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Resolved: firmware is not software

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 7:08 UTC (Thu) by drag (subscriber, #31333)
In reply to: Resolved: firmware is not software by Los__D
Parent article: Resolved: firmware is not software

I agree.

Firmware is very hardware specific. It doesn't matter what platform your running it on, what sort of operating system your using, what sort of CPU your using. None of that matters.

You can run firmware ripped from a PowerPC OS X driver in Windows XP driver on x86 or a Linux machine on Sparc or ARM. It doesn't matter. It's tied to a paticular peice of hardware and it's completely worthless for any other reason of application.

There realy isn't any reason to know what it does or how it works, beyond what is nessicary to write device drivers. No reason to have to go modify it or whatnot.

Although if I have a choice I'll avoid hardware that requires seperate firmware. If the manufacturer is just to cheap to invest in a little peice of ROM for their devices then what else did they go cheap on?


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Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 8:07 UTC (Thu) by Robin.Hill (subscriber, #4385) [Link]

There realy isn't any reason to know what it does or how it works, beyond what is nessicary to write device drivers. No reason to have to go modify it or whatnot.
Not necessarily true - for example, the firmware for a USB camera could control how it adjusts colours, how long it'll allow the shutter to be open for, how the auto-focus works, enabling/disabling digital zoom, etc. I can easily see situations where the default settings are non-optimal, or where you're trying to use the hardware for a purpose not originally envisaged by the designers, so not provided for by the original firmware.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 8:23 UTC (Thu) by evgeny (guest, #774) [Link]

> It doesn't matter what platform your running it on, what sort of operating system your using, what sort of CPU your using.

It's not the point. The point is about _distributing_ it, not about using. E.g., shipping with Debian a PXE boot image of a non-free OS (even if it's supposed to be run on a hardware Debian hasn't been ported to) would be a similar violation of the policy.

I do agree, though, that an excemption should be made for distributing firmware.

> If the manufacturer is just to cheap to invest in a little peice of ROM for their devices then what else did they go cheap on?

Well, why? I see no technical drawbacks from loading the firmware by the driver. I think it makes the things more flexible.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 16:08 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

If the manufacturer is just to cheap to invest in a little peice of ROM for their devices then what else did they go cheap on?

Are you kidding me? You want pre-ship bugs locked into the device's ROM for all time? You don't want to be able to add features years later, re-target the device at runtime, or be able to experiment with it yourself (assuming you have appropriate decompilers/toolchain)?

Personally, I'm ecstatic that "firm" no longer describes a lot of device-specific code being written today.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 17:51 UTC (Thu) by Los__D (guest, #15263) [Link]

Just because it doesn't get autoloaded doesn't mean that it's not upgradeable, you never did a BIOS or videocard firmware update?

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 19:21 UTC (Thu) by pflugstad (subscriber, #224) [Link]

And the flash to support that is probably more expensive than the ROM would be.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 26, 2006 11:10 UTC (Sat) by broonie (subscriber, #7078) [Link]

Not always - due to the need to program the device at some point during production it can be much more cost effective to put a flash device on and program it after the hardware has been assembled. It allows the use of an off the shelf component, which is normally a win, and can be useful to allow production test access to the system.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 29, 2006 0:38 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

if you look at volume pricing of parts flash is still frequently more expensive then ROM (One-Time-Programmable) versions, let alone ones that don't have the flash at all.

also programming the flash frequently requires additional wires and other components in the device, which also cose.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 29, 2006 18:05 UTC (Tue) by broonie (subscriber, #7078) [Link]

Yes, it does depend on what you're doing - volumes, feature sets and whatnot. Point is that you can't tell which of flash or ROM will work out better until you look at the particular application.


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