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Re: why NetBSD include binary/blob driver or firmware by default?

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 11:26:31PM +0200, Cem Kayali wrote:
> While searching about this issue, i noticed that NetBSD, too, includes  
> drivers and firmwares without source code, most or all has suffix _uu in  
> src tee.

The following is not an official statement of TNF, but my own position.

The only driver that is not open source should be ath(4) and that is in
the process of being replaced. This does not count drivers that ship
binary firmware images. Contrary to what the Free Software Foundation
wants to make you believe, it is completely acceptable to have a
binary-only firmware as long as the license allows redistribution and
use for any purpose. Keep in mind that the firmware is part of the
hardware, like e.g. the BIOS on x86 is. For various reasons vendors
nowaday ship this firmware images separately and don't store them in ROM
or EEPROM. Source code for the firmware images would often not be very
useful, as they require very special tools for processing. The ath(4)
driver was different and problematic in this regard as the binary potion
is executed on the host CPU and not on the device.

The Intel WLAN drivers are a special case. The older models (ipw and
iwi) have a restrictive license that requires End Users to accept a
license before using them. This is handled via a sysctl in -current and
netbsd-5 and by forcing installation of a non-redistributable binary
package for older releases from pkgsrc. The nwer models (wpi and iwn)
have different, more BSDish restrictions.


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