OpenBSD Journal

OpenBSD 3.9 Release Song - Blob!

Contributed by robert on from the fight them dept.

The 3.9 release song is up.

The current story is all about vendor-compiled binary drivers.
These vendors are trying to force us to use their binary only drivers and they do not even bother to release source code or documentation of their drivers.
It is really hard to write good device drivers without documentation so there are two ways ahead of us.

  • We do not use these devices. (use other stuff)
  • Reverse engineer!

    In the past couple of months the nfe(4) binary driver has been reverse engineered by two of our developers.
    And yes... they *did not get any* documentation or help from NVIDIA.
    It is really important for OpenBSD to only include dirvers that are fully open source because this way everyone is allowed to check the quality of the code, or look for bugs and fix them. There is no way to do these in blobs.

    So the basic story of the 3.9 song is the following:
    Blobby was found as a baby on an beach, washed to shore like an oil slick. He grew up and started getting very rich, very greedy, and everyone became addicted to his blobs. Eventually everything was dependent on him. Puffy tries to solve the blob problem, but finds out that it has gone too far, and unless users start helping us fight the blob, the blob will win.

    You can also use a mirror for downloading the song instead of using the main FTP server until the files are getting mirrored:
    song39.ogg (main site)
    song39.mp3 (main site)
    song39.ogg (mirror site)
    song39.mp3 (mirror site)

    Please do not forget to support our project.
    Thank you.

  • (Comments are closed)

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      love the song. Just what I need stuck in my head for the next 6 months ... Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ...

      1. By tmclaugh ( on

        Reminds me a lot of The Cramps. Need to get home and go through my music to find why the intro sounds so familiar.

        1. By xhrl.thomasw ( on

          yes, that's it: bad music for bad people?

        1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          Don't give up the day job

    2. By almeida ( on

      Nice work, as always.

    3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      lol at the oil-slicked penguin in the picture :p

      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        I just wish we could get the Penguin-people on board. A solid front that included the poster child of open-source would have much more clout than one that is being undermined by the same...

        1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          A major promblem with this is that a number of the same orgs that are producing the blobs are the ones that have a dog in this fight, so to speak. Commercial Linux vendors aren't going to bother with principles when something "just works" and doesn't cost them anything.

          Sure, the Linux kernel people could take a stand, but they built the LKM framework that allows blobs to be so easy to use with Linux systems and don't seem to want to remove it (understandably, as there are, arguably, some merits to it).

          You know, that all just sounds like a bunch of whining, but, in the end, I'm confident that those vendors who want our business enough will release the necessary hardware specs (after all, it doesn't really cost them any money to publish a ps/pdf file), and I'll buy their hardware when I have a need. And, with a little luck (and some public exposure), closed vendors will see their revenue stream slacken just enough to investigate.

          1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

            A major promblem with this is that a number of the same orgs that are producing the blobs are the ones that have a dog in this fight, so to speak. Commercial Linux vendors aren't going to bother with principles when something "just works" and doesn't cost them anything.

            Or potentially they can get the source, since they wouldn't have a problem with NDAs and other forms of secrecy. But yeah, windows has enough market share that bad drivers reflect badly on the hardware vendors (not that that's a perfect solution) and any other software-only vendor has their profits directly tied to hardware support so there's not much else you can expect.

            1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

              If you talk about blobs...

              What`s about FIRMAWARE?

              1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

                one is a secret thing loaded into your operating system environment, the other is a secret thing loaded onto a vendor's piece of hardware.

          2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

            "And, with a little luck (and some public exposure), closed vendors will see their revenue stream slacken just enough to investigate." Is there a way to see which vendors are the really open vendors so we as users are NOT rewarding the closed vendors? Do I only have to look at the hardware comptability list for my platform? Thanks

        2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          A solid front that included the poster child of open-source...

          Aren't the terms "solid front" and "linux" somewhat of an oxymoron when used together?

        3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          Your "poster child of open-source" grew when its users wanted binary drivers or the same hardware relevance as Windows users. Now that the "Penguin-people" have achieved their status, it's impossible for them to denounce their origin, too much money is at stake to change.

          The only ones undermined are themselves. They claim to promote freedom, but they're doing the opposite.

          My interpretation of this 3.9 song is a short history on Blob infecting Open Source:

          "Little baby Blobby was a cute little baby when we found him on the beach..."

          In the beginning, hardware vendors weren't too keen on supplying even binary drivers to GNU/Linux; however, goodwill came to those vendors who did.

          "Thin edge of the wedge? But everybody was so happy - about Blob"

          As more hardware support increased, the GNU/Linux community was ecstatic to see some form of hardware support for their beloved OS, and ignored the consequences simultaneously.

          "Blob was popular at school he was helpful too
          He could get your motor runnin' with a drop of goo"

          Enthusiasts in their own time started to convert public schools to use GNU/Linux and move away from Windows.

          "But by the time he graduated Blob was business slime!"

          This was when IBM and their ilk started to cash in on GNU/Linux and promoted Open Source.

          "Now everybody had it they was drivin' around
          They was givin' up their freedoms for convenience now"

          Linus' switch to BitKeeper, etc.

          And the rest of the song is what you see today...

      2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        I'd go for that image on a t-shirt :)

      3. By Han ( on

        FreeBSD also supports blobs, I don't see no oily Chuck though. BTW as soon as you load a blob you'll get this message in your dmesg: nvidia: module license 'NVIDIA' taints kernel. And on the kernel bugzilla you get asked to reproduce any bug without the blob loaded. Linus himself is verociously ranting against blobs. So even though Linux does allows blobs they don't like them at all.

        1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          It is kind of cool that at least Linus is supportive!

    4. By SleighBoy ( on

      As always, the songs are a nice treat to look forward to.

      What I want to know is, who does the illustrations that go with them. And are vector versions of such items as the wire-frame puffy available? The OpenBSD "Art" page is a little lean.

      1. By jolan ( on

        Ty Semaka does the illustrations (and the music too).

        1. By SleighBoy ( on

          Thank you!

    5. By toxa ( on

      very nice ;-)
      this song is definitevely hit my car audio system for the next few days ;)

    6. By Jeff S. ( on

      Very very nice song.. this one really gets stuck in your head.

      Delicious! Certainly one of the best songs so far.

      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        Yes, it is very catchy. I like it. Systemagic and Pond-erosa Puff are my two other favourites. I'm really looking forward for the 3.9 release. :) Speaking of which, tomorrow I'm going to make a nice 45 e donation to the project so I can install 3.9 from ftp with a clear conscience.

      2. By cam ( on

        +1. The song is really great!

    7. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      Now I know why the nfe driver is/was having problem. Probably some feedback to Nvidia on what we thought of it might help? Or it might not, since it's their business model to be close-source?

      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        Simply write them that you wont buy their products anymore and add some lines at your website, blog, e-Mail signature...

        As far as I know Matrox does support developers (correct me if I`m wrong..).

        So if you donīt play games no need to use ATI,NVida...

        Maybe OT: Is there ANY graficcard with 3D acceleration and open-source drivers? Maybe included in X-org already?

        1. By Nate ( on


          1. By tedu ( on

            if your "no" means there are no graphics card with open source 3d acceleration, you're wrong.

        2. By tedu ( on

          many (but not all) ati chips. intel. some of the other vendors as well.

          there's no 3d for openbsd, but that's not the fault of the manufacturers.

          1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

            It isn't so easy to find a nice summary of status of 3D-acceleration, (presumably including OpenGL) and the relationship with DRI and driver support in X. Perhaps I'm just not googling with the correct terms. I get the impression from this article that the implementation of 3D support in X in general is still questionable -- although I don't have sufficient understanding of what I'm reading to interpret. Perhaps one of you wizards that knows and understands X and 3D acceleration would be so kind as to spell the issues for the rest of us (I presume in OpenBSD this all probably relates in some way to the aperture driver, and the "evilness" of modern graphics cards as well...).

            1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

              It's not organized as well as it could be, but the DRI Wiki has some information on supported cards, see here for a start.

              You can read the details within the wiki, but as I understand it OpenBSD first needs a kernel DRM, that is Direct Rendering Manager not Digital Rights Management. That piece handles the messy direct hardware access stuff, and then the X server handles the translation of OpenGL or X protocol commands into the hardware specific actions (AGP interface, etc.)

              The nvidia binary drivers accomplish the same goal but have nothing to do with DRI and do not use it.

              I seem to recall that DRI is running experimentally under NetBSD, but I know of no effort to do the same for OpenBSD.

              DRI is not the only option for getting accelerated 3D under X, there is also the Utah GLX project which looks like it would be substantially easier to port to OpenBSD (there is no kernel module needed for example). Unfortunately their web page is not modified for almost 3 years now.


        3. By sthen ( on

          Matrox P-series cards are only supported by blobs. afaik G-series are ok.

          1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

            G400/G450 etc. require a binary blob to utilise multihead and some other features, I believe.

            1. By Matthias Kilian ( on

              Yes, and even worse, it was (and probably still is) buggy, and the developer didn't fix it for years.

              And you needed that binary shit not only for 3D stuff, but e.g. to use the DVI port of a card with analog and digital output.

          2. By Marcin Wilk ( on

            I'm very good informed about Matrox situatin here. Matrox at first release some specs & that's how Matrox drivers appear (G-Series). Then community tweaked this drivers. even John Carmack (yes, the same man who make nice Quake/Doom 3 engines) put his work in those drivers to add good 3D support in the drivers on G200/G400 cards. After some time Matrox take thiose drivers, tweaked them in own way & released drivers in "blob" format (yes, they broke open source license & some people that even work for Matrox PR say the same thing). Current models (P series) are only in "blob" format & are not so good (noone from community wor on them). But it's not the worse. The worse is that they offer better drivers for money in blob format!!! (some other company make them).

    8. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      Is there any list of manufacturers which support developers with the necessary documentation? So we can support them back.

      And likewise a list of manufacturers which dont, so we know who to contact and complain to?

      If not I think making those two lists along with some basic info about these things would be a necessary first step to make the masses aware of the problem and hopefully help.

      I know the devs rather code than write and maintain lists, so thats not what I suggesting. It would be nice if they could explain a bit more about the problem (like they have on the left side of the lyrics page) along with what type of documentation they need, so that less knowledgeable people, like myself, can help out.

      Something like the donation page, but instead of instructions to where to send money there would be information about the problem and how to go about in order to help out.

      I had no idea about this problem before the 3.9 release, would be really nice if there was a url you could pass around to your friends to make them aware of that OpenBSD is fighting this battle and instructions of how they can help.

      1. By sng ( on

        See the last verse of the song. That's a laundry list of the worst offenders. The best thing to do. If you are in the market for a product that they sell buy one of the alternatives and in a polite way make it clear to them why you made the purchase you did and waht they can do to win your business. In some cases this may help. In others (notably vid cards) it very likely won't but is still a point worth making.

      2. By Charles ( on

        IMHO, the best hope for actually getting a true open-source graphics card w/full 3D support is the Open Graphics Project.

        And alternate would be XGI, but ATI just bought them and it looks like the Volari series of graphics cards is going to get dropped. XGI supposedly had OSS drivers for their cards, including DRI.


    9. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      I would not buy anymore motherboard with build in NVIDIA network controller....NOT ANYMORE.

      1. By Nate ( on

        Be careful, performance may not be perfect.


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