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GNU is Not Unix Software Hardware

FSF Announces Hardware Endorsement Criteria 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the ideals-inside dept.
sveinungkv writes "The Free Software Foundation has announced criteria for the hardware endorsement program 'Respects Your Freedom.' From the announcement: 'The desire to own a computer or device and have full control over it, to know that you are not being spied on or tracked, to run any software you wish without asking permission, and to share with friends without worrying about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) — these are the desires of millions of people who care about the future of technology and our society. (...) With our endorsement mark and the strong criteria that back it, we plan to bridge that gap and demonstrate to manufacturers that they stand to gain plenty by making hardware that respects people's freedom instead of curtailing it.' While it currently contains some requirements that many may find broader than what they personally need, the remaining criteria would make the FSF endorsement a useful tool when looking for devices that give the owner control over the device they have bought and paid for. The criteria are still open for feedback."
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FSF Announces Hardware Endorsement Criteria

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  • by Toe, The (545098) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:24PM (#33910846)

    Just saw a semi-related post in the firehose: Scary USB marketing device [slashdot.org].

    So would a marketing gimmick/keyboard emulator which pretends to be a USB flash drive count as free hardware? :/

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:33PM (#33910940)

      "Any product-related materials that mention the FSF endorsement must not also carry endorsements or badges related to proprietary software, such as "Works with Windows" or "Made for Mac" badges"

      No big manufacturer is going to put up with that. This simply means the idea won't fly. Not that it had chance in the first place, but it was a good idea, with this - it goes into the ground. I don't like "Works for Windows" labels myself, but they are 1) required to inform the customer that the hardware will work with Windows 2) not going away. We could only hope that "Works with Free Software" is added to those.

      • That would be great, but it probably won't happen because while "Windows" and "Mac" refers to multiple versions of one OS (Windows now usually means XP/Vista/7 and Mac means whatever few latest MacOS versions there are), "Free software" refers to a lot of different operating systems.

        Even "Linux" is not a single OS. The device might work with Ubuntu, but not with RedHat or Slackware or Mandriva and I don't think that the manufacturer will test all of the more popular distributions. Testing for multiple versi

        • by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:03PM (#33911350)
          Not really, this whole present bit is the direct result of manufacturers failing to implement things to the appropriate standard. And the reality is that some manufacturers are already moving in a direction which would allow them to get the endorsement.

          But ultimately, there's the very real possibility of cost savings here, as if they're using freely available tools and using open standards, they don't have to worry about supporting a hundred different platforms, as the tools would be there to add the support.

          I may have missed it, but I didn't see any requirements that a manufacturer support platform X, just that the tools and the other necessities be free software.
          • his whole present bit is the direct result of manufacturers failing to implement things to the appropriate standard.

            Provided that there exists such a standard. A lot of USB device classes [usb.org] aren't specified enough to allow for a generic class driver, such as bitmap printers (printer device class 1.1 doesn't define a baseline printer control protocol and page description language), flatbed scanners, storage devices that aren't the sort of block devices envisioned by the Mass Storage Class (such as EPROM programmers), and adapters to connect legacy devices (such as RS232 serial ports). And I don't see how a standard for low-

        • by clodney (778910) on Friday October 15, 2010 @04:27PM (#33912402)

          Even "Linux" is not a single OS. The device might work with Ubuntu, but not with RedHat or Slackware or Mandriva and I don't think that the manufacturer will test all of the more popular distributions. Testing for multiple versions of multiple distributions would be too much, especially since only a few percent of end users use Linux.

          Careful there sonny - by failing to refer to it as "GNU/Linux" you are no longer eligible for the endorsement.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Any device that works with one should work with all. Kernel drivers are all that matter.

          • by tenco (773732)
            How is "testing against 10-20 different kernel versions" different from "testing against 10-20 most popular Linux distributions"? Because I just had to deal with that problem yesterday: a friend of mine owns a laptop which has a soundcard in it that's supported on kernel version 2.6.32 but not 2.6.35.
      • I agree. If it "Works with Windows", is "Made for Macs", and is "FSF Compatible" no sane manufacturer is not going to want to mention all three. Even with its current, rather limited, desktop appeal I still see lots of peripherals marked with a "Linux Compatible" symbol joining the "WwW" and "MfM" ones on the back. If your hardware works with a given system why *wouldn't* you tell people. You obviously put at least some effort into the cross compatibility and it certainly can't hurt sales.

        • If it "Works with Windows", is "Made for Macs", and is "FSF Compatible" no sane manufacturer is not going to want to mention all three.

          Disagree. Device manufacturers look at the cost (time and money) of the process required to license the logo/badge and decide that way. If the FSF have a sensible cost and process, then a little more testing to attract a growing segment is worth it.

          The FSF is 100% wrong if they attempt to exclude Microsoft and Apple compatibility logos. Hardware can be simultaneously GPL

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No really, that's one of the requirements: you have to refer to it as "GNU/Linux", not just Linux. You also have to emphasize "Free Software" over "Open Source". Go read the doc, it's really in there

          The MacArthur Foundation ought to take back the Genius Grant they gave RMS.

          • by tenco (773732)
            I don't get it. If they care about hardware, why isn't it ok to only state compatibility with a kernel? Because that's all you have to really worry about.
      • Those endorsements / badges are typically by choice of the vendor, though.

        I don't think this applies to a list of compatible systems on the back of a box (i.e. "Compatible with: Windows, Mac OS X and Ubuntu* (*For a complete list, visit www.vendor.com/support/"). These are just the little logos and stickers that you get to slap on the box/product -if- you meet certain requirements. For example: your installer must be Windows Installer based. If you use NSIS or InnoSetup: no sticker for you. But converse

      • by massysett (910130)

        Plus it says you must adopt FSF dogma, such as

        the seller must use the term "GNU/Linux" for any reference to an entire operating system which includes GNU and Linux, and not mislead with "Linux" or "Linux-based system" or "a system with the Linux kernel". And the seller must talk about "free software" more prominently than "open source."

        Too bad this endorsement mark is really about promoting FSF and settling old scores, rather than being about promoting users' freedom.

  • by blair1q (305137)

    How about the right to make money off of something that millions find valuable that you labored to create, without fear that someone else will make a copy of it and start selling it themselves?

    • by melikamp (631205) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:34PM (#33910956) Homepage Journal
      Stop pirating English. You didn't help to create it in any significant way, so why do you feel entitled to use it in communication? The idea that you alone labored to create a piece of software or work of art is just a fiction in your head. You are merely adding a few bricks on top of a gigantic skyscraper, but then you want to claim all floors above them as your property? Nice try.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Monchanger (637670)

      That right doesn't conflict with the right of a consumer to their property.

      That's where innovation and brand come in. Just because you release your specs doesn't let a competitor compete with you until they've had time to get those specs into production and build a distribution network. By then it's too late for them to compete for market share.

      There are a zillion cheap iPod knockoffs and other devices which do basically the same thing. Apple made a fortune on digital music players before anyone else and

    • by magarity (164372)

      without fear that someone else will make a copy of it

      This isn't a troll but a valid point about the 'and share with friends' bit. It's none of hardware's business to decide if one may or may not make a copy of a digital work but they don't need to call out copying to someone who didn't purchase or license it. That's a civil case between the user and the producer. Hardware needs to make no distinction on making copies - it's the user's decision whether the copies are to make spares for themselves

    • by Required Snark (1702878) on Friday October 15, 2010 @04:51PM (#33912706)
      You are a socialist. Nobody has the "right" to make money. You have the opportunity to start a business and succeed or fail, but engaging in legitimate business is the fundamental right that you have. To assert anything else means that you expect a system that automatically generates profits for you. That would be socialism for business.

      The "right to make money"/socialism for business is at the center of the corrupt economic regime that dominates Wall St. It is standard practice to commit fraud because being profitable trumps the rule of law. The latest "robosigning" scandal is a classic example of how things really work. If you signed a fraudulent affidavit as part of a real estate transaction then you would go to jail. When Bank of America does it to save money then it is a "paperwork error". There is one law for big corporate American and another law for individuals. That means there is in effect no rule of law at all. And it goes back to people like you who think that making profit is a right. You are pro-corruption. It is this attitude and it's real world effect that are destroying the US and world economy.

  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melikamp (631205) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:27PM (#33910884) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, this is good news. Now more than ever before, we need people to understand the difference between open and locked-down hardware, and to help them make rational choices while shopping. To me, it is unthinkable that my personal computers should be remote-controlled by a third party, but the crowds are only beginning to wake up to the pain that proprietary platforms are causing them.
    • by immakiku (777365)

      Are they waking up to it? Most vendors aren't blatantly obvious in doing these seeding things. It will take a real case for FSF or anybody to really be able to highlight the benefits of Free.

      Additionally this is good news for smaller manufacturers who don't care or don't have the ability to add additional "services" to their products that shouldn't really be there to begin with. If this endorsement gains any momentum, that's yet another incentive to do business the simple, straightforward way.

    • by davev2.0 (1873518)
      The problem is that most people still won't care. In fact, many people see locked-down hardware, and software too, as an advantage
      • by melikamp (631205)

        In fact, many people see locked-down hardware, and software too, as an advantage

        Give us examples. Give us an example of a platform where the very fact that the owner is locked out is beneficial to the owner. It is true that some proprietary software may be seen as better on technical grounds, or even be cheaper to maintain, but name one instance where opening up the code and the hardware specs would be detrimental to the device's owner.

      • by NFN_NLN (633283)

        The problem is that most people still won't care. In fact, many people see locked-down hardware, and software too, as an advantage

        If that were true Android never would have taken off: "App developers more bullish on Android than iOS"

        http://community.nasdaq.com/News/2010-09/app-developers-more-bullish-on-android-than-ios.aspx?storyid=37842 [nasdaq.com]

        The users ultimately follow the apps. Just see how many exclusive titles Microsoft had to purchase in order to ensure XBOX's success. Only in this case the developers are driving the apps and they're choosing Android because its much more open.

        • by Desler (1608317)

          If that were true Android never would have taken off:

          Why? What he said isn't mutually exclusive to that. Notice how he didn't say "all people".

          "App developers more bullish on Android than iOS"

          Because App developers are representative of an average phone user?

          Just see how many exclusive titles Microsoft had to purchase in order to ensure XBOX's success.

          As opposed to how many titles Sony purchased to be exclusive to their console?

    • by abigor (540274)

      No, it's kind of dumb and no manufacturer will bother to pay attention. Nice try at fear-mongering, though.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Is it fear mongering when an entire market, particularly the mobile market, is moving in that direction? What makes you think they won't try to move that lock down up the stack?

        • Is it fear mongering when an entire market, particularly the mobile market, is moving in that direction?

          Moving in what direction? BREW is more locked down than Android, and well-known handheld game consoles are even more locked down than BREW.

  • When someone uses a computer, it's not usually the hardware that spies on them. Won't this just give people false security? (If it does anything.)
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:37PM (#33910984)

      I believe that the concept is that hardware can be made to prevent free software from loading, for instance, a chip to check for digital signatures to prove the code is "authorized", and that therefor the non-libre hardware can prevent you from running the software you want, forcing you to have to use software that isn't libre.

      • chip to check for digital signatures to prove the code is "authorized"

        Which is exactly what Tivo did with their Linux stack. Modify the Linux stack in a Tivo and the device is broken due to some kind of hashing.

        I think the FSF is on the right track, but the inexorable problems of clever people circumventing the GPL will turn a good idea into an unpleasant situation.

        If the FSF made the essence of the label basically GPL friendly hardware with no binary software blobs with some limited backward kernel versio

  • by TruthSeeker (461299) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:32PM (#33910936) Homepage

    Because of the "incompatible endorsements" part, I doubt that hardware manufacturers will bother with it. Which is too bad.

  • by Julie188 (991243) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:33PM (#33910944)
    It is totally fair that if you want the FSF's endorsement you've got to open all the software on the product, and license any software patents. I love how the FSF always defines the outer edge completely in favor of the person that buys the product, rather than the one that creates it. I don't think the typical product creator will be interested in this because it seems like it will create a giant boiling vat of legal implications and who wants to sign up for that? But so what? Eventually a happy middle will be found.

    Julie
    www.opensourcesubnet.com
    • DoD and NASA? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tekfactory (937086)

      I'm just wondering if there are any traditional control freak agencies that would welcome such an endorsement?

      The theory being they could access all the specs giving them more faith in the system itself.

      Maybe the FSF needs to find a congresscritter who is scared of pre-hacked computers/servers/routers/switches with components made in China.

    • by Alsee (515537)

      It is totally fair that if you want the FSF's endorsement you've got to open all the software on the product, and license any software patents.

      Ummm, was that intended to be sarcasm? The FSF doesn't have to endorse anyone at all. If they want they could say you have to use 100% recycled materials, donate 80% of profits to saving the whales, and that you have to whistle the Swiss National Anthem in a banana suit to get their endorsement.

      a giant boiling vat of legal implications

      What the hell?
      Is there some "a g

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The person who buys the product should own it, they bought it. Seems like some folks would rather lease products while claiming to sell them.

  • I guess I'm having a hard time to see where the boundary would lie, because of how easy it is to cross it. The Arduino, a general purpose microcontroller board, would seem to be about as open as they get: the whole firmware is open, the tools are open, they even give you files that would let you manipulate the hardware layout and have a factory produce your custom flavor. Does that get the Arduino a nod from the FSF? Okay, if so, what about Arduino-based devices which employ sensors and/or obfuscation
  • by Millennium (2451) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:52PM (#33911216) Homepage

    OK, so apparently the idea behind the "Works with Windows" and "Made for Mac," and similar being incompatible is that a user might think that the hardware requires these pieces of proprietary software. However, wouldn't the FSF's endorsement itself be sufficient clarification that this isn't the case? This seems more a matter of ego-stroking, much in the same way that they insist on the "GNU/Linux" name as another condition of endorsement when there is, in all likelihood, precisely one person on the planet who cares about the difference.

    I'd admonish the FSF that injecting petty politics into what should be a technology-based endorsement doesn't do anybody any favors, but frankly, I'm not sure I have to. These two requirements alone will ensure that nobody ever applies for this thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by natehoy (1608657)

      I agree. While I like this movement overall, I don't think they should be shooting for this kind of exclusivity.

      "Works with Windows" and "Made for Mac" are marketing stickers. In fact, they are exactly the same kind of marketing sticker the FSF wants to use.

      It's the hardware inside the box that should count for the FSF endorsement, not the labels on the box. If I can hack the hardware and do what I want with it, why in hell would I care that the manufacturers have entered marketing agreements with Micros

  • by SiliconEntity (448450) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:30PM (#33911688)

    I know people have trouble accepting it, but I want to offer once again the philosophical principle that true freedom implies the right and ability to commit yourself and to constrain your future actions. This principle should be very acceptable to the FSF, because it is the basis for their argument that the GPL is more free than BSD style licenses. Superficially, the BSD is more free, because it let's you do whatever you want. But the FSF argues that the GPL is actually freer, because it let's you do whatever you want only as long as you let others do whatever they want with the result. Imposing this limitation on freedom, paradoxically, increases freedom.

    And really, this should not seem paradoxical, because we see the same principle all the time in everyday life. Every time someone signs a contract, he commits to performing certain actions and thereby limits his own freedom. The same thing happens when two lovers promise to be faithful. The point is that the essence of true freedom requires the ability to voluntarily limit your own freedom.

    This is where the FSF, along with much of the network community, has gotten off on the wrong foot with some of these hardware technologies, in particular Trusted Computing. These technologies allow you to make credible commitments to limit your own freedom. You can promise to run only certain software to handle certain data, and failure to honor your promise can be detected.

    It should be clear that, as with contract, marriage, and other areas where we make binding commitments, as long as these kinds of promises are voluntary, allowing them actually enhances freedom. Yet the FSf doesn't see it that way. They are so angry and upset at the notion that people may make promises only to run certain code that they are doing all they can to make such promises impossible to make credibly.

    I can understand the concerns that these technologies could be made mandatory. That would obviously be an unacceptable infringement on freedom. But we don't eliminate marriage just because some people are unfairly forced into marriage in certain cultures. We don't eliminate contract just because some are coercive. We fight the unjust arrangements while recognizing the value of a system which allows people to make binding commitments.

    The same approach should be applied to Trusted Computing. We should support voluntary adoption of the technology, while vigorously opposing efforts to make it mandatory.

    Unfortunately I don't see much prospect of the FSF changing its position on this issue; Stallman is not notoriously amenable to reasonable persuasion. But I hope the larger community can start to look at these matters with open eyes, and not feel obligated to follow the FSF in lockstep.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:49PM (#33911908)

      I want to offer once again the philosophical principle that true freedom implies the right and ability to commit yourself and to constrain your future actions.

      Which is valid in the case of things like contracts, but generally those tend to be two-sided. EULAs tend to be almost entirely one-sided contracts where in exchange for basic operation of the device you are giving up all ability to "own" the hardware. Can't quite phrase it like I prefer, but there it is.

      the FSF argues that the GPL is actually freer, because it let's you do whatever you want only as long as you let others do whatever they want with the result. Imposing this limitation on freedom, paradoxically, increases freedom.

      True, but it's a forward freedom instead of an immediate freedom. BSD guarantees immediate freedoms, at the expense of forward freedom.

      This is where the FSF, along with much of the network community, has gotten off on the wrong foot with some of these hardware technologies, in particular Trusted Computing. These technologies allow you to make credible commitments to limit your own freedom. You can promise to run only certain software to handle certain data, and failure to honor your promise can be detected.

      Trusted Computing is generally not a problem at all so long as you, the user, hold the keys. The problem arises, and the FSF is entirely right about it, when you the user hold none of the keys and have no option to get out of the cage. It's not so much you agreeing to run only certain software, so much being told as such and having no recourse.

      I can understand the concerns that these technologies could be made mandatory. That would obviously be an unacceptable infringement on freedom.

      Well, they may not be made mandatory, but there is certainly a desire from many entities (Microsoft, RIAA, MPAA) to make them de-facto.

      Stallman is not notoriously amenable to reasonable persuasion.

      He's amenable to what he sees as reasonable, of course ;)

      But I hope the larger community can start to look at these matters with open eyes, and not feel obligated to follow the FSF in lockstep.

      I don't think the larger community does follow the FSF in lockstep. Instead, the FSF charges on ahead with their more extreme vision and the rest of us slowly push towards that while making the compromises that they won't. But there are some lines where attention must be paid lest the FSF's polar opposites, the fans of lock down and anti-user security, do an end run and try to shove us all in the box.

      But beware, there are more than a few people on slashdot these days who will aggressively attack you for suggesting even bare minimum levels of openness.

    • by melikamp (631205)

      This is where the FSF, along with much of the network community, has gotten off on the wrong foot with some of these hardware technologies, in particular Trusted Computing. These technologies allow you to make credible commitments to limit your own freedom. You can promise to run only certain software to handle certain data, and failure to honor your promise can be detected.

      FSF has no beef with hypervisors or signed binaries, they just want the users to have the keys to the engine. Please explain how not being able to sign your own binaries on your own hardware is benefiting you, the user. You could say: "I would not be able to get the software I need because no one would distribute it on these conditions", but that argument falls flat on its face the very moment you look at the actual software and hardware market. You are going to pay for the software being written, right? So

    • by eldepeche (854916)

      *makes wanking motion with hand*

    • by Kjella (173770)

      We should support voluntary adoption of the technology, while vigorously opposing efforts to make it mandatory.

      Why do the words "useful idiot" spring to mind? As if todays "software is licensed, not sold" wasn't bad enough, Trusted Computing is the proverbial strings for making the user a puppet. I'm sick and tired of producers who can't let go of their products, but feel a disgusting need to micromanage what, where and how I can use it. Your delusional theory that consumers will have a choice is proven wrong by broad industry standards that mean you can either bend over or return to the stone age. DVDs and Blu-Rays

  • by TheNucleon (865817) on Friday October 15, 2010 @04:22PM (#33912348)
    There is a lot of criticism in the comments - for instance:

    Hardware mfgs won't go for this
    Consumers won't care
    There aren't enough people who _do_ care to make a difference

    Some of this may be true, stark reality. But if that's the case, then I ask, what do we do instead?

    A lot of us feel strongly that the rise of constrained, "walled garden" computing, especially in mobile devices (phones, iPad, etc.) is a Bad Thing(tm). These mobile devices, along with increasingly complex embedded systems, may well be the future of computing. These days, computing = access to information. Do you really, really want your information device to be nothing more than a puppet for someone else to control? We've all read the books and seen the movies - we know where this road ends. I don't want to go there.

    Already, the corporate-owned and operated consolidated media is doing its best to spoon-feed everybody the daily ration of irrelevant crap or pre-digested "here's what to think" news stories. And due to the trend we're discussing, soon the only place we'll be able to get any information at all is with our fully-controlled, censored, happy happy joy joy goodcitizendevices.

    But this gets worse, because once the corporations control everything, it's only one small step away from government abuse. Been paying [go.com] attention [eff.org] to the trends [eff.org] lately? Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-law enforcement, but there must be balance. When all tech is locked down and we have no choices, it will be too late to wonder if we should have just allowed it to happen.

    So, honestly, if this FSF effort isn't the answer, what is? Because as long as we want to remain a free people, we can't just stand by and watch, if not facilitate, as a select few take full control of the systems we rely on for our information.

    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:00PM (#33912818)

      The majority of the comments that say the manufacturers won't go for it is in response to the exclusivity requirement - the need to either have the FSF badge (assuming the product qualifies), or the Made for Mac / Works with Windows badges, but not both. The reason appears to be entirely political, since the idea that people interested in the FSF badge would be "confused" about it appearing alongside other badges like those.

      That is why it won't fly - manufacturers are not going to drop the "MfM" and "WwW" badges in favour of the FSF one entirely down to consumer base; there are going to be a lot more people who want to know at a glance if the product is Windows or Mac (or perhaps even both at the same time!) compatible than there are people looking at the FSF's endorsement (at least at this very early stage in its life cycle).

      So, the idea is a good one. The exclusivity requirement is *totally brainless* and will almost guarantee the project will be DoA or have extremely limited penetration in the market, defeating the entire object of the exercise.

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