[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: non-free firmware: driver in main or contrib?

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> wrote:
> On Sun, Oct 24, 2004 at 03:41:13AM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:
>> Is this the case even if the firmware is in a flash chip attached to the
>> device? If the total amount of non-free software on a user's system is
>> the same regardless, why are we concerned about how it's packaged?
> The total amount of non-free software on a user's system is different if the
> firmware comes pre-loaded on the device than if we have to load it from the
> OS, isn't it?

By system, I'm referring to the hardware as well. 

> If there is at least one real-world device that works with the driver
> without needing to load additional firmware, I think the driver is
> unambiguously free from this standpoint.  If no one can point to a device
> that the driver works with without the help of an additional non-free
> firmware blob, I'm not certain I agree that it doesn't have a dependency on
> non-free software.

But almost every driver requires an additional non-free firmware blob.
In general, there are two cases:

1) That firmware is in an eeprom, and so was distributed to the user
when the hardware was bought
2) That firmware is not in an eeprom, and so was distributed to the user
when they obtained drivers

In most versions of case (2), the user will already own a copy of the
firmware - it'll be on the Windows driver CD in some form. It would be
trivial to add code to the driver packages to copy this code off the CD.
At that point, in no case does Debian distribute the firmware.

Ignoring Brian's strange arguments about rodents, I can see no cases
where the user has more freedom if the firmware comes from an eeprom
rather than from a CD. The main/contrib split exists in order to make it
clear to our users that their free software depends on non-free code. In
the case of free software that interacts directly with hardware, that's
almost always the case. If we're of the opinion that non-free firmware
is unacceptably bad, we should move all drivers which require it to
contrib regardless of the manufacturer's choice of storage device.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.legal@srcf.ucam.org

Reply to: