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Re: Changing how we handle non-free firmware

On 2022-08-18 20:58:21 +0100, Steve McIntyre wrote:
> Hi a11!
> I'm proposing to change how we handle non-free firmware in
> Debian. I've written about this a few times already this year [1, 2]
> and I ran a session on the subject at DebConf [3].
> TL;DR: The way we deal with (non-free) firmware in Debian isn't
> great. For a long time we've got away without supporting and including
> (non-free) firmware on Debian systems. We don't *want* to have to
> provide (non-free) firmware to our users, and in an ideal world we
> wouldn't need to. However, it's no longer a sensible path when trying
> to support lots of common current hardware. Increasingly, modern
> computers don't function fully without these firmware blobs.
> Since I started talking about this, Ansgar has already added dak
> support for a new, separate non-free-firmware component - see
> [4]. This makes part of my original proposal moot! More work is needed
> yet to make use of this support, but it's started! :-)
> I believe that there is reasonably wide support for changing what we
> do with non-free firmware. I see several possible paths forward, but
> as I've stated previously I don't want to be making the decision
> alone. I believe that the Debian project as a whole needs to make the
> decision on which path is the correct one.
> I'm *not* going to propose full text for all the possible choices
> here; as eloquently suggested by Russ [5], it's probably better to
> leave it for other people to come up with the text of options that
> they feel should also be on the ballot.
> So, I propose the following:
> =================================
> We will include non-free firmware packages from the
> "non-free-firmware" section of the Debian archive on our official
> media (installer images and live images). The included firmware
> binaries will *normally* be enabled by default where the system
> determines that they are required, but where possible we will include
> ways for users to disable this at boot (boot menu option, kernel
> command line etc.).
> When the installer/live system is running we will provide information
> to the user about what firmware has been loaded (both free and
> non-free), and we will also store that information on the target
> system such that users will be able to find it later. The target
> system will *also* be configured to use the non-free-firmware
> component by default in the apt sources.list file. Our users should
> receive security updates and important fixes to firmware binaries just
> like any other installed software.
> We will publish these images as official Debian media, replacing the
> current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages.
> =================================
> A reason for defaulting to installing non-free firmware *by default*
> is accessibility. A blind user running the installer in text-to-speech
> mode may need audio firmware loaded to be able to drive the installer
> at all. It's going to be very difficult for them to change this. Other
> people should be able to drive the system (boot menus, etc.) to *not*
> install the non-free firmware packages if desired.
> We will *only* include the non-free-firmware component on our media
> and on installed systems by default. As a general policy, we still do
> not want to see other non-free software in use. Users may still enable
> the existing non-free component if they need it.
> We also need to do the work to make this happen:
>  * in d-i, live-boot and elsewhere to make information about firmware
>    available.
>  * add support for the non-free-firmware section in more places:
>    ftpsync, debian-cd and more.
> and I plan to start on some of those soon.



> [1] https://blog.einval.com/2022/04/19#firmware-what-do-we-do
> [2] https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2022/04/msg00130.html
> [3] https://debconf22.debconf.org/talks/43-fixing-the-firmware-mess/
> [4] https://incoming.debian.org/debian-buildd/dists/buildd-unstable
> [5] https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2022/04/msg00214.html
Sebastian Ramacher

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