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Re: on firmware and freedoom

branden@debian.org wrote:

>to, I thought I'd share my personal view on the reasons why would bother to
>ask for free firmware in the first place, and what message I think we would
>send if we cease demanding it.
I can't see how you can claim this, considering this part of the
proposed GR saying the opposite:

    2. encourages authors of all works to make those works available not
       only under licenses that permit modification, but also in forms
       that make such modifications practical; and

>It may be that a consequence -- intended or not -- of Microsoft's
>aggressive new Windows Activation strategy is that it's driving a wave of
>refugees to Linux who previously ran Windows because it "just worked" and
>they could get it for free, as in free beer.
By looking at the long list of long-time developers who seconded the
proposal I do not think this is plausible.

>I don't demand that every computer user be an expert, but I do lament our
>failure to promulgate the value of free computing to our new users.  In the
>name of "pragmatism", an honorable school of philosophical thought now
>reduced to a makeweight for any argument that is short-sighted and
>antisocial in content, our community now flirts with squandering the
>successes that have been won over the past 15 years.
We have been shipping sourceless firmwares in Debian since they started
being distributed with the Linux kernel, so it looks like that they did
not have a negative impact on our successes.

>I, too, have often been frustrated by a lack of complete hardware support
>in Linux for any device I can purchase.  I compensate for this by
>attempting to be an informed consumer, not buying hardware by firms that
>are Linux-hostile, and learning to accept the fact that I can't have
>everything I want.  For me, hardware that doesn't have a free driver just
>isn't an option.  If I end up with some because it's bundled with a
>motherboard, for example, then I know that when I buy it, and for me it
>might as well not be present.  It's not a "feature" of my purchase.
This is good, but it is not related with the issue being discussed
since the proposed GR is not about shipping non-free drivers in main.

>What we put in "main" carries our imprimatur, whether we like it or not.
>While it is true that we have qualified reservations about all sorts of
>things in main, and these are frequent fodder for discussions on -legal and
>occasionally other mailing lists, I believe it is also true that when we
>put something in "main", we endorse it.  (We certainly pledge to provide
>security updates for it.)
Can you find *any* user in the whole life of the project who did
seriously believe that we should provide for the sourceless firmwares
which we have been distributing more support than we can do?
Unless you can find a reasonale number of people believing this then it
is false.

>I personally am not comfortable with extending this imprimatur to what
>we've lately been styling "blobs", be they executable instructions for the
>host or an auxiliary CPU, graphical images, audio/video streams, or manuals
>that have post-processed by some sort of tool.
There is not plan to "extend" it for the very simple reason that the
proposed GR would only reaffirm the current practice.

>operation of their machine as they see fit.  To ship this stuff in main
>despite the deficiency of a lacking source form is to tell our users that
>we are complicit in withholding control of their computers.
I totally disagree with this opinion. Firmwares are an essential part of
any modern computer, and it is an annoying but currently hard to change
fact of life that we lack the source for almost all of them.
I reject the notion that we can ignore some fundamental parts of the
computers which we use only because we do not distribute them: this
would be hypocritical.
Even if Debian stopped distributing sourceless firmwares users would
continue to use them, either on a flash chip or by downloading and
installing them on their file systems.
Such a change on our part would not drive users to buy hardware whose
firmwares are accompanied by their source, because with a very small
number of exceptions there are no such devices. The claim that vendors
would start to distribute the firmware sources is unproven, and indeed
I cannot see how it could happen when only a small part of the community
would care enough to deliberately make life harder for their customers.
Instead it would push the less technically competent users toward
other distributions, whose committment to free software is usually less
strong than our own.
In this scenario I do not see an advancement for the cause of free

>In my view, you should be entitled to no fewer rights to customize and
>share with your friends a "blob", as you are anything else that flows
>through the buses of your machine.
In mine too, but again the proposed GR is not about this.


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