fjd
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:04 pm

Let\'s assume I install a truly free GNU/Linux distribution, such as gNewSense. Will there be any additional non-free software running, such as a non-free BIOS?

asb
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:16 pm

The firmware loaded by the GPU is a binary blob. Additionally, the ARM-side GLES/EGL/OpenVG implementation is closed source. You could get an almost completely FOSS setup by using the GPU as a dumb framebuffer, but you\'d still need the GPUs binary blob on your SD card to boot. I think it\'s worth being pragmatic about this, would your system really be more free if this code was loaded from ROM on the board so you didn\'t need to know about the existence of this firmware? See also http://lwn.net/Articles/460654/

One thing that does matter is the license for simply redistributing this blob (as it\'s required for third-party SD images to be booatable).

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:23 pm

[quote]Quote from asb on November 7, 2011, 23:16
The firmware loaded by the GPU is a binary blob. Additionally, the ARM-side GLES/EGL/OpenVG implementation is closed source. You could get an almost completely FOSS setup by using the GPU as a dumb framebuffer, but you\'d still need the GPUs binary blob on your SD card to boot. I think it\'s worth being pragmatic about this, would your system really be more free if this code was loaded from ROM on the board so you didn\'t need to know about the existence of this firmware? See also http://lwn.net/Articles/460654/

One thing that does matter is the license for simply redistributing this blob (as it\'s required for third-party SD images to be booatable).[/quote]

I only ask because I e-mailed rms (the creator of the GNU operating system) about the Raspberry Pi, and he asked me to find out if it uses non-free software.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:24 pm

It is also pretty safe to assume that there is also a minimal boot loader embedded in the GPU itself - it would have to be a pretty complex state machine to load a BLOB off of a FAT32 partition of the SD card...

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:30 pm

[quote]Quote from fjd on November 7, 2011, 23:23
I only ask because I e-mailed rms (the creator of the GNU operating system) about the Raspberry Pi, and he asked me to find out if it uses non-free software.[/quote]

The answer is yes. It\'s not going to get the RMS stamp of approval. I personally have a lot of respect for RMS and would consider myself a free software support, but I think there\'s room for pragmatism here. I\'d like to see the platform have more open-source drivers, but fully open source firmware isn\'t likely (and after all, no-one else does this). I think that although the FSF likes to view things in black and white, there\'s clearly quite a grey area regarding things which might be considered \'firmware\' (as evidenced by the article I linked to). Additionally, even if the userspace GL state machine isn\'t open source then at least it\'s implementing a standard, open API.

I realise I\'m writing rather more than is needed to answer your question, but I\'ve seen this issue come up a lot and thought I\'d take the opportunity to share my own thoughts (I\'m just a guy with a board: i.e. not a member of the Raspi team).

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:32 pm

[quote]Quote from asb on November 7, 2011, 23:30
[quote]Quote from fjd on November 7, 2011, 23:23
I only ask because I e-mailed rms (the creator of the GNU operating system) about the Raspberry Pi, and he asked me to find out if it uses non-free software.[/quote]

The answer is yes. It\'s not going to get the RMS stamp of approval. I personally have a lot of respect for RMS and would consider myself a free software support, but I think there\'s room for pragmatism here. I\'d like to see the platform have more open-source drivers, but fully open source firmware isn\'t likely (and after all, no-one else does this). I think that although the FSF likes to view things in black and white, there\'s clearly quite a grey area regarding things which might be considered \'firmware\' (as evidenced by the article I linked to). Additionally, even if the userspace GL state machine isn\'t open source then at least it\'s implementing a standard, open API.

I realise I\'m writing rather more than is needed to answer your question, but I\'ve seen this issue come up a lot and thought I\'d take the opportunity to share my own thoughts.[/quote]

Well, I appreciate the quick response and thank you for your time.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:35 pm

Anything that can play H.264 is non-free.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:38 pm

[quote]Quote from kme on November 7, 2011, 23:35
Anything that can play H.264 is non-free.[/quote]

Well that depends on whether the patents are recognised where you live.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:31 am

I guess your definition of free = open source. To me something is free if it dosn\'t cost me any money. The truth is we are talking about a $25 computer here. Do you want them to deliver a hot meal and a naked women with it as well?

As far as I can see the RPi does not come with an OS, there will be options at some point to DL images that people have created, or buy an SD with one preinstalled. But, nothing is stoping you from compiling whatever you want, or Microsoft from making their own OS for it and charging money. The hardware isn\'t going to check if the software is open, closed, free, or for-profit.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:21 am

[quote]Quote from Jessie on November 8, 2011, 00:31
I guess your definition of free = open source. To me something is free if it dosn\'t cost me any money. The truth is we are talking about a $25 computer here. Do you want them to deliver a hot meal and a naked women with it as well?[/quote]The discussion was about free as in speech, not as in beer - hence the talk about RMS. And the $25 is completely irrelevant in this connection, because it isn\'t Raspberry Foundation that delivers the software or the chips. Broadcom has already payed their license free to whoever owns the patents (otherwise they couldn\'t make the GPU).

So it\'s non-free, and that\'s acceptable to me and I choose willingly to buy knowing what I do. But it\'s still non-free and it isn\'t gratis either as Broadcom must charge a premium to recover their expenses for the license.

There ain\'t such as free lunches.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 4:18 am

As has been mentioned, there is a single solitary blob. However, not only have we been told that it\'s works at such a low level that the number of people who need access to it should be in the effectively zero percent range, but we also know that there simply *doesn\'t* exist a GPU for ARM that is open-source, plus from what we\'ve been told, we should be able to use the interface for the blob in any ARM linux distro we so choose.

Beyond that, I suppose it\'s up to the individual if they want to put proprietary software on the device.

IMHO, I think that the r-pi meets all the requirements for being open sourced. I mean there comes a point where open source theory meets open source reality and items should be judge on a case by case basis for whether or not it meets the spirit of open source. To that end I believe the r-pi does meet the requirements... but I also freely admit that I\'m not an open source zealot :P
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 4:54 am

[quote]Quote from abishur on November 8, 2011, 04:18
As has been mentioned, there is a single solitary blob. However, not only have we been told that it\'s works at such a low level that the number of people who need access to it should be in the effectively zero percent range, but we also know that there simply *doesn\'t* exist a GPU for ARM that is open-source, plus from what we\'ve been told, we should be able to use the interface for the blob in any ARM linux distro we so choose.[/quote]You are confusing things. The blob is gratis (no $) in the first place. Broadcom payed up front and charge you next as a part of the chip price. But \"at such a low level that the number of people who need access to it should be in the effectively zero percent range\" is nonsense as anybody intending to use H.264 (and probably other parts of the video subsystem like 3D acceleration - for H.264 I\'m certain) can not get a working system without the blob. Broadcom couldn\'t provide a free solution even if they wanted to. They are forced by patents (but considering Broadcoms track record on openness they would even bother to try).

Personally I don\'t care much about a blob - if it does something I really need I\'ll bite the bullet anyway. I\'d prefer a free solution though. But even a purist distro like Debian has a non-free repo - guess what that contains...

I won\'t make this into a free software discussion or not. It\'s completely irrelevant to R-Pi. It\'s just annoying people confuse basic concepts and don\'t know \"free\" from \"gratis\".

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:04 am

[quote]Quote from Jessie on November 8, 2011, 00:31
Do you want them to deliver a hot meal and a naked women with it as well?[/quote]

Maybe with the Model B?

[quote]Quote from kme on November 8, 2011, 01:21
Broadcom has already payed their license free to whoever owns the patents (otherwise they couldn\'t make the GPU).

So it\'s non-free, and that\'s acceptable to me and I choose willingly to buy knowing what I do. But it\'s still non-free and it isn\'t gratis either as Broadcom must charge a premium to recover their expenses for the license.

There ain\'t such as free lunches.[/quote]

You seem to be assuming that the license fee is paid in advance as a set fee either as a one-time or per device manufactured, and there\'s only one available pre-built set of licenses. As opposed to per sold device depending on what codecs are included in the binary blob or whatever. I don\'t think that\'s necessarily the case.

[quote]Quote from liz on September 21, 2011, 04:10
We haven\'t decided yet about codec licensing (which would be from MPEG-LA), although the board does support it in hardware. I\'ll be writing a post on the blog when we\'ve finished negotiation about codecs later on; I think you\'d be pretty shocked to find just how much of the cost of the final board is taken up in licence fees, so we\'re having to think very hard about exactly which ones to include. (Example: AAC costs us 4% of the price of each board!) For most people, the decoding done by h.264 should be sufficient, although there are good arguments for including the codecs you mention - we\'ll let everyone here know when we\'ve made a decision.[/quote]

This forum thread may be of interest to you as it\'s primarily about the licensing and the effects it will have, it\'s where the above quote was taken from:
http://www.raspberrypi.org/forum?mingle ... opic&t=565

This summary was confirmed by Liz:

[quote]Quote from yakovlev on September 21, 2011, 23:19
Just to add some information to my own question, from what I\'ve been able to determine.

Raspberry Pi uses an embedded acceleration API known as OpenMAX. This API basically requires a separate codec be supplied in the \"binary blob\" for each media type.

OpenMAX seems to have limited linux support, mainly with gstreamer and possibly also with VLC. Unfortunately, it sounds like most of the linux media applications use ffmpeg, which lacks OpenMAX backend support. Neither VA-API nor VDPAU are supported.

To make a long story short (too late) the ARM core will hopefully be sufficient for SD video, as that is all that most media applications will have access to. Selected media applications will be able to use the accelerated codecs, but only if each individual codec is licensed by the foundation (included in the binary blob) which will be a significant licensing cost per codec. There is no \"generic\" back end that can be used to accelerate all video codecs using OpenGL 2.0 (or something similar) primitives.

Thanks![/quote]

Also in the thread about 5.1 audio here: http://www.raspberrypi.org/forum?mingle ... opic&t=872

[quote]Quote from liz on October 27, 2011, 22:30
I have a *lot* to say about the price Dolby demands for licences, which will be going into a blog post later on when we\'ve finalised all the codec licences for the board. In short, the licence we have to buy for Dolby 5.1 takes up 4% of the $25 cost of the board, which seems absolutely obscene when you consider everything else that makes up the other 96%. (Hardware prices have been really manageable, and h.264, which does a hell of a lot more, costs a hell of a lot less - the licence for 5.1 was a real stand-out in terms of price.) It\'s a racket, and it\'s particularly infuriating because we know that a lot of our audience won\'t find the device usable without it.

I can\'t confirm yet whether or not it\'ll be on all the devices - we may go so far as to have two separate options you can buy, one with 5.1 and one without, calling out the cost as we go. Whatever we end up doing, I do want to draw attention to just how much of the cost of a unit is sunk in licensing fees. Pretty much all of the hardware manufacturers we\'ve dealt with have been extremely cool, have given us discounts because they want to support what the charity\'s doing, and have been very easy to work with. Not so the codec licensing guys, who have been absolutely immovable. [/quote]

I\'ve not seen any updates as to codec licensing but my search-fu on these forums (great content, awful forum interface) is not too strong. Liz is probably the person to ask if you\'re interested in the current state of play, I\'m content to wait until it\'s all announced. I trust the RasPi team to get us the best deal they can. If that means I\'ve got to pay an extra quid or three seperately to get more GPU accelerated codec support but not to burden others with unnecessary cost, that\'s cool. If they can include most of it at the already given price-point, even better.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:56 pm

[quote]Quote from asb on November 7, 2011, 23:16
Additionally, the ARM-side GLES/EGL/OpenVG implementation is closed source.[/quote]

Would you mind citing a statement from the team about that? AFAIK the binary blob (\"the GPU firmware\") was supposed to be the only closed source software.
If the firmware blob is the only closed source software, then the Raspberry Pi is as open / free as any PC with a modern graphics card. If there is also a closed source driver that runs on the ARM side of the SoC, then it\'s significantly more closed than a PC. That would be very bad news.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:11 pm

At this stage the those libraries are indeed closed, although discussions are ongoing with Broadcom. There\'s quite a lot of IP and manhours in those libraries....

What I don\'t understand though, is why that would be very bad news. They work.

I\'ve never looked at the code of the GL libraries on a standard Linux box either.
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:16 pm

Codecs: there\'s a trustees\' meeting today, where I think the codecs are one of the things under discussion (they might not come to a final decision today, though). I\'ll let you know as soon as I do!
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:23 pm

I\'m curious about the computer RMS uses - does he have the source code for his BIOS ? Or for his graphic card firmware ?

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:28 pm

[quote]Quote from psergiu on November 8, 2011, 13:23
I\'m curious about the computer RMS uses - does he have the source code for his BIOS ? Or for his graphic card firmware ?[/quote]

He uses a Lemote Yeeloong, which has a free BIOS (I don\'t know about the graphics chip).

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:32 pm

[quote]Quote from asb on November 8, 2011, 13:28
[quote]Quote from psergiu on November 8, 2011, 13:23
I\'m curious about the computer RMS uses - does he have the source code for his BIOS ? Or for his graphic card firmware ?[/quote]

He uses a Lemote Yeeloong, which has an free BIOS (I don\'t know about the graphics chip).[/quote]

I really do think you can take things to too much of a extreme...RMS does seem to be one of those people. Still, I guess the OSS world would be worse off without him.
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:46 pm

[quote]Quote from kme on November 8, 2011, 04:54
But \"at such a low level that the number of people who need access to it should be in the effectively zero percent range\" is nonsense as anybody intending to use H.264 (and probably other parts of the video subsystem like 3D acceleration - for H.264 I\'m certain) can not get a working system without the blob.[/quote]

No, that access to the blob will be handled by drivers, I\'m talking about needing direct, open source, access to the blob itself. And while the blob itself is \"free\" I was addressing those who were wondering about the openness of the r-pi itself on the whole.
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:06 pm

Many users will *not* need codecs, either because they won\'t be doing video / sound, or because they\'ll make the effort to use to numerous and mature free (as in beer and speech) available alternatives. Let\'s roll with it, and have the codecs available as an optional package ? I hate rackets, as a point of principle.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:10 pm

[quote]Do you want them to deliver a hot meal and a naked women with it as well?[/quote]
Yes please ;)

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:47 pm

It is possible to replace your computer\'s “BIOS” (which is actually hardware init, BIOS or EFI if needed and a bootloader) with free software such as Coreboot. http://www.coreboot.org/ If you need BIOS calls for DOS or booting Windows < Vista then you can use SeaBIOS too. There are other non-BIOS bootloaders like FILO which can load Linux and Windows >= Vista. Of course this is all very much x86 stuff.

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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:49 pm

I hope you guys are planning on allowing the naked woman to at least wear oven gloves.
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Re: Will the Raspberry Pi use any non-free software?

Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:30 pm

I don\'t think the women were necessarily delivering the hot food, I figured they were to hold the Raspberry Pi aloft to negate the need for any casing and to showcase it. For that reason, perhaps they should come with an anti-static wrist strap and a small stool? I envisage a female \"The Thinker\" but with one hand outstretched, carefully holding the RasPi by it\'s edges. Perhaps only included with a premium codec pack? Any suggestions on what the hot meal should be? I\'m a vegetarian which may complicate things.

On a serious note, thanks for the update on the codecs, we do appreciate that there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes but to have that communicated is very much appreciated. I\'ve only dealt with it on a very small scale (with VoIP, in a previous life) but I know codec licensing can be utterly ridiculous.

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