Is it software?
I've been debating with myself over the last few days. Not that I'm torn so badly, but...
I once e-mailed RMS and asked him where the line was drawn. At what point does digital content become "code" where you should demand the 4 freedoms. Nobody really cares about the source code to their microwave, but an X server needs the source!
The original question popped up when I wondered about the SNES. I had the old bugger lying around, but I hesitated before I plugged it in. I can't change my games, I said. I don't have the freedom to edit this, and I know that it's just a stream of electrons, the same as on my computer!
*** This is an excerpt from the letter to RMS ***
My second set of questions revolve around the point at which hardware
becomes software. The BIOS is a good example of this. The opinions on
fsf.org (http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/free-bios.html) state that when a
BIOS was a ROM device, it was essentially hardware. But as it became
more and more malleable, it entered the realm of Free Software.
Is the use of ROM v RAM an indicator of hardware/software state as it
pertains to Free Software? Is this the only limit, or is (as the article
mentions) the idea that the BIOS was no longer static also an indicator?
I like RMS, but I didn't like his responce. It's not the first time I've disagreed with him (which is why I've said I sometimes feel more anal about Freedom than he is). His answer was "If it's common practice to install new software on it."
Common? The majority of people never install a new OS on their system but I clearly consider my computer in need of liberty! And there are SOME people who install new operating systems on their gaming consoles and iPods.
His second parts I DO agree with. It was "If the device can communicate over a network, demand Free Software! You can't tell if it's spying on you or not if you don't have the source."
I've decided that my SNES is safe. For all intents and purposes, to change the software requires a change in hardware, like old-school BIOS.
But here's where my internal debate began... If the SNES is okay, because it's hardware what about emulation? If I make a ROM image of a SNES game and play it on my computer, do I THEN need the source code? What makes the two things SO different?
My decision, as of last week, was that games are not software. I buy games to play them. They're linear content in my mind, like a book, or a song or a movie. It is the story, or the action, or the character development that I want, it's not the control.
The framework, however, must be libre. No DirectX, but a libre implimentation of it, like Wine, is okay.
But now I wonder what you guys think. How do you determine if something is "software" that you demand control over?