ethical ubuntu

Lee Revell rlrevell at
Tue Jun 6 19:52:35 BST 2006

On Tue, 2006-06-06 at 06:36 +0100, Anders Karlsson wrote:
> By all means educate people about the badness of closed source. But
> where will the line be drawn? What about using a linux based system for
> heavy duty 3D applications? Both ATI and nVidia do closed source
> drivers, so they are out of the question. SiS hardware is not really an
> option, as they have a very bad history about doing closed source
> Windows only drivers so morally (and from a self preservation point of
> view) they should be shunned.
> My point being, if you are totally ethical about it, you can probably
> forget using a computer completely until you have FOSS hardware, BIOS,
> microcode for disks, CPU and other chips used, as well as FOSS
> peripherals, drivers and OS.
> So where to draw the line if to carry on using a computer today, without
> crippling it too much? This has to be kept in mind, debated and thought
> about. Is a closed source driver, like nVidia's, acceptable if they
> listen to bugreports and fix them quickly? What about CPU microcode
> updates in binary only updates, even if they fix critical problems?
> Binary only firmware for WiFi cards?

Code that links into the kernel and runs in the same address space is
where the kernel developers draw the line.  So acceptance of closed
source drivers is definitely bad for Linux and probably violates the
GPL.  Yes, this means that you can't ethically "use your computer
completely" if you have an ATI or Nvidia card and need 3D acceleration.

Closed source firmware, BIOS, disk microcode etc is not as bad as it
does not run on the same CPU in the same address space as the kernel and
thus does not make debugging the system impossible.  It's more like
communicating with a Windows box over TCP/IP.

It does not matter whether Nvidia or whoever responds to bug reports -
this does not change the fact that if a binary only driver is loaded, no
one but the vendor of that driver can debug the system.  Furthermore,
accepting closed source drivers encourages more vendors to produce them.


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