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Re: LCC and blobs

Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> writes:

>> But what if loading the firmware is not required?
>> That if the device was
>> "warm-booted" in another OS? (I know there are technical limitations
>> here) Would the driver-firmware relation still be a "depends"?
> No, then the driver Depends: firmware | other-os .  We don't ship
> either, so the driver still needs to go to contrib. :)  And presumably
> other-os depends (though not in the Debian package sense) on the
> firmware as well, so even if that other OS was Free and we shipped it,
> we'd be back to needing the firmware.

What if every unit of this hardware included a CD with the required
firmware?  Then anyone in owning the hardware would also have the
firmware, without Debian needing to touch it.  For those not owning
the hardware, the driver is obviously useless anyway.

> To me, that seems much like arguing that because an emulator (such as
> one for a console system) provides a GUI, and because it can run and
> display that GUI without needing a ROM, the emulator should go to main.
>  I don't believe that is "a significant amount of functionality".  Do
> you?  Feel free to try to convince people.

I'm convinced enough.  Some time ago, I was playing around with an
emulator for Texas Instruments calculators.  It obviously required a
ROM image to be useful, and the only legal way of obtaining one was
dumping it from your own calculator (an easy task).  I still found
this emulator useful, since I happen to have one of the calculators.

Sure, the emulator is useless for anyone who doesn't own a calculator,
but a lot of software is useless for a whole lot of people for all
sorts of reasons.  Is software only "free" if it is useful for
*everybody*?  Debian includes hundreds of programs that require a fast
network connection to be useful.  Lots of programs make specific use
of various types of hardware (mice, printers, monitors, GPS receivers,
etc.) and are quite useless without these.

By your reasoning, the only software allowed in main would be programs
that could be used on any machine that will run Debian at all.  The
only things I can think of that all machines have are a CPU and a few
megabytes of RAM.  Everything else is more or less optional.

Maybe we should also consider that some software is only useful to a
small set of people, such as those working in some specific field.
If use of a program requires some knowledge of, say, signal
processing, does that make it non-free?  Education is far from free,
and is certainly not distributed by Debian.

Yes, I'm deliberately being a little extreme here, but I see no
fundamental difference between requiring the user to possess some data
and requiring the user to possess a physical object.

Måns Rullgård

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