Debian to vote on its firmware path

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2022-09-21 08:30:12

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Dealing with the non-free firmware that is increasingly needed to install Debian has been a hot topic for the distribution over the past few months. The problem goes back further still, of course, but Steve McIntyre re-raised the issue in April, which resulted in a predictable lengthy discussion thread on the debian-devel mailing list. Now McIntyre has proposed a general resolution (GR) with the intent of resolving how to give users a way to install the distribution on their hardware while trying to avoid trampling on the "100% free" guarantee in the Debian Social Contract. Finding the right balance is going to be tricky as is shown by the multiple GR options that have been proposed in the discussion.

The basic problem is that the use of downloadable firmware in computer systems is on the rise and most of that firmware is not free software. The official Debian installer only incorporates free software (and firmware), which leads to serious problems for many users. McIntyre said in April: 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.

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