[nycbug-talk] OpenBSD and blobs

Wes Sonnenreich wes at sagesecure.com
Thu Dec 14 14:13:31 EST 2006

Marc Spitzer wrote:
> On 12/14/06, michael <lists at genoverly.net> wrote:
>> On Thu, 14 Dec 2006 10:17:33 -0500
>> "Marc Spitzer" <mspitzer at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On 12/14/06, Jeff Quast <af.dingo at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> The windows driver wraps, binary blobs, and drivers under NDA out
>>>> there and the users who accept them are an absolute shame to the
>>>> cause of the open source community. The attitude of "I just want it
>>>> to work" is short sighted, selfish, and harmful.
>>> I just want it to work is a perfectly reasonable attitude for an end
>>> user to have.  I as an end user need wireless on my laptop this is how
>>> I do it.  Now this is how I do it is the interesting bit, do I use a
>>> blob or just install windows or linux?  All three work and I need
>>> wireless, I do not need xBSD nearly as much.  If some one wants to
>>> provide a different alternitive, open source driver for example, fine
>>> but t it is not on the table yet is it?
>>> marc
>> I have wireless in my laptop and an AP at home.  I run OpenBSD and "it
>> just works".
>> Frankly, we don't need xBSD or wireless or anything *that* badly.  But
>> when we do, we have choices.  As a user (and like the above post), I
>> paid for the hardware and want to use it.  I support the spirit behind
>> open source drivers and chose not to use binary drivers.
>> I chose a model by a vendor that has provided documentation and is
>> supported by the project.
>> While I see/hear the argument to blindly accept binary drivers, I don't
>> understand the choice to do so... as per reasons stated already. Nobody
>> is forcing anyone to make the choice of using binary drivers.. people
>> make that choice on their own.  And, as stated by many, to the
>> detriment of others.
>> I had a choice; and after careful thought, believe I made the right one.
>> You have a choice.
> I am talking about users, myself when I put on my user hat as well.
> And when wearing that hat I want web/email to just work.  That
> includes the network as well.  Now most of the time I like playing
> with computers, poking around in the kernel etc, but sometimes I just
> need things to work.  If blobs, or even windows, get things to work as
> I need it to then that is what I do that is all.  If you need to do
> all kinds of leg work, upto compiling a custom OS, to get things
> running then by the meer fact of you doing this you are not an end
> user nor are you behaving as one.
> marc

The real issue, IMHO, is whether the various distributions are staying
true to their overall goals with the choices they are making. OpenBSD
has clearly evolved into a "purity play", and really doesn't seem to
care if only 10 people in the world use it, as long as the whole thing
is free and secure. Thus, it is clearly acting in line with its goals.

Windows is obviously in line with M$ goals, I will restrain from
elaborating. Most major Linux distro vendors seem to be trying to
provide a Windows replacement/alternative/compatible platform, and NOT
really trying to provide free and open anything anymore (when it happens
it's a side effect), I would say that their use of blobs is generally in
line with their goals (making the end-user experience as simple as

The question is, what are the goals of Free/NetBSD and how does the use
of blobs fit in? If the goal is to provide a simple and effective way
for unix-curious people to learn about the benefits, then blobs do make
sense. Nothing shuts down curiosity like hardware compatibility issues.

If, on the other hand, the goal is to provide a highly efficient and
stable platform for server applications; well, people will buy
appropriate hardware if they know the end result will be worth while. In
this case, the use of blobs contradicts the goal. I certainly don't want
to plan around building a FreeBSD server only to find that I'm getting
performance hits because of a crap driver that nobody can fix.


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