Not logged in
Log in now
Create an account
Subscribe to LWN
Pencil, Pencil, and Pencil
Dividing the Linux desktop
LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 13, 2013
A report from pgCon 2013
Little things that matter in language design
Very poor summary
Posted Mar 4, 2010 2:56 UTC (Thu) by lxoliva (guest, #40702)
The enemies of the Free Software movement are those who actually deny users' the freedoms they deserve. Linus doesn't do that. He just helps and supports others do that. He's not an oppressor, just an accomplice.
Where he is, between a naïve accomplice who honestly believes to be doing no harm and someone who actively benefits from others' misery, is not for me to tell or assess, but if he hadn't taken this stance, maybe, just maybe, vendors would have kept on contributing source code for the firmware they wanted to add to Linux, just like they did back in 1995, and we'd all be much better off.
And, even if vendors didn't, I wouldn't like to be someone who succeeded at the expense of others' freedoms, and I wish Linus wouldn't either.
Posted Mar 5, 2010 7:26 UTC (Fri) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
You seem to be arguing that categorically all other things would be the
same, except this firmware issue would now be a lot better. But what if by
fighting the firmware battle 10 years ago, we'd lose other fights? Maybe
it's even completely a losing battle: maybe all the hardware that now got
closed firmware would still got nothing but closed firmware, but thanks to
the hard-line stance, this hardware would not run in Linux, and
consequently it would have that much less real-world users.
I think world domination is primarily a popularity contest. I find it
ridiculous to whine about closedness of firmware, and do actions that harm
driver support on Linux, when it isn't that stellar to begin with.
Meanwhile, everything keeps on working in Windows, and users will never
leave Windows if that is the case. And thus the battle for popularity is
lost, and with that, practically everything else.
And yes, let me retract "Linus Torvalds is an enemy of freedom" and replace
that with "Linux Torvalds is an accomplice to enemies of freedom". I was
not paying close enough attention to notice this distinction.
Posted Mar 5, 2010 15:09 UTC (Fri) by lxoliva (guest, #40702)
Anyhow, to the concrete argument, rather than responding to your mud-slinging.
Are you aware that there are lots and lots of non-Free drivers that have never gone into Linux, because they would be blatant violations of the GPL, but that are nevertheless offered to the public by manufacturers of the corresponding devices, and even by some distributors?
Had Linus decided to keep the non-Free firmware out, just like he has been doing for the past couple of years, moving it to the firmware tree and then to a separate repository, this wouldn't have changed, except that the non-Free firmware would be about as much of a second-class citizen as the non-Free drivers have always been. Less so, even, because drivers actually depend on the kernel ABI and API, whereas firmware depends at most on driver-specific ABIs.
So, no, GNU/Linux wouldn't have lost in popularity. That's as fallacious as the often-brought-up argument that, if distros didn't include the firmware, users would be left with non-functional computers. That's utter nonsense. When people bought the computers, they already got the firmware straight from the hardware vendor!
Now, had Linux taken a hard stance back then, much of the same firmware would likely still have been pushed onto customers willing to tolerate that, with or without help from distros. Others might have been released as Free Software, like those that were present in Linux 1.3.0.
Even if Linux had taken a merely informative stance, rather than mopping the garbage under the rug like it did, customers might at least have been aware of the problem back then, if they happened to pay attention, instead of being fooled for a whole decade. And then, the problem might have been reduced, if enough people, becoming aware of it, took action, rather than becoming so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it -- Morpheus.
Posted Mar 9, 2010 7:46 UTC (Tue) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
Copyright © 2013, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds