Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Nov 2010 22:24 UTC, submitted by koki
GNU, GPL, Open Source Now this is interesting. We see what is at its core a very valid concern, in practice not a problem to anyone, and, thanks to the tone of the press release, close to trolling. The Free Software Foundation Latin America is complaining about something that has been known for a while - there is some non-Free code stuck in the Linux kernel (mostly firmware). A valid issue of concern from an idealogical viewpoint, but sadly, the tone of the press release turns this valid concern into something close to trolling.
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Not again...
by tomz on Wed 10th Nov 2010 00:25 UTC
tomz
Member since:
2010-05-06

Someone also pointed the JSON license is not free (I'm not quite sure which provision, perhaps not using it for evil).

Just because there is a chunk of binary does not mean it came from ANY source originally, nor does it follow that if there was a "compiler" that it could be modified into anything useful. Some of that info is data not code - would changing the whole thing to unsigned char firmwareimage[] = { 0x00, 0x01... }; make the happy - they would have source!

Consider FPGAs - the source isn't code as such, it's logic.

The stupid part is that if the manufacturers used ROMs that you could NEVER fix so that if specs or regs change you would have to buy a completely new part it would be GPL compliant. Because it is in volatile memory, or flashable memory, it becomes a matter for controversy.

Stallman first stated it, but in effect he and FSFLA would prefer a Masked ROM chip soldered to the board that could never be upgraded to one that there would be no useful way to change the binary but theoretically could or has a ram that downloads the code.

I like opensource hardware and would love to have all the schematics and PCB layouts of the cards, but 30 years ago no one thought that it was important for freedom. The same freedoms apply though - examine and learn, use for any purpose, modify, distribute mods (or instructions). Hardware being completely non-free doesn't bother them at all?

Firmware sits in the middle of this. Again, if it was a masked ROM or etched board it would be hardware, but because it is the implementation for hardware?

But look at the four freedoms again...

To use it for any purpose - yes, and you can modify i thought it would be difficult.

To study how it works - You would need to be a master EE, and even then you might not know how it works or affects things. I doubt even 1% of the FSFLA members could explain to me how the device they are concerned about the firmware works or even how to upload. Have they even heard of JTAG?

To redistribute it and any mods - you have that.

Access to the source is NOT a precondition for distributing modifications - the firmware or the source for it is NOT generic so doesn't apply to different chips. Talking with something over a standard bus, or between two devices it is important since it lets me do things like code once and run it in a PPC Mac and an intel PC if they both have PCI. But these are microcode for some very idiosyncratic chip.

If they want to play with such things, for example wifi, there are GNU radio - software defined radios which program in standard languages. If they can't program that, and wifi, gps, bluetooth aren't simple - why is it important to have access to source you can't understand so won't be able to modify?

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