GNU Project and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman posted a message on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list titled, "real men don't attack straw men", suggesting that some comments he had made were being misrepresented. He noted, "one question particularly relevant for this list is why I don't recommend OpenBSD. It is not about what the system allows. (Any general purpose system allows doing anything at all.) It is about what the system suggests to the user." He went on to note that though he knew of no non-free software included in the base OpenBSD system, there was non-free software distributed via the ports collection, "if a collection of software contains (or suggests installation of) some non-free program, I do not recommend it."
In the email, RMS added that he was unsure whether or not OpenBSD includes any non-free firmware blobs. It was pointed out that OpenBSD is known for being explicity focused on not shipping blobs. As for binary firmware, Reyk Floeter explained, "there is a major difference between binary blobs and firmware images; the blobs are loaded as code into the OS kernel, but the firmware runs directly on the device on crappy embedded micro CPUs." Reyk is the author of the reverse engineered ar5k HAL OpenBSD uses to support the Atheros wireless chipset, which was recently adopted by the Linux-based MadWifi project in their ath5k driver. Reyk added, "I'm clearly against binary blobs in the kernel, and in contrast to most of the GNU/Linux dudes I _did_ some against it by writing ar5k, instead of pointing into the wrong direction. This open firmware discussion is just a joke to make the relevant discussion, binary blobs in the OS kernel, irrelevant." Marco Peereboom added, "OpenBSD is by far the most free OS in the landscape. Everything that ships with it is free or else it won't be distributed with it. There is not a single open source OS out there that is more careful than OpenBSD on licensing, copyrights and frivolous patents."
A recent attempt to push some V4L/DVB updates for inclusion in the 2.6.24 Linux kernel met with some resistance. Linus Torvalds summarized the problems affecting the
em28xx video driver:
"I've talked to various people, and none of the main kernel people end up being at all interested in a kernel that has external dependencies on binary blobs for tuners.
"So right now it seems like while I would personally want to have more vendors supprt their own drivers, if that in this case means that we'd have to have user-space and unmaintainable binaries to tune the cards, everybody seems to hate that idea."
OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt highlighted a recent commit to the NetBSD source tree saying, "if anyone had any doubt that our insistence on freedom was important, just read this." The referenced commit message describes an effort to work around issues with a blob that is included with NetBSD, something strongly avoided by the OpenBSD project. The commit message states:
"The Atheros HAL on MIPS uses %s7 as a general purpose register, but the rest of the kernel uses it to store the value of curlwp. Sam won't recompile the HAL for us (fair enough), and we can't modify the HAL to use another register because doing so could put us in breach of the license (v. crappy). So, do a save/set/restore on %s7 in KernIntr() and in the stubs that the HAL uses to call back into the kernel.
"Please note that diffs are not public domain; they are subject to the copyright notices on the relevant files."
Bob Beck announced the release of OpenBSD 3.9 today:
"We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 3.9. This is our 19th release on CD-ROM (and 18th via FTP). We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of eight years with only a single remote hole in the default install. As in our previous releases, 3.9 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system."
OpenBSD 3.9 can be purchased as a 3-CD set to help support the OpenBSD project [story], or freely downloaded. The theme song for the upcoming OpenBSD release is titled "Blob!", a cautionary tale about the growing prevalence of binary blobs among open source operating systems and where this might lead [story]. Read on for a detailed overview of what's new in this latest OpenBSD release.
Jonathan Gray and Damien Bergamini recently worked together to develop the nfe driver to support NVIDIA Ethernet controllers. In this interview, they talk about OpenBSD's policy to not ship binary-blobs, explaining the problems associated with drivers that use these blobs and the affect these types of drivers have on the open source community. They also detail the efforts involved in writing the nfe driver, describing why they started the project, how they were able to support undocumented hardware, and the features supported by the new driver.
OpenBSD 3.9 will be officially released on May 1, 2006 and will include the new nfe driver. The theme song for the upcoming OpenBSD release is titled "Blob!", a cautionary tale about the growing prevalence of binary blobs among open source operating systems and where this might lead.