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Re: On the freeness of a BLOB-containing driver

On Sat, Dec 11, 2004 at 04:43:48PM -0800, Bruce Perens wrote:
> There are a number of reasons that a device's firmware won't generally 
> be opened to us:
> 1. The manufacturer's concerns regarding the proprietary nature of 
> information about their device that is below the bus.
> 2. The fact that misprogramming the device at that level can damage the 
> hardware.
> 3. They aren't going to want to support more firmware versions than they 
> have to.

And 4. They're not allowed to by regulations, eg wireless hardware
whose firmware cannot be distributed by FCC rule.

> A good hardware design would put this code in FLASH on the board. If you 

I'm going to disagree (violently) here. FLASH costs money, which drives
up costs to consumers directly. Further, if you want to support firmware
upgrades, you need to find a VERY robust process else you have huge 
technical support and repair issues, not to mentioned unhappy customers.

I'm an EE working on industrial telecommunications equipment and I always 
argue for putting as little as possible in FLASH, so that we can upgrade 
it easily later. Avoid shipping non-upgradable components at all cost, 
because those components are rarely bug free upfront.

As a follow on, have you ever seen a PC motherboard whose BIOS can be
upgraded from linux? No, you have to find floppy disks or boot Windows.
Lack of FLASH firmware is definitely a convenience too.

Hamish Moffatt VK3SB <hamish@debian.org> <hamish@cloud.net.au>

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