Debian on the verge to include non-free firmware in official releases

Just thought to put this here. Perhaps it might be of interest to some.

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Closed source software is never a solution!

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Tell that to all the people with NVIDIA cards and wifi cards? We may not like it sometimes, but there’s practicality too…

If that happens it would be a much better experience for people who want to try out debian on real hardware.

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Saw that, I just assumed it was a glitch in the Matrix :wink:

Kidding aside though, I am of the camp that believes Open Source, Open Spec, and Closed Source can live together.

Thanks God, no need to get a memory stick to install my wifi driver anymore :rofl: Using a non-free iso makes my eye twitch :smirk:

I also believe in “choice”, and my interpretation of choice is that each person has a choice to use whatever they prefer, whether it is COTS - Commercial Off the Shelf software, Open Spec, Open Source, Closed Source or super specific GNU - choose what you like and any combination of these; that’s true freedom of choice. It can be all free, all commercial, or anything in between.

For max amount of closed source software you have the choice to use full closed source software OS like Windows, MacOS, iOS, …
If you want closed source software on debian, you can install it. But it should not be preinstalled and default.
Preinstalled was always there for years:
But closed source by default - this is something bad and new. Free software keeps your ability to have a choice. If you dont like the design of some free software, then just compile it the way you CHOOSE.
Lets expect that everyone would have by default the right to buy weapons to shoot and kill other living on this planet. This is a terrible default setting. The default setting should always be the good one. Not the bad one.

The concept of choice and freedom are quite interesting.

In this case, you propose that Debian should be forced to match your personal ideology. This, of course, restricts their freedom of choice. Fortunately, it seems as if Debian developers don’t all share that mindset.

To me, having a platform that embraces all software licensing options is the most “open” choice possible. Others will disagree.

That being said, in this case all that is being proposed is to include some firmware to increase supported hardware. I think that most would be behind this effort except for the most extreme open-source advocates.

My opinion is this is a good first step towards Debian become more accessible for desktop users.


I’m all for Free software fundamentalism, but it does get really tedious if you want to be completely consistent with your principles.

I would prefer to see Debian remain pure by default, but offer optional additional proprietary images for people who actually want to use it on actual hardware. It’s a sad state of reality, but almost all new hardware requires proprietary drivers, and withholding these from the repositories just alienates almost all of potential users. I hate that it’s like that, but it is.

I hope to see more Free hardware in the future, but I’m not holding my breath.


@Kresimir: I’m with you in this matter. It’d be “real nice” if it wasn’t necessary to have to use proprietary components unless you really wanted to use proprietary hardware and software.

As far as hardware and software “costing money”, that’s reasonable, but it’s not reasonable to patent and control every idea forever. I can and do understand that some people want (and arguably deserve) some form of compensation for their ideas, innovations, and work. I also understand the goal of “sharing” those ideas so that others can use them too.

We obviously do have some software (ours) that has freely available components, even if not 100% of everything is 100% source code “free” in every sense of the word.

Yeah, I thought it would go without saying that when I say “Free” (with a capital F), I mean “respecting user’s freedom”, and not necessarily “free of cost” (free as in “free beer”). I’ve paid for Free software from time to time.

Of course, hardware costs money. What I mean by “Free hardware” is hardware for which schematics are available and drivers are open source (and licensed under a Free licence). Hardware that is so transparent that it cannot possibly have anything suspicious or malicious in it. I’d pay a lot of money for such Free hardware.

The notion of freely available hardware designs in the form of schematics is an interesting one; it’s also something I’ve rarely seen discussed or shared.

Are there any practical examples of this anywhere?

No, we’re not there yet. Free software is getting really popular, but Free hardware still has a long way to go.

There are many enthusiasts for it, especially swarming around the Right to Repair movement. The FUTO organisation is investing a lot of money towards that. There is stuff like PinePhone, Framework laptops… But it’s all in the infant stage, with very uncertain future. The state of Free hardware looks a lot like the state of Free software in the early '90s.

The reason I haven’t heard about it then is because “The Right to Repair”, FUTO, and similar organizations and their hardware focus is something I haven’t been involved with in any way since I was involved in “Systems Engineering”, which did involve both hardware and software specifications. I did that in the late eighties into the early nineties; anything after that was incidental.

On the other hand, I’ve been involved in software quality many times since then, but I’m retired now, so I’m not really current on anything anymore, other than being able to install and use a few Linux distributions.

I would like to answer explicitly the post from @dalto . It have got 4 “love”-points at the moment and that is the most in this thread. Its also a point i hear or read from time to time that opens a huge hole that have to be filled with arguments.

Its not about me. And explicitly not personal . The point i talked about is based on endless studies over the last decades.

One direction of what you are talking against is free software everywhere. This is known wrong. Even closed source companies understood this. There is a reason why Microsoft bought Github and open up more and more for free software. They know that if they wont do that, there is a tripping point like in the climate studies. When they cant handle this point, they would go bankrupt at this known upcoming point.

The second point you are talking about is psychology. Its important to have freedom by default. And when 100% freedom dont work by default, the humanity read often the first time about closed source software required to run hardware. Of course they can choose then to use instead of the regular Debian images. But they have been confronted with what hardware is not working without closed source software. Setting closed source software including images by default is a terrible thing for debian. The people wont be confronted then with the closed-source-software-issue because its been hidden away from them like on all other most used linux distros. The people would then be in some cases suddenly surprised with issues like Dell Precision 5560 - Broken optimus-manager - #2 by zhrwwupx or the famous “linux is crap”-video here (about minute 13)

And the third point: You have a Linux-Pinguin as a avatar. And you write that forcing free software is restricting the freedom of choice. WTF. You understand that Linux is by far the most used Copyleft implementation in software on this planet? Copyleft is the license to FORCE freedom. Or with other words: To make sure that no one is allowed to take the given freedom away and use it in a non free manner.
The ideology you represent is the BSD-licence. Not the GPL-licence. Why have you chosen to be a moderator of a Copyleft(Linux)-Software-Forum instead of being a moderator in a BSD(FreeBSD, …)-Software-Forum that represent your points?

This confirms that. You dont like Copyleft(Linux). You like BSD.

The hardware is already supported. You just have to use the not-default nonfree image that exist for years i linked.

This dont make debian more accessible. Choosing the iso with wifi-closed-source-software if you are to lazy to connect the network cable to your computer or connect the already to the wifi connected phone to your computer and enable usb-tethering: this is something basic debian users should be able to do. Otherwise if this is already too compilcated you should choose a different distro like for example Linux-Mint Debian Edition or any other preconfigured debian distro.
Its the same on arch linux. If you want everything done so that you want to have to learn the least amount of things about what you are using, you choose for example EndeavourOS. If you want to learn more deeply about arch, you choose arch(main) or parabola. If you want to learn even more, you choose Gentoo or LFS.

I would just be happy if they made the non free drivers iso easier to find. I feel like I always spend forever trying to actually find it.

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Debian is not in the list of free distribution, as defined by the fsf. So is it 100% free?

One can take it to any extremes. I think the fsf may have it’s place and it’s ok to have an opinion on Debian including only free drivers, however it’s not pragmatic and excludes many users to use it because of their hardware. It’s not the users fault in the first place if wifi cards are proprietary. Almost all of them are to my understanding. Graphics card is another cup of tea, you have choices as user to not support Nvidia.

Also Debian runs on computers with UEFI and binary blobs, then it should only run on open source core boot to be as consistent as possible, but it doesn’t. Unless I misunderstand a this.

I understand why developers start considering adding firmware so their distribution can also run on laptops. It’s just a pragmatic choice. Doesn’t mean debian will ship with proprietary software otherwise.

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Huh?! Odd point of view… Also don’t know this distro endavouros, is it new? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

But it is. You have a specific ideology you believe others need to adopt. In fact, if you read through all your posts on this site, it is pretty clear what your agenda is.

The idea of tolerance and that multiple peoples ideas can co-exist seems like something that shouldn’t be “known wrong”. At least, not to me.

Indeed. It allows them to train their proprietary closed-source AI implementation more effectively.

The fundamental problem is that you and I probably have a different definition of “freedom”. The debian developers, the people who actually invest heavily of themselves into maintaining and evolving debian should be free to choose whatever direction for their distro that they choose.

If they choose to include some closed-source firmware, great. If they choose not to, that is their choice and I will respect it. You and I have the freedom to use it or not use it based on whether their vision matches our own needs, beliefs or any other criteria we set for ourselves.

This is exactly the point. You seem to believe that will make them realize that the problem is all this closed source hardware in the world. The more likely reality is that they just think Debian sucks and doesn’t work on my hardware and move to one of the numerous distros that does or go back to the closed-source operating system they were using before.

Instead of slowly opening their minds to open source by showing them the benefits it provides, you are proposing a militant stance that I would argue doesn’t work. I mean, it hasn’t been working for Debian up until now. Debian’s reputation as a desktop distro is poor because it is considered hard to get working.

The reality is that most people don’t even know that it exists.

Copyleft simply makes it so that software that is produced with that license remains open-source even in it’s derivative form. It doesn’t make all software open-source even if that may have been part of the original goal.

You seem to know quite a lot about me for someone who has only been around for a few days.

I feel like my contributions to open-source software demonstrate my level of investment.

The Linux world is changing. It isn’t only for highly technical people. The idea that people who want to use Debian need to have some high degree of technical competence is silly. Most of what we are discussing here is a matter of opinion and/or philosophy but I think that it is objectively true that including more drivers in the debian default install wouldn’t make it more accessible.

In fact, you yourself have argued this point above when you stated: "The people wont be confronted then with the closed-source-software-issue because its been hidden away from them like on all other most used linux distros. ". This implies that it will be more likely to work which makes it more accessible. Unless we have different definitions of accessible, which I suppose is possible.

This is deeply flawed thinking. Not everyone takes the same path to learning. The fact that one person might prefer to install Arch directly and another might prefer to get started in a simpler way in no way implies that one of them is going to learn more than the other. There are plenty of EndeavourOS users who started here or on another easy-to-install Arch-based distro and now have a high degree of competency with Arch. There are plenty more who are more than capable of installing Arch but who would prefer to install EndeavourOS.

Conversely, you can copy/paste your way through an Arch install without learning much at all. Someone I know once said, “The only thing I learned from installing Arch is how to install Arch.”. Like everything else, how much you get out of it is often related to how much you put in.

Certainly you can learn more by running Gentoo. But you don’t have to. There are plenty of users running Gentoo who are not highly skilled. In general, learning requires a desire to learn. If you choose not to, you can stumble through Gentoo. It is just harder than stumbling through Ubuntu.

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