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Re: Bug#239952: kernel-source-2.6.4: qla2xxx contains non-free firmware

Herbert Xu wrote:

(Debian-boot - context becomes clearer further down)

>I would like the opinion of all Debian developers on the general issue
>of firmware in the kernel-source package.

I'd certainly think that it's dubious. Alan Cox has expressed much the
same opinion and holds enough of the copyright that it probably ought to

>I recall that when this issue was first raised with the keyspan drivers,
>some of the people advocating their removal promised to modify the
>drivers so that the firmware could be loaded from userspace (just like how
>the anti-non-free camp promised to host non-free packages), it appears
>that after three years this support still has not materialised.

The request_firmware interface allows drivers to generate hotplug events
when they need to load firmware. Patching individual drivers shouldn't
be an excessive quantity of pain and would probably be welcomed

>Perhaps the easiest solution is to move all kernel packages into non-free.

There are two issues. One is that the firmware doesn't meet the DFSG,
and that would support it being placed in non-Free (personally, I'm
rather less down on firmware than I am on any other sort of non-free
data. We only need to ship it because the vendor hasn't put it in ROM,
and if they had done we wouldn't be worrying about it at all), and the
other is that it's probably against the terms of the GPL to distribute
it linked into the kernel at all. If the firmware remains inside the
kernel, there's a fairly strong argument that we can't distribute the
kernel at all.

Which leaves us with the problem of the installer. Personally, I'd
rather firmware wasn't in main. On the other hand, we're talking about
SCSI cards and network adapters being affected here, which is massively
less than ideal. I think I'd have no objection to firmware being
included in the installer, but this would possibly require the existence
of another section. From an implementation point of view, I guess all
that would be required would be the presence of hotplug during the
install and a few firmware udebs.

At this point of the release cycle, it's certainly not practical to try
to punt firmware out to non-free. Since we've failed to make any sort of
real stand against stuff like the GFDL for Sarge, I guess allowing a
small quantity of stuff that doesn't come with source isn't massively
worse. Along with the GFDL, it's something that should really be sorted
for Sarge+1.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.devel@srcf.ucam.org

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