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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OpenBSD? And pure FOSS distros
by reez on Wed 10th Nov 2010 00:04 UTC
reez
Member since:
2006-06-28

Without wanting to make any ads. I currently don't use OpenBSD and don't have it installed it anywhere and I am not a big fan of it, because I simply prefer other systems.

BUT if one wants a stable, usable and secure system that DOES NOT come with blobs it seems to be the best choice.

Just in case someone is looking for something.

For me they are too conservative and IMO hyping their security too much, even if it is very secure.

Just wanted to say it, because the "really free/open source" Linux distributions don't seem to get a lot of support. I hope something like Haiku or Syllable could become a real FOSS system.

Oh and what about the "Only Free Software" option (which you can enable at the boot loader of the install CD) in Ubuntu? Does it come without Firmware?

Reply Score: 2

brynet Member since:
2010-03-02

OpenBSD does include binary firmware, look in /etc/firmware on a post 4.8 snapshot.

In this directory is both the binary firmware being loaded into devices and a "license" file that explains the terms of redistribution.

Firmware is code executed by the microcontroller on the device, originally this code was located on embedded ROM's and only upgradeable if shipped back to the manufacture, given the complexity of newer devices (802.11) it became easier to have this code be uploaded and executed when the driver was loaded, as a bonus an updated driver can contain firmware which fixes functionality of the device.

This can be extracted from the drivers and with permission from the manufacture, redistributed along with the operating system.

Every device in your system has firmware/microcode, as mentioned by another here.. even your hard drive includes a firmware, it's a necessary component of modern devices, it defines how they function.

I use OpenBSD myself, but, I backup my claims before spreading misinformation.

Firmwares are not binary-blob drivers, which exist in kernel/supervisor space and can adversely affect the function of the system.

Reply Parent Score: 3

shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

This loadable microcode is now new.
I was writing loadable microcode for VAX & PDP-11 Computers in the early 1980's.

In my simplistic view (waiting for incoming missiles) if you have the hardware and it requires loadable firmware/microcode to run then how you load it is immaterial, i.e. it don't matter if it loaded from Windows or Linux or unix or Fred's Toy O/S.
Again in my simplistic view, if you have legally purchased said H/W then it is not complete until you load the F/W.

What does matter to me is that said firmware is binary identical to that shipped by the H/W manufacturer. If you start messing with their original then sorry, you have messed up.
IN my view if you write your own code and release it under the GPL then that's fine as well. Just don't break into the manufacturers blob. Leave it alone and IMHO (IANAL etc) you should be fine legally.
If H/W makers decide to insist that the F/W can only be loaded into the device from a certain O/S then I think they are open to lawsuits but given the totally broken & messed up morass that is the US legals system I wouldn't be surprised if such suits failed.

Reply Parent Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

The linked article specifically mentions firmware blobs and (incorrectly IMO) groups them in with what is generally described as binary blobs. OpenBSD does not accept binary blobs, but they do accept firmware blobs. The main difference is that firmware blobs are not executed by the CPU and do not contain any code that interacts with the kernel.

Reply Parent Score: 5