Open firmware for the various built-in microcontrollers


Binky

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First off here are two things I'm not saying:

  • Commercial software is less useful than FOSS
  • Commercial software is immoral or unethical
that is not what this thread is about.

In the Pandora, there are various binary-blob-driven bits of hardware. They have badly documented firmware, and commercial drivers. These include:

  • Nub controllers
  • Wifi chip
  • GPU
  • Power management chip
These are frequently the cause of problems, which are hard to diagnose and harder to fix.

Two of them are rather complex, and probably impractical to find alternatives to (wifi, GPU) and free drivers for.

The other two, however could (I think) be replaced by a OTS microcontroller and a good dev with some spare time.

If this were feasible, I think it would be a very good idea - since it would allow us to fix bugs and add features.

Being a small project, the original vendor is unlikely to care tuppence about our needs or problems.
 

WizardStan

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Power management chip
There's no binary blob for the TWL, the driver is fully open source. The problem is it just wasn't perfectly designed for the task we've given it. It behaves as it was designed.As much as I'd love to replace it with a microcontroller and some switches and I'm on record as saying I wish it could be done, I also know it just isn't practical: the odds of getting it catastrophically wrong are way too high. Taking what we've learned from the Pandora, about uses and edge cases that MWeston probably wasn't aware of when he first selected it, we'd be much better to find a proven solution that already exists and does everything we want.

Nub controllers
Already sorted. I don't know what the company EvilDragon is working with has done but it's obviously behaving much better, it very doubtfully has any sort of autocalibration, probably no software at all other than "here's the numbers".
Wifi chip
The driver is open source and the firmware is proven tech as it's been used in other products for years. The problems with the wifi are almost certainly hardware in nature and we'd risk these problems regardless of the source.
I basically agree that open drivers are good, but having looked at the choices I'm going to have to disagree on any suggestions that it might be possible to use something FOSS without taking a major step back (or at least ignoring major steps forward) in technology.
 

comradekingu

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Foss can be paid, just like nonfree can be freeware.

How is innovation and development not 100% relying on actually selling that hardware, and what takes away from buying it with free drivers?

For imagination powerVR i see the licensing issue, which they built on a proprietary model, but its not as if they had to give it away for others to use anyway.

In terms of us, the ones using it, foss is always the better option between the two, everything else being the same.
 
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EvilDragon

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Well, it uses the same chip, but none of my N900 were better with Wifi than the Pandora :/
 

comradekingu

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