Date Mon 18 July 2005 Tags rants

I really do not like the way things are going in recent times within the Debian project. I feel that a group of people has gained way too much control over how things are run, and those people do not seem to care about users, they seem to care about enforcing the DFSG (the Debian Free Software Guidelines) to the letter. This manifests itself in several changes that have the potential to harm Debian in the short and in the long term:

  • Drivers containing binary firmware has been removed from the stock kernels, on the argument that they are “non-free”. This is, of course, true. Yet, I don’t see the difference between storing the firmware in an EEPROM in the hardware, or in a binary blob in the driver. Also, demanding that the source to these binaries be open is pure utopia: manufacturers are already struggling to keep the programming info for their chips secret. Forcing them to open up their firmware is a) going to really reveal the company’s IP, somewhat unlike chip datasheets, making this completely unjustifiable from a business standpoint b) mostly useless technically. While I see the point of being able to hack your firmware, the toolchains required to do so are often also not open, most users are not going to care and would rather prefer their device to just work, and, lastly, the binary blobs do not pose any obstacle to kernel development (be it from a portability, maintainability, or clarity point of view).

The most telling part of the story is that while these people (I am tempted to say “zealots”.) were quick to remove the corresponding firmware, but did not care enough to make it available through non-free to be able to cater to the users’ very real interest to use their hardware. Even worse, for the Broadcom Tigon3 Gigabit ethernet chip