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Re: call for seconds: on firmware

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Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 18 2008, Johannes Wiedersich wrote:
>> Ben Finney wrote:
>>> The Debian system we provide is usable. There may be devices which are
>>> not yet operable with Debian, 
>> Which wireless card is supported by debian without any sourceless
>> firmware, either loaded by the kernel or present on the chip?
>         The latter is not a concern. See, the SC says that non-free junk
>  should not be in main; it can be elsewhere. So, the user is free to use
>  non-free firmware -- so if the user acquires it along with the
>  hardware, we don't care.

According to the SC yes. But I can't see the reasoning behind the
argument that firmware loaded on boot is 'evil' and the corresponding
hardware should not be supported while the same firmware is 'good' when
it is already present on boot and not re-loaded.

Arguably hardware, that loads firmware on boot, has the advantage, that
programming errors or security holes can be patched, while those with
code on flash can't be patched. It seems ridiculous, if Debian supports
the latter and leaves users of the former out in the cold.

>         The SC only talks about what is part of the Debian system. We
>  also say people might need non-free stuff, and we put that in a special
>  area on our archive.

There should be a distinction between 'non-free' software that is part
of the OS or part of user applications and firmware that is just loaded
for peripherials. These are completely different cups of tea.

>> Would you imply that wireless networking should never be usable by
>> debian users, if it turns out that publication of sourcecode is illegal
>> in countries like the US or the EU? (Modifications of the firmware are
>> probably illegal, because they can modify the electromagnetic emission
>> of the devices, potentially killing people around it.)
>         Strawman. Debian users like me do use nvidia, and iwlwifi, even
>  though my iwlwifi driver uses firmware not in Debian (it is in
>  non-free). 

I have no doubt that savvy developers like all on this list will know
how to deal with this. Let me be the advocatus of a 'normal user' who
does not _want_ to be bothered by googling his way out of all the little
obstacles to her/his debian installation...

(googling the network card won't work, unless it works already, by the
There are users with just on PC and no other network connection for a
'sneaker net'. They have the recommended net-install of d-i, but their
card requires firmware. What now? As you stand, debian just won't
support them. You are basically telling them: buy and use a non-free OS
in order to download the firmware necessary to install a free OS. )

>         So, I could not install this laptop over wifi. Now a big deal --
>  I installed it over a wired LAN, and I suppose I could have done
>  sneakernet itself. I do not think that the hassle was worth sacrificing
>  Debian's principles for. 

Yes, big deal: the wired LAN of my laptop is e100, and requires firmware

One of the principles as I understand it is 'priorities for users'. Too
much of this discussion smells like 'SC #1 is more important than SC $4,
as long as we DDs know a way to install and configure our machines'.

SC #4: "We will be guided by the needs of our users... We will place
their interests first in our priorities. "

The primary interest of the user is to be able to *install* a functional
debian (without the requirement of downloading unoffical patches to the
installation media).

Why should we give someone a d-i cd, if it is rather likely that it
won't work?


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