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Re: call for seconds: on firmware

On Tue, Nov 18 2008, Johannes Wiedersich wrote:

> 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.

        It is not good. It is still non-free. Debian should distribute
 neither. Since Debian does not currently distribute hardware, we do not
 have to worry about the latter.

        The fact that users might use non-free junk is their
 business. Debian should not be an enabler in taking away users freedoms
 -- if they do so on their own it is their business.

        So the SC says Debian shall not have non-free junk. If the users
 obtain the non-free crap (say, embedded in hardware or from the
 non-free repo), we shall support their decision.

> 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.

        So some means of getting non-free  junk are more secure than
 other means of getting non-free junk. However, since there is no
 source, the users can't do any learning or fixing themselves -- that
 freedom is not given to them.

        So, we should not stand in the way of users getting non-free
 junk however they want. We just do not distribute it in Debian.

>>         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.

        Why? I see no rationale why only some freedoms are important. I
 think that being able to change stuff in how my iwlwifi works would be
 nice, as long as I continue to conform to the laws of the land.

>>> 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...

        Sorry. The free distribution does mean that you need to either
w buy hardware supported by free software, or learn how to feed your
 non-free habit by yourself. We might make it easy for you to feed your
 non-free habit, which is why we have the non-free area of the archive.

        d-i already allows you to feed it your non-free junk. I think
 that is plenty support.

> (googling the network card won't work, unless it works already, by the
> way...
> 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

        Senakernet the non-free crap in.

> 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'.

        You conveneintly fail to read SC#5. That ius how we fulfil SC#4:
 we add it in non-free.

        We already have an installer that supports adding non-free junk
 during install, you can use that.

> 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?

        Read the ability of the d-i to take in a second non-free media
 to install firmwares from?

I used to get high on life but lately I've built up a resistance.
Manoj Srivastava <srivasta@debian.org> <http://www.debian.org/~srivasta/>  
1024D/BF24424C print 4966 F272 D093 B493 410B  924B 21BA DABB BF24 424C

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