Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib
On Mon, Nov 03, 2008, Robert Collins wrote:
> I don't think they are at all special. What interprets the software - be
> it a 'cpu', a 'vm' or a co-processor like many video cards, or something
> like an arduino doesn't alter the basic attributes - there is machine
> code for one or more machines, which is usually derived from some more
> editable source (more can be quite a range though) though compilation.
It's hard to define how they are special, but I think they are.
And I can think of other data bits in the grey area.
Consider SSL certificates for e.g. Verisign. It makes no sense to
change them and we don't have the ultimate source for them. These are
generated data files for which we have the tools to build them, but not
the ultimate source data (private key). And if we had the private key,
they would be worthless. These are effectively static data enabling
SSL communications with sites using these SSL certs providers.
I could make another argument about RFCs, it's even easier to change
Firmwares can be considered somewhat the same: static data enabling the
use of your hardware. You can perhaps change them. Perhaps we have
the tools to change them. Perhaps we can change them usefully. But
they are useful as such and we don't need to fight for their freedom as
we fight for the freedom of the main OS.
With requiring the freedom of firmwares, we're putting our finger in a
completely new problem: the one of free hardware. To build an useful
firmware, we will need information about registers, the operation of
the hardware, it's hardware architecture, limits, caracteristics, test
Perhaps someday we will port Debian to our graphics cards, just like
it's ported to wifi aps. This would be a new port, we don't need to
require Debian to be running on your ap to use it so why not enable the
distribution of useful data which doesn't taint the main OS if we have
the permissions to do so and it benefits our users?
I don't see Debian as a free harware and computers project. We need to
leave some hard problems to others to solve!