Does the raspberry pi and its accessories meet free software/hardware standards?

21 replies [Last post]
biosprob
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Joined: 10/10/2015

In particular, I'm wondering about the wifi dongle. http://swag.raspberrypi.org/collections/frontpage/products/official-raspberry-pi-wifi-dongle

Is this compatible with GNU/Linux, and more specifically; supported by free software?

biosprob
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Joined: 10/10/2015

Wait, I found this.

"16.2 Recent Broadcom Chipset
The Linux kernel comes with the brcm80211 driver by default. This driver supports bcm4313, bcm43224, bcm43224, bcm43225, bcm4329, bcm4330, bcm4334, bcm43241, bcm43235 (>= rev 3), bcm43236 (>= rev 3), bcm43238 (>= rev 3), bcm43143, bcm43242." - http://www.opensuse-guide.org/wlan.php

The raspberry pi wifi dongle has the BCM43143 chipset so it should work, right?

MeNoMore
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Joined: 10/05/2015
lembas
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Joined: 05/13/2010

The documentation of non-free distros will only confuse as they use Linux. (which contains blobs)

I'm not sure but I think the non-ancient broadcoms will not work.

Besides that you can't even boot the rasp pi in freedom. https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers

Magic Banana

I am a member!

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Joined: 07/24/2010

I believe only the oldest Broadcom wifi boards do not require any firmware and there is no free firmware for the newest boards.

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Offline
Joined: 07/24/2010

I believe only the oldest Broadcom wifi boards do not require any firmware
and there is no free firmware for the newest boards.

ssdclickofdeath
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Joined: 05/19/2013

The official distro, Raspbian, comes with many proprietary programs by default. Mathmatica, Wolfram Alpha, Java (Not the free version, IcedTea,) and Minecraft. There may be more that I'm not aware of.

That doesn't even count the proprietary firmware on it that lembas mentioned.

sleepruim
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Joined: 01/16/2015

Got a question. I am teaching programming on schools (age 7-11). Up until now I had been using the computers available on the schools but now I was asked by a school to form a complete program. The school was thinking about ipads....

Using this article ( http://www.fastcodesign.com/3051347/why-ipads-and-chromebooks-wont-save-the-classroom ) as an inspiration I convinced the head of the school that this was not a good idea. Now I would have loved to use only free software, but the school did not want to replace all their computers with Trisquel (yet!). I came up with the idea of purchasing 20 Pi's and a couple of second hand monitors and keyboards. I am aware of the problems with the Pi's but I think this is a reasonable start. During my presentations and lessons I incorporate as much free software/FSF/GPL as possible. We use Libreoffice, Scratch and Python at the moment. Also, the fact we can use the Pi for other projects like attaching LED's/motors is a big plus.

My question, what do you guys and girls think? What would be the best way to teach programming on schools? I have more schools interested in this way of working and I think teaching the way of Free Software at those schools is a great way to raise awareness with kids.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

duncan@bguthrie.plus.com
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Joined: 02/07/2016

From an educational point of view, the Raspberry Pi does electronics well,
and is low cost and low power, which lends it well to those applications.
Another option for electronics is the Arduino, although it is possible that
using the Raspberry Pi is easier to use and it is a general purpose computer
(albeit flawed).
You could also ask the school if they have any old computers that are left
unused in store cupboards, for example, or you could ask people at
neighbouring schools if they have any, especially the larger schools. It
probably would not be difficult to get a computer that is 10 years old or
perhaps newer (along with the keyboard, mouse, and monitor) which would
probably run Trisquel (at least the Mini version) well enough for programming
tasks, web browsing and word processing, perhaps better than the Raspberry Pi
in some ways due to the fact that the hardware would not overheat as easily.
Finally, if the school computers are powerful enough, you could install
something like VirtualBox to demonstrate Trisquel to the school, as well as
to the kids.

GNUtoo
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Joined: 11/10/2009

Wifi is one thing. You can probably find some USB wifi stick compatible with free software, such as the ones supported by the ath9k_htc driver. They have a free firmware.
Thinkpenguin sell some. In fact they were involved in its liberation.

However how good is a board if it cannot even boot with free software.
As I understand it the rasberry pi 1 has a non-free GPU firmware that is required to boot: it initializes the RAM.
As I understand, part of it of it was published as free software, but not the RAM initialization part. I'm not up to date with the status on the work to replace it.

I guess it's worse with the rasberry pi 2 because I didn't heard yet of the source code of the rasberry pi GPU firmware being published.

However there are many boards that can boot with free software.
On non-x86 devices, the bootloader usually does the job that GRUB and the BIOS do on x86. You also have many free bootloaders for non-x86 (u-boot, barebox, redboot, pmon, and so on).

So just pick some other board like the beaglebone black instead. Parabola even supports some of them, so check with parabola instead.

Denis.

biosprob
Offline
Joined: 10/10/2015

In particular, I'm wondering about the wifi dongle.
http://swag.raspberrypi.org/collections/frontpage/products/official-raspberry-pi-wifi-dongle

Is this compatible with GNU/Linux, and more specifically; supported by free
software?

Allanitomwesh
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Joined: 10/24/2015

The pi sucks for freedom because the makers aren't concerned. You'd be better off with the suggested beaglebone or the novena.

sleepruim
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Joined: 01/16/2015

Thanks for the suggestion. I own a BBB so I'll have a look at it (the parabola stuff), only thing that could be a potential problem is the price. People know of the Pi so if I suggest an "expensive version of the Pi" (if you know what I am saying) I must have a good story. Free software is usually lower on the list than budget for schools....But I can try.

I do spend some time talking about the FSF / GNU and the virtues of using free software to the kids. It will be just a matter of time before one finds out the Pi isn't exactly fsf friendly, but I think it is a step in the right direction. At least I talked the school out of buying 30 ipads...

By the way , the kids absolutely LOVE working with the Pi and Scratch, which is the first programming thing we are looking at. They think it is pretty cool to work with such a small device.

Teaching free software one step at a time, better then nothing I suppose....

biosprob
Offline
Joined: 10/10/2015

Wait, I found this.

"16.2 Recent Broadcom Chipset
The Linux kernel comes with the brcm80211 driver by default. This driver
supports bcm4313, bcm43224, bcm43224, bcm43225, bcm4329, bcm4330, bcm4334,
bcm43241, bcm43235 (>= rev 3), bcm43236 (>= rev 3), bcm43238 (>= rev 3),
bcm43143, bcm43242." - http://www.opensuse-guide.org/wlan.php

The raspberry pi wifi dongle has the BCM43143 chipset so it should work,
right?

MeNoMore
Offline
Joined: 10/05/2015
lembas
Offline
Joined: 05/13/2010

The documentation of non-free distros will only confuse as they use Linux
with blobs.

I'm not sure but I think the non-ancient broadcoms will not work.

Besides that you can't even boot the rasp pi in freedom.
https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers

duncan@bguthrie.plus.com
Offline
Joined: 02/07/2016

The Raspberry Pi Foundation have little interest in supporting free software
beyond being able to create a custom OS with ease. Their commitment to 'open
source' seems to be a PR exercise. I discovered this when I decided I wanted
to have a different GNU/Linux distribution to the crippled 'Rasbian'
distribution, because at that time it was poorly optimised. The Rasbian
distribution also includes several non-free programs such as Wolfram Math and
a port of Minecraft. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi really does not teach people
about freedom, just convenience. Reading the forums, they clearly just don't
care about projects such as Das U-Boot, and most 'mainstream' distributions
don't support the Raspberry Pi because it uses an uncommon CPU architecture
and requires the bootloader blob to initialise the entire system. 3D
acceleration is also nearly impossible with free software, although I heard
that work is being completed for support in upstream Linux 4.5 (which itself
has issues). The Raspberry Pi therefore is nowhere near being free hardware,
and there is little commitment to free software.

ssdclickofdeath
Offline
Joined: 05/19/2013

The official distro, Raspbian, comes with many proprietary programs by
default. Mathmatica, Wolfram Alpha, Java (Not the free version, IcedTea,) and
Minecraft. There may be more that I'm not aware of.

That doesn't even count the proprietary firmware on it that lembas mentioned.

sleepruim
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2015

Got a question. I am teaching programming on schools (age 7-11). Up until now
I had been using the computers available on the schools but now I was asked
by a school to form a complete program. The school was thinking about
ipads....

Using this article (
http://www.fastcodesign.com/3051347/why-ipads-and-chromebooks-wont-save-the-classroom
) as an inspiration I convinced the head of the school that this was not a
good idea. Now I would have loved to use only free software, but the school
did not want to replace all their computers with Trisquel (yet!). I came up
with the idea of purchasing 20 Pi's and a couple of second hand monitors and
keyboards. I am aware of the problems with the Pi's but I think this is a
reasonable start. During my presentations and lessons I incorporate as much
free software/FSF/GPL as possible. We use Libreoffice, Scratch and Python at
the moment. Also, the fact we can use the Pi for other projects like
attaching LED's/motors is a big plus.

My question, what do you guys and girls think? What would be the best way to
teach programming on schools? I have more schools interested in this way of
working and I think teaching the way of Free Software at those schools is a
great way to raise awareness with kids.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

GNUtoo
Offline
Joined: 11/10/2009

Wifi is one thing. You can probably find some USB wifi stick compatible with
free software, such as the ones supported by the ath9k_htc driver. They have
a free firmware.
Thinkpenguin sell some. In fact they were involved in its liberation.

However how good is a board if it cannot even boot with free software.
As I understand it the rasberry pi 1 has a non-free GPU firmware that is
required to boot: it initializes the RAM.
As I understand, part of it of it was published as free software, but not the
RAM initialization part. I'm not up to date with the status on the work to
replace it.

I guess it's worse with the rasberry pi 2 because I didn't heard yet of the
source code of the rasberry pi GPU firmware being published.

However there are many boards that can boot with free software.
On non-x86 devices, the bootloader usually does the job that GRUB and the
BIOS do on x86. You also have many free bootloaders for non-x86 (u-boot,
barebox, redboot, pmon, and so on).

So just pick some other board like the beaglebone black instead. Parabola
even supports some of them, so check with parabola instead.

Denis.

Allanitomwesh
Offline
Joined: 10/24/2015

The pi sucks for freedom because the makers aren't concerned. You'd be better
off with the suggested beaglebone or the novena.

sleepruim
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2015

Thanks for the suggestion. I own a BBB so I'll have a look at it (the
parabola stuff), only thing that could be a potential problem is the price.
People know of the Pi so if I suggest an "expensive version of the Pi" (if
you know what I am saying) I must have a good story. Free software is usually
lower on the list than budget for schools....But I can try.

I do spend some time talking about the FSF / GNU and the virtues of using
free software to the kids. It will be just a matter of time before one finds
out the Pi isn't exactly fsf friendly, but I think it is a step in the right
direction. At least I talked the school out of buying 30 ipads...

By the way , the kids absolutely LOVE working with the Pi and Scratch, which
is the first programming thing we are looking at. They think it is pretty
cool to work with such a small device.

Teaching free software one step at a time, better then nothing I suppose....