Firmware and the Shape of Debian Lenny

Lenny is the codename for the next release of debian, which will be debian 5.0 formally. For the first time that I can remember, debian will fit on one disk. OK, so it’s a blu-ray disk (BD), but I’m sure it will be a selling point to some people. The announcement goes into some more detail about the implications for data transfer and mirror sizes, as well as noting that it stresses genisoimage beyond breaking point.

Before the release, there’s the small matter of about 200 bugs which we need to fix. If you can help, please do.

One prickly problem in some of the bugs is that a second debian release in a row is looking like it will allow violations of the Debian Free Software Guidelines into the release. (I don’t think all of the listed example bugs are violations, but some are). My main question about the firmware ones remains the same as two years ago:-

“I think the idea that refusing to ship non-free firmware in main will strengthen demand for free firmware is worthy of consideration. Debian helps users to take control of their operating system. Increasing the demand for free firmware might also help users to take control of their hardware, or at least highlight that there’s this crap which their operating system uses to support their hardware but doesn’t have its normal freedoms.”

“However, I’m undecided whether it’s a good idea to exclude them from the distribution CDs and so on. How big is the problem of vital hardware which won’t work without firmware being copied to it? Should we split non-free into non-free-hardware and non-free, allowing non-free-hardware packages onto the CDs?”

Ben’s technical blog: For those who care about firmware is tracking some of the hardware, but I don’t own any of the untested ones. That’s not surprising: I’ve been trying to avoid closed firmware for a few years now.

Debian bug #502959 discusses how one of the key debian project machines is affected. There’s a nice suggestion of using some of the project’s $64,000 to buy some hardware that’s fully supported by free software, but the bug has been closed by Peter Palfrader with the message “go screw yourselves and do something useful, like find a bridge”. Yikes.

Is there less vital hardware now than two years ago? Can the patches provided really not be included?

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