Linked by ddc_ on Thu 2nd Feb 2012 23:22 UTC
Slackware, Slax There are different reasons people use Unix-like operating systems, including configurable, availability free of charge, powerful command line interface an many more. Some people are motivated by the moral issue: they reject non-free software. Specifically for such users Free Software Foundation developed Guidelines for Free System Distributions and created the list of absolutely free ("as in freedom") distributions. In this article we are going to look at the most recent entry on the list - Parabola GNU/Linux.
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Nonfree firmware
by antik on Thu 2nd Feb 2012 23:39 UTC
Member since:

"Some applications and drivers require firmware to function, and sometimes that firmware is distributed only in object code form, under a nonfree license. We call these firmware programs “blobs.” On most GNU/Linux systems, you'll typically find these accompanying some drivers in the kernel Linux. Such firmware should be removed from a free system distribution."

In old days all add-on cards had programmable memory on board to carry device firmware- nobody knew what license it had, now, to reduce costs there is no memory chip and all firmware is loaded into computer memory from module of kernel itself. Why cripple perfectly working hardware because of some "Freedom Nazis"?

That's why I don't use Debian anymore on any server (exception is virtualization) - because it just won't work.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Nonfree firmware
by No it isnt on Fri 3rd Feb 2012 08:20 in reply to "Nonfree firmware"
No it isnt Member since:

How about just enabling the non-free repository and install the firmware from there? You don't seem very competent.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Nonfree firmware
by lucas_maximus on Fri 3rd Feb 2012 08:25 in reply to "RE: Nonfree firmware"
lucas_maximus Member since:

How do you enable the repo to get the firmware when your wireless doesn't work?

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Nonfree firmware
by r_a_trip on Fri 3rd Feb 2012 12:51 in reply to "RE: Nonfree firmware"
r_a_trip Member since:

How about just enabling the non-free repository and install the firmware from there?

Why jump through unnecesarry hoops on an artificially crippled machine to just go and "taint" it anyways? Just to satisfy an academic desire for ideological purity?

There is nothing wrong with aggregating these distributable blobs on the disk itself and ask the user if he wants to "taint" his system with non-free firmware during setup. Enabling the non-free repositories after the fact is the same principle, just a lot more user hostile. All just for the privilege of claiming that the base OS doesn't contain non-free software and still being blasted by RMS for the existence of a non-free repository.

So purely Free Distro's are generally a crippled PITA on current hardware and every moderate distro is a breeze to use, with all hardware supported out of the box.

Firmware is practically hardware. A firmware blob only works on the device it is intended for. In the off chance that flipping a few bits around in these files suddenly makes a scsi controller produce ponies and rainbows, we can probably agree that is an advantage we can live without.

This "everything FOSS or die" stance doesn't really make sense in the case of firmware. RMS himself has indicated that he wouldn't care one iota about it if that same firmware was just burned indelibly into ROM. So this isn't truly about being able to study and modify the firmware. This is just the academic case of "the vendor can modify it, so we should be able to do so too".

Before anybody trots out the "We don't know what that firmware does and with a Free Software license we can study it". Just let the above sink in. If the firmware spies on you, kills kittens and makes Whoville women pregnant, that is only an issue when it is distributed as a blob. As soon as it is burned fixed into ROM, it doesn't concern Free Software according to RMS.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE: Nonfree firmware
by spiderman on Fri 3rd Feb 2012 08:24 in reply to "Nonfree firmware"
spiderman Member since:

I like to know that my servers aren't crippled with crapware and spying software calling home and other anti user features and conflicts of interest.
I don't review all the code, mind you but I trust the vendors that give the code more, because it's like "here is the software, without malware and other crap, and here is the code to prove it", instead of "here is the software, without malware and other crap, but don't look at it too closely or we will sue you".

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Nonfree firmware
by Wafflez on Fri 3rd Feb 2012 08:53 in reply to "RE: Nonfree firmware"
Wafflez Member since:

Oh, dear...

Linux users are... strange.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Nonfree firmware
by sakeniwefu on Sat 4th Feb 2012 10:34 in reply to "Nonfree firmware"
sakeniwefu Member since:

In old days all add-on cards had programmable memory on board to carry device firmware- nobody knew what license it had, now, to reduce costs there is no memory chip and all firmware is loaded into computer memory from module of kernel itself.

Thet's true and I tend to agree with the OpenBSD view.

Furthermore, while I don't know by which Law, I assume it's actually illegal to sell fully open radio transmitters as it'd be a quick way to make money with a cheaper product with 0 software development cost. Providing the firmware source on GPLv3 terms would basically mean that, so it just can't be.

However, as soon as vendors start calling iOS, Android or Windows 8 "firmware", it starts getting scary. As long as owning unlocked computing devices isn't illegal, I guess there's going to be something people like me to use, but the end of open mass produced computers is nigh.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Nonfree firmware
by bert64 on Mon 6th Feb 2012 13:28 in reply to "Nonfree firmware"
bert64 Member since:

Indeed, most hardware has firmware and most of it is proprietary... Even processors now have microcode.
The need for firmware loaders is purely down to reducing cost, as its cheaper than putting a flash chip on every piece of hardware.

So long as the interface to load the firmware, as well as the driver itself is open and the firmware only executes on the hardware itself and not on the host system it's not any worse then having it stored on the device itself. If anything it's possible an improvement since it becomes easier to modify the firmware.

That said, i would still prefer a device with open firmware, but do any such devices exist?

Reply Parent Score: 2