How Much Non-Free Software Does The PineBook Pro Use?
#1
I'm slightly curious as to how much non-free software is required to run the PineBook Pro and if it's possible to use it with only libre software, if it's not possible it won't put me off getting one I'd just like to know

Thanks Big Grin
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#2
It depends on what you want to do with it, I guess. It will do what you tell it to do.
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#3
(02-12-2021, 06:58 AM)KC9UDX Wrote: It depends on what you want to do with it, I guess.  It will do what you tell it to do.
While that's true what I mean is can it boot without non-free software? Because I know that devices like the Raspberry Pi cannot
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#4
Here is a list of non-free software that I know of:
  • TrackPad firmware
  • Keyboard firmware, (but their is a modified version that is more open & generally available)
  • WiFi firmware
  • ATF, ARM Trusted Firmware, (their is an open sourced version available)
  • Video drivers, (their is an open source version available with reduced functionality at present)
As you can see, it's mostly low level software or firmware. All the main software is both open source and free.

Their could be other items that I missed, (I don't pretend to be perfect :-).

The ATF is used early on, by U-Boot. Unless you make an effort, your U-Boot, (and what ATF it uses), is selected by the Linux distro you load.
I have heard that their are multiple versions of the WiFi firmware / driver, but I have not bothered to read further on that subject.
Someone had started to reverse engineer the TrackPad firmware, however that appears to be abandoned at present. Again, I am not following this subject.
--
Arwen Evenstar
Princess of Rivendale
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#5
Can it boot without? Absolutely.

Will yours? Probably not, but maybe, as @Arwen points out.
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#6
Aren't most distros now using Panfrost, the open source video driver? I thought I read that ARM was planning on abandoning their binary only driver in favor of Panfrost.
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#7
I am encouraged to see more and more people asking these sort of questions!

So cheers to you, @ImmyChan!

Since Arwen gave some very good specifics already (thanks for that btw) I will speak more in general, as I have cared about these sort of issues for a long time.

The way I see it, I think we are better off here on ARM (with exception of RPi, as you so correctly point out) than on x86 going forward.  There are some other arch that are interesting (RISC-V, and/or POWER) but those are nowhere near as mature (or inexpensive!) as ARM based devices are currently.

As mentioned, slowly but steadily, more and more things are also being open sourced.  The bigger the market, more people working on them, etc. only makes this happen faster.  Which is where ARM big numbers (and low price) work in their favor.

Within the ARM ecosystem, I do think we should continue to question / push for "as open as possible" devices, until they have become completely open.  I would like to hope it's only a matter of time, but we are by no means "out of the woods" yet.  Therefore, I encourage everyone who care about such issues to take the time to educate themselves (and others!) whenever the topic comes up.  Because it's ultimately a long term political battle that we have to win.  Which means, hearts and minds...
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