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Re: LCC and blobs

Brian Nelson <pyro@debian.org> writes:

> Ron Johnson <ron.l.johnson@cox.net> writes:
>> On Fri, 2004-12-10 at 15:21 -0800, Brian Nelson wrote:
>>> Matthew Palmer <mpalmer@debian.org> writes:
>>> > On Fri, Dec 10, 2004 at 01:20:32PM +0100, Marco d'Itri wrote:
>>> >> On Dec 09, Bruce Perens <bruce@perens.com> wrote:
>> [snip]
>>> Then we might as well remove the whole kernel from main, since most
>>> devices depend on a non-free firmware blob to operate.  Why does it
>> Most ?????
> I'm no hardware expert, but I assume all ethernet cards, wireless
> chipsets, and SCSI cards do.  At least that's true for all of the
> hardware I have...
>> Or are you stretching beyond reason, to include stuff like the 
>> BIOS, which isn't in the kernel?
> If it made any sense at all for a mainboard's BIOS to loaded by the
> Linux kernel at boot time with a non-free firmware blob, the current
> consensus (on debian-legal anyway) seems to be that Debian would not
> support it.  Period.  The drivers for it would have to go in contrib.
> As far as I'm concerned, distribution of the firmware is the
> manufacturer's realm.  Whether the manufacturer distributes it on an
> EPROM on the device itself, or on a CD shipped with the device, or just
> provides it for download from a website, I don't care.  That's their
> decision.  Debian should not care one bit how the firmware is loaded on
> the device, and the method used should not dictate whether a driver is
> DFSG-compliant.

It doesn't. What matters is if the firmware itself is distributable at
all and if it is DFSG-compliant.

How the firmware is loaded matters only for practical reasons
(assuming non DFSG-compliant, non GPL blob):

buildin into the kernel -> kernel becomes undistributable
module to be loaded -> module goes to non-free
firmware loaded from extra file -> firmware goes to non-free

Since many drivers work without the firmware and the firmware only
fixes bugs in some revisions or adds extra features it would be best
if the driver optionaly loads firmware from an extra file. That way
the driver can stay in main and people without the buggy revision or
that don't need the extra features can still use it, e.g. in

Think about it, if the driver works well enough to download the
firmware file from the manufacturers cd or website (or even from
debian) then all is well.

> As for whether Debian would actually distribute the firmware blobs in
> main, I would prefer that we do.  It can be a real pain installing
> Debian on a system in which I have to retrieve the firmware from an
> external source.  It's only hurting the end-user by making them jump
> through more hoops to install Debian, with no obvious benefit.  However,
> there seems to be a strong movement to make Debian 100% free down to the
> last bit.  Reversing this movement is another much more controversial
> issue.

If the firmware is distributable and meets DFSG then it will be in
main. This would probably be easiest under a BSD license which means
using an extra file in the initrd to be loaded by the driver.

> -- 
> For every sprinkle I find, I shall kill you!


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