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Re: more evil firmwares found

Thiemo Seufer wrote:

> Nathanael Nerode wrote:
>> Thiemo Seufer wrote:
>> > Since it is commercially benefical for vendors to detach the firmware
>> > from their hardware, we will see an increasing number of such drivers
>> > in the future.
>> And accordingly, there will be increased benefits in having firmware
>> under Free Software licenses, because it will be *possible* to modify it,
>> and it will be only restricted by licensing.
> I agree it would be benficial, but keep in mind such firmware will
> likely be some commercial RTOS (with rather limited free alternatives),
Yeesh.  Firmware is too complicated these days.  ;-)  Entire OSes?
(At least there are *some* free RTOSes for embedded systems.)

I guess this does underline my point that it's just software, and should be
treated like any other software.  The fact that the hardware vendor has
locked you into a binary-only OS is unfortunate.

> or even the result of some VHDL tool.
Well, there will soon be free VHDL tools.

> In both cases, the vendor has
> (at least ATM) a hard time to provide source under whatever license.
>> When it's burned into hardware, it
>> doesn't matter what the license is, because you can't change it without a
>> soldering iron.  When it's software, it's worthwhile to have it under a
>> free software license.
> Well, I disagree. :-)
> It would be still interesting to have the source to the onboard flash's
> contents.
Well, if it's flash.  If it's actual, unflashable, ROM, it would be
interesting, but not really very useful without your own soldering iron --
and chip factory.

>> > In the end, we will have a useful kernel in non-free, and a free one
>> > in main as face-saving gesture.
>> May I repeat that all of the hardware on two different recent machines in
>> this house runs *without* requiring non-free firmware downloads?
> That's the state of today, and you were either careful or lucky about
> it.
Lucky.  ;-)

> But detaching the firmware and handling it via the driver saves the
> vendor
> - a flash chip
> - board space for it
> - headaches about driver/firmware incompatibilities
> - development and maintenance of some flash tool for N OSes
> - myriads of support calls from clueless users
> Furthermore, reconfigurable logic becomes more and more common, so the
> overall use of firmware will increase, as well as pushing it into OS
> drivers.
In other words, everything is being done in software rather than hardware.  

Well, then you have to decide how much non-free software you want to use. 
Which is just fine.  The Debian Project also has to decide how much it
wants to distribute as part of the "Debian system".  Oh, wait... it already
decided that when the Social Contract was passed.  The answer was "Debian
will remain 100% Free Software", but that the 'non-free' area of the
archive would be used to distribute non-free software.  Sounds great!  So
why isn't that being done?...

> For Linux users this is btw. an improvement, as it saves them from
> keeping around a different OS for flash updates.
Yes.  And so's the NVIDIA binary-only accelerated video driver.  The NVIDIA
card is, incidentally, the single piece of hardware on the third machine in
the house which requires non-free software (of the not-already-in-hardware
variety), and it's the only one which was picked specifically for Linux
compatibility.  What does *that* say?  :-P

> Thiemo

Make sure your vote will count.

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