[Freedombox-discuss] WLAN firmware soldered onto hardware

José Manuel Canelas jcanelas at gmail.com
Mon Sep 19 21:04:54 UTC 2011

I'm jumping in just to point out what seem to me as some instances of
faulty reasoning. I do not have a fully formed and informed opinion on
the issue at hand and mean no disrespect to anyone by my comparisons,
i'm just looking for clarity.

On 09/19/2011 08:06 PM, Ted Smith wrote:
> The reasons for this are obvious. Most hardware is not free or
> "open", and people have accepted this.

This was once true regarding slavery and can't be any kind of argument.

> Eventually, this will have to change, but it isn't the focus of the
> Free SOFTWARE Foundation.
> If the implementation is in software, you can do lots of neat things 
> with it, like add features after buying it by installing new code.
> The bad news is, if the software is non-free, so can the manufacturer
> or whoever else controls that software that is running on your
> network card.

Limiting the damage by limiting the points at which damage can be done
is an argument, a valid one.

There is however a very serious danger of compromising the long term
goals, which are guaranteeing flexibility and freedom everywhere.
Technically, firmware code is better than hardware logic as it places
configurability closer to the users, hence it is more flexible and more
free. Better yet is to have the whole range of hardware options
available to userspace.

The Free SOFTWARE Foundation won't get off the hook, in my book, by
saying that they only care about software. If they accept limits to
freedom up or down the stack, just so they can better defend freedom in
their turf, then they are effectively allowing the division of users and
will have my disagreement. Also note that they recognize this and go off
their turf by voicing opposition to DRM and patents, which are not code,
per se, and is what i'd expect and support, of course.

> As such, I agree with the FSF's position that it's better to, in the 
> event where the options are non-free software and non-free hardware,
> go with the thing you've already been accepting: non-free hardware.

This would be a tactical compromise that endangers the bigger goals, as
it limits user freedom. In my view, it's better to reject the choice
altogether (and i have many doubts that there are significant instances
where the FSF can have any influence in a choice between non-free
hardware and non-free software, anyway). If it is so, they make a
compromise when principles are on the line and gain very little in
practical terms.

> If you think this is "sick," you're free to switch to OpenSPARC on
> your FPGA.

There is no way that this could be a valid argument. This is akin to
saying "if you don't like it, buy something else" or "if you don't like
it you can always pack your bags and go" or "love it or leave it".

> But it's probably not appropriate to post an unrelated political 
> argument to the Freedombox mailing list, unless you want to make it 
> difficult for people to work together.

Ahh, come on. Everything is political. Technology is profoundly
political and this project is specifically about freedom. Please don't
limit the scope of discussion.


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