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Re: more evil firmwares found

On Fri, Apr 23, 2004 at 11:39:44AM -0300, Humberto Massa wrote:
> The answer to those questions are:

That was exactly my point.  It is completely subjective.  Making a
blanket statement that all (PNG,WAV,...) are software without source is
the same as making a blanket statement that all binary blobs are
software without source.

By your claims, at least some of the former (PNG,WAV,...) do not require
extra source material, even though they are software, because they are
judged to already be in the preferred form of modification.  Doesn't it
stand to reason that at least some of the latter, even if I assume that
they are software (which seems to be the popular assumption to make),
would also not require extra sources, because they happen to also be in
the preferred form of modification?

The only possible circumstance in which the binary-blob would not be the
preferred form of modification is if we had a tool that would generate
it from a more abstract definition.  In order to determine if we had
such a tool, we would first need to place a conclusive identification
on the binary blob.

Pinning the determination of whether or not something is in a preferred
form of modification on whether or not we have knowledge of a tool that
generates such files seems silly.  The knowledge or lack thereof of such
a tool does not confirm or preclude its existence, if we do not have
said tool in our hands to verify such claims.  Also, if we went this
route, a binary-blob which was previously free could be rendered
non-free by a vendor suddenly creating a tool which generates such
blobs.  Would that make any sense at all?

Of course, this all only applies to software under the GPL, to determine
whether it is actually legally redistributable or not.  The lawyers can
have their field day with that one.  The preferred-form-of-modification
clause does not exist in DFSG, so I was contesting the idea in general
that we seem to be considering programs and supporting materials all as
software, and requiring source code for the whole lot else going to
non-free with it.  I don't see how DFSG#2 makes sense outside of the
program itself, which actually executes on the machine.  Indeed, even
the DFSG is making a distinction between "software" and "program",
mentioning "software" in the phrase "Debian will remain 100% Free
Software", and then in DFSG#2, "The program must include source code".
The program is implied to be a subset of the software in those terms.
Which only makes sense.

As Herbert Xu mentioned, you can fabricate a machine that executes any
binary string.  But should we encourage such pedantry on the basis of
theoretical machines which may or may not exist at some point in the
future?  Is such pedantry really productive according to #4 Social

> That is, it's definitions go from the most specific (23, 24) to the most 
> generic (interesting ones, that apply to the sense people seem to prefer 
> here: 5, 20; ones that can be stretched to mean that, too: 3, 13).

Thanks for compiling that exhaustive list!  There are certainly many
different opinions on the topic.  I think the distinction between the
"software", i.e. the package of the program and any required or optional
supporting materials, and the "program", i.e. the instructions that are
intended to execute on a machine, is important.

> I posted something that was refuted in this point: the interpretation 
> that goes here seems to be: Debian is comprised of nothing but hardware; 
> We promise to make all of it free; it's not all free today, but we are 
> trying. Ah, and non-free is not part of Debian.

What I meant was that if programs==software, then there are other things
besides free software in Debian (supporting materials), which makes the
statement "Debian is 100% Free Software" false, even though the
statement can be forced true with some "theoretical machine" pedantry.

If programs(=software, then the given statement is true, if we consider
non-executable supporting materials not to be software.

Which one makes more sense?

Ryan Underwood, <nemesis@icequake.net>

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