Non-opensource drivers

Soren Hansen sh at
Sat Nov 25 23:05:22 GMT 2006

On Sat, Nov 25, 2006 at 04:44:20PM +0000, Colin Watson wrote:
> Question: should the same checkbox govern binary wireless drivers
> (e.g.) too, i.e. turn off the restricted component altogether?

That's a really good question.

I've grown so accustomed to having all sorts of firmware needing wifi
cards Just Work[tm] that I've seized to consider it questionable
practice to simply install non-free blobs like that even though it only
marginally differs from what the non-free graphics drivers do.

Sure, the reasons for their respective non-freeness might differ (FCC
compliance etc. vs. classic we-don't-want-to-share-our-code-policies),
but the end result is the same: Both are non-free. Both involve loading
stuff into our kernels that we haven't compiled ourselves and have had
no possibility of verifying.

Hence, I fail to understand why I'm so reluctant to accept these
non-free graphics drivers being installed per default while I eagerly
tell potential Ubuntu users that the days of having to download the
firmware, install it in magical places, etc. just to get their wifi
working are over.

I'm not even sure what I'm getting at here. I believe in acting
consistent, so it'd definitely make sense to use the same checkbox for
non-free wifi drivers and non-free graphics drivers.

Nevertheless, I'm afraid the acceptance of the non-free graphics drivers
will send a signal to ATI and Nvidia that keeping their drivers non-free
is just fine, which is isn't. The wifi drivers (at least Atheros and
ipw2[12]00) are non-free for FCC compliance purposes, while ATI and
Nvidia have *chosen* to keep their drivers non-free; a practice that
should not in any way be encouraged.

In my opinion this is definitely a matter that needs more discussion.
There are no straight forward answers.

| Soren Hansen    | Linux2Go                  | |
| Seniorkonsulent | Lindholmsvej 42, 2. TH    | +45 46 90 26 42     |
| sh at  | 9400 Norresundby, Denmark | GPG key: E8BDA4E3   |
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