Debian Choose a reasonable, common sense solution to handle non-free firmware


Debian developers have come up with an updated stance on non-free firmware given the increasing number of devices that now have open source Linux drivers but require closed source firmware for any level of functionality. The vote on the non-free firmware case is now closed and the votes have been tallied…

Debian votes option 5 to win: “Change the SC for non-free firmware in the installer, an installer

According to the Debian Wiki, this option corresponds to:

The Debian Social Contract has been replaced with a new version that is identical to the current version in all respects, except that it adds the following sentence to the end of point 5:

“Official Debian media may include firmware that is not otherwise part of the Debian system to enable use of Debian with hardware that requires such firmware.”

The Debian Project also makes the following statement on a topic of the day:

We will include non-free firmware packages from the “non-free firmware” section of the Debian archive on our official media (install images and live images). The included firmware binaries will usually be enabled by default where the system determines they are required, but where possible we will include ways for users to disable this at boot (boot menu, 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 this information on the target system so users will be able to find them later. Where non-free firmware is found to be needed, 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 for firmware binaries just like any other installed software.

We will release these images as official Debian media, replacing the current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages.

Basically, the Debian Installer media will now be allowed to include non-free firmware and automatically load/use it where needed, while informing the user about it, etc. Given the state of the hardware ecosystem these days, that’s reasonable and healthy sense since at least users will be able to easily make use of their graphics cards, network adapters and more. Plus a number of modern CPU security mitigations that also require the updated closed source microcode. So all in all I am personally happy with this decision as it will give Debian a more pleasant experience on modern systems and an experience similar to that found with other Linux distributions.

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