How to approach hardware companies that distribute non-free firmware

Felipe Sanches juca at
Sun Mar 7 11:03:35 UTC 2010

The documentation on devices that require non-free firmware[1] that we
are starting to build lists 215 of such devices. Implementing free
firmware replacements for all these boards will certainly be a very
hard task. So, we must think of some alternative (while complementary)
strategies to get all these devices running with free-software.

I think that the ideal solution would be to convince the company that
produces the hardware to properly provide the source code of the
currently non-free firmwares under a free licence. We must ask for it
anyways, even if I think that there is a great chance of not getting
it from them.

So we might have to try a "plan B": The second thing that we should
ask for (in case they deny the first request) would be information
about the hardware architecture. That is, the specs of the board:
which processors are used, which bus protocols are used, which
dedicated chips and FPGA models are available in the device board and
what are the addresses or ports to which these devices are mapped.
With this info we can more easily implement our own free alternative
firmware. (Part of this info might be also figured out by inspecting
hi-res photos of the device or, ideally, by buying one board and
inspecting the board itself in case the available photos on the
internet have too low resolution - which is indeed very common)

For these reason, it would be good to also add company contact info on
the device wiki-page [1].

Is there anybody here who have good writing skills to start sketching
a template of a letter to these companies? FSF should consider
officially sending such letters to these companies. It would be much
more effective than individual activists contacting them by e-mail.

Happy Hacking,
--Felipe Sanches


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