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Re: [DRAFT] resolving DFSG violations

On Tue, 2008-10-28 at 18:01 +0100, David Weinehall wrote:
> Please try to explain to a hardware manufacturer that free their
> hardware will only work with free software if they store their firmware
> on an eeprom, and they'll laugh you in the face (or possibly send you
> off to an asylum).  Do you really think that it's better for our users
> that the firmware is impossible to replace (and thus impossible, even
> for the hardware vendors, to bugfix)?

Does the "EEP" mean nothing to you?

> Face it, all hardware has firmware, either loadable or in EEPROM.  In
> most cases that firmware is closed source.  In most cases they are for
> custom chips that have no compilers/developer kits/whatever available in
> Debian anyway, so having the source wouldn't make any difference (and in
> some cases, the binary blobs *is* the source code; I've spent more than
> enough time programming 8-bit directly from a machine-code monitor).


> Now, imagine Debian having this hypothetical yearly conference, called,
> oh, let's say DebConf.  During that conference we organise a special day
> for our users, let's call it Debian Day.  Lots of potential new Debian
> users show up with their laptops and wants to install Debian.  As the
> kind souls we are, we hand out credit-card CD's with netinst images that
> they can use with the WiFi available at the conference.
> Oh, but wait.  They cannot access the WiFi, because their wireless cards
> are not supported.  Or rather, the drivers are available, but they all
> report the same error message "Firmware not found".  Happy, happy, joy,
> joy.

This situation sucks.  But we cannot claim to have a 100% free
distribution while including sourceless firmware.  The obvious solution
is to have official free and not-quite-official non-free variants of the
installer.  But since most users won't know in advance whether they need
sourceless firmware, the safe default would always be to choose the
non-free variant - thus this is no solution.  I wish I could think of
something better.


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