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Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware

On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 07:14:03AM -0600, Matthew Wilcox wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 02:44:48PM +0200, Sven Luther wrote:
> > On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 06:08:08AM -0600, Matthew Wilcox wrote:
> > > I think the key distinction (as far as I'm concerned) is that Debian
> > > isn't producing a distribution for the microcontroller in my
> > > fibrechannel card, it's producing a distribution for my computer.
> > > In order to make my fibrechannel card work, it has to poke some bits
> > > in a documented way.  Even if there happens to be an ARM onboard that
> > > card that's running a program, that ARM isn't running Debian.
> > 
> > One of the purposes of having access to the prefered form of modification, is
> > to be able to fix bugs.
> Certainly, it's one of the purposes.  But I don't think we've *lost*
> anything by distributing binary firmware.  Consider the cases:
> 1. Everything in hardware.  You're not able to fix anything without a
>    soldering iron ... and good luck to you with that.
> 2. Unmodifiable firmware in EEPROM.  Need an EEPROM programmer, and a
>    good deal of skill to fix anything.  Again, best of luck.
> 3. Binary-only firmware in the driver.  Slightly better chance of trying
>    to figure out what's going on, but still low.
> 4. Firmware source in non-preferred form.  Modifications probably
>    possible, but when the next round of changes come out from the
>    vendor, you probably have to ditch your mods.
> 5. Firmware source in preferred form.  Can send changes back to vendor,
>    everybody wins.
> (and I'm sure people can think of other finer distinctions).

Notice that i don't disagree with you, i even have argued, altough maybe in a
more clumsy way, exactly the same thingas you.

My point is that if we believe the above, then we should say so, namely :

  firmware is non-free.

  but we chose to keep it, because it is globally more free than the
  firmware-less alternatives or other reasons.

This is what you claim, and what everyone thinks who support the "keep
firmware in main" way, so why not be open about it and say it so ? 

> You seem to want to disallow cases 3 and 4 which makes sense from a
> "here are the rules of data freedom, now i must follow them" point of
> view, but really don't make sense to the vendor, nor to the user.  It
> seems like an all-or-nothing approach.

I did say nothing of the sort.

> Actually, I can turn your argument on its head.  The point you're making
> is about ease of fixing bugs.  Given case 3, I can't fix the bug myself,
> but I have in the past been able to get the vendor to fix the bug.  In
> case 2 (which your argument would seem happy with), I can't fix the bug
> at all.  So cases 3 and 4 are *better* from a bug fixing point of view.

Nope, my argument is unrelated to this, it is related to calling things as
they are and not play word-games just because the reality inconveniences us.


Sven Luther

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