Kurt Roeckx's journal

Debian and (non-free) firmware: where to put it?
21st December 2008

One of the discussion that always seems to come back is what to do with firmware. It's mostly about freedom versus usability. I think the main question is where do we want to put non-free firmware in our archive.

The opinion seems to range from that it should be in the non-free archive to that it should be in the main archive, with many opinions in between, and they all have good arguments.

We have 3 options that are related to it in our current vote that seem to come down to:

I don't see the point of that second option, and really have to wonder if there is any firmware under a license that would comply with the DFSG except that the source isn't available.

The third option can make sense for some of the blobs in the kernel that are basically settings that are written to the device. You could write an editor for it, assuming there is documentation for it. But I doubt that they're all settings, and it just seems to ignore the problem.

I find Theodore Ts'o' suggestion about creating a new section for firmware the best idea so far, specially if we can agree that our official CD/DVD images will have that section on it.

It has the advantage that all software in our main archive can comply with the DFSG, that you don't need to add the non-free section just to be able to use hardware that requires firmware and that you can just take a CD/DVD that works.

Contact: Kurt Roeckx <kurt@roeckx.be>