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Re: Free OS versus free hw

On Wed, Oct 29, 2008, Ben Finney wrote:
> >  I ackowledge that the current requirements of the social contract
> >  as it's worded and intended require us to ship the source code of
> >  the lib/firmware blobs.
> Simply because anything that we ship as part of Debian must be
> DFSG-free.

 Yes; we agree on the current constraints.

> >  What I'm not sure about is why we couldn't have an equally useful
> >  social contract to build an OS, but is worded to allow shipping of
> >  utility binary files which enable additional hardware to work with
> >  agreed upon APIs.
> That would be far less useful as a social contract because it allows a
> ghetto of non-free parts to be redistributed within Debian, and make
> false the core idea that “I have received a free operating system, so
> I know that for *everything* in here I have certain basic freedoms”.

 Of course, producing a Debian including free firmwares would be
 superior than producing a Debian which ships non-free firmwares, but
 the actual option at hand is producing a Debian without the firmwares.

 Naturally, I can imagine some people making use of the free firmwares
 would they be available in Debian, but:
 - this would probably be very little people
 - it would be almost impossible to get the sources for all firmwares
   generally useful to run a modern computer, as well as associated
   compilers and hardware documentation; the FCC regulations make this
   hard for instance
 - this forces an effort for hardware which requires runtime loading of
   a firmware, but does not force anything for hardware which has
   preloaded firmware in flash or rom; so we effectively made the
   freeness cover firmware for some random hardware
 - this could be achieved by a separate project while still having an
   useful and free Debian OS, except for firmware files

 The size and risks of the task versus it's usefulness makes me think
 the ghetto will rather be Debian if we can't support common PCs.

Loïc Minier

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