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

@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.


@dalto contributes heavily to both calamares codebase and EndeavourOS codebase. He is also the main developer of btrfs assistant. I would say he knows a whole lot about Linux and computing.

Also, personal attacks on a Linux forum makes you look bad.

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No, it is not based on the FSF-rules. Thats also why a OpenWrt reproducible(compile) release that use only free software and ath9k hardware is also not a fsf-cert licenced.
And the worst example: Libreboot is using the closed source microcode inside the cpu that the cpu is been shipped with. Is this free? No! Is it even (partly)secure? No, its full with critical bugs that are fixed in later microcode releases. But FSF say that this preinstalled microcode is free.
There are free software facts and there is some certification crap for people that dont like to learn much about the things they use.

Not really. Like i already wrote: If you dont care, you take a look why its not working and then take the nonfree iso.
But what happens and i have meet people that handled that way: A small amount of people say: Why should i use a wifi card with more then 450Mbit when i have just a 20Mbit internet connection and like most people no home (file)server. Then i can also use a 450Mbit 2,4+5Ghz wifi card and everything is fine.
Nvidia 700series GPUs are also fine for most people that are not gamers(bigger amount of linux users). Just take a 700series GPU and stick it into the x16-PCIe slot.

Yes, it work fine on modern 64Core UEFI servers/workstations. Because this is not about my personal opinion but about facts in this thread-topic about non-free firmware images, this is not a point.
But its nice to hear that you know that this is closed source software preinstalled on your mainboard that could be hacked and carry on security issues if you already have reinstalled the OS. You probably would like to use free UEFI implementation like Tianocore combined with coreboot - independent if debian work with no difference on both setups (open and closed source UEFI implementation).

Dont set all laptops equal. Debian default iso work fully fine with wifi on different laptops. And if its not working with your wifi card then like i wrote before: Dont be lazy, connect the network cable to the machine or choose the long existing iso with preinstalled closed source stuff.

Thanks for mentioning. Fixing the typo…

I try to talk about just facts. Not opinions.

I dont know in what country you live in. In democracy with free speech you can do studies and try to stay as rational as possible. Talk about this and raise your voice if something is not the way it should be based on facts you have understood and learned about deeply.
I expect that you also have the believe that for example if a person think that the earth is flat, leaving this person with this opinion is “tolerance”. Its not. Its just the lazy way to go to not have to spend time teaching rational facts.
Thousands of people have died in the human history because they believed in the wrong fantasy version of god in their region. Some have been burned to death because they explained facts for example in medicine and that rationality+logical thinking was set equal to witch.
I am also spending hours in now writing this things here to not go the lazy way and just ignore the closed-source tolerance debian is going on now. There is a hope someone would read and understand what i write here and why and this could hopefully stop debian to move this direction.

Yes. I hope in the best of the best. You have to imagine that and live it to be able to go further.

Debian was never the distro for such user. This was Ubuntu, Manjaro, MX-Linux, Linux Mint, … . What you are talking about could be told about Trisquel or PureOS. Both really user-friendly and running Linux-Libre kernel.
But anyway - i dont believe in the bad, i believe in the good and have hopes in intelligent and critical thinking people like Aaron Swartz was one of.

It has worked fine.

No, its because of the defaulting to netinstaller and no graphical installer like on other distros where you kind of just press the next-button.
Having to use a different iso to get wifi working or otherwise having to connect a cable cant be the main argument. I dont want to accept that the society we live in is that terrible. Having to connect one more cable additional to the power cable if not using the iso with closed-source binary preinstalled is too much work and the main reason for not having a bigger debian userbase? No, i wont ever accept this terrible view of the society. Then i can also directly give up my whole work i do for public knowledge on different platforms.

Then make better documentation and teach the humans on this planet instead of making the default choice in Debian worse.

Yes, i confirm that. All people have a different learning type. But its about the moving of an other distro additional to the already existing ones to the “closed source software by default” route. Debian should stay special and have it special learning curve where you have to add yourself the closed-source software that is available at debian servers but not there on default.
Take for example the image building of PostmarketOS. You get asked if you want closed source software and it explains what is bad about that. This is a second way to go and explain people about that. A third way (and worst of them) is to have it in the iso and set default boot to free-drivers only and the people have to choose closed-source software drivers at a second iso boot if the missed something with the default boot option.
But having them just inside preinstalled and hiding the fact from the users is the way of not pointing the people to this freedom-issue and something that should not be done.

Yes, i know few of those people. From those i learned first about EndeavourOS.
BUT: One of those people know exactly about closed source software. The person is using only free software capable hardware with a coreboot machine. This person would like to have a EndeavourOS iso release with linux-libre kernel but there is none existing at the moment. Maybe EndeavourOS based on parabola instead of arch would be a nice additional choice. Such a release of EndeavourOS wont change a single point of functionality of his machine.

I tried to make the point as clear as possible. Because the ideology shown by what is written was the one behind BSD. Not behind copyleft(linux). This was not meant as a personal attack in the way like most other people do to just bump their self-esteem or something like that. I think it was not really misunderstood because the conversation have not stopped at this point and the arguments in the discussion have continued.

In the article, I probably like this option most Advertise the images with non-free firmware as official, alongside the classic "pure" Debian image

Leaving the freedoms of choice to the user.

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It’s right not to accept it.

The society we live in is actually much much worse than what you stated.


I’m also finding this whole thread pretty hilarious. Did you get booted from the Debian forum a couple days ago and found this place to continue to argue your point?

We have literally like 100 distros because so many people disagree on these things. If you’re that passionate about how Debian does things, make your own distro with no closed source anything and use that. You’re clearly very excited about it.

Check out parabola Linux, I believe that’s the one, it’s like Arch based, zero closed software.

Personally I like where things are because we do currently have a wide variety of choices: we can still purchase commercial software, there are sufficient copies of source code that we can personally experiment with and modify to our heart’s content (for those of us who have any skill to do so, and the time to do it). we can use, without mandatory financial cost, a variety of freely available binary systems. To me, this is more than enough choices; for those who want something else, there is the freedom available to build whatever you want; that’s plenty of freedom, no matter how we decide to define “freedom”!

Unfortunately there are those who believe “freedom of choice” should only apply to them and they should get to choose for others. You see this with the small but loud minority pushing back on the possibility that Debian might offer a non-free option officially as opposed to the unofficial one they already offer.

At this point I see the argument as philosophical, bordering on religious. And a little silly. If someone doesn’t like the way their favorite distro is going there’s plenty of others to choose from. Even for those who are staunchly FOSS. It’s not like Debian is the last bastion. They have a choice. So do we, if practicality wins out in our minds over FOSS adherence (those poor NVIDIA card owners).

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It’s actually sad… Debian did not include non-free firmware for years and the situation did not get better but only worse. It seems like the corporate always wins…

Having said that what are people supposed to do? Not use their hardware that requires non-free firmware? I mean we are all on an Arch Linux based distro: “Arch is a pragmatic distribution rather than an ideological one.

Unless a thing like “free/open hardware” certification is pushed situation may not improve… it’s almost impossible to know if a distro like Debian runs on a laptop without trying…

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I tried it (free version) on many laptops. It runs, but without wifi :smiling_face_with_tear:

I find it amusing that people think there is a need for something that has already existed. Debian has, for years, offered the unofficial ISOs with firmware included. Why do people think there is a need to call those ISOs official? The current naming of the ISOs allows Debian to have its cake and eat it too. They can view themselves as righteous and claim to only provide untainted official install media, AND provide easy access to firmware included media if the user wants it. What is the friggin’ problem? People believe this has held Debian back? That notion is silly. Debian has been relatively easy to install since the days of Sarge back in 2005.

  • Because the vast majority of people download the default ISO without realizing there are others.
  • Because many people have no idea what firmware is and thus don’t know if they need it or not.
  • Because many people are uncomfortable selecting something labeled “unofficial”
  • Because why make people search for some alternative ISO to make commonly available hardware work.

Why not make the default ISO include the firmware and offer an alternative ISO without it?