[Mageia-dev] free software purity question

blind Pete 0123peter at gmail.com
Thu Jul 19 13:38:06 CEST 2012

Steve Havelka wrote:

> There is at least one fully free-software computer:
> http://www.lemote.com/en/products/Notebook/2010/0310/112.html

I am surprised and pleased that such a thing exists, but it 
does not look like a replacement for my desktop computer.  

MIPS cpus still exist.  You learn something every day.  

> This is the kind of computer Richard Stallman uses, as mentioned on
> http://richard.stallman.usesthis.com/

If anyone was going have such a computer it would be RMS. 

> On 07/18/2012 07:35 PM, blind Pete wrote:
>> This is not supposed to be a troll, although I expect that some will
>> interpret it as such.  There are two parts; the first is how does this
>> work, followed by some philosophical stuff.  AFTER I get answers to the
>> first part I want to make up my mind about the second part.  Then you
>> can flame.
>> It appears that I don't know how things work.
>> I prefer open source for a few reasons, but when it comes to
>> motherboard BIOSes there is no real choice, so I just hope
>> that the manufacturers are competent and trustworthy.  What is
>> the story with CPUs and video cards?
>> My attitude to non-free firmware is in flux.  At the moment
>> I am annoyed by it, but accept it as a fact of life and just
>> install it.
>> In the olden days CPUs and graphics cards were hard wired.  If they
>> didn't work you had to throw them out, change the masks and
>> manufacture new ones.  Remember the Pentium division error?
>> Modern devices are far too complex for that to work.  They
>> have code that is variously known as; firmware, CPU microcode,
>> or a video BIOS.
>> Now the bits that I don't know about...
>> Does a modern CPU run *at all* without microcode?  I assume that
>> when you buy a CPU it has microcode in ROM on the chip.
>> Then at powerup it copies the code from ROM to working memory
>> where it is run until either powerdown or it is over written with
>> a newer version of the same thing.  Is that right?
>> As I understand it, microcode is usually used to emulate CISC
>> instructions on RISC hardware.  Can a consumer tell the difference?
>> Would the manufacturers tell us, even if we asked nicely?
>> If we do know which instructions are run on hardware and which
>> are run in microcode, does is change from one chip to the next?
>> Can gcc be configured to only produce the subset of instructions
>> that run on the hardware?  There are a couple of references in
>> man gcc, but they seem to refer to the PowerPC, not x86.
>> Same problem with video cards.  According to Wikipedia, since
>> EGA hit the market in 1984, all video cards have their own BIOS.
>> Is *possible* to run anything better than CGA without using
>> closed source code?  If you physically removed the chip
>> containing the video BIOS from a video card would you even be
>> able to look at the motherboard's BIOS?
>> Is there any practical, or moral, difference between;
>> downloading and installing the latest firmware on boot,
>> downloading and flashing the video BIOS,
>> flashing the video BIOS from a floppy that came with the video card,
>> waiting until cards with a good BIOS get distributed before buying.
>> Should a truly free distribution say; "detected a VGA video
>> card and/or a Pentium II, refusing to install"?
>> Is there any choice?  An open source BIOS an arm chip and a
>> text only display?

blind Pete
Sig goes here...  

More information about the Mageia-dev mailing list