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Re: Changing how we handle non-free firmware

Simon Josefsson <simon@josefsson.org> writes:

> "Andrew M.A. Cater" <amacater@einval.com> writes:
>> In practice, the free installer is useless on its own.
> That is not my experience -- I'm using Debian through its installer on a
> number of laptops, desktops and servers, and for my purposes it works
> fine and in general I have not needed to enable non-free/contrib for
> hardware support.  You may have other purposes for which it does not
> work, but that doesn't make it useless for everyone, and there are
> alternatives available to solve your use-case (unofficial non-free
> installer) that doesn't entail the cost of abandoning the free software
> ideals of the Debian project.

I would suggest that "abandoning the free software ideals of the Debian
project" is significantly mis-characterising what's going on here.

Debian has always been pretty pragmatic about enabling the use of
non-free software by our users, even while maintaining the strict
separation of non-free from main.

That is after-all what's kept the FSF mildly upset with us all these
years.  I don't suppose that including non-free-firmware on our ISOs
will help with that, but it also doesn't really make things any worse.

By not having the non-free-firmware on our media, we really do lose new
users, all the time.

In particular, people that don't have any choice regarding their
hardware often fail to install anything useful with our 100% pure ISOs.

Those people are likely to have obtained some old hardware either as a
gift or very cheaply, and do not have a budget for an RFY wifi stick.

Debian with the non-free drivers often runs really well on such
hardware, giving people that would otherwise be digitally excluded a
viable option.

Encouraging such people to waste their efforts downloading an ISO that
we know is quite likely to fail for them, while hiding the image we know
they really need strikes me as a form of abuse.

A lot of people will abandon the attempt after a single failure.

Every one of these lost users is a potential Debian contributor. Driving
them away is an act of self-harm, and does more damage to Free Software
than could possibly be done by admitting the truth that for many
(newbies in particular) the tainted ISOs are what people really want.

There will be plenty of time to explain that their they should choose a
better wifi card if they get the chance once they have managed their
first install, but if we continue to set up obstacles at the start then
they won't even be around to listen.

Cheers, Phil.
|)|  Philip Hands  [+44 (0)20 8530 9560]  HANDS.COM Ltd.
|-|  http://www.hands.com/    http://ftp.uk.debian.org/
|(|  Hugo-Klemm-Strasse 34,   21075 Hamburg,    GERMANY

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