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    Tuesday, 19 April 2022

    Firmware - what are we going to do about it?

    TL;DR: firmware support in Debian sucks, and we need to change this. See the "My preference, and rationale" Section below.

    In my opinion, the way we deal with (non-free) firmware in Debian is a mess, and this is hurting many of our users daily. For a long time we've been pretending that supporting and including (non-free) firmware on Debian systems is not necessary. 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 very clearly no longer a sensible path when trying to support lots of common current hardware.

    Background - why has (non-free) firmware become an issue?

    Firmware is the low-level software that's designed to make hardware devices work. Firmware is tightly coupled to the hardware, exposing its features, providing higher-level functionality and interfaces for other software to use. For a variety of reasons, it's typically not Free Software.

    For Debian's purposes, we typically separate firmware from software by considering where the code executes (does it run on a separate processor? Is it visible to the host OS?) but it can be difficult to define a single reliable dividing line here. Consider the Intel/AMD CPU microcode packages, or the U-Boot firmware packages as examples.

    In times past, all necessary firmware would normally be included directly in devices / expansion cards by their vendors. Over time, however, it has become more and more attractive (and therefore more common) for device manufacturers to not include complete firmware on all devices. Instead, some devices just embed a very simple set of firmware that allows for upload of a more complete firmware "blob" into memory. Device drivers are then expected to provide that blob during device initialisation.

    There are a couple of key drivers for this change:

    • Cost: it's typically cheaper to fit smaller flash memory (or no flash at all) onto a device. The cost difference may seem small in many cases, but reducing the bill of materials (BOM) even by a few cents can make a substantial difference to the economics of a product. For most vendors, they will have to implement device drivers anyway and it's not difficult to include firmware in that driver.

    • Flexibility: it's much easier to change the behaviour of a device by simply changing to a different blob. This can potentially cover lots of different use cases:

      • separating deadlines for hardware and software in manufacturing (drivers and firmware can be written and shipped later);
      • bug fixes and security updates (e.g. CPU microcode changes);
      • changing configuration of a device for different users or products (e.g. potentially different firmware to enable different frequencies on a radio product);
      • changing fundamental device operation (e.g. switching between RAID and JBOD functionality on a disk controller).

    Due to these reasons, more and more devices in a typical computer now need firmware to be uploaded at runtime for them to function correctly. This has grown:

    • Going back 10 years or so, most computers only needed firmware uploads to make WiFi hardware work.

    • A growing number of wired network adapters now demand firmware uploads. Some will work in a limited way but depend on extra firmware to allow advanced features like TCP segmentation offload (TSO). Others will refuse to work at all without a firmware upload.

    • More and more graphics adapters now also want firmware uploads to provide any non-basic functions. A simple basic (S)VGA-compatible framebuffer is not enough for most users these days; modern desktops expect 3D acceleration, and a lot of current hardware will not provide that without extra firmware.

    • Current generations of common Intel-based laptops also need firmware uploads to make audio work (see the firmware-sof-signed package).

    At the beginning of this timeline, a typical Debian user would be able to use almost all of their computer's hardware without needing any firmware blobs. It might have been inconvenient to not be able to use the WiFi, but most laptops had wired ethernet anyway. The WiFi could always be enabled and configured after installation.

    Today, a user with a new laptop from most vendors will struggle to use it at all with our firmware-free Debian installation media. Modern laptops normally don't come with wired ethernet now. There won't be any usable graphics on the laptop's screen. A visually-impaired user won't get any audio prompts. These experiences are not acceptable, by any measure. There are new computers still available for purchase today which don't need firmware to be uploaded, but they are growing less and less common.

    Current state of firmware in Debian

    For clarity: obviously not all devices need extra firmware uploading like this. There are many devices that depend on firmware for operation, but we never have to think about them in normal circumstances. The code is not likely to be Free Software, but it's not something that we in Debian must spend our time on as we're not distributing that code ourselves. Our problems come when our user needs extra firmware to make their computer work, and they need/expect us to provide it.

    We have a small set of Free firmware binaries included in Debian main, and these are included on our installation and live media. This is great - we all love Free Software and this works.

    However, there are many more firmware binaries that are not Free. If we are legally able to redistribute those binaries, we package them up and include them in the non-free section of the archive. As Free Software developers, we don't like providing or supporting non-free software for our users, but we acknowledge that it's sometimes a necessary thing for them. This tension is acknowledged in the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

    This tension extends to our installation and live media. As non-free is officially not considered part of Debian, our official media cannot include anything from non-free. This has been a deliberate policy for many years. Instead, we have for some time been building a limited parallel set of "unofficial non-free" images which include non-free firmware. These non-free images are produced by the same software that we use for the official images, and by the same team.

    There are a number of issues here that make developers and users unhappy:

    1. Building, testing and publishing two sets of images takes more effort.
    2. We don't really want to be providing non-free images at all, from a philosophy point of view. So we mainly promote and advertise the preferred official free images. That can be a cause of confusion for users. We do link to the non-free images in various places, but they're not so easy to find.
    3. Using non-free installation media will cause more installations to use non-free software by default. That's not a great story for us, and we may end up with more of our users using non-free software and believing that it's all part of Debian.
    4. A number of users and developers complain that we're wasting their time by publishing official images that are just not useful for a lot (a majority?) of users.

    We should do better than this.

    Options

    The status quo is a mess, and I believe we can and should do things differently.

    I see several possible options that the images team can choose from here. However, several of these options could undermine the principles of Debian. We don't want to make fundamental changes like that without the clear backing of the wider project. That's why I'm writing this...

    1. Keep the existing setup. It's horrible, but maybe it's the best we can do? (I hope not!)

    2. We could just stop providing the non-free unofficial images altogether. That's not really a promising route to follow - we'd be making it even harder for users to install our software. While ideologically pure, it's not going to advance the cause of Free Software.

    3. We could stop pretending that the non-free images are unofficial, and maybe move them alongside the normal free images so they're published together. This would make them easier to find for people that need them, but is likely to cause users to question why we still make any images without firmware if they're otherwise identical.

    4. The images team technically could simply include non-free into the official images, and add firmware packages to the input lists for those images. However, that would still leave us with problem 3 from above (non-free generally enabled on most installations).

    5. We could split out the non-free firmware packages into a new non-free-firmware component in the archive, and allow a specific exception only to allow inclusion of those packages on our official media. We would then generate only one set of official media, including those non-free firmware packages.

      (We've already seen various suggestions in recent years to split up the non-free component of the archive like this, for example into non-free-firmware, non-free-doc, non-free-drivers, etc. Disagreement (bike-shedding?) about the split caused us to not make any progress on this. I believe this project should be picked up and completed. We don't have to make a perfect solution here immediately, just something that works well enough for our needs today. We can always tweak and improve the setup incrementally if that's needed.)

    These are the most likely possible options, in my opinion. If you have a better suggestion, please let us know!

    I'd like to take this set of options to a GR, and do it soon. I want to get a clear decision from the wider Debian project as to how to organise firmware and installation images. If we do end up changing how we do things, I want a clear mandate from the project to do that.

    My preference, and rationale

    Mainly, I want to see how the project as a whole feels here - this is a big issue that we're overdue solving.

    What would I choose to do? My personal preference would be to go with option 5: split the non-free firmware into a special new component and include that on official media.

    Does that make me a sellout? I don't think so. I've been passionately supporting and developing Free Software for more than half my life. My philosophy here has not changed. However, this is a complex and nuanced situation. I firmly believe that sharing software freedom with our users comes with a responsibility to also make our software useful. If users can't easily install and use Debian, that helps nobody.

    By splitting things out here, we would enable users to install and use Debian on their hardware, without promoting/pushing higher-level non-free software in general. I think that's a reasonable compromise. This is simply a change to recognise that hardware requirements have moved on over the years.

    Further work

    If we do go with the changes in option 5, there are other things we could do here for better control of and information about non-free firmware:

    1. Along with adding non-free firmware onto media, when the installer (or live image) runs, we should make it clear exactly which firmware packages have been used/installed to support detected hardware. We could link to docs about each, and maybe also to projects working on Free re-implementations.

    2. Add an option at boot to explicitly disable the use of the non-free firmware packages, so that users can choose to avoid them.

    Acknowledgements

    Thanks to people who reviewed earlier versions of this document and/or made suggestions for improvement, in particular:

    • Cyril Brulebois
    • Matthew Garrett
    • David Leggett
    • Martin Michlmayr
    • Andy Simpkins
    • Neil Williams

    01:24 :: # :: /debian/issues :: 44 comments

    Comments

    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Josh wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 03:44

    I'd love to see the separate component for firmware, so that it's possible for people whose hardware requires that firmware to keep that firmware up to date without having to enable the rest of the non-free section.

    The unofficial images could then include firmware packages that are necessary to boot and install the system (e.g. required network device firmware).

    That said, I'd still prefer for the official installer images to ship only FOSS. But I'd be happy to see the unofficial images advertised more prominently.

    If the project *does* decide to ship firmware on the official images, I hope that's behind a debconf question that lists the hardware in question and *asks* if the user wants to install non-free firmware.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 22:38

      >If the project *does* decide to ship firmware on the >official images, I hope that's behind a debconf question >that lists the hardware in question and *asks* if the user >wants to install non-free firmware.

      It may be a little awkward to do *exactly* that, but we should definitely use the opportunity here to make noise about firmware and give the user choice.


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Alexander E. Patrakov wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:09

    My opinion is that nowadays the world quickly degrades into a situation where the only place for an installation that doesn't need firmware would be a virtual machine. But even then, it is a pretty important use case.

    So my opinion is that Debian should still provide two images, both official: one slimmed-down and blob free, for use in virtual machines ONLY (which satisfies the purists), and one with the non-free firmware, for the use on bare metal.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Josh wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:44

    Many servers don't need firmware, either. If you don't have a wireless card or a graphics card, you can almost always boot up and run without any firmware.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Moritz wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 10:24

      Every x86 baremetal server needs this to properly function; without amd64|intel-microcode, you're stuck with the insecure default state your CPU was once shipped with.

      Option 5 is the only sane option from my PoV.


      Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Wulf wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 15:06

      My servers are installed through PXE, and they require non-free firmware for the wired network cards. Took me a while to find a way how to get the firmware into the installer.


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    gadget42 wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 11:42

    the vast majority of the planetary beings DO NOT CARE and they want stuff that "just works"...and unless/until we can reach and teach at core educational levels and institutions(which we never will) it is only a matter of time until Debian is as irrelevant as Dillo. Just look at the current state of smartphones and tablets. meh.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Mark wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 14:19

    I'm curious if there is a good way to show the enumeration of devices with free and non-free firmware as a comparison. The installer could show exactly which devices have a current free option, and then show if anything would not work without a non-free firmware.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 22:44

      We can list which devices/drivers have asked for firmware, yes. That's how d-i does things. However, it's not always possible to tell if a device **needs** firmware to function. The best example I can give here is wired ethernet cards - some of them come with exactly the same PCI IDs whether they have firmware in onboard flash or not. You'll only know if you needed firmware *after* you've actually tried it.

      We do have hardware IDs listed in d-i to help us identify which firmware is needed for which device. Maybe we can expand on the information there with user reports...


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Wulf wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 14:53

    I'd prefer one installation image only, including non-free firmware, assuming it doesn't cause legal problems to distribute it.

    Users should be asked early on in installation if they'd like to use non-free firmware. Default is False. The option needs to be accessible through kernel parameter or preseed file too to allow for fully automated installs.

    When the user opts against non-free firmware and the installer detects missing firmware later on, the user should be given the option to reconsider.

    Splitting out a "non-free-firmware" component sounds sensible, but I guess many people have a list of hard coded components when creating mirrors or for configuration. If they use "non-free" now for their firmware, this is going to break as soon as the firmware is removed from this component.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    David Stevenson wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 15:51

    As a user, I support option5. But I think a lot could be done under the further work option1. I tend to miss messages that fly past at install time, but I would be very interested in a document that told me what non free modules were loaded on my system, with links to more information about them and any possible alternatives.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Sarah Sapphire wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 16:00

    The option 5 seems sane to me. With the current approach the user that has just enabled non-free repository for needed firmware will be exposed to the forest of non-free software and they might not be conscious enough and install absolutely unneeded non-free software - the software that is not required for their hardware to function, because they're all packaged in one repo.

    Although I would prefer pressuring manufacturers into freeing their source code. This seems to be a compromise when there are already enough distros that do that by default and silently accept non-free binary code. But maybe we can have a pop-up that teaches people why this software is bad but at the same time their hardware currently requires it so it's their decision whether or not to download it?


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    wistlo wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 16:18

    I'm a user, not an OS dev, and something of a case study here.

    My wife bought a second hand HP EliteBook 8570p, mfg date 2012, and we wiped the expired non-owned Windows 7 in favor of a Linux host with Windows 10 running in VirtualBox. I had experience with Ubuntu, but wanted the stability and lighter weight of Debian.

    "Option 1" worked for me, but it was slow and a little frustrating to get WiFi and Bluetooth working. (though apparently the HP BIOS does not support Bluetooth mic, so she uses the system board mic).

    My overall experience is positive: Debian really has proven to be bedrock stable, it's not pushing updates to unused accessory applications every two days, as Ubuntu does, and the V11 upgrade was painless (except for getting the background wallpaper to update).

    However, the initial installation and getting all the drivers and extra repositories and other non-free stuff to support HP's hardware required perseverance that non-IT people simply don't have. It doesn't help that the 'non-free' components are presented as special cases with a "use only in emergencies" feel. It reminded me of how Oracle buries the Community edition mySQL downloads on their site. (Try to download mySQL Community from oracle.com in less than six clicks. I dare ya).

    Interestingly, HP has pushed several machine BIOS updates via their Windows distribution channel, but these would require Windows boot (not running in Virtualbox). I thought I was getting way behind until they recently published a "Linux" version that is what the machine shipped with 10 years ago.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Bosse Biermann wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 18:31

    Hello, why don't you set it up like the old Windows Setup disks? It was possible to load 3rd party Harddisk Controller driver from a floppy disk.

    It was far from perfect, but maybe it could be the right way for Debian. If you install Debian from an USB Stick you only need to copy the non-free package on it.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 22:50

      We already have a set of firmware archives made available for download like this - see

      http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/firmware/

      But there's two problems:

      !. lots of people struggle to make it work, despite instructions

      2. this actually doesn't help for some cases, as we found during the bullseye freeze and bugfix stage. Imagine if you need audio firmware to enable audio before the system can prompt you to insert the firmware USB drive... :-(


      Reply
        Re: Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
        Sam wrote on Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:01

        This is quite an opportune post. I'm considering jumping ship from my long-term favorite Linux distro due to some fundamental changes in its development direction, and Debian has always been my plan B. But I was noticing that `unofficial/non-free/images-including-firmware/weekly-live-builds` hasn't been updated since last year. It seems important to have images with non-free firmware based on Testing available in case the user's hardware is too new for the stable ISO.

        I really appreciate your pragmatism with this firmware issue. I hate proprietary software and blobs as much as the next person, but I'm not willing to sacrifice functionality of my hardware, and I'm not rich enough to buy hardware regardless of price just for libre software support.


        Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Tim Mcconnell wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 19:53

    I agree the most with option #5, however; I think there should be an option #6: Enable the non-free repos (or the split off version as per option 5) and install and run isenkram as per the instructions in the install manual.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    nervuri wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 21:10

    The Debian Social Contract begins with "Debian will remain 100% free". Changing that is a pretty big deal. Debian's principled stance on free software has been one of the main reasons I've been using it for almost a decade. I really appreciate the peace of mind of knowing that the system is 100% free by default. However, I do use specific non-free firmware packages for certain devices and it is a pain to find and install them (which I do by hand, after installing Debian from the official ISO).

    So I'm on board with option 5. By all means, create the non-free-firmware archive and include it in the official media. But also make it clear to users why proprietary firmware ought to be avoided. Add a prompt during installation (similar to the software selection prompt) and make the best of the educational opportunity that it provides. It can begin with a statement on why the Debian Project is against non-free *ware and it can also mention the security benefits (and potential pitfalls) of packages like intel-microcode. Something like:

    ``` The hardware devices listed below currently require non-free firmware to function. The Debian project advises against the installation of non-free firmware [insert reasons here], while acknowledging that some users may require such firmware to use certain devices or to receive security updates from device vendors.

    Select which devices you wish to install non-free firmware for:

    [ ] CPU (device name) [ ] Wi-Fi (device name) [ ] Bluetooth (device name) [ ] Fingerprint reader (device name)

    You can change this selection at any time by running [command]. You can also disable the use of all non-free firmware by selecting the [...] boot option. ```

    Something along these lines would be ideal, I think.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Steve McIntyre wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 22:54

    Thanks for all the comments folks, I really appreciate them!

    The main reason for me writing this article initially is to provoke a decision on the future direction of Debian here. I'm the leader of the Debian images team (aka debian-cd!) and I really have to care about what we do here. I *technically* can just make the decisions about what happens in our images, but I actually want to have a project-wide decision here. There is not an obvious single correct answer here.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    ninjachicken wrote on Tue, 19 Apr 2022 23:56

    gasp - end my 20 year-streak of arm-twisting and frustration to wangle non-free firmware during install ?? perdue ! much gratitude for the well-thought and cogently presented state-of-the-state. i support option 5; is crucial for accessibility (braille, text-to-speech, etc). and again, thank you !


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Somewhat Reticent wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 00:04

    As a user, I prefer granular control over non-free components and resent a forced all-or-none choice.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 13:58

      That's a fair point, thanks!

      But what *exactly* do you mean, though? Do you support option 5 above (the split-out non-free-firmware section)? Or are you asking for explicit confirmation before loading each firmware blob maybe?


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Colin Tree wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 01:17

    simplest alternative - 6. During install an option to select contrib or non-free sections when selecting a repository.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 13:53

      It's not quite that simple, though - how do you access a repository for contrib and non-free if you already need non-free firmware loaded to talk to the network? If you just mean to enable access to non-free firmware on the installer medium, then that means we still need to be adding non-free firmware on that mediun...


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Ben Dai wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 01:42

    First choice: Option 2. All 100% DFSG. Let Debian be a voice of DFSG-freedom. Let other distros sink to non-freedom.

    Second choice: Option 1½. Two distros. Keep Debian fully DFSG as in choice 1. Create a new non-DFSG distro "Naibed".

    Third choice: Option 1. Stick with it. Debian is known for being in the gray. Inclusion of non-DFSG is unacceptable.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Gerardo Ballabio wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 08:40

    Of course the optimal solution would be to write free replacements for the non-free firmware. If there aren't enough volunteers, perhaps some people could be paid to do that? I understand that Freexian is reserving money to fund free software projects. This may be a valid candidate. And it wouldn't be specific to Debian so it might also be possible to join forces with other distros. I don't know how much that's feasible, but I suppose that the idea is worth exploring at least.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 13:55

      Sure, that would be lovely too - let's get more Free Software! But what do we until these projects starts delivering working Free Firmware?


      Reply
        Re: Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
        Gerardo Ballabio wrote on Fri, 22 Apr 2022 09:24

        I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, of course people need to be able to use their devices and if they can't they'll probably not use free software at all, which is a loss. On the other hand, free software as it is now would probably not exist if there hadn't been people like RMS who wouldn't compromise and were willing to endure all the difficulties of not using proprietary software no matter what (at a time when almost no alternatives existed!) in order to stand for their principles. I'm afraid that if Linux distributions ship proprietary firmware that will end up in no free firmware being ever written. I have no easy answer.


        Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Chris wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 14:34

    This problem right here is why I don't use debian. I couldn't install with the official media because lack of firmware for my wireless and wired cards, and so I left for another distro.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Karl Kashofer wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 14:45

    I really like the approach of separating free software from proprietary blobs in Debian. IMHO it is the right thing to do. I have never had problems with installing debian, a laptop without ethernet might pose a challenge, however thats what usb-ethernet dongles are for. Another problem i see is when the system spits out warnings like "possible missing firmware xxx for xxx". I see that frequently for realtek ethernet cards and radeon GPUs. However, they work fine without the blobs. So i think if we have proprietary drivers in the installation media, 99% of users will install them, not because they need them but because they get informed of a "possibly missing firmware".


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 14:55

      Firstly: *Please* don't confuse non-free *drivers* with non-free *firmware*, they are different things! Firmware runs in a different space to the OS, typically on a different processor. Drivers are part of the kernel, part of the OS. We have no intention of including proprietary or non-free *drivers* on official media.

      Secondly: the problem with the *possible* missing firmware message comes from the hardware itself. In some cases (like the Realtek ethernet cards you mention!), we cannot reliably tell if the hardware needs firmware loading or not. The device IDs are identical for different versions of the hardware - some need firmware and some don't. We don't have enough information to tell for sure.

      The user will only find out later if firmware was needed when they try to use the system. This is a real problem. :-(


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    nuttijay wrote on Wed, 20 Apr 2022 16:23

    My preference is

    1) Honor/keep the spirit of the Debian Social contract statements 2) transport the userexperience we, as users, had over the years - to the current generation

    So your option 5 sounds nice, but kicks my pref 1). Looking for the compromise I see an 'addon' state: choosable for installation.

    Regarding usage I trully want to know, what is installed for what purpose (device), what is used currently (in a top/htop style), and *be root* and disable it.

    thanks for the discussion! :)


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    gadget42 wrote on Fri, 22 Apr 2022 11:50

    saw Andy Simpkins post in reference to this thread via the planet debian rss feed. not sure posting links is allowed on this forum so better to just provide a partial to begin with.

    blog-dot-koipond.org.uk/archives/325

    did that work?


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    John S wrote on Mon, 25 Apr 2022 03:13

    As a long time linux user, I understand the attraction of free software - both as in free speech and free beer, however I reserve that sentiment for the software I actually choose to use to do my daily stuff. Making the computer actually boot and be useful is beyond this argument. If I literally can't even install your OS and/or actually use it, then theory and philosophy is pointless, the computer doesn't work. If the computer doesn't work, then I can't do anything with it, then whats the point? It would be great if all hardware played nice and was open, but reality is that it isn't. By purchasing such a device that requires non-free firmware, I've already made my choice as a user what matters to me, and making your OS unusable on such hardware is only going to hurt your system in the long run as users move on to distros that do work.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    DarrenG wrote on Tue, 26 Apr 2022 05:02

    I would like to vote for option 5.

    I'm happy to go through a slightly more involved process to use Debian, but having to find the right deb file and install it separately puts off some people who would otherwise find Debian ideal.

    I guess the trick is to accommodate the pragmatic need to make a computer usable, while also pursuing the options for opening or rewriting more firmware. I would have thought that if more people use Debian, then more will see its benefits and be drawn into its community, which should serve to push forward the open source agenda...?


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Shockwave wrote on Mon, 02 May 2022 00:44

    My thoughts are probably a mix:

    Two options:

    1. Warn the users of the risks of non-free stuff, but have them onboard, but hidden behind pressing tab and make mention, to check the wiki, to see if firmware is needed for specific things and say: If it is required, press tab for options and then have the detected devices onboard listed that are usual, meaning the usual configuration, etc, listed and then: Give the user the option which to select and say which each of them are for. Also there should be a button for the wiki specific to the device's usual configuration as an option to select too. And of course, put bounties into place for people who successfully take on the work of making said firmware no longer needed by reverse engineering it. Obviously list all this in the proper places via the wiki though. To be clear, I do IN FACT use a fully free distro. That being said, not everyone knows how to use coreboot or has the ability to disable intel me, or can afford to have someone do both for them! Its honestly better, to get people to ditch Winbugs (windows), Gaggle (google) or TheRotten one (apple)

    I honestly detest running non-free or proprietary stuff, with one exception only:

    Under very controlled circumstances, most of the time for me that means NO INTERNET for APP.

    Qemu, dosbox-x are two examples of this for me, that being said, not everyone goes my route and not everyone is willing to have ivy bridge, yes I know it is old, just for the sake of coreboot + intel me disabled, no requirement for proprietary firmware.

    Besides, whenever the really crazy crap hits the fan, plutonium, which is supposedly the new intel me, only way worse. Therefore, it will be immensely helpful, for those who still want to use x86 based processors, if people can have a way to enable them within the debian images without of course having to mess around to get it working.

    The 2nd option, is way simpler however:

    Although, its possible that, if people could CHANGE the REPOS, that could work too I bet.

    Aka, have an option to modify the current repository on the media you burned it onto.

    In a way similar to what you can with

    sudo apt edit-sources

    or better if you prefer only it would be onboard the system.

    Here is a good example:

    deb https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main contrib non-free deb-src https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main contrib non-free

    I mostly got this from a debian obsolete documentation form, but what I think needs to be done for this particular perspective, is this:

    deb https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main deb-src https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main

    I think this is simple enough, however, as I said, you need to be able to modify the repo within the cd when it is running.

    And even still, developing new alternatives to these proprietary firmwares, education on what it means, aka some type of warning, etc...

    Btw, if the devices fails to connect to internet, when you have an ethernet connected or wifi is very visibly online, then you have the screen turn green or something with the words:

    This might not be supported by free firmware, refer to our online documentation as to what to do:

    Then you just add back on the non-free and contrib parts like so:

    deb https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main contrib non-free deb-src https://sunsite.cnlab-switch.ch/mirror/debian/ stable main contrib non-free

    The first option sounds silly now as I write this, but I honestly think the second option I just gave should be the one that is picked, assuming, that the problem rises to this level, which as you seem to indicate, is becoming more and more unfourtantely needed at this point...


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    GG wrote on Tue, 03 May 2022 01:17

    If installing non-free firmware is made effortless, there will be no impetus for people to want to buy hardware that doesn't require it, and therefore no impetus for anyone to make it. This is not just a philosophical issue. Without pushback against this kind of thing, Free Software operating systems will not be much better freedom-wise than iOS or MS Windows. Free Software is only as free as it's least free component. Yes, people need to be able to run the free software in order to move it forward, but making it easy to use non-free pieces hides what Free Software is fighting against. Freedom is not free.


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      Steve McIntyre wrote on Sat, 07 May 2022 11:54

      Do you genuinely believe that making Debian installation hard for typical users makes a difference to hardware vendors?


      Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Andres wrote on Sun, 08 May 2022 22:12

    I have been using Debian for almost 20 years... I choose it because I was moved by Ian's words... it struck me... WE can make it right. Nowadays you have so many distributions to choose with fancy installers that will make it work for you... and just Debian about freedom. When I have to load that list of firmwares on another usb drive... I know why I have to do it and I choose to do so... I fail the contract... no Debian. I will keep it at option 1... free as freedom it still is most important aspect of Debian.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    brian wrote on Mon, 09 May 2022 02:44

    I'm prgamatic so option 5 please; I do like the suggestions about indicating what non-free stuff got loaded. Being pure will not make a picogram of difference to hardware vendors and just makes it less likely folks will use Debian.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Bob wrote on Mon, 09 May 2022 06:44

    As a long time Linux user and fan of free software, I would like to believe it is possible to be idealistic and pragmatic at the same time. If someone is able to use Debian with non-free firmware instead of using Windows or macOS, I consider that to be a win for free software. I think Debian's recent decision to use the Calamares Installer was a move in the right direction. Simple is good. I think including non-free firmware on the official media would also be a move in the right direction. I like option 5.


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Unknown wrote on Fri, 27 May 2022 12:22

    Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime!


    Reply
    Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
    Shockwave wrote on Tue, 19 Jul 2022 22:21

    If only it were that simple, installing non-free firmware being made effortless is indeed a problem, if it has backdoor functionality, or does anything shady, which is usually the trend, but let's face the facts, ivy bridge with intel me disabled is a perfect example of the FSF being illogical... The only difference in libreboot vs osboot or heads, including if its a fork of heads by nitrokey developers, especially, I might add is that libreboot is honestly, less secure due to pointless viewpoints.

    No hardware will ever be fully free by default and actually be usable in anyway shape or form.

    As for software, this is also very hard, in fact, like her or not, the lead developer of libreboot seems to be getting a similar thought process:

    https://libreboot.org/faq.html#does-libreboot-make-my-machine-100-free

    She also says something similar on a wiki via osboot.org as well, albeit, more in-depht, explaining all the issues with RYF, etc...

    If someone says, DRM-Free Hardware is needed, this is the real issue! Same with DRM-Free Software

    Some, like myself, would go even further in saying, even this isn't enough though!

    I say this, because of my irritation with bloated over engineered crap like dbus, systemd, pulseaudio, wayland and its components, avahi, openssl, etc...

    Btw, as for why openssl, is not great, compare it to LibreSSL, you will figure out why openssl, is garbage by comparison alot quicker.

    Alot of linux frameworks have gotten bloated due to foolish ideas, from "corporations" and "governments"

    I put quotes, because these groups, rarely have security and especially privacy in mind when they contribute to most projects in the free software world.

    I have gotten to the point where, it almost seems like OpenBSD has a better stance on security then most distros, due to the number of unbelieveably bleeped up software ideas being added to things as a mandatory default unless you modify stuff and make your own fork.

    Bluetooth = insecurity hell

    I could go way beyond that and just go endless on and on, suffice to say, libre software is good, libre hardware is good, but if it still has poor security implementations, its hardly a big leg up in improvement, if enough people in the malicious part of the hacker world get smart enough, to figure out how to screw stuff up.

    Granted distros haven't gotten there yet, but man... the more overengineered crap added, the sooner or later it will happen.

    So I understand what you say, but it is sometimes irrelevant under certain situations.

    Also, education helps...

    If you explain the problems with a non-excessive amount of words aka, why the blob is a problem for any operating system, no matter how secure and say, if you want this to be installed, add the non-free lists, including contrib by changing the repo.

    Obviously, the ISO would have to have a button to press to do this with, a 3 key combination code, such as alt shift end or something like that...

    And then of course, if they add it, make sure you warn them one last time and if they still want it, its better to just add it.

    libre software, or for those who prefer, open source, etc... The reason people are stuck on proprietary garbage operating systems is for this reason.

    Which is worse, people refusing to try for some holier than now reason? or allowing them to use this and more people ditching proprietary software?

    Think it over...

    Also, be aware,


    Reply
      Re: Re: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?
      wrote on Tue, 19 Jul 2022 22:29

      seems my message got cutoff...

      Anywho, be aware of this:

      Also, be aware, this doesn't have to be "ALL distros"

      And, as an obvious statement, "MAKE IT OPTIONAL AS A REQUIREMENT!"

      if its not forced, its fine for both sides more or less.

      Besides, at this point, the software world is getting close to the distros being bleeped up already.

      I think it would be actually benefitical to have one type of distro base for mostly libre software and support for not so libre hardware, one that does the same as above, with mostly libre hardware and one that goes as far as possible in both areas including taking on issues that are far more widespread, like the overengineered overcomplex software issues with aim for 100% DRM free hardware while being actually sane with the design and not bloating things to a cuckoo level like most operating systems... a good example of this is Hyperbola

      Anywho, that is my thought process, I hope enough people realize how useful this could actually be...

      My point being, people might be more inclined to help and support free software projects and open source as a whole, in this effort, if people actually gave some degree of sanity and not just hide the bad stuff...

      why do people think censorship didn't work so well with the whole DVD situation...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_number

      More specifically... this:

      https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/DeCSS/Gallery/wsj-04-12-2001.html

      :)


      Reply

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