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Re: LCC and blobs

md@Linux.IT (Marco d'Itri) writes:

> On Dec 25, Brian Thomas Sniffen <bts@alum.mit.edu> wrote:
>> > Yet, CF is actually chips --- often the same chips as used to hold
>> > firmware distributed with hardware. Thus, it's all hardware.
>> Sure.  It's on a medium for software exchange, thus it's software.  If
>> it were an integral component of a device, it'd be hardware.  I've
> This is an interesting criteria, but which part of the policy or of
> the social contract specifies it?

I don't believe policy or the SC does expand on what "requires"
means.  This is the only self-consistent explanation I've seen which
allows Debian to ship a usable OS.  Have you another?

>> never been confused when looking at such things; the closest case I've
>> found to confusing is the MP3 player, which has its OS on disk.  I'm
>> inclined to say that it's software to the MP3 player, an architecture
>> which Debian does not support.  It's hardware, a drive, to the
>> (Intel?) Debian-supported PC to which it's connected.
> So a driver for an USB MP3 player requiring a non-free firmware is OK
> for you, but a driver for an USB DSL modem requiring a non-free firmware
> is not?

Not at all.  I'd expect both cases to act like devices with a
reasonable interface: the MP3 player should act like a normal USB
drive when plugged in, and the DSL modem should conform to whatever
spec is usual for such things -- mine has an ethernet interface, so
I'm not sure why there should be a separate driver.

My opinion, to be clear, is that if there's a blob of software handled
by the driver and uploaded from disk to the device, then it is
software in the requirements chain of the driver and must be Free for
the driver to be shipped in Debian.  If the device merely happens to
use some firmware blob in its internal operation, and the driver
doesn't do anything useful without a functioning piece of hardware,
then that's fine.  The driver never perceives the firmware as
software, and certainly doesn't require a software blob to upload to
function properly.


Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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