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Re: [GNU-linux-libre] Free firmware - A redefinition of the term and a n

From: David Craven
Subject: Re: [GNU-linux-libre] Free firmware - A redefinition of the term and a new metric for it's measurement.
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 13:15:35 +0100

> While security is important, it's far from being the only reason that
> makes free software important.
> When security and freedom conflicts, I usually prefer freedom.

I agree here too. While security and privacy are a factor for me
it's far from the most important. To me the most important is
it's role in increasing computer literacy and education and how it
helps small businesses to be competitive which leads to a
distribution of wealth.

I think it helps to remember that free software is a
means to an end and focus more on the end.

It is my impression that too much focus is being placed on the
means. For example: All those services as software substitutes
are extremely important for computer illiterates, for small
businesses and for individuals that don't want to host their own
mail servers etc. As an example, I doubt that it would be really
that much more secure to host my own mailserver.

While Snowden did make us aware that many large "cloud"
service providers have had security breaches, I have not found
any evidence of malice on part of many of those providers. The
NSA was planting surveillance devices within and around their
data centers.

> I think that not using non-free firmwares is the best decision for all
> users collectively. If more users and developers were taking that
> decisions, we would not have the issue we have here:

I understand the sentiment, but I don't think that this is an effective
solution. Only because the firmware is in ROMs or a developer spent
the time to reverse engineer a firmware for a device does not reward
the right behavior and could actually lead to less free devices.

> I don't. I don't see any issue with the above assuming that non-free
> firmwares are the only difference between the "other distro" and the
> free software distribution.

I understand that that is the case for most FSDG distros, but guix has
merit in it's own right. If we focus on the end instead of the means,
guix can do a lot to increase computer literacy.

> Missleading users into thinking that they run 100% free software
> everywhere is not a good idea:

I had the impression that a computer running linux-libre was more
free than one that does not. When I realized that that was likely
not actually the case and that it depended on an array of other
factors I felt betrayed for having been led to believe that.

> It would be sad not to continue freeing firmwares. Especially if more
> and more functionality and trust is being put in them.

I think that the best way to free firmwares is by creating truly free
devices and firmwares. This sets an example and shows existing
companies that it is actually possible to sustain a business while
being open and creates the market pressure for them to release
their firmwares.

Again focusing on the end instead of the means, working on SDRs
and their firmware is much more important than reversing an intel
wifi firmware. The first can have a tremendous impact on computer
literacy and for small businesses and may one day lead to truly free
wifi cards, while the other "just" allows running linux-libre with intel
wifi cards.

I hope to not offend anyone - these are just my opinions and feelings :)


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