Uncorrectable freedom and security issues on x86 platforms

Daniel Pocock daniel at pocock.pro
Tue Apr 5 16:02:47 UTC 2016

On 05/04/16 16:01, Paul Boddie wrote:
> 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
> 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.

Great, thanks for pointing that out

>>>> 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 

Well, they can usually print the money to replenish their budgets too,
the continental dollar being a classic example.

> 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.

Highly targeted gifts of hardware to people developing for that hardware
is an essential step but it is not enough.

Sure, if somebody is going to volunteer their time to make the audio
driver or something they need to be given the hardware.

If essential drivers are not available, then giving the hardware to
other developers is likely to be a big waste too.

Once the drivers are available though, wider exposure is needed.  Some
developers will simply use the device and report bugs.  Time spent by a
developer filing a well documented bug report is just as valuable as
time spent coding.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the majority of developers are
often very focused.  For example, if a developer is working on a sound
compression library, they might want to completely immerse themselves in
that task for 6 weeks and not be distracted by the glitches in some
experimental new laptop or IDE.  This is one reason you often see
developers using a piece of hardware that appears inconsistent with
their values.  When they do stop to check out that free laptop, they may
well focus 100% of their energy on it for a day or so but if they are
not confident with it after a few hours and they have to move on to some
other task then they may well cast it aside and come back to it 2-3
months later.



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