allBSD's "Stop the Blob" Campaign

Szilveszter Adam sziszi at
Mon Mar 19 06:10:04 UTC 2007

I tread very carefully here, after all, the area is full of dead horses
and I might accidentally commit violence against some of them by
beating them up some more...

On Mon, Mar 19, 2007 at 02:19:03AM +0100, Jona Joachim wrote:
> I followed the discussion on openbsd-misc, that's why I started this
> thread, to hear what the FreeBSD folks have to say about it.
> It's really unfortunate that FreeBSD-GENERIC ships with that whole
> bunch of blobs IMHO. Open source projects that distribute proprietary
> software bite their own tail.
> I think we agree on the fact that blobs are bad and a lot of other
> FreeBSD users share that same opinion.
> It would be interesting to hear what the leaders of the projects have
> to say about this. Is it more important to support hardware than to
> claim the right for free documentation? Are there other interests
> involved?
> Finally I'd like to remind everyone of the fact that not buying
> undocumented hardware is a good way to fight it.

I think you are quite misguided when you say that FreeBSD ships with a
whole bunch of blobs by default. This comes from the fact that - it
seems so to me - many people confuse binary closed-source drivers (the
ones that really can be could blobs) and closed-source *firmware*. But
the difference is quite there.

I do not think anyone should have anything against binary *firmware*
Just because firmware is no longer "soldered" into your hardware, but
needs to be loaded into it from your HDD every time, it still remains
firmware. Just because it is on your filesystem, it still remains
firmware. While there are some efforts to produce opensource firmware
for certain hardware, there is nothing wrong with using the "original"
closed-source one, this poses *no* threat to opensource developers or
users. Most of the "blobs" that DES listed in this thread are just that:
firmware. If you do not like that, fine, but then start by not buying
any machine that has a proprietary BIOS. That will somewhat reduce the
selection available to... uhm... yeah. To about 0. Reflashing does not

The "real" blobs are quite few on FreeBSD, because vendors do not see
enough incentive to develop drivers for FreeBSD yet mostly, not even
closed-source. The only prominent example would be the Nvidia drivers,
which are a) not in any way included by default b) are not required for
the operation of FreeBSD itself, but rather are for Xorg. You can of
course decide to not use those, but the simple reality is that for some
hardware, they are the only way to work somewhat ok. This is so much
so, that even Ubuntu decided to include the Nvidia and ATI blob drivers
by default into their next release instead of just by direct request.

So, even if someone does not like "blobs", they are quite well off on
FreeBSD. If you do not use the Nvidia drivers, you are mostly ok unless
you use some funky vendor-provided third-party stuff but then it is not
FreeBSD's but your responsibility. And no, do not let the OpenBSD
propagada mislead you: just because *firmware* is licensed and cannot be
freely distributed for some hardware, that does not make it a "blob".


Szilveszter ADAM

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