on disabling drivers that use non-Free firmware

Alexandre Oliva lxoliva at fsfla.org
Wed Jan 7 06:07:51 UTC 2009

On Jan  7, 2009, Alexandre Oliva <lxoliva at fsfla.org> wrote:

> Am I looking at it from the wrong perspectives?

I was.  Talked to wife, she helped me see that, although in the
perspective I was looking at, the programs I mentioned were not
different from the Free drivers that require non-Free firmware (all of
them enable someone who used to use some particular piece of non-Free
Software to keep on using it while moving towards freedom in other
regards), in another perspective, they're completely different: Gnash,
Samba and Wine don't induce someone to use non-Free Software, they
merely enable it.  Conversely, the drivers do induce people to use the
non-Free firmware.

This makes all the difference.

And then, since it's a bit inconvenient but not *that* difficult for
someone who can (socially speaking) legitimately keep on using the
non-Free firmware to do so by building a separate module, this will
serve to avert temptation, to some extent, without actually getting in
the way.

It might cause some people to not conquer as much freedom as they could,
as they decide to go back to non-Free Linux instead of "just" installing
a non-Free firmware file, but users who value convenience over freedom
aren't our target user base anyway.  If they eventually learn to
appreciate the value of freedom, we'll still be here :-)

Over the next few days, I'll update the deblob scripts and release new
source tarballs that will have a few more drivers marked as “depends on
NONFREE”, and I'll add the firmware-related macros as sequences to be
monitored by deblob-check so that we catch them.  Unless I'm convinced
that outright removing them would be significantly better.  Or perhaps
enabling them, but modified so that, rather than asking for firmware,
they will notify the user as to why the device can't work.  This could
help Robert Millan's project mentioned in this thread.

I also plan to add comments to the deblob scripts that could be
machine-translated into web pages explaining what is removed or disabled
from each Linux release to make the corresponding Linux-libre releases.

Thanks for your input and your patience,

Alexandre Oliva           http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Gandhi
Be Free! -- http://FSFLA.org/   FSF Latin America board member
Free Software Evangelist      Red Hat Brazil Compiler Engineer

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