[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: federated free software movement

From: jahoti
Subject: Re: federated free software movement
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2021 01:34:00 +0000

On 11/17/21 1:10 AM, Arthur Torrey wrote:
A couple of points -

1. The original proposal was for an effort, presumably SEPARATE from 
LibrePlanet to make alliances IN THOSE AREAS WHERE OUR INTERESTS ALIGN with 
folks such as the OSHWA, and other open source hardware advocates, and the 
Right to Repair folks.  I believe there is a good bit of overlap since it is 
easier to write software for open hardware, and there is potential to use Free 
Software tools to repair hardware, etc...  I did not see anything in the 
original proposal to suggest that THIS LIST should endorse non-Free hardware / 
software, nor did I intend it in my posts on the subject.  I do believe that 
any effort to make alliances with other communities needs to be tolerant of the 
needs and practices of those communities.  The reality is that these 
communities use or do things with hardware that needs binary blobs or 
proprietary software.  We are not going to make many friends if we come at them 
with an attitude that they are going to Software Hell for doing so...

Certainly; however, that is not how I would understand the ethics of software freedom, and I would freely condemn anyone who takes such a view. The only perpetrators of injustice- many victims themselves rather than willing and knowing participants- are those who pressure or drive others to relinquish their computing freedoms.

I'm not aware of any situation where that is common in the listed communities except inasmuch as hardware is promoted without clearly indicating the required blobs (or that the whole system is proprietary software), even sometimes on projects that are misleadingly labelled "(fully) open source". There are no doubt parallel limitations the other groups could identify, and raising concerns in the interest of co-operating to improve does not seem fractious.

2. Reality check - A lot of people build Open Source Hardware around the Raspi 
and similar boards that need binary blobs....  From their standpoint it's a 
good choice to do so, as it's a low cost, readily available board with plenty 
of documentation and support.  Is it better to approach them with a demand that 
they start over with a different board that is blob free but offers no other 
benefits, or to thank them for making a project that is mostly free by our 
standards and suggest that they MIGHT want to look at a freer alternative for 
their next project, or even ask them how you can help open some other device to 
whatever degree is possible...

While the latter approach is indeed the most reasonable, it also doesn't preclude recognizing that the project has ethical problems. It is quite possible to state that respectfully without blaming or holding complicit the project's creator.

3. Reality check - You have a repair shop - customers come to you with hardware 
that needs fixing and needs proprietary tools to do so.  Which benefits your 
business more - gritting your teeth and using the tools, or telling the 
customers they made a bad choice in hardware and sending them away???

There a number of possible options here.

Firstly, telling the customer of issues with the chosen hardware is neither problematic nor mutually exclusive with fixing that hardware. Phrasing it as "you made a bad choice in hardware" would be unjust victim-blaming, of course; however, a basic outline of how the manufacturer's practices present a danger to both local repair business and the customer's ownership of their device could be valuable (or at least not counter-productive).

Secondly, as the hypothetical owner of such a shop, would I not have the latitude to make decisions for reasons other than financial gain? Obviously the need to break even and draw a livable income establishes a baseline; there is nevertheless the option to sacrifice anything beyond that in this (presumably) privately-held business with very few exceptions.

Finally, gritting your teeth and using the tools does not compromise anyone's software freedom except your own (or the business's, perhaps). Tragic as that is, it is a fair response and a poor reflection only on whoever wrote the tools and the hardware.

4. Personal reality - I mentioned earlier that I need a proprietary closed 
software program that only runs on a proprietary OS in order to adjust the 
programming on my power chair...  I got a comment back that I should figure out 
how to do it w/ Free Software....  So let me see, I have a proprietary 
undocumented piece of hardware that I need to totally reverse engineer from the 
hardware communications protocol to it's internal data structures, along w/ how 
to read and write to it (as a non-programmer) OR use an existing set of 
non-free tools that already does what I need?  (and there is *NO* commercially 
available Free Software compatible wheelchair control hardware, I'm using what 
is arguably the most open of the available systems)  Tough decision....(NOT!)   
If I wasn't already a Free Software supporter, where do you think I might have 
told the person telling me to figure out how to use free software to stick his 

I do agree with you that comment was quite unfair; this is an injustice perpetrated by power chair manufacturers, doubly so given the cost of rejecting their products. You are not responsible for fixing it.

Of course, if you- or anyone else with access to such hardware- have the skills it would be a great deed to work on the problem regardless. That does not put you in the wrong for *not* having done so.

Attachment: OpenPGP_signature
Description: OpenPGP digital signature

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]