[PLUG] Firmware, tainted code etc [was Re: [X-Post] [ilugd] linux-libre kernel. fork?]

Praveen A pravi.a at gmail.com
Thu May 29 13:26:44 IST 2008

2008/5/28 श्रीधर नारायण दैठणकर <ghodechhap at ghodechhap.net>:
> Hi,
> This topic has numerous aspects e.g. an open firmware allows to boost powers
> of wireless signals which violates FCC mandates and can cause problems. Other
> than burrying it in binary blob(worse than a hex dump), there is no other
> effective measure.

There are vendors who provide completely Free drivers for their
wireless chips, so this point is moot. See
http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/net/wireless/cards.html for a list of
cards that has completely Free drivers.
> More importantly, tainted kernels are illegal and that is an accepted fact.
> Just that kernel developers don't go after every tainted kernel, does not
> make them any less legal.

As Rahul already explained, it is illegal to distribute them, but
there is no restriction on you to taint or even burn the kernel as
long as you don't distribute it. You don't even have to agree to GPL
if you are never going to distribute your copy to someone else - do
whatever you want with your kernel (Freedom 0). GPL only puts
conditions on distribution (modified or otherwise).

> Furthermore the link cited, http://jebba.blagblagblag.org/?p=244, shows hex
> dump of firmware which is perfectly fine I think. The values are out there
> for anybody to use there and an open source driver illustrates how to use
> them too. How it is not open source, is beyond me.

May be you should read the Free Software Open Source definitions it is
pretty clearly mentioned unambiguously.


"The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your
needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for


"The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer
would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not
allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or
translator are not allowed.

Rationale: We require access to un-obfuscated source code because you
can't evolve programs without modifying them. Since our purpose is to
make evolution easy, we require that modification be made easy. "

if only every one understood hex codes like श्रीधर ...

> The kernel is GPLed, but the firmware may not be.

That is the problem - GPLed drivers can't work without the firmware.
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