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Re: Bug#353277: ndiswrapper in main

On Wed, Mar 01, 2006 at 11:48:56PM -0600, Peter Samuelson wrote:
> [Brian May]
> > Even if nobody does this, it is still possible to integrate
> > ndiswrapper with free software (such as debian-installer)[1]. The
> > same thing cannot be said (IMHO) for an installer package.
> Eh?  Why not?  Why wouldn't you be able to integrate an installer
> package with other free software?

It's possibly worth noting that d-i's habit of assembling itself out of
component parts at run-time makes it not all that dissimilar to contrib
installer packages, except for the nature of the material it acquires.

> And, speaking of d-i, here's another thing I've been unable to
> understand.  Someone please enlighten me, because I feel sure I must be
> missing something:
> What possible use would it be to integrate ndiswrapper into
> debian-installer?  Wouldn't the user _still_ have to provide a Windows
> driver in some format usable by ndiswrapper?  Wouldn't that still have
> to come from some external source, like a web site or a floppy disk?
> And if so, why would it be a hardship to get ndiswrapper from an
> external source at the same time?

(I have no particular position on ndiswrapper in main per se, and I
haven't read all of this enormous thread.)

It's common for e.g. network card manufacturers to provide their images
on a floppy disk. If ndiswrapper were integrated into d-i, then it would
be possible to let the user insert the floppy disk provided by the
manufacturer and make their card work with just that. Without
ndiswrapper integration, the user has to figure out that this thing
called ndiswrapper that they've never heard of is needed, then go and
get it and prepare a floppy disk with all the right stuff on it. This is
a lot more error-prone, may not always be possible (they may not have
any access to the Internet other than via the system they're trying to
install), and even if possible raises the difficulty bar quite
significantly beyond "insert the floppy disk provided with your network

Of course, it would be possible to prepare a special ndiswrapper driver
image that could teach the installer how to do this without having to
have it in the core installer; so ndiswrapper doesn't *have* to be in
main for this to work, although it would make things easier from the
point of view of making this trick work out of the box with Debian CDs.

> I can understand the appeal of having ndiswrapper on the installer
> image, but only if the image also has drivers to use with it.  Are we
> talking about CIPE again?  Is CIPE useful for an installer?

Not in any way I can imagine. It's true that the trick outlined above is
only (AFAIK) useful for getting your hardware to work using non-free

> Actually, I'm not certain whether packages in main are allowed to
> Suggest packages outside main.  If not, the usual workaround is for
> ndiswrapper to instead declare an Enhances relationship on foo.

Traditionally Suggests have been OK, although one of the main reasons
why Enhances was invented as a reverse-Suggests was to allow all
references to non-free packages to be removed from main's metadata.


Colin Watson                                       [cjwatson@debian.org]

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