Non-opensource drivers

Michael Bienia michael at
Sun Nov 26 15:58:59 GMT 2006

On 2006-11-26 00:05:22 +0100, Soren Hansen wrote:
> 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.

The difference between non-free drivers and non-free firmware is that
the second isn't executed inside the kernel (in most cases the kernel
couldn't even executed it as it is for an other architecture).
The ipw2200 driver is GPL but it requires a firmware which gets uploaded
to the wifi card to get the card operational. It's not the driver which
requires the firmware but the wifi card. The driver should work on every
architecture the kernel is runable (and you get your wifi-card plugged
On the other side the Nvidia/ATI drivers load non-free blobs into the
kernel which are executed on the host CPU. The drivers provide only a
translation between kernel and those blobs. These drivers work only on
those architectures for which those non-free blobs are available.

It's up to yourself if you see a difference between non-free drivers and
non-free firmware and if you accept the one and not the other.

I'm personally more inclined to accept non-free firmware rather than
non-free drivers. But I would prefer if both were free software.


PS: all statements are to the best of my knowledge

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