Weekly Engineering News 37/2008

Mike Montour mail at mmontour.net
Thu Sep 18 08:56:30 CEST 2008

On 17-Sep-08, at 10:07 AM, Wolfgang Spraul wrote:

(regarding firmware updates)

> ---2
> The 2nd best option would be that all software on the main CPU is Free
> Software, and other firmwares are not user-upgradeable, do not have to
> be loaded at boot time, and can thus be considered to be part of the
> 'circuit' of that chip, a black box.[...]
> ---3
> The 3rd best option would allow user-upgradeable firmwares, even if
> they were proprietary binary firmwares that would need to be loaded at
> boot time. [...]

For what it's worth, I would rank your #3 ahead of #2 by a large  
margin. It is very important for users to be able to upgrade their  
firmware. As long as the firmware blobs are freely re-distributable  
and are never executed on the host CPU, then I do not see any way in  
which that "#3" situation is worse for me (as a user or as a  
developer) than the "#2" case.

For me, this is not just some theoretical issue about free-software  
"purity". I purchased a Neo1973 with the original "moko1" GSM  
firmware. Under your #2 option, I would have to live with its bugs  
(such as the lack of power-saving) forever. Under your "less  
desirable" #3 option, I would only have to download a new blob and  
drop it into /lib/firmware (or wherever the Linux hotplug code was  
expecting to find it). In this particular situation I fortunately am  
able to take advantage of option "2.5", which is to send my phone  
(across an international border) to Michael Shiloh for a firmware  

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