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Re: LCC and blobs

On Sat, Dec 11, 2004 at 04:42:23PM -0800, Brian Nelson wrote:
> Fundamentally, I think it comes down to this: we have to draw the line
> somewhere, and that line has always been drawn at the software/hardware
> boundary.  Neither the Linux kernel nor Debian have ever considered the
> "freeness" of hardware an issue.  We don't care if the hardware's BIOS
> and firmware is free software.  We distribute an operating system that
> users may use on any hardware they like.
> Firmware, although itself software, is fundamental to the hardware.
> Whether a device has firmware or not is traditionally an area we have
> not stuck our noses into.  We have never cared before about hardware
> implementation decisions, and see no reason to start caring now.
> So, some hardware requires the firmware to be loaded by some method
> external to the device.  So what?  We have absolutely no obligation to
> distribute and load the firmware--ultimately it's the manufacturer's
> problem.  We may choose to do so and we may not.  It still doesn't
> change the fact that we don't care about hardware implementations.
> Contrib exists for software dependencies.  This is not a software
> dependency issue.  There is no direct relationship between firmware and
> drivers.

I don't see how you can say there is no direct relationship between
firmware and drivers, when it's most often the driver that opens the
firmware blob, possibly does some parsing, and uploads it to the device.
Without the firmware blob being available to the driver, the driver
can't do its job (set up and drive the device) and isn't very useful.
Not including the firmware is (often) akin to not including a shared
library for an executable, saying "we're not allowed to distribute this;
download it from someone else".  That's contrib.

It's a software dependency, because the blob is software--if it wasn't
a software dependency, we wouldn't have anything to disagree about.

Glenn Maynard

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