Debian Chooses A Reasonable, Common Sense Solution To Dealing With Non-Free Firmware

Written by Michael Larabel in Debian on 2 October 2022 at 05:26 AM EDT. 65 Comments
Debian developers have been figuring out an updated stance to take on non-free firmware considering the increasing number of devices now having open-source Linux drivers but requiring closed-source firmware for any level of functionality. The voting on the non-free firmware matter has now concluded and the votes tallied...

The debian votes option 5 as winning: "Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, one installer"

Per the Debian Wiki, that option amounts to:
The Debian Social Contract is replaced with a new version that is identical to the current version in all respects except that it adds the following sentence to the end of point 5:

"The Debian official media may include firmware that is otherwise not part of the Debian system to enable use of Debian with hardware that requires such firmware."

The Debian Project also makes the following statement on an issue of the day:

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. Where non-free firmware is found to be necessary, 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.

We will publish these images as official Debian media, replacing the current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages.

Basically the Debian Installer media will now be allowed to include non-free firmware and to automatically load/use it where necessary while informing the user of it, etc. Considering the state of the hardware ecosystem these days, it's reasonable and common sense since at least users will be able to easily make use of their graphics cards, network adapters, and more. Plus a number of modern CPU security mitigations also requiring the updated closed-source microcode. So all in, I am personally happy with this decision as it will allow for a more pleasant experience for Debian on modern systems and one akin to what is found with other Linux distributions.
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