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Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

On Tue, 2008-11-04 at 15:11 +0100, Loïc Minier wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 04, 2008, Robert Collins wrote:
> > I wish I understood the reasoning here - putting aside the fact that
> > most of the software in Debian is under a copyleft licence and so we
> > *must* provide the source. Why is the source for the radio on my wifi
> > card any *less* critical than the source for the driver for my wifi
> > card?
>  Because I can consider the wifi firmware a subsystem which doesn't
>  contaminate my main OS;

If it wasn't fixed and never got altered I would subscribe to this

>  there's a clear interface between the two
>  systems -- it's like talking to another computer

Not at all, I don't own that other computer, and if it doesn't work
correctly I have to talk to it's owner to get it fixed.

> , talking to your hard
>  disk

Not at all the same; probably because they are part of the standard boot
sequence I have yet to see a hard disk needing firmware (for SCSI/ATA
disks, I can't comment on more esoteric interfaces).

> , talking to your keyboard

Some keyboards we can't use properly because there is proprietary
features activated by USB command sequences that are not documented and
open. Those keyboards get less functionality on Linux until someone
reverse engineers them. Wouldn't it be great if that wasn't the case?

> : something proprietary or free might
>  well be inside, I don't care as long as I can run a free OS on the main
>  CPU. 

I care that I can use the full capabilities of e.g. that extended
keyboard, that all the media keys, LCD displays and so on work.

>  I'd *prefer* if it was free, but I can start another project to
>  fulfill this goal.  I don't want the freedom requirements for the main
>  OS to require using free hardware, just like I want the freedom
>  requirements to require talking to computers running free software.

It may be that for that hardware Debian does not fit your desires. Can I
remind you of this little statement:

"Social Contract" with the Free Software Community:
1. Debian will remain 100% free 

We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is free in
the document entitled The Debian Free Software Guidelines. We promise
that the Debian system and all its components will be free according to
these guidelines. We will support people who create or use both free and
non-free works on Debian. We will never make the system require the use
of a non-free component. 

>  Now if Debian can distribute a blob which allows my hardware to run as
>  indicated by a clear interface with my free OS, that's good enough for
>  me.

Why draw the line there? why not be happy if Debian can ship a blob that
uses the kernel's binary interfaces?  There's no moral or technical

>  And if we don't require the hardware to be freely modifiable, why
>  require the firmware to be so?

Because the firmware isn't the hardware. It is software.

> > And if the answer reduces down to 'firmware is made by proprietary
> > vendors and does something many people need and we don't have a
> > replacement yet' - well thats fine, but at various points we didn't have
> > a free kernel, or a free libc, or a free graphic desktop environment.
>  And we didn't have Debian or OpenMoko; and the glibc, linux, and
>  Xorg/GNOME/KDE/Xfce are huge separate projects and we could start new
>  projects to free more things up.

Debian started in 1993; Linux was first released in 1991, glibc had its
core functional in 1988
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_C_Library#cite_note-1). KDE was
started in 1996, and GNOME in 1997. XFree86 forked around 1992, IIRC.

We *had* Debian long before we had a free graphical desktop environment
[that really meets the term - a window many isn't enough :)]

>  Google.com is run with software I don't have access to

google doesn't affect the functionality of hardware you own.

> , but I use it
>  daily, as well as my microwave


> , or my wifi card.

Which is the point under contention.

GPG key available at: <http://www.robertcollins.net/keys.txt>.

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