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August 28, 2022

Debian looking at changing how it handles non-free firmware

Filed under: Computer Software,Linux/Unix Related,Tech Related — Suramya @ 5:38 PM

One of the major problems when installing Debian as a newbie is that if your hardware is not supported by an Open (‘free’) driver/firmware then the system doesn’t install any and then it is a painful process to download and install the driver, especially if it is for the Wireless card. In earlier laptops you could always connect via a network cable to install the drivers but the newer systems don’t come with a LAN connection (which I think sucks BTW) so installing Debian on those systems is a pain.

How this should be addressed is a question that has been debated for a while now. It was even one of the questions Jonathan Carter discussed in his post on ‘How is Debian doing’. There are a lot of people with really strong opinions on the topic and ‘adulterating’ Debian by allowing non-free drivers to be installed by default has a lot of people up in arms. After a lot of debate on how to resolve there are three proposals to solve this issue that are up for vote in September:

Proposal A and B both start with the same two paragraphs:
We will include non-free firmware packages from the “non-free-firmware” section of the Debian archive on our official media (installer images and live images). The included firmware binaries will normally be enabled by default where the system determines that they are required, but where possible we will include ways for users to disable this at boot (boot menu option, kernel command line etc.).

When the installer/live system is running we will provide information to the user about what firmware has been loaded (both free and non-free), and we will also store that information on the target system such that users will be able to find it later. The target system will also be configured to use the non-free-firmware component by default in the apt sources.list file. Our users should receive security updates and important fixes to firmware binaries just like any other installed software.

But Proposal A adds that “We will publish these images as official Debian media, replacing the current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages,” while Proposal B says those images “will not replace the current media sets,” but will instead be offered alongside them.

And Proposal C? “The Debian project is permitted to make distribution media (installer images and live images) containing packages from the non-free section of the Debian archive available for download alongside with the free media in a way that the user is informed before downloading which media are the free ones.

Debian is not the more new user friendly system out there and a lot of distributions got popular because they took the Debian base and made it more userfriendly by allowing non-free drivers and firmware. So this is a good move in my opinion. Personally I feel that option B might be the best option that will keep both the purists and the reformers happy. I don’t think Option C is a good option at all as it would be confusing.

Source: Slashdot: Debian Considers Changing How It Handles Non-Free Firmware

– Suramya

1 Comment »

  1. […] has been debating on how to fix this over the past few months and there was a vote to decide Debian would handle non-free firmware going forward. Now the voting has completed and the verdict is in, Debian has decided that the […]

    Pingback by Debian to allow non-free firmware in its default installer « Suramya's Blog — October 3, 2022 @ 10:19 AM

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