allBSD's "Stop the Blob" Campaign

Can Erkin Acar canacar at
Wed Mar 21 20:29:55 UTC 2007

On Mon, 19 Mar 2007 06:32:26 +0100 Szilveszter Adam <sziszi at> wrote:
> 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...

> 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.

"even Ubuntu?" what a nice OS you have chosen to compare FreeBSD with ...
Guess what, even Debian does not have blobs in default install.

> 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".

Please do not misguide people.

OpenBSD did not ever say that "a firmware with a bad license is a blob"
This is a completeley separate issue, not related to blobs.

It is a "firmware that can not be distributed"
It prevents people from using hardware that they have already
paid for on their OS of choice.

This is a problem that must be solved
Not by making compromises, by including the firmware
and making your users turn knobs to "accept" a license.
Most of them will not even have an idea that they are
actually aggreeing to:

"Just type sysctl xyz=1 and your wireless will magically work"

An OS that claims to be free should not make its users
jump through legal hoops. It should prevent such
nastiness by getting vendors to allow distribution
of the firmware (Come on! It is just distribution rights! The
damn thing is already in the Windows CDs bundled with your card)

Consenting to the vendor's wishes and adding knobs and
ugly legal hacks to the code just makes it hard for
other people trying to get vendors to allow distribution.

This is the only similiarity to blobs: Once a "Free" OS consents
to blobs, it makes it much harder for others to get specs and
documentation from the same vendor.

Unfortunately, FreeBSD is doing the Open Source world a disservice
by allowing blobs and making "special" deals with vendors for
distributing such firmware.  It is already hurting us, and will
hurt everyone, including FreeBSD much more in the future.


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