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Debian Improves Docs To Inform Users Their Systems Might Not Work Without Non-Free Firmware

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  • Debian Improves Docs To Inform Users Their Systems Might Not Work Without Non-Free Firmware

    Phoronix: Debian Improves Docs To Inform Users Their Systems Might Not Work Without Non-Free Firmware

    Debian 11 "Bullseye" is set to be released mid-August while out this morning is the third release candidate of the Debian Bullseye installer. With this installer update is more documentation for users letting them know the risks of modern graphics cards and the like that are often inoperable unless loading firmware that isn't considered free software...

    https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pa...r-Bullseye-RC3

  • #2
    Isn't GPU firmware comparable to the hardware itself? They both aren't free, but neither one calls into the kernel nor user space programs as they simply provide a blackbox, be it soldered or flashed... there's little difference.

    I don't understand the Debian team choice to be so radical about GPU firmware: what's the point of leaving users without a working display when they are already using at least two other non-free firmwares just to boot up their PC (CPU firmware and the BIOS)? Granted, those two are already flashed at Debian install time and Debian does not need to ship those two, so Debian is not responsible for those two, but being an asshole to your users doesn't make users more aware of anything. At best, it makes them more upset. At worst, it makes them go back to Windows (or, even worse in this regard, Ubuntu...).

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    • #3
      There is an element of Linux trying to do the right thing and prioritize "open" devices, including firmware.
      If the project doesn't show preference for the correct stuff, what is the point?

      I suppose Debian are already being "assholes" to their users by not providing them with a fully functional install of Windows? If they want that, they know where to get it. Likewise if they want an easier ride, they know where to get Ubuntu. What would be the point of Debian providing the same experience as either of those other products?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
        There is an element of Linux trying to do the right thing and prioritize "open" devices, including firmware.
        If the project doesn't show preference for the correct stuff, what is the point?
        leaving out firmware needed for a device isn't prioritizing, its disabling, it's not like there are open alternatives. Further, debian is a distro, not a kernel and actually offers the firmwares on their servers.
        Its just malevolent pain to not offer the user to install them from USB, albeit with a stern warning that Stallmans balls might get itchy if he knows what you are doing!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
          There is an element of Linux trying to do the right thing and prioritize "open" devices, including firmware.
          If the project doesn't show preference for the correct stuff, what is the point?

          I suppose Debian are already being "assholes" to their users by not providing them with a fully functional install of Windows? If they want that, they know where to get it. Likewise if they want an easier ride, they know where to get Ubuntu. What would be the point of Debian providing the same experience as either of those other products?
          The problem is it's the "right thing" regardless of which argument a person is using. lucrus points out the right thing for end users while you're pointing out the right thing in regards to FOSS. Both are valid points and both are right and wrong.

          Personally, I think free/non-free should be an install-time decision with the option to change it afterwards (because it's essentially add/remove stuff with a package manager or a repo switch). Let the user know if they don't pick non-free then their GPU and other firmware devices might not work.

          Or create a hw-non-free repository which contains just firmware and software necessary to make hardware work. A middle ground to isolate firmware, etc from RAR and other general/generic non-free software.
          Last edited by skeevy420; 02 August 2021, 07:51 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by skeevy420 View Post

            The problem is it's the "right thing" regardless of which argument a person is using. lucrus points out the right thing for end users while you're pointing out the right thing in regards to FOSS. Both are valid points and both are right and wrong.
            Absolutely. Ubuntu or Windows does "right" by the user. Debian does "right" by FOSS (but not enough to be FSF certified! (https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.en.html)).

            I'm just suggesting that it is strange that people expect Debian to change when there is already Ubuntu and Windows for their kinds of (IMO fairly trivial) needs.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
              There is an element of Linux trying to do the right thing and prioritize "open" devices, including firmware.
              If the project doesn't show preference for the correct stuff, what is the point?
              it's ok showing preference and spreading the word, but they could just ask the user for confirmation to install non-free firmware with a big flashing "No" button active by default, so that the user is forced to read and understand before installing it.

              On the other hand forcing the user to download the firmware with another OS (guess which one), store it on a USB pendrive, learn to mount the USB pendrive in a terminal (reading the manpages or asking on a forum with the same other OS as above, because you know, the user is without graphics mode and the laptop only has a WiFi adapter which in turn requires non-free firmware to work) simply means the user will move to another OS or will delegate the Debian installation to someone else (e.g. me), so all the work to spread the word will reach me instead of the final user, and I already know all of that.

              Originally posted by kpedersen
              I suppose Debian are already being "assholes" to their users by not providing them with a fully functional install of Windows?
              I suppose you are trolling or deliberately avoiding the point.

              Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
              If they want that, they know where to get it. Likewise if they want an easier ride, they know where to get Ubuntu. What would be the point of Debian providing the same experience as either of those other products?
              Not the same experiece, like I said above. A different experience, with a big fat warning to spread the word, and a choice to install Debian even without being a sysadmin. Moreover, even if the UX was the same during install, then the OS is not the same once installed, and that alone is a good reason for liking and wanting Debian over something else.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by lucrus View Post
                Isn't GPU firmware comparable to the hardware itself? They both aren't free, but neither one calls into the kernel nor user space programs as they simply provide a blackbox, be it soldered or flashed... there's little difference.

                I don't understand the Debian team choice to be so radical about GPU firmware: what's the point of leaving users without a working display when they are already using at least two other non-free firmwares just to boot up their PC (CPU firmware and the BIOS)? Granted, those two are already flashed at Debian install time and Debian does not need to ship those two, so Debian is not responsible for those two, but being an asshole to your users doesn't make users more aware of anything. At best, it makes them more upset. At worst, it makes them go back to Windows (or, even worse in this regard, Ubuntu...).
                This is always more complex.

                Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
                There is an element of Linux trying to do the right thing and prioritize "open" devices, including firmware.
                If the project doesn't show preference for the correct stuff, what is the point?

                I suppose Debian are already being "assholes" to their users by not providing them with a fully functional install of Windows? If they want that, they know where to get it. Likewise if they want an easier ride, they know where to get Ubuntu. What would be the point of Debian providing the same experience as either of those other products?
                So someone has not attempted to install a bare metal windows without vendors drivers at times.

                Originally posted by kpedersen View Post
                Absolutely. Ubuntu or Windows does "right" by the user. Debian does "right" by FOSS (but not enough to be FSF certified! (https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.en.html)).

                I'm just suggesting that it is strange that people expect Debian to change when there is already Ubuntu and Windows for their kinds of (IMO fairly trivial) needs.
                Same problem this is always more complex.

                Windows does not auto install as much loadable firmware as Ubuntu does. Windows 10 out the box does not have as much driver support as bare Debian.
                https://support.hp.com/ro-en/document/c06983517 <Problems like this where you have to customise the windows 10 install media so it works by in fact adding drivers its been this way with windows for quite sometime. Please note debian its been possible to down load the non official image with the closed source firmware or put the closed source firmware required on a USB key and have the installer use that firmware to get the system up for the past 15 years.

                There is more legal risk with what Ubuntu does for those building like VM images than using Debian.

                When the firmware comes with the hardware when you bought the hardware the hardware vendor has had to pay the required patent licenses. Those firmware files the distribution ship to you depending on the patent there are cases where particular firmware files are only legal to be downloaded in particular countries.

                The standard version of debian is meant to be the lowest legal risk this does suite people using debian in servers.

                kpedersen do drop the idea that Windows does the right thing because reality you are less likely to have functional install of windows without customising the installer image than Debian. Yes a lot of people miss that you can put the closed firmware on one usb key and debian official installer on the other insert both into a computer and you are good to go.

                Microsoft removed the means to third party add bits to get the installer to work in the install stage a few windows generations back so forcing people to customise the install image so Windows will reinstall on their hardware. On level of install issues Debian is really in the middle between windows and ubuntu. Yes with Windows being the worst pain to install. Windows requirement for custom images and massive number of boots when installing is a major pain.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by oiaohm View Post
                  kpedersen do drop the idea that Windows does the right thing
                  Heh, I am firmly on the side of FOSS. I don't think blobs should be provided by any distro. Windows (and Ubuntu) certainly don't do the "right thing".

                  Especially when they can be installed with one command. I am not sure why anyone would suggest Debian should include them in the default install.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lucrus View Post
                    Isn't GPU firmware comparable to the hardware itself? They both aren't free, but neither one calls into the kernel nor user space programs as they simply provide a blackbox, be it soldered or flashed... there's little difference.

                    I don't understand the Debian team choice to be so radical about GPU firmware: what's the point of leaving users without a working display when they are already using at least two other non-free firmwares just to boot up their PC (CPU firmware and the BIOS)? Granted, those two are already flashed at Debian install time and Debian does not need to ship those two, so Debian is not responsible for those two, but being an asshole to your users doesn't make users more aware of anything. At best, it makes them more upset. At worst, it makes them go back to Windows (or, even worse in this regard, Ubuntu...).
                    I'm sure it traces back to Stallman's decision that, if it's burned into the hardware and non-upgradeable, then it's to be considered equivalent to an ASIC. If it's replaceable, then it's to be considered software and FLOSS principles apply.

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