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

On Wed, 23 Aug 2006 16:23:20 -0700, Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> said: 

> As you and I discussed previously on IRC, I don't agree with this
> amendment.  The premise of my proposal is that we are *not* granting
> an exception nor redefining any terms, we are merely recognizing a
> latent definition of "programs" that has guided Debian since its
> inception in spite of standing in contrast to the dictionary
> definition of the word.  If I felt that we were actually redefining
> terms at this juncture, I would wholeheartedly agree with Manoj that
> it should be done by modifying the DFSG with a 3:1 supermajority.
> And it seems to me that your proposed amendment falls on the other
> side of this line, where you would have us define "program" to mean
> one thing now and something else later.

> It may be that this discussion will lead me to the conclusion that
> the distinction between "stating what our definition of 'program'
> is" and "redefining 'program'" is too subtle, in which case I expect
> that I'll go for an amendment to the DFSG instead.

        It is not just a "dictionary" definition. Let me see if I can
 drive this point home. I have looked at text books, encyclopedias,
 references in the IEEE and ACM digital libraries, and various
 glossaries and dictionaries of computer and electronic terms. I
 personally would consider "Computer Organization & Design: The
 hardware /software interface" by David A. Patterson and John
 L. Hennessey authoritative in this area.

        It is not as if the term is not well understood and fairly
 rigorously defined in the texts, literature and media out there --
 and redefining it by using a "latent definition" is indeed like
 redefining what words mean in order to meet our convenience.

        What would it take to convince the proponents of this position
 that the term is ill-defined or vacuous enough to require further
 (and wildly different) definition by the project?

        Indeed, all the references I have found tell me that firmware
 is computer  programs. The only "confusion" I have ever seen is in
 Debian fora linked to a discussion in which comeone is trying to
 continue to inject such source-less computer programs in main --
 which makes me wonder about the depth of such confusion.

        If Debian chooses to use words in its foundation documents
 which is privately re-defines to be at odds with the general and
 commonly accepted meaning of the term, and does not explicitly insert
 the private special definition into the foundation document, I
 consider it deceptive, unethical, and putting a lie to the social

        I mean, if Debian can today define program to mean "not
 firmware, despite what all references say", what is to prevent it
 from redefining it privately tomorrow to say "anything not written by
 microsoft, since that isn't programs, but crap"? and ship the freely
 distributable but non-free crap in main, since they are not programs?

        (Yes, this example is a little over the top, but not a whole
 lot. If we are redefining common words, let us have the honesty to
 put in our definition where we use it in the foundation documents).


 "Computer Organization & Design: The hardware /software interface",
 David A. Patterson and John L. Hennessey, pp 424-425, talking about
 how firmware is programming instructions interpreted by the FSM
 controller (ie computer code interpreted by a micrprocessor inside
 the MIPS CPU itself -- so the CPU distinction is void).

        Encyclopedias: Wikipedia says it unequivocally: 
In computing, firmware is software that is embedded in a hardware
device. It is often provided on flash ROMs or as a binary image file
that can be uploaded onto existing hardware by a user. 

 Gazillions of Glossaries:
    Google for "define: firmware"

	And yes, the dictionaries:
>From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (19 Sep 2003) [foldoc]:

     Software stored in read-only memory (ROM) or programmable ROM
     (PROM).  Easier to change than hardware but harder than
     software stored on disk.  Firmware is often responsible for
     the behaviour of a system when it is first switched on.  A
     typical example would be a "monitor" program in a
     microcomputer which loads the full operating system from disk
     or from a network and then passes control to it.
>From WordNet (r) 2.0 (August 2003) [wn]:

      n : (computer science) coded instructions that are stored
          permanently in read-only memory [syn: {microcode}]

        The Jargon file: Embedded software contained in EPROM or flash

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they
have only recaptured 116 of them?
Manoj Srivastava   <srivasta@debian.org>  <http://www.debian.org/%7Esrivasta/>
1024D/BF24424C print 4966 F272 D093 B493 410B  924B 21BA DABB BF24 424C

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