these binary firmware causes us
> to violate the license of the GPL software that it is contained
> within and therefore cannot be distributed at all.
> My current plan is to remove the drivers qla* and tg3 from the next
> release (2.6.5 and 2.4.26).
> However, even if they aren't removed due to intervention from a
> higher authority, I will stop supporting bugs relating to these
> drivers unless there is a clear assurance of their future existence
> within the kernel packages in main.

One idea is to separate or remove firmware part from both drivers
rathar than to delete those entire files from kernel package.

Look at drivers/net/tg3.c.  If NETIF_F_TSO (see
include/linux/netdevice.h, offload implementation) is defined, then
such firmware parts are needed.  So theoretically we can disable them
and remove firmware code with keeping driver code.  One example of
diff (not compiled) is at:


I don't have tg3, so I don't know it works well (even it can be
compiled or not), but it's one way to fix without dropping entire

OTOH, unfortunatelly, firmware code of qla2xxx/* is coupled with
hardware initialization code.  We need to have hardware specification
to know how to remove these parts.

I think it's also good idea that we contact to upstream author to
separate firmware from files and to make them work without any
firmware code.  If you already thought/did, this mail is just my noise
about this issue.

In addition, I wonder this issue is really well-discussed, though.
Binary characters are marked as GPL by driver authors, so I still
think there is no problem to exist in linux kernel.  To say radically,
removing firmware code from debian is just escape to think about linux
kernel GPL-ness.

-- gotom

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