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Re: Debian Stretch new user report (vs Linux Mint)

On Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 7:31 PM, Jonathan Dowland wrote:

> IMHO, we need to go (more) one way or the other. We either reaffirm that
> firmware is in-scope for our DFSG values and stop compromising it with
> the non-free install images, or we look to revise the DFSG in line with
> modern realities and can "promote" the status of the installer images
> with firmware. That seems much harder: there have been brave efforts
> to reform the DFSG before, not least by Ian; and they have not
> succeeded. However, I think the project is healthier in one way from
> those days, we've weathered some fierce debates and I think we've grown
> as a project in the way we communicate together to resolve problems.

I don't like this dichotomy and I think we can do better than choosing
one or the other. Instead, expose the reality of the situation to
users, state Debian's position on non-free firmware, state that the
practical downsides of using (or not) non-free firmware, mitigate them
using more imaginative solutions where possible, give users the choice
to use non-free firmware if they want to and also give them the choice
to use just the firmware part of non-free by having a
non-free/firmware subset.

For example, we could offer the Debian installer itself or
win32-loader style tools as apps on other operating systems, where
they can detect the hardware present but still access the network to
download firmware from Debian non-free or extract firmware from the
filesystem of the operating system it runs under. This approach is
practical for Windows (win32-loader or WSL), Linux/BSD distros
(perhaps via Flatpak) and possible for Android (several of apps exist
already, the android-sdk is being packaged) based devices right now,
for macOS devices it seems a bit more tricky, perhaps Python & Tk
would work as an installer bootstrap app. I guess Debian can give up
on iOS devices due to lockdown (though there is one person on
#debian-mobile who was working on trying to get Debian installed on an
iPhone) and consoles/TVs/IoT and other "appliance"-class devices due
to lockdown and/or GPL violations.


> I know I've needed non-free firmware on every single laptop I've ever
> used Debian with and I suspect that's true for nearly everyone.

That is the nature of the hardware industry these days, except perhaps
for some future corners of the RISC-V community and a few minor
exceptions like carl9170.fw or open-ath9k-htc-firmware. Even hardware
that allegedly "doesn't need non-free firmware" usually has it
embedded instead.