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

On Mon, 2004-10-25 at 07:07 -0400, Brian Thomas Sniffen wrote:
> Matthew Garrett <mgarrett@chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:

> > On the other hand, if it's clearly software when it's on CD then it's
> > clearly software when it's on eeprom.
> False.  That's why we call it firmware, not just "software living on a device".
> It's an implementation detail of the hardware that they happen to have
> shipped a microprocessor and a hardwired program.  If the program had
> been burned into a circuit in an FPGA, would you still call it
> software?

Brian, we are talking about identical code. Software doesn't stop being
software if it's burned into a ROM instead of being supplied with the
OS. An FPGA is a more interesting issue - would you define a set of
verilog code as software if it's supplied on disk? 

> If it's a single-use PROM, is it still software?

If we would want the source code to it if we shipped the contents, then
yes, it's software.

> >From the point of view of the driver, the device is just a device.  It
> gets... driven.  That's it.  No need to consider the things inside and
> force decisions about software or not onto them.

I want a world in which all code run on a system is free, no matter
whether that code is executed by the host processor or something on a
card. I see no reason for us to consider non-free software more
"legitimate" purely because it's on a chip rather than on a hard drive.
As a result, I consider all arguments that apply to code on hard drives
to apply equally well to code on chips. 

> Anything the user's being told to copy to /usr/local/something, on the
> other hand, is clearly software.

You appear to be claiming that identical code is firmware if it's on a
chip and software if it's on a CD, and that we should apply different
standards to each situation. I'm claiming that it's always software, and
we should apply the same standards to it in all cases.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59@srcf.ucam.org

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