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Resolved: firmware is not software

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 24, 2006 17:53 UTC (Thu) by Los__D (guest, #15263)
In reply to: Resolved: firmware is not software by slef
Parent article: Resolved: firmware is not software

But it's ok if it's locked inside the device? That makes no sense


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Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 25, 2006 5:58 UTC (Fri) by kleptog (subscriber, #1183) [Link]

Ofcourse, because then Debian isn't distributing it and there's no problem.

It's not a tirade against binary blobs as such, it's not about users running them, it's about whether Debian should be *distributing* them. If you get them from somewhere else or they're in the device, it's not a problem. Basically, users have become dependant on binary blobs to run they're machines and are encouraging Debian to ship them.

The line between code and data has never been particularly wide, one man's code is another man's data.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 25, 2006 7:49 UTC (Fri) by slef (guest, #14720) [Link]

No, it's not OK if it's locked inside the device, but then debian's not distributing it, so the project isn't making any promise that it can be studied, adapted, improved or shared. That's far more clear: your hardware = your problem.

The problem is that debian is distributing these programs and people might expect them to be maintainable, but it can't be covered by the usual debian promises. I suggest making it clearer: your hardware using firmware from this section = still your problem.

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 29, 2006 23:44 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

you say that firmware isn't maintainable, what do you need to do with it?

you don't expect a device to have it's interface with the system changing on you. modulo bugs you want the devices interface to remain the same, and you want it to be the same as every other version of that device.

besides, a device that you had firmware each install is easier to tinker with then one that has it's firmware in flash.

1. firmware in flash useually requires dos/windows to update

2. updateing firmware in flash runs a real risk of turning the device into a doorstop, if the firmware is downloaded each initialization, all you need to do is to reboot and try again (unless you manage to physicaly damage a device, but that risk is the same in either case)

Resolved: firmware is not software

Posted Aug 30, 2006 11:51 UTC (Wed) by slef (guest, #14720) [Link]

> you say that firmware isn't maintainable, what do you need to do with it?

Aye, there's the rub: You don't really know until you need to do it.

Maybe you need to adapt it, to make the device to behave differently, in order to meet your needs. Maybe you need to study it, in order to improve support for other similar devices from that manufacturer. Maybe you just want better performance on one aspect. Maybe you need to share it with someone else with a similar device who wants a similar adaptation.

Or, you point out one reason yourself:

> you don't expect a device to have it's interface with the system changing on you

I've seen devices where there's a choice of N firmwares that you can upload and some of them seem to have different interfaces to the others, using different drivers on the kernel side. Maybe we'd like to make all the firmwares for that device use a stable interface? We could do that if we could maintain them.

You're quite right that uploading each time is better in some ways to flashing, but some dealers will flash devices for you if the alternative is a 'not fit for purpose' return of goods, so it's not clear cut.


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