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Re: non-free firmware: driver in main or contrib?

On Sun, Oct 24, 2004 at 10:59:50PM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> wrote:
> > On Sun, Oct 24, 2004 at 03:41:13AM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> >> Is this the case even if the firmware is in a flash chip attached to the
> >> device? If the total amount of non-free software on a user's system is
> >> the same regardless, why are we concerned about how it's packaged?
> > 
> > The total amount of non-free software on a user's system is different if the
> > firmware comes pre-loaded on the device than if we have to load it from the
> > OS, isn't it?
> By system, I'm referring to the hardware as well. 
> > If there is at least one real-world device that works with the driver
> > without needing to load additional firmware, I think the driver is
> > unambiguously free from this standpoint.  If no one can point to a device
> > that the driver works with without the help of an additional non-free
> > firmware blob, I'm not certain I agree that it doesn't have a dependency on
> > non-free software.
> But almost every driver requires an additional non-free firmware blob.
> In general, there are two cases:
> 1) That firmware is in an eeprom, and so was distributed to the user
> when the hardware was bought
> 2) That firmware is not in an eeprom, and so was distributed to the user
> when they obtained drivers
> In most versions of case (2), the user will already own a copy of the
> firmware - it'll be on the Windows driver CD in some form. It would be
> trivial to add code to the driver packages to copy this code off the CD.
> At that point, in no case does Debian distribute the firmware.
> Ignoring Brian's strange arguments about rodents, I can see no cases
> where the user has more freedom if the firmware comes from an eeprom
> rather than from a CD. The main/contrib split exists in order to make it
> clear to our users that their free software depends on non-free code. In
> the case of free software that interacts directly with hardware, that's
> almost always the case. If we're of the opinion that non-free firmware
> is unacceptably bad, we should move all drivers which require it to
> contrib regardless of the manufacturer's choice of storage device.

I have an idea.  Since it is starting to appear (from the discussions on
this list, at least) that nothing is actually free enough for us to put in 
Debian, I suggest we rm -rf the package pool and simply start shipping blank
CD's with "Debian" written on them.

This will have the added benefit of drastically improving release times.


Adam McKenna  <adam@debian.org>  <adam@flounder.net>

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