[sf-lug] "Educating Tux: case studies of Linux...and "Purity"

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Mar 11 21:55:59 PDT 2008

Quoting Sameer Verma (sverma at sfsu.edu):

> Ah, but what about the BIOS?

Ah, there's always _someone_ who asks that.
http://www.fsf.org/news/freebios.html includes:

     Strictly speaking, there was a non-free program in that computer:
     the BIOS. But that was impossible to replace, and by the same
     token, it didn't count.  [...]

     The ethical issues of free software arise because users obtain
     programs and install them in computers; they don't really apply to
     hidden embedded computers, or the BIOS burned in a ROM, or the
     microcode inside a processor chip, or the firmware that is wired
     into a processor in an I/O device. In aspects that relate to their
     design, those things are software; but as regards copying and
     modification, they may as well be hardware. The BIOS in ROM was,
     indeed, not a problem.

Article has more, about how, despite the above considerations, the
situation has recently changed at least a _little_ bit -- and about why
there are thus now serious efforts towards developing full-featured
free-software BIOS programs, in part in order to safeguard against
forced Digital Restrictions Management in hardware.

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