FSF Appeals to Hardware Vendors for Fun and Profit!

Wow, it’s not very often that you see FSF really try to make a business case like they did yesterday. Man was I really impressed with the case laid out, and I really think it will help.
The purpose of this appeal it seems is to persuade hardware vendors to serve our Free Software community with hardware that will suit our specific needs. Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would do backflips for hardware that was FSF certified to work out of the box with my Free Software operating system.
What I found most interesting about this article is that FSF was considerably more permissive than we’re used to seeing them here. Yes, we see the call for free BIOS, and the call for hardware without the need for non-free drivers, but there’s one thing you didn’t see that I expected to see.
There’s a part of this article where FSF asks hardware vendors to consider using a GNU/Linux operating system as the default bundled OS for the hardware. Note they didn’t specify which one. They left that open to interpretation. Does that mean they want you to install the non-free ones that tap-dance all over the non-free stuff? Probably not.
I think this really speaks to what FSF thinks is the biggest threat to those of us who wish to decide what our computers run without anybody else dictating for us: non-free dependencies. Having devices that are crippled without proprietary drivers and hardware that enforce digital restrictions management are an obvious threat to how I–and I suspect many of you–do your computing. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could take some of these neat alternative kernels and make our own OS’ without having to even use the same kernel? If specs for hardware are available for out-of-the-box machines then it’s much more possible for us to have that.
This means that true freedom is possible. While non-free stuff like Flash and Opera is still a problem, there are multiple browsers available, and only three viable 3D graphics chipsets available… only one of which works well with free software drivers and it isn’t the world’s best.
Hardware compatibility is going to be where the fight goes next it seems. If you’re a hardware vendor and you’re releasing free software packages–particularly FSF-certified ones–let me know and I’ll make a page with links for your hardware on this blog.
Thanks for reading my rant. Good night kiddos.
Check out the full appeal from FSF here!

2 Replies to “FSF Appeals to Hardware Vendors for Fun and Profit!”

  1. Something simple that (I think) would do wonders is a “Linux Certified” service, with a nice little sticker to put on hardware packaging.
    Coupled closely with the Free Linux Development offer, the FSF could provide a Linux Certification for hardware, I think it would provide a service that is easily available to a hardware company. More importantly, it means we can go and buy a piece of hardware, and ask if they have any that are Linux Certified.
    Eventually – or hopefully – with enough pressure and interest from the consumer side, companies will start pushing back at the hardware vendors, and visibility into this market would slowly start to become apparent.
    At least three certification levels would be ideal:
    Linux Certified (Gold) – A free (-speech) driver is available, and is merged into the Linux kernel. i.e. at least one distro should work with this device “out of the box”. Instructions are available on how to download and compile this driver manually.
    Linux Certified (Silver) – A free driver is being developed, is partially available and is “usable”. i.e. most of the main functionality of the device is present.
    Linux Certified (Bronze) – A driver is available, as per Gold, but the driver is not free/open source.
    For example, the nVidia cards could be certified as Bronze. Some wireless cards could be given Silver (works, but needs proprietory drivers for WPA).
    It gives a reasonably good incentive for hardware company to adopt at least a Silver certification – many devices out there already have a free driver available, so it wont cost the hardware company anything to claim Linux (partial) compatibility.
    Does anyone know if something like this is being set up?

  2. Kris Marsh:
    I’m afraid that we disagree on the need for different degrees of certification. If a piece of hardware requires non-free drivers, or is lacking quality drivers because of pressure or dismissal from the hardware manufacturer we should not buy from that manufacturer.
    I say there are two degrees necessary:

    • This hardware supports free software
    • This hardware does not support free software

    Hardware manufacturers don’t need to support non-free or restrictive hardware in their products. If they want market support from the Free Software community, they should sell us products that meet our needs… not those of others. After all, we’re the ones buying the hardware.

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