Subject: Re: binary-only code is evil
To: NetBSD-current Users's Discussion List <>
From: Chapman Flack <>
List: current-users
Date: 09/30/2006 21:54:56
Mark Weinem wrote:
> The ath device driver first appeared in FreeBSD 5.2 using a binary-only 
> HAL module which was ported to NetBSD 2.0.  The driver using a free 
> HAL-replacement first appeared in OpenBSD 3.7.

Which were not simultaneous events. What do we do for advocacy of our
systems during the period while our my-way-or-the-highway attitude is
preventing our users from doing what their Redmond-facing neighbors can
easily do?

> The ath driver was written by Sam Leffler, and was ported to OpenBSD by 
> Reyk Floeter <> who also wrote a free replacement of the 
> binary-only HAL. [...]"
> As "we" don't need blobs, there's no need to find a balance. Let's 
> concentrate on making things possible with open-source software - and 
> forget about the rest!

As I said earlier, I am certainly not a fan of blobs. My biggest concern
is that taking extreme positions has this very effective way of forcing
other people to *their* extreme positions. What if, for example, the FCC
or another country's corresponding agency, seeing that the ath HAL has
been circumvented, decides to require hardware vendors to use even
stronger measures to make their hardware unusable for us? What if the
vendor is penalized or otherwise burned, and they decide they were wrong
to have cooperated with us as far as their regulatory obligations allowed,
and in future they'll be like another radio vendor that we can't support
at all because they've released nothing? What year would Reyk Floeter have
working support if Sam Leffler had not been allowed to do his excellent
work and there had been nothing by Sam to port?

As a friend put it recently, "One of the marks of adult thinking is the recognition that things can get very much worse." How many things do you
want so badly you'll push blindly in that direction?

Or as Thor's been quoting in his .sig for some time,  "We cannot usually
in social life pursue a single value or a single moral aim, untroubled
by the need to compromise with others." I think it's both harder, more
intellectually challenging, and more ultimately rewarding, to try to
fit the constraints to a reasonable compromise, than to dig in behind
any slogan, however appealing it may be.