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

* Matthew Garrett <mgarrett@chiark.greenend.org.uk> [060823 18:18]:
> > In case it was not clear I was discussing things where firmware is also
> > loadable.
> Why?

Because everything else has no relevancy to Debian at all.

> Several drivers load microcode to graphics chipsets on startup.

But most of them still work with vesafb without driver. And the graphics
drivers (though not that many, and perhaps two or three years old),
I looked only had some obscure start values for some ports, but nothing
long enough for real programs.

> Gigabit cards pretty much all run some sort of firmware.

Which is just a bit faster than 100Mb cards. Nothing where you cannot
live with free stuff alone if it has to be.

> But anyway. Your computer depends on non-free firmware. It's basically
> impossible to avoid that nowadays. From a practical viewpoint, I would 
> prefer it if we encouraged hardware that was amenable to easy firmware 
> replacement. You seem to prefer hardware where that's more difficult. I 
> don't see how that's a win for freedom.

I prefer hardware where all the specification is there and it can be
made to work. And not claim anything is free while it some
incomprehensible binary blob.

> > OK, never saw that drives. But where is the problem with them. Works
> > without needing any non-free stuff being put in the operating systems
> > and people might be able to replace it. No good example.
> Wait. So by "Non-free stuff being put in the operating systems", you 
> mean "Non-free stuff lives on my filesystem"?

No, I mean operating system, more exactly my operating system, the
Debian distribution.

> > Put again, what part instead if my BIOS (which mostly runs in CPU so
> > some people might not call it firmware, and at least with PCs is never
> > needed to be shipped by a driver) and IDE drivers (which also always
> > come with some pre-installed firmware, so not relevant), is found in
> > every cheap box? (assuming to wireless).
> You mean "Other than these bits of hardware that require firmware, which 
> bits of my hardware require firmware"? If you've got a laptop, the 
> embedded controller will have some sort of firmware that runs it. As 
> I've already noted, it's quite likely that your network card does if 
> it's reasonably new. Your CPU probably has new microcode loaded by the 
> BIOS. In other words, almost all of it.

Well, from what I saw, motherboards seem to be again more often 100Mbit
than gigabit like the year before. The Bios stuff is already in the
computer, so we do not have to discuss it. Embedded controlers I don't
know about.

> >> Or you'll go and buy some hardware with the firmware in eeprom where 
> >> it's a pain to replace with free firmware.
> > 
> > As I said. As long as noone cares for free firmwares, what difference
> > does it make? I the vendor opens the specs, there should be a free one
> > and not problems. If it does not open the specs the eeprom version has
> > the advantage to work even when the firmware-binary gets lost and
> > the manufacturer might have tested it before. (Or introduced something
> > to replace the firmware, which again defeats your point).
> Do you believe that hardware with the firmware in ROM is preferable 
> (from a pure freedom point of view) to hardware with firmware loaded by 
> the OS?

I do not really know (though the more firmwarry it gets, the more crappy
it normaly gets as people tend to think they can fix it later but do not
allow be to fix it). And I do not care much. Things needing a firmware
and having a reprogrammable firmware in them are preferable to them
anyway. And still best is a specification which allows me to write the
firmware myself (or even better give me one I can change easily).

What I care it what we put in main. If you think you cannot live without
cheap (i.e. no prom) hardware you cannot modify (because of missing
specifications and/or sources), which will not change (because it is too
wide accepted that firmware is somehow magically special), that is a
important thing to support. But I do not think it makes it neccessary to
put non-free stuff into main any more than the need for a flash player
absolutely needed to view any modern website...

	Bernhard R. Link
mozilla-thunderbird: It cannot read mail, it cannot send mail. It is the
victory of dialup over the internet.

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