Uncorrectable freedom and security issues on x86 platforms

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Tue Apr 5 14:01:58 UTC 2016

On Tuesday 5. April 2016 14.27.22 Daniel Pocock wrote:
> On 05/04/16 13:42, Paul Boddie wrote:
> > 
> > This kind of thing is a lot of work. We tried to collect a list of
> > hardware vendors on the wiki:
> > 
> > http://wiki.fsfe.org/Migrated/Hardware Vendors


(Fixed this for e-mail linking purposes.)

> > (Everything on the wiki has been moved around, so links may need to be
> > followed via error pages.)
> > 
> > And there wasn't an attempt to catalogue the details, either. Really, it
> > was enough work just tracking whether the companies offering stuff were
> > still doing so or were even still trading at all.
> Thanks for that feedback.  It doesn't need to be a list of every
> possible option.  Showing at least one or two suitable options and the
> criteria used to evaluate them gives people confidence to buy them.

The FSF "holiday gift guide" did that for several product categories.

> >> Going beyond that, finding a way to gift such devices to free software
> >> developers could create even more momentum around support for free
> >> hardware.
> > 
> > I would rather Free Software developers came to their senses and made the
> > right purchasing decisions than have them getting presents that they
> > probably don't want and which end up lying around unused (or sold on, if
> > various device developer programmes are any indication).
> That is a generalization

People get very sensitive about this when I mention it. What I conclude from 
that is that some people who benefited from badly-targeted give-aways know 
that their involvement was speculative and was never really likely to advance 
the supposed objectives of those give-aways. The lesson, especially when one 
might be asking people to donate their own money to make such things happen 
(as opposed to it being funded by some corporate slush fund with vague 
advocacy objectives), is to be very specific and to have clear goals when 
handing stuff out (as discussed below).

> If you give 1,000 laptops with genuinely free hardware to developers, I
> suspect some of those will appear on eBay but definitely not all of
> them.  Some would be put to good use: if just 20% of the recipients did
> something serious with the device, it may compensate for the cost of the
> laptops "wasted" on the other 80% of developers.
> By way of analogy, I've heard that the infantry has to shoot 8,000
> bullets for every 1 enemy they kill.

Yes, but people who wage war generally have much larger budgets and can 
readily get them replenished. We're mostly in the position of throwing cents 
at worthy causes and spending our own time trying to help them along, while 
our opponents are funded with large dollar amounts and usually get paid to 
work against us, too.

Or by way of analogy, the smart strategist chooses their battles and refuses 
to get dragged into every provocation.

In any case, from following initiatives like EOMA-68, it appears that key 
people do generally get access (or will get access) to hardware in order to 
make it ready for wider use. My impression is that there's commercial common 
sense involved here: there are businesses that have already realised what 
Timothy Pearson wrote about and are willing to fund work that steers clear of 
Intel/AMD restrictions and defects.

It will be products by those forward-looking businesses that should ultimately 
be those preferred by enlightened Free Software developers when spending their 
own money. I guess those businesses will be able to make their own decisions 
about whether they might want to give products to developers to improve the 
customer experience, particularly after the groundwork to make a viable 
product has been done.


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