Prachi
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Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:57 am

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HawaiianPi
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:13 am

The Raspberry Pi is not open source hardware.
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ShiftPlusOne
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 7:15 am

https://docs.broadcom.com/docs/12358545
https://github.com/hermanhermitage/vide ... structions

You can check the hello_fft example on how to run code on the GPU from within linux.
https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/accele ... g-the-gpu/

The new VC4 driver by broadcom is 100% open, using the GPU from ARM side, stripping out as much reliance on the closed firmware as possible.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNeq-iG9pfc

Why can't we open source everything? Probably too many reasons to list and I'm not the person to do it. I think it would be great if we could, but past efforts shows it's a thankless endeavor fraught with legal issues and criticism from every side.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:02 am

For the same reasons we have closed source software in almost every device we use now a days. These reasons have been discussed all over the internet since people became aware of the problem. You have heard of Richard Stallman right?

Mostly it boils down to the fact that those that make things to sell don't generally want to tell you how they made it or how it works for fear that you will not buy it if you can make your own or someone else will eat their business. This has been the case for hundreds if not thousand of years. See the story of Venetian glass makers on the Island of Murano: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venetian_glass

A couple of thoughts:

1) Before worrying about the closed nature of the Pi how about worrying about the closed software in everything else you use: Your PC BIOS, the software in your PC system management chip, in the PC GPU, in the controllers of disks, SDs, USB devices of all kinds, routers, TVs....

2) Why are you singling out the Pi? The way you phrase the question hints that there are other platforms that are totally open. Are there such things?

3) Students can study how software works down to whatever depth they like using a Pi. They can even go further and study how things work below the software, you can run hardware design tools on the Pi. True they can't get into some corners of the Pi itself.

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HawaiianPi
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:11 am

Heater wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:02 am
2) Why are you singling out the Pi? The way you phrase the question hints that there are other platforms that are totally open. Are there such things?
Arduino? ;)
My mind is like a browser. 27 tabs are open, 9 aren't responding,
lots of pop-ups...and where is that annoying music coming from?

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:22 am

Yes, well, you jest. I suspect that is not quite what our OP had in mind.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:31 am

A strange thing:

1) I once saw Richard Stallman speak. When asked about whether software in the ROMs of embedded and other devices should also be Free and Open Source he said no. Seems that for him once the software is blown into ROM it is no longer software but part of the hardware and he no longer worries about it.

2) The Free Software Foundation refused to certify the Pi as satisfying their criteria for Free Software because of the closed source VPU blob and boot loader.

Which leads to the odd situation that if that binary blob were blown into ROM inside the SoC rather than being loaded from a file then the Pi would approved as Free Software compliant. But it's EXACTLY the same software!

LTolledo
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:26 am

To the OP:

Oh try those Allwinner - Mali based boards.... the makers will probably be more "accommodating" to your needs....

Good luck with that!
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Come to me with 'problems' and I'll help you find solutions"

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k-pi
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:39 am

I'm all for freedom in software, would like to not have to use binary blobs, but they don't stop me from using my computers as much as closed software used to.

Don't forget, the primary purpose of the RPi is to introduce people to computer programming, which it does very successfully. 8-)

It would be nice if there was boot loader code that could be used by the various operating systems though, as that would allow more choice for the end user.

I'm not even too worried about the wifi chip on board, because I can use a USB wifi stick, as a replacement.

It's a great SOC, at a very good price, & most of us can live with it's 'little problems'. ;)

ShiftPlusOne
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:54 am

k-pi wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:39 am
It would be nice if there was boot loader code that could be used by the various operating systems though, as that would allow more choice for the end user.
What do you mean by that? The current bootloader doesn't lock down what operating systems you can run. If necessary, it can load u-boot or tianocore uefi implementation for a more standard boot process.

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Gavinmc42
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:25 am

The OP's first post is to complain?
Trolling?
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hippy
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:07 pm

Gavinmc42 wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:25 am
The OP's first post is to complain?
Trolling?
Some might consider that to be even better trolling.

I don't even think that's a fair assessment of the nature of the OP's post.

fruitoftheloom
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:21 pm

Prachi wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:57 am
I have started doing operating system development for the raspberrypi and was surprised at the secretiveness. So far I noticed the GPU instruction set is a proprietary secret as well as the bootloader and other firmware.

I guess students will end up writing python and BASIC programs for which they don't need a raspberrypi. Those who want to study how software works deeper down are largely prohibited from doing so on this platform.

I believe you need to understand the raison d'être of why the Raspberry Pi SBC exists:

https://www.raspberrypi.org/about/


Regards open hardware what you state applies to other CPU Architectures.


Olimex is a good read:

https://www.olimex.com/Products/OLinuXi ... -hardware/
Retired disgracefully.....

fanoush
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:36 pm

Prachi wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:57 am
So far I noticed the GPU instruction set is a proprietary secret
.....
Those who want to study how software works deeper down are largely prohibited from doing so on this platform.
This is not true. There is gcc compiler for VC4 VPU. There is example bootcode.bin firmware. Anyone with enough motivation can hack the platform and run it entirely open source with some effort.
Yes it is not supported/promoted/encouraged by Raspberry Foundation but you are not prohibited from doing so. Well at least in EU reverse engineering for interoperability (=running your code) is legal.

hippy
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:21 pm

Prachi wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:57 am
Anyone with enough motivation can hack the platform and run it entirely open source with some effort.
True. There is nothing anyone can do to stop someone determining how all the secret stuff is, having that knowledge, and putting it to use.

The real problem comes if wishing to disseminate and share that knowledge or to use it other than for personal use.

That could very well have adverse repercussions, both rendering those involved persona non grata, with all the consequences stemming from that, while attracting legal and other efforts to stop such dissemination and/or use.

It's something which should be borne in mind when choosing a platform for what one wants to do.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:43 pm

fanoush,
This is not true.
Yes, it is true. The video processor is "secret" in as far as the manufacturer does not publish any documentation for it. Or can you link us to such documents?

Certainly one can reverse engineer all kind of closed system. That does not make them "open".

Personally I don't worry about it. In my book the GPU + blob is all just hardware, no more or less secret than the Intel processor and it's firmware plus all the other closed junk on this PC that I'm using now.

As I said, we have many more important fish to fry before worrying about the Raspi.

hippy
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:05 pm

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Last edited by hippy on Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:49 pm

hippy,

I think making the comparison between the rights and wrongs of open/closed software vs various degrees of genocide is beyond absurd.

As far as I can tell there is nothing ethically/morally wrong with closed source software as such. Unlike genocide.

Somebody makes some software and offers compiled binaries for sale or for free. People can choose to accept that offer or not. So far this is not unlike any other product you consume.

Of course things can go bad when the supplier has inserted hidden features for is own dastardly purposes that are not part of the deal, but that is another story.

As always, caveat emptor.

Personally I'm prepared to trust the Raspberry Pi Foundation to not have anything in the closed binary blobs that may harm me. Until demonstrated otherwise. Which is why I say we have more important fish to fry, I don't so much trust the suppliers of a lot of other things we end up using.

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mahjongg
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:59 pm

+1

Hippy is losing some karma points with me with this silly remark.... As if the fact that its closed hardware is comparable with genocide... :roll:

Keep it nice guys, or you know the penalty. :evil:

the RPI is closed hardware, deal with it, we are not like an Arduino, (you can see what comes from that.....(genuino etc) :mrgreen: )

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:07 pm

I didn't get that point. What bad thing happened because of Arduino?

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mahjongg
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:12 pm

Trademark disputes, no control over which hardware is a "real Aduino" resulting in "arduino's" with intel and ARM cpu's instead of an ATMEL CPU. Being cloned endlessly resulting in a "race to the bottom" price-wise. etc etc etc. Not that Arduino isn't a success.... Just that arduino LCC has lost control over it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduino#Trademark_dispute

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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:18 pm

This whole issue is making "best" the enemy of "really pretty good". The Pi is not completely open, but it is a good deal more open than many other systems.

In addition, I share the amusement that, by putting the firmware on the SD card instead of in ROM, the Pi doesn't meet the GNU definition of "open". Yet, the Pi is *more* open than a system with a ROM firmware because it can be updated, or reverse engineered, or--someday--the contents of the blob and the tools to work with it can--at least in theory--be released.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:28 pm

mahjongg,

Ah yes, that.

Meh, a trade mark dispute is a whole other subject.

That "keeping control" thing brings us back the point I made about the glass makers on the Island of Murano. If you want to stay in business don't tell people how to make your stuff. It worked for them.... for a while.

I fantasize that the clamoring hoards demanding open everything will get their act together and one day go to TSMC to get their open source, Pi like, SoCs made. That day will come, but not just yet...

fanoush
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:31 pm

Heater wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:43 pm
The video processor is "secret" in as far as the manufacturer does not publish any documentation for it.
I think something is secret if it is not publicly known. So lot of stuff was secret until someone figured it out, documented, wrote assembler for the instruction set, wrote gcc compiler, wrote basic firmware. Once done it is not secret anymore.

Also raspberry guys helped e.g. by adding feature to linux kernel so you can execute your custom VPU code. And I am only talking about VPU here - that CPU that boots bootcode.bin which is indeed not publicly documented fully as such. There is also the 3d parts with QPU units which were documented directly by broadcom so even your "does not publish any documentation" does not apply here. And the android driver source also has quite some VPU and BCM2708 related information.
Heater wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:43 pm
Certainly one can reverse engineer all kind of closed system. That does not make them "open".
I was not claiming it is open. You may try to read my post again - what I quoted and what I said.

Heater
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Re: Why must the raspberrypi be so proprietary?

Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:43 pm

fanoush,
I think something is secret if it is not publicly known.
Well, yeah. That's why I put "secret" in quotes.

Seems the SoC is better documented than I thought.

Does that mean I can now boot a Pi and run Linux without any closed source firmware blobs? Even if some features/performance are missing?

Where do I find instructions on building such a system?

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