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Re: [DRAFT] resolving DFSG violations

On Sat, Oct 25, 2008 at 06:46:14AM -0700, Jeff Carr wrote:
> I'm willing to stake my reputation on betting you are _not_ a firmware
> engineer. Your are totally wrong if you think all firmware blobs can
> be replaced by human readable source.
> There is hardware, for which to function, will always, for the
> lifetime of the equipment, require a firmware blob to operate. This
> will always be the case; there will never be a human readable version.
> It will never be possible to compile it (with non-free compilers) from
> source code. There seems to be the belief that there is some scary
> bogeyman at the end of this tunnel; some deliberate evil firmware
> engineer who refuses to release the "source" for the blob. This is
> hardly the case.
> In fact, the exact opposite is true; the most free pieces of hardware
> in the world require a firmware blob! A good example: try out the pci
> core from opencores.org.  Even in that case, where you have the logic
> for the actual chip, you still have no choice but to distribute a
> firmware blob anyway.

I would expect anything on opencores.org to be perfectly readable VHDL
code, which is the prefered format for manipulating it.  So what was
your point again?  Besides FPGA's can work with eeproms, so no binary
blob has to be distributed with the OS to work with the device.

> Going and flapping around and irritating hardware engineers with
> totally impossible requests (Give us your psoc firmware sourcecode or
> you suck! Thanks, the debian project.) makes us look like a bunch of
> clueless and irrational software engineers. You think there must be
> some magic way, well there is not.

For some firmware it does make sense, for others it does not.

> I doubt anyone reading this uses coreboot which means that the first
> instruction anyone ran today was a binary only firmware blob. Where is
> all your concern about that? Doubly annoying is that that firmware is
> actually x86 code and it is possible to get source code that can be
> compiled with gcc. That would actually be fruitful and practical.

Yes the BIOS doesn't include source code, but there also is no need for
Debian to distribute the BIOS code in main for Debian to be able to
install and run on my system.

This whole debate is about Debian having to ship said firmware, not
about whether hardware needs firmware or not.  That is a different
debate, but not one that directly involves the Debian distribution.

So much as closed source binaries and firmware on flash chips in raid
controllers may be annoying, it does not in any way affect the freeness
of the code _distributed_ by Debian.

Len Sorensen

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