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The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

Posted Jul 12, 2012 18:10 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946)
In reply to: The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ... by bosyber
Parent article: Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Actually, the hardware manufacturer has *more* rights if they decide to keep the firmware proprietary. They can fix any bugs in the firmware and you don't have that right. There are three choices

* No separate firmware at all
* Free firmware
* Non-free firmware

A) and B) is acceptable for FSF but C) is not. Again, I am not arguing that FSF is absolutely right but it is a very clear position and is logically consistent with the rest of their ideals which is always in favor of end user rights.


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The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

Posted Jul 12, 2012 18:59 UTC (Thu) by bosyber (guest, #84963) [Link]

And since C) is not acceptable, that leaves an all-or-nothing choice where in both cases they have the same rights to existing products: both can update, or neither can update, yes.

But, as I said, it might be consistent, but it also is arguably of very limited use in today’s world.

Since in many countries reverse-engineering for interacting is allowed, you might well have the right to replace the hardware as much as the software. Both are limited by legal barriers to uncertified running and warranty. If a software update blocks your phone's access to the network, so will a hardware tweak, after all.

Replacing software is in most cases a much more feasible strategy, and thus allowing for it gives much better hope of opening a closed product after sale.

Of course B) would be the preferred option, but it isn't the current majority choice, so blocking C) leaves A) as the practically poorer short-term default for much hardware.

I understand that the FSF isn't always concerned with practicality, but others may be; I repeat, it isn't surprising if those feel this is the wrong way to progress.

The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

Posted Jul 12, 2012 20:56 UTC (Thu) by DavidS (guest, #84675) [Link]

And since C) is not acceptable, that leaves an all-or-nothing choice where in both cases they have the same rights to existing products: both can update, or neither can update, yes. But, as I said, it might be consistent, but it also is arguably of very limited use in today’s world.
Couldn't that be the point the FSF's trying to make? "A firmware that can only be updated at the manufacturer's mercy is worse - for the user - than a firmware that can't be updated at all?" At least one could send the TV back as defect, instead of having to wait for the next "OTA". Which won't fix it anyways.

The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

Posted Jul 12, 2012 21:31 UTC (Thu) by bosyber (guest, #84963) [Link]

Yes, I do expect it is. And I see value in that message. Keeping that point in mind is very important as an outlook of where we want to go.

But it seems also clear that people might not like it (and thus work against it instead of heeding it) and/or think that a different approach will work better as a way to actually get there; especially as a solution until we eventually, hopefully, end up there.

The FSF answer to Matthew Garrett's list ...

Posted Jul 12, 2012 22:27 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

the issue is that the manufacturer usually doesn't have the power to update the firmware without the user doing something to approve it.

If you are talking about something like a TV where everything is fed from the manufacturer over the air, you really aren't talking 'firmware' you are talking about the complete OS of your system.

the idea that a Wifi card is somehow 'better' if you would have to send it back to the vendor to upgrade the firmware rather than moving to a new linux kernel driver version that uploads a different binary blob to the wifi card is where people get upset.


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