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The trouble with firmware

The trouble with firmware

Posted Jan 6, 2011 6:37 UTC (Thu) by josh (subscriber, #17465)
Parent article: The trouble with firmware

I applaud the Debian developers for working to make Debian's packaged version of the Linux kernel entirely Free Software with source, and I applaud the Linux kernel developers for working with Debian and others to reach this goal (rather than writing it off as a downstream issue).

However, I don't see how going further and attempting to obfuscate the firmware references will provide any useful improvement for Free Software. As far as I can tell, the Debian approach helps all classes of users: those who want to avoid non-free software entirely can install the kernel from main and know they have an entirely Free kernel, and those who have hardware that requires firmware and want that hardware to work can install a package of firmware files.

What class of users does this further effort attempt to help? I don't see how anyone will become "induced" to use proprietary firmware because the Linux kernel references. They become "induced" to use proprietary firmware because their hardware requires it. If anything, this issue needs *more* attention, not less. A list of hardware that requires proprietary firmware would help anyone who wanted to avoid that. Even better if that list includes alternatives that don't require proprietary firmware, with special attention to those pieces of hardware that have entirely Free firmware (rather than just having burned the proprietary firmware into a flash part). (Such hardware does exist; for instance, several Atheros wireless chipsets can use Free firmware.)

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