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Debian Begins A General Resolution To Decide What To Do With Non-Free Firmware

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  • #21
    Originally posted by DRanged View Post
    I second that and maybe a slight tweak that when the hardware needs a firmware blob it only installs that and not the whole caboodle and I would think it should't be to difficult to implement as they already do a firmware check.
    Why bother? FW that just sits there inertly on disk an is never loaded by any device isn't going to give your CPU cooties. At worst it's a slight waste of download bandwidth and disk space, though OTOH splitting up the FW's into a zillion packages comes with costs too.

    So in practice that would be wifi and nics mainly and maybe some odd bit of hardware. For videocards they still can install the free drivers so it at least it gives you the chance to install the proprietary graphics drivers or whatever when you have logged into a running system.
    Don't most free video drivers these days rely on proprietary firmware? IIRC Intel and AMD both do, and NVIDIA as well (open if you use the new openRM driver).

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    • #22
      i think the sane option would be to simply offer the non-free image as default download.

      if someone wants image with no firmware - they know what they are doing, and should have a choice. but the default option should favour the user - because majority of the people absolutely need that firmware to get the basics going.

      i recently stumbled into a problem on my old amd A10 based machine which mostly serves as a tape backup server - it would just not work with a monitor. but ran just fine over ssh. turns out i lacked the radeon firmware and that somehow locked up the local text mode terminal, making it impossible to login locally.

      i know about nomodeset and such, but it still took me a while to figure out what was going wrong. and i suppose a lot of people might have mysterious issues with their hardware when the firmware is missing - and not just not being able to detect specific devices, but various malfunctions like mine.
      Last edited by yoshi314; 27 August 2022, 03:43 PM.

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      • #23
        Originally posted by jabl View Post

        Why bother? FW that just sits there inertly on disk an is never loaded by any device isn't going to give your CPU cooties. At worst it's a slight waste of download bandwidth and disk space, though OTOH splitting up the FW's into a zillion packages comes with costs too.



        Don't most free video drivers these days rely on proprietary firmware? IIRC Intel and AMD both do, and NVIDIA as well (open if you use the new openRM driver).
        Yes. And many hardware devices that have viewable source code have closed firmware and hardware designs. It's the norm rather than the exception. Debian's stance one way or the other won't change that because it's purely a political stance and they have no real pull with corporations like ARM, Qualcomm, IBM, etc.

        What really bugs me is the way some distros & project packagers try to tell people conclusively what the law says, which may very well be illegal itself in some jurisdictions - especially in the US. They can say "our lawyer has X opinion on this package". What they can't do is tell people definitively X license is incompatible with Y license so you shouldn't use it. Or they can say "because our lawyer said there's a legal problem with X package, we're not including it in our repository." But they can't say "You can't use X package because it's illegal to do so." At least, they aren't supposed to in jurisdictions where legal advice is restricted to licensed practitioners.

        This is my opinion of the situation based on personal research (and it's only relevant to the US legal system). Take it or leave it. Ask a real copyright/IP lawyer if you're a maintainer or consumer of these products to find out what your own national and local laws say on the subject. Don't assume you know, and definitely don't assume the legal blurbs some of these packages trigger before you can install them are even accurate or enforceable.
        Last edited by stormcrow; 27 August 2022, 04:38 PM.

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        • #24
          Originally posted by hotaru View Post
          a better option would be to actually work on developing free firmware instead of wasting so much effort on handwringing over non-free firmware.

          but at least Debian doesn't go out of their way to make development of free firmware more difficult like the FSF does.
          Easier said than done. The few projects that try to do so tend to not complete the task.

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          • #25
            As I understand it, modern hardware has really blurred the line between firmware and drivers.

            Perhaps someone who understands the relationship a little better could explain it in a nicer way, but as I understand it, firmware should be shipped on the device, not needed to be manually loaded at boot time. What should be loaded at boot time, is the driver, so the OS understands how to interact with the hardware.

            Important to push back on this or before we know it, open source distros will start shipping closed source drivers by default due to no other option to make the hardware 'work'.

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            • #26
              Originally posted by kevmif View Post
              firmware should be shipped on the device, not needed to be manually loaded at boot time.
              Your understanding is so far off. That's a bizarre assumption at best and has nothing to do with modern hardware.

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              • #27
                Originally posted by brad0 View Post

                Your understanding is so far off. That's a bizarre assumption at best and has nothing to do with modern hardware.
                Fair enough. So the OS needs to load the firmware to tell the hardware how to work, then the drivers, to tell the OS how to interface with the hardware? Is that right?
                Cause to me, that seems bizarre. Why is the firmware not built in to the hardware and up-gradable if necessary? Like updating a motherboard BIOS (which is kinda its own OS now thanks to EFI?), or the firmware on your SSD?

                Keen to understand why the OS loading firmware is such a necessity these days?

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                • #28
                  why debian hypocrites are blatantly ignoring non-free hardware other than firmware?

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                  • #29
                    I would prefer a distro with no proprietary software at all, and people to concentrate in hardware that works with it, preferably open hardware. But I find it very sad that the status quo in Debian is not even an option to be voted anymore ? Or one just votes no to all three options and then things are left as they were ?

                    I can't read minds but to me people who say the general public can't install current Debian in mainstream computers and they magically could if Debian included proprietary firmware automatically are not seeing reality clearly, and are kind of assuming everyone is similar to them, so what gives them less work would be easier for everyone. I think worringly too much modern hardware won't let people install Debian unless Debian is turned into a meaningless and powerless blob carrier (and then increasingly too much hardware won't just let users install anything at all, just update what the vendor feeds them) and at the same time most of the general public won't be able to install and use Debian comfortably even if Debian bends lower still to proprietary stuff.

                    Installing and using Debian is not hard and it is not unnecessarily hard, but using computers without thinking is hard, and culture helps thinking, so getting into free software culture helps use, understand and master free software. The minimum for that is being able to distinguish free from proprietary software. If users can't even be asked to understand what freedoms they lose with their choice of hardware, they won't understand stable vs testing, or upstream vs downstream or where to search for help or report bugs or in which ways. Installing is just one step of their way. Once they have redistributable proprietary firmware sneaking unasked in their Debian they will complain they don't get unredistributable proprietary stuff. When Debian can't license that as hardware vendors or deep pocket corporations do, those users will just deride and abandon Debian. They will just expect Debian to abuse them like they're used other OSes do and think they have to accept everything as is without ever learning, customizing, or sharing and contributing anything. And that's the way to use a TV, not the way to use a computer.

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                    • #30
                      Originally posted by kevmif View Post

                      Fair enough. So the OS needs to load the firmware to tell the hardware how to work, then the drivers, to tell the OS how to interface with the hardware? Is that right?
                      Cause to me, that seems bizarre. Why is the firmware not built in to the hardware and up-gradable if necessary? Like updating a motherboard BIOS (which is kinda its own OS now thanks to EFI?), or the firmware on your SSD?

                      Keen to understand why the OS loading firmware is such a necessity these days?
                      Yes it is pretty much how it works, the firmware gets loaded then the driver is able to use that firmware to run the hardware. If the firmware is built into the hardware unless there is a reprogram-able chip option used then it can never be updated. Most of them reprogram-able chips use windows/dos programs to do it when they are used leaving Linux users in the same spot with the hardware lock-in. At least when you load a firmware blob it can be changed and updated by the people who provide them to give fixes for security problems among other things.

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