Re: LCC and blobs
Hamish Moffatt <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> On Sat, Dec 25, 2004 at 04:08:38PM -0500, Brian Thomas Sniffen wrote:
>> Hamish Moffatt <email@example.com> writes:
>> > Eh? The contents of EEPROMs are software just as much as the contents of
>> > CD-ROMs and hard disks. They are just different media for storing
>> > digital information.
>> You can get software out of an firmware-EEPROM on a hardware device.
>> I don't think it's appropriate to call that software as is, or in
>> general. This line *could* be drawn in lots of places, but if you say
>> that the contents of an EEPROM are software, then how about a one-shot
>> PROM? How about a book with a print-out of the source code?
>> The only reasonable place to draw the line, for Debian, is this: can
>> Debian physically ship it in a useful way? For files on disk, the
>> answer is yes. We are constrained only by the license. For the book
>> or the PROM, the answer is no. For an EEPROM, in general, the answer
>> is no. For any such correctly operating device, the firmware is
>> already there. Debian can't usefully ship it. It would be
>> interesting to try supporting an architecture to run on those devices
>> instead of Wind River or whatever, but there isn't one now.
> I think you have an interesting definition but I wish that we could find
> a word other than "software" for it. We have overloaded that word too
> much already. Originally it meant computer programs; then it meant
> anything that isn't hardware. Now you're proposing that it is "anything
> that Debian could distribute."
It never meant "anything that isn't hardware". For example, the movie
"Star Wars" is not software. It's a movie. Some encoding of it may
be software, but the film on which it was originally shot certainly
isn't -- it's analog data, not digital.
The definition, for Debian's purposes, has always been the recursive
(but not circular) "anything that Debian can reasonably distribute".
"Reasonably" is a bit of a weasel, but I think that's a useful thing
to have. It's not meant to be an absolute definition, mechanically interpreted.
> I think there are parallels with other software in Debian where we have
> not been so forgiving. We have a number of emulators for game consoles
> that are packaged and currently living in contrib eg uae, atari800.
> Those are generally placed in contrib because there's currently no free
> replacement for the ROMs they require.
That seems comparable to Perl or any other interpreter: to be shipped
in Free, at least one free program must exist. If such exist for the
Atari 800 or whatever UAE emulates, then surely they can be moved to free.
> There's an abstraction barrier there too: the hardware/software
> interface. As we don't have any free software, the hardware (emulator)
> can't be in "main". You can't use the emulator software without
> additional components from outside of Debian.
> So you say that the ICQ client depends on components from outside of
> Debian that are not necessarily software. Well, what if a user has
> a CD-ROM (or an EEPROM?) full of ROMs for use with atari800; shouldn't
> atari800 be in main then since many ICQ clients are?
Such a CD-ROM is useful only by extracting software from it. This is
very different from a typical hardware device, which is there for
functionality. Sure, you could look at CDs or ROM chips as hardware,
but they are methods of software transport. A video card is not,
typically, such a method.
Brian Sniffen firstname.lastname@example.org