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OT: Software Freedom (was:Re: NetBSD drivers on HURD?)

From: Anders Breindahl
Subject: OT: Software Freedom (was:Re: NetBSD drivers on HURD?)
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 23:24:13 +0200
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On Friday 29 July 2005 20:51, Jan Kratochvil wrote:
> Hi,
> On Fri, 29 Jul 2005 23:02:52 +0900, Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:
> > Please, lets not support binary drivers, they only remove our freedoms.
> You already have no freedoms. I am considering these issues pretty
> seriously. It is just not so simply black&white.
> * The primary problem is 'closed' hardware itself - undocumented registers,
>   no disclosal of any information by the hardware vendor.
>   If you want to keep your freedoms you must never buy such hardware.
>   In real I expect you will fail assemble fully documented PC these days.
- snip -
> By re-coding the driver (either hardware driver or ntfs.sys ->
>   -> http://linux-ntfs.sf.net) you do not gain any new freedom, you just
> get exposed to the re-coding bugs (there WILL be) and when the vendor
> releases the new release of its binary driver with all the binary offsets
> different you have bad chance to diff(1) the new disassembly. Are you going
> to do the reverse engineering all again from scratch to find what the
> vendor got fixed there and re-code it to your "Free" C driver
> reimplementation?
>   Re-coding is just about closing eyes before the reality, self-fooling.
- snip -
>   * general way: If you insert PCI card into your computer with that 1MB
>     of proprietary firmware - what is your system security? It can directly
>     access and crack any Free OS memory, insert trojans there etc.
>     There is no longer real system security these days.
> * why just computers?: OK, so you have your PC Free (I do not know how did
> you manage it, though). Do you have control over your mobile phone? Over
> your microwave? Over your car? I care much more if I get killed in my car
> due to the buggy brake_control() function there than for stolen mails from
> my PC. Stallman's idea of Free world was nice in 198x but today it is just
> utopia.

I feel an urge to intervene. At last a non-technical question. :)
You are right: We have no practical security nor freedom. You are also right, 
that any piece of proprietary software undermines your security totally from 
a technical standpoint. In the real world however, I'd say that the more free 
software on a system, the more secure.

I however strongly disagree that this helplessness should be taken as an 
argument to lay off our good principles. It is rather an argument to continue 
what we already do -- the goal is within sight!
The methods include reverse-engineering. Once a free driver exists, the 
hardware may be used in free world. But the method is flawed, as the freedom 
of the development process is severely damaged. That does not alter the 
results, though.

All-in-all, I consider AMS's viewpoint of keeping principles and 
reimplementing in spite of ineffectiveness to be -- believe it or not -- more 
pragmatic than emulation of proprietary software.
Not on a short timeframe, but on a longer one: If the free software-community 
begins accepting proprietary software, we end up like the open source 
movement: Dependent.
That will hinder development (and obscure the ultimate goal behind present 
difficulties) to a degree that -- IMHO -- can't be compared to the fuss of 
rewriting drivers. We should avoid this, just as we try to avoid being 
dependent on megacorps' patents in Europe.

Just my thoughts in reply to your's. :)
Anders Breindahl/skrewz.

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