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Re: Opinion about non-free firmware

On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 01:38:19PM +0100, Gabor Kum wrote:
> I'm a contributor of the debiancd.org project (www.debiancd.org). We are 
> making Debian mini CDs.
> Some people wrote us, that they need CDs with non-free firmwares. What do you 
> think about it? Is it a good idea to make these discs with the non-free 
> firmwares too? I think not, but please, tell me your opinion!

This is, unsurprisingly, becoming a recurring question. The press team
has been asked similar questions about what to include in print
magazines that want to distribute Squeeze medias. Gabor, thanks for
raising this question here, so that we can properly discuss it.

I believe that *under specific conditions* both options---with or
without non-free firmware---are viable. The main condition I'd like to
propose is that vendors should properly inform media receivers about
what they are getting. In particular, vendors that decide to ship medias
that include non-free firmware, should prominently mention on the media
and in accompanying documentation, that the media contains not only
Debian Squeeze but also, as a *separate* product which just happen to be
on the same media, additional non-free firmware.

I think vendors should also take good care of mentioning that the
non-free stuff is more risky to run and that the level of support that
is offered for it cannot be up to par with free stuff, due to the
unavailability of source code.  The wording about support in our
announcement [1] about non-free firmware was IMHO quite good and can be
probably reused to some extent.

This is my take on this matter, what do others think?

[1] http://www.debian.org/News/2010/20101215

Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Quando anche i santi ti voltano le spalle, |  .  |. I've fans everywhere
ti resta John Fante -- V. Capossela .......| ..: |.......... -- C. Adams

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