Proprietary Firmware and the Pursuit of a Free Kernel
Dec 01, 2008, 16:34 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)
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"As a result, the FSF has changed the definition of a free
distribution, and a search for how to respond to this new
definition is now well underway. Who wins and what solutions are
implemented could have a major effect on the future of free and
open source software.
"In some distros, people have advocated a kernel that meets the
new definition, perhaps using Alexandre Oliva's linux-libre kernel.
In some cases, these free kernels are being made available from
non-official sources, such as Ali Gunduz's free kernels for
Debian-based distributions. These solutions are supported by free
software advocates, who see such efforts as a logical extension of
basic definitions of software freedom.
"However, others actively resist such solutions. Fedora Leader
Paul Frields says, "Fedora's position on firmware is that firmware
is something that you can't consider in the same case as the code
that is running on a CPU. We don't find that a compelling argument
for considering those things in the same way." A similar position
was expressed on the debian-devel list earlier this month by
developer Loic Minier, who suggests that, since the firmware is
required for peripherals rather than for the CPU itself, it ought
to fall into a separate category in discussions of freedom.
Unsurprisingly, such claims are dismissed by free software
advocates as meaningless hair-splitting."