Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware
* Matthew Garrett <firstname.lastname@example.org> [060823 16:40]:
> > We are giving a promise here, that with the stuff in our distribution
> > you have the freedom to use it, to give it to others and to fix it.
> > This means the missing of legal obstacles and the possibility to do so.
> > For this discussion "preferred form of modification" is perhaps not the
> > best definition. It's good for licenses as it is not easily to work
> > around. I think here the difference is between the source being in
> > a form practical to edit or not. Without a practical form there is
> > no possibility to change it. And this is a limitation we have to
> > make clear to people and not lock them into by claiming all is good
> > and well and it could be part of our free operating system.
> We never included non-free applications in main because we felt that
> there was no need to. And, indeed, even in 1993 it was possible to use a
> computer without any non-free applications.
This depends whom you ask. Some people will even instist that today a
computer without a working (i.e. non-free) flash-plugin is not
> That doesn't hold with the firmware argument. With applications, we had
> the choice between "Free but less functional" and "Non-free but more
> functional". With firmware we have the choice between "Non-free but on
> disk" and "Non-free but in ROM". There isn't a "Free" option at all yet.
This is not true in either direction. Not every non-free application has
a free counterpart. And not every hardware needs firmware.
Many hardware for PCs "needed" ROM-stored instructions in the past. But as
chips were expensive they were designed to run on the same processor,
then operating systems no longer running in real mode arrived and Linux
had to write drivers for almost everything themself. Where is the
difference to firmware? Other that the vendor might be unwilling to give
specs to write it on your own saying that there is that firmware.
(Last time they has the excuse that all is secret...)
> So I think the real question is "How does us refusing to ship non-free
> firmware help free software?". If a user wants to use Debian, then the
> obvious thing for them to do will be to buy hardware that has the
> non-free firmware in ROM.
Or which somes with no firmware at all. (Or where it makes no
difference, I do not know if any IDE controler has firmware and
I did not hear about IDE harddiscs able to replace it).
There also is still the non-free section (or split it into
non-free-host-apps, non-free-periperical-apps, non-free-docs, ....)
so that people can still get it working easily without pretending
anything if free or can be part of a free operating system.
> Ironically, this will actually make it harder for them to ever use free firmware!
Where is the difference. If firmware is so free that even Debian
declares it free, who will write a free one?
> I think it's reasonable to refuse to ship non-free code when there's
> actually a choice or when it's likely to provide an incentive to
> implement a free version. But right now, I don't see any evidence that
> refusing to ship non-free firmware will do anything other than cost us
> users without providing any extra freedom.
I'm not saying we should refuse to ship non-free code. I've voted to
keep non-free in the last GR about it. I'm against putting things in
Debian which are not free. If it is in Debian, I want to be sure that
I am allowed to modify it and get it working with some work. If I' bye
stuff with ROMed firmware I know it is in there and what I have to
expect. If I have to get in from the non-free section, I know I'll have
no chance and try to buy something where the manufacturer gave specs
and someone worked on them. If everything is in main I'm lured in a
false feeling of security and have no easy way to distinguish and
choose the vendor with a free firmware.
I'm still waiting for a argument how this is in any way different
from any other driver for hardware. The only advantage of firmware is
that it does not hurt people with minority arches (But given Vancouver
that can not be a difference, because we do not care about arches not
used by everyone, do we) more than other people. And that it is not that
dependent on some interfaces often changing on Linux.
Would you also ask to include non-free drivers if they had stable
interface and the kernel had a bochs included by default to run them?
Bernhard R. Link
 Think of all that little programs speaking some "secret" protocol,
applications for special tasks and so on.