on disabling drivers that use non-Free firmware

Alexandre Oliva lxoliva at fsfla.org
Sun Jan 18 05:26:54 UTC 2009

On Jan 16, 2009, Richard M Stallman <rms at gnu.org> wrote:

>     Is it useless if the only thing it actually does is to inform the user
>     that it won't work on a 100% Free system?

> In general we want not to distribute programs that require non-free
> software to work.

We wouldn't be doing that.  We'd be distributing programs that don't
work at all, unless 'notifying the user of incompatibility with Free
Software' is regarded as a feature.  There wouldn't be any traces of any
actual dependency on non-Free Software there.

> In general, when a device is not supported, do we want to give an error
> report to say so?  That would be a nice feature, in some respects, but 
> it would be a lot of work.

It would actually be easier than removing the drivers, in terms of

Say, if we remove a chunk of code, or if we add a marker to the config
file, the odds of patch conflicts grow.  Every now and then I run into
this kind of conflict maintaining linux-libre binaries for freed-ora.

Whereas if all we change are the request_firmware calls and references
to the firmware, the odds of conflicts are minimal, for those portions
aren't really supposed to change, and the modules don't even have to be
disabled: they'll fail at run-time with a useful error message, even if
userland code isn't prepared to deal with the kind of error message we'd
issue.  With the implementation I have in mind, userland would see a
request for a firmware file named "/*(DEBLOBBED)*/: incompatible with a
Free system", which it would, at the very least, get logged to the
system logs.  Even if userland actually attempted to load firmware using
that name, it would fail (immediate time-out) or the firmware would be

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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