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

Bernhard R. Link <brlink@debian.org> wrote:

> This is not true in either direction. Not every non-free application has
> a free counterpart[1]. And not every hardware needs firmware.

If you can find a single hard drive on the market that doesn't contain 
some sort of firmware, I'll be greatly impressed. Or, for that matter, a 
vaguely modern processor. Let alone bootstrapping a system (LinuxBIOS 
will suffice for a very small range of hardware), running a modern 
network card, using a graphics chip for any purpose other than 
unaccelerated 2D, or, well, pretty much any piece of hardware on the 
market today. For all practical purposes, it's impossible to obtain 
hardware that doesn't depend on firmware.

> 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).

Yeah, motherboard chipsets are probably about the only thing on a modern 
system that isn't obviously microcoded. Shame that the drives you plug 
into them are - vendors often provide firmware upgrades for IDE drives.

> 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.

I'm entirely happy with us making it clear that firmware isn't 
free-as-in-DFSG. I'm not happy about us leaving it out of the default 
install images.

> 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 you believe that you can buy hardware without ROM firmware, then I 
think it's pretty clear that you don't know it is in there.

> 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.

Or you'll go and buy some hardware with the firmware in eeprom where 
it's a pain to replace with free firmware.

> 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?

No. There's plenty of hardware with free drivers, and I think that us 
refusing to provide the non-free ones does make a difference. I run no 
non-free drivers on any of my hardware. At the point where it's possible 
for me to run a machine without any non-free firmware, I'll be happy to 
drop it.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.project@srcf.ucam.org

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